Explore the Chitwan Jungle around Sauraha
How did I decide to head to Chitwan? I had been thinking to go from Patan directly into the mountains, to Pokhara, to enjoy the Himalayas. However, the monsoon season wasn’t over yet, so I had to change my priorities. I decided to go to the jungle first and afterward head toward the mountains.
The first day trip to Chitwan
Short description: I caught the bus going to Sauraha in the last moment and spent most of the day on the road. In the evening, I analyzed the jungle activities of the travel companies spread along the main street in Sauraha.
In the morning, I had a bus ticket for Sauraha. Om (the landlord of my guesthouse in Patan) had bought it for me while I was traveling through the villages of the Kathmandu Valley. To take the bus, I had to go to the bus stand in Kantipath, in Kathmandu. Preventively charged, my phone was completely discharged though and the alarm didn’t ring at all. My wristwatch ran out of battery too, and I had no idea what time it was when I woke up.
I looked out of the window and saw it was light outside, so I thought maybe it was time to leave for the bus stand. At the front desk of my guesthouse from Patan, I saw the real hour and hurried up. I was very tardy. By that hour, I was supposed to be already in the bus station. In the street, I negotiated a taxi, but not too much, because I was in a hurry. The taxi driver was driving like crazy, so I had to ask him not to kill me, though.
The bus station in Kantipath was a long line of buses, exclusively for tourists, parked along the street. I think the line had at least one kilometer. My phone was still discharged, so I asked the taxi driver to call the agent and find out which bus I had to get on for Sauraha. I took my luggage out of the taxi, paid the taxi driver, and went to the bus the taxi driver pointed. I asked “Chitwan?,” but I got a negative answer and the agent didn’t pay attention to me at all. I waved back to the taxi driver. He came and talked to the agent, and I went back to the taxi with him. He drove me 400 meters down the street to the bus number 697, where I finally occupied a seat.
The road was good as long as it headed toward Pokhara. When it turned south toward Bharatpur, it became a veritable off road, full of a suffocating white dust. The bus ran with the door and all the windows open, and everywhere inside was full of a smothery dust. When we finally reached Sauraha, I found out that the bus stand was actually in the middle of the field, outside of the village.
I called my guesthouse, but they couldn’t come and pick me up. All the taxi drivers literally jumped on me. In the end, I agreed with a jeep taking two other travelers to give me a ride to the Evergreen Ecolodge, where I was supposed to stay. There I had booked a ‘nest’ – actually a small cottage made of wattle, with only a mattress inside. But in my nest I had a mosquito net, electricity, a small balcony and a bench of my own.
Sauraha is a village of the Tharu ethnic groups. It is situated in the buffer zone of the Chitwan National Park, listed as a UNESCO heritage site. For this reason, tourism exploded in the village and the place had countless accommodations everywhere. In Sauraha it’s something common to see elephants walking down the street, and it seems that there was also a rhino that had its daily walks through the village. In the evening, I explored Sauraha and most of the travel companies within the village center. I carefully studied the jungle activities and tried to choose the ‘best’ one. When I was about to go back to my nest of wattle, an American girl, Lisa, asked me if I would be interested in sharing the price of a jungle walk with her, which I did.
The second day in Sauraha
Short Description: I walked through the jungle all day long, with Lisa and our two guides. We saw gharial crocodiles, a one-horned rhinoceros, spotted deer, peacocks and two leeches bit me.
Early in the morning, I met with Lisa and the agency’s guides, Ramo and Basanthe. We walked down along Sauraha’s main street to the Rapti River. At the river, the guides checked our entrance permits at the ticket counter of the national park. We crossed the river in a primitive wooden canoe, while a huge crocodile was peacefully floating in the water at just fifteen meters from us.
When we reached the other riverbank, we had our first survival lesson up in a wooden observatory. If we met a rhino, we climbed seven meters in a tree or ran in zigzag; rhinos have a big body and can run only in a straight line. If we met a bear, we had to stay in a group, clap and make noise, but not run. Ramo had a big bamboo stick which he would have used to fight with a bear a couple of years before. If we met an elephant, we had to run into a thick forest where the elephant couldn’t follow us. Surprisingly though, if we met a Bengal tiger, we had to stay still, not move at all, not make noise and keep eye contact with the animal; otherwise, it would run away.
During the morning, we walked along the Rapti River, at the limit of the jungle. Ramo stayed in front of the group, Basanthe at the back, while I and Lisa were staying in the middle, carefully protected. A leech bit my leg and Basanthe took it off with a stick. After that, I had to put on protections over my trousers and shoes. Along the riverbanks, we spotted many gharial crocodiles from a distance. They eat and attack anything, and during summer they stay in the water to refresh themselves.
We continued along the river toward a place where our guides knew that rhinos come to bath. We eyed a rhino through the high grass and silently approached it. Rhinos have warm blood and when they are hot, they come to refresh themselves in water ponds near the river. Usually males (bulls) stay alone, while females (cows) stay with their calves for 4-5 years. However, they come to the same pond and bath together. They are herbivorous and attack only to protect themselves.
At noon, we had a picnic lunch on a wooden platform built up in a tree, next to the river. After eating our cold dhal bhat, we went into the jungle. We saw many spotted deer, we had to take off our shoes to cross a small river, and another leech bit my foot. We launched again in the jungle along a footpath flanked by tall grass. There, Ramo had to walk carefully and he kept his bamboo stick in a fight position. When we saw a tiger trace in a muddy place, we quietly sat down, waited in silence, and hoped to see a wild animal.
When we turned back at the agency, I negotiated a new activity package, including elephant safari, a ticket to Lumbini, and a ride to Sauraha’s bus stand. In the evening, I had dinner with Thomas at the restaurant of the ecolodge and tried the malai kofta (vegetarian balls, in curry sauce, with tomatoes, onions, and vegetables). Thomas was Lithuanian and he had worked at a bar in London. During winter, he was traveling through South-East Asia where it was warm and cheap.
The third day in Sauraha
Short Description: I went to see the elephant bath at the Rapti River and in the afternoon I was on an elephant safari in the buffer zone of Chitwan National Park.
I had a generous breakfast at my eco-lodge (yogurt with muesli, eggs, toasted bread with honey, and milk coffee) and then I went to the riverbank to watch the elephant bath. The place was already very crowded. There were lots of Indians that quickly crossed the border for a short trip, and everybody was waiting for the elephants to come. I talked with a French man that had just come from Lumbini and picked up the necessary information for my next destination. When three elephants came with their mahouts (caretaker), we started to take photos while the elephant was showering the people that climbed on its back.
In the afternoon, I went on an elephant safari in the buffer zone of the Chitwan National Park, in the Baghmara forest. My entrance permit was checked again at a counter office, and four persons got on a wooden platform with a fence, built on the back of each elephant. John from the United States sat on my right, while at our back was sitting a Nepalese family. He talked on the phone during the whole one-hour ride. She suckled her baby girl who otherwise was crying all the time. And all these happened during our trip, on the back of an elephant.
The mahouts guided the elephants along a route that first went through a forest, and then descended to the Rapti River, where we disturbed some crocodiles when we crossed through the water. When we reached a meadow, a one-horn rhino was calmly grazing and had a white bird sitting on his back, exactly like in the National Geographic documentaries.
When we crossed the river once again, we saw another crocodile but didn’t fear as the elephants are massive big animals, tall and very safe. A group of tourists passed by in a wooden canoe along the river and waved to us. After that, we entered another forest where we saw monkeys with their infants in the trees and a herd of spotted deer in a small meadow with an observatory.
In the evening, all the world nations gathered under the mosquito net in the dining hall of the eco lodge: Thomas from Lithuania, Barbara from Germany, an American girl, two Indian girls, an Austrian couple, and I lost count of.
The fourth day in Sauraha
Short Description: I rented a bike and cycled a loop through the Tharu villages nearby. In the evening, I went to a cultural local show at the Culture House of the village, where lots of Nepali came on Saturday evening.
In the morning, I rented a bike from the closest center to my eco-lodge, put my small backpack in the small basket of my bike and hardly pedaled along the dusty and rocky road through Bachauli, Harnari, Tarauli and Jhuwani villages.
The countryside road was not very appropriate for a leisure cycling, but it was the best way I could get around through the nearby villages on a day trip. I completed two loops, one through the villages close to the Rapti River, the other one through the villages overlooking the Himalayas afar at the horizon.
It was a very hot day, and the Nepalis looked at me with curiosity. They weren’t able to understand why I was cycling through all the dusty and bumpy road. Children ran after me and inevitably asked to give them something – money or sweets. When I failed to find the place where women were fishing with a net, I decided to turn back to Sauraha.
In the afternoon, I edited photos and took down notes in my travel diary. In the evening I went to a Tharu Cultural Show at the Culture House of Sauraha. On a Saturday evening, all the Nepalis from the area came to party and have fun there. Each dance consisted of a Nepali that played the drum and sat in the middle of the stage, while women or men were circling around him during the dance. They had big or small sticks in their hands, pretending that they were fighting, and all the dances were similar. At the last dance, all the Nepalis jumped on the stage and started to dance.
The fifth day in Sauraha
Short Description: I decided to try the elephant bath, and the rest of the day I just relaxed.
In the morning I went with Barbara through Sauraha and then to the river, at the elephant bath place. Barbara worked with children with disabilities. She was during a Sabbatic, for which her salary had been decreased for the past five years so that she could be paid during her gap year. The following year she intended to go back to school and continue with her job. She had been with a camper-van through the south of France. She was staying for two months in Nepal, from which one month at a Buddhist monastery.
When we arrived at the river, the elephant bath place was very crowded with Indians. I went to have a bath on a small elephant and enjoyed the refreshing experience. We stayed a little more to see how the mahouts washed the elephants with a big brush for carpets.
In the afternoon, I went to the agency from where I had bought my ticket to Lumbini. I had to make sure that the owner didn’t forget to give me a ride to Sauraha’s bus stand the following morning.
Explore Chitwan Jungle around Sauraha is the travel diary of my stay in the southern part of Nepal (find the version in Romanian at ‘Jungla din Chitwan‘). And here are all my Travel Diaries from Nepal (x12).
Have you walked or you’re planning to go through a jungle? Leave a comment below this post and tell me what you liked about exploring a jungle or what you want to experience there.
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