Monday, December 28th 2015
It was day one of our tour. After eating breakfast with Bennie and Verena, a young couple from Germany, we grabbed our bags and headed to the truck. After a brief meeting, we drove out of the city along the winding, bumpy road through the Kathmandu Valley on our way to Chitwan. My bladder was completely full so I was relieved in more ways than one when we stopped 2 hours out of town for a break. I also had the pleasure of using my first squat toilet! Thanks Nepal and India for giving me some killer quads!
The sights along the way consisted mainly of school children walking along the side of the road in their uniforms, shacks next to brightly painted houses, and eccentrically decorated trucks, buses, and vans. Some common symbols painted on vehicles were that of “Apple” and the “Nike” swoosh. Words were also written on them like, “Facebook,” “Adidas,” and most commonly on the backend, “See You.” After spending enough time in bustling Kathmandu, it was refreshing to see green vegetation on the side of the road that weren’t covered in dust.
Shortly before our next planned rest stop, there was a major back-up along the side of the road caused by a rock slide. As they worked on clearing the debris, smaller vehicles and motorbikes zipped past us. We tried to kill some time playing a couple of games, but we were starting to get antsy. So we all got out and wandered around a bit; enjoying the views of the valley.
A nicely dressed Nepali couple who were also roaming up and down the road asked if they could get a picture with Trevor. Wherever we go, his beard gathers the people together like a family reunion in ways I’ll never understand. It might as well have its own fan club.
Two hours later, the rocks were cleared and we were able to continue past a very long line of vehicles snaking around the cliff side headed in the opposite direction as they waited patiently for their half of the road to be cleared.
As we approached Chitwan, there were fields of yellow flowers, palm trees, and miniature mansions standing tall above the shacks.
Once we arrived at the “Rhino Lodge and Hotel,” we ate a hefty lunch before exploding our belongings all over our hotel room. We decided to wander the grounds and noticed (I mean, how could you not), a man proudly riding on top of an elephant trudging through the patio.
He encouraged Trevor to get on board for a picture. I was unsettled, especially since we just had a discussion on the way there about the unethical use of elephants for animal tourism. Others from our group were watching as Trevor paraded around, nervously. I buried my face in my palm in shame. It was day one with the group of people we would be spending the rest of the month with, and I was convinced we had already become labeled, “Ugly Americans.” The guy never asked for money and eventually helped Trevor down before he returned to his post on the elephant’s back, and then slowly wandered off to the street. We would later learn that there were many people with their elephants in town, since the annual “Elephant Festival” was about to begin.
After a power nap, we followed several other to the “Saurana Tharu Culture House” to watch traditional Tharu dance. The MC was traditionally dressed and had the volume to her microphone turned up too loud, so it was difficult to understand her. Some of the dancing involved tricky coordination of tapping sticks. Trevor told me later he saw one of the guys get hit in the hand, but they continued with grace. I enjoyed the singing, as well as the “Peacock Dance” where a guy dressed up as a peacock danced around while making realistic movements, such as rousing its feathers, and pecking at seeds from a bowl. The grand finale involved a fire dancer, and a group dance where several people from the audience were asked to join in. We walked back in the warm night chatting with Bennie and Verena, and decided to skip dinner so we could try to get our sleep patterns adjusted.
Jump Back to Part 4: A Monkey Temple, Swastikas & Cremations
Jump Ahead to Part 6: An Elephant Beauty Pageant, Termite Mounds & Power Outages
Start from the Beginning at Part 1: Don’t Forget to Pack Your Anxiety