Sunday, March 24
We were on our way before 7:30, as usual. The morning was very clear and we had great views of the mountains and the sanctuary. Everyone washed their hair before eating a breakfast of rice porridge, eggs, and toast.
We hiked from Dhampus back to the trail head at Phedi and caught a bus back to Pokhara. One of our adopted watch dogs followed us all the way! Sean bought a friendship bracelet (like Wandi's) while waiting for the bus. It stayed on his wrist until it finally fell apart in September! We stopped to visit the 1,000 Buddha Tibetan temple along the drive back to Pokhara. After arriving at camp we had a lunch of lemonade, fried potato chips, salad, tuna, and Tibetan bread. Then we said good-bye to the remaining 4 porters (700R tip each).
We walked through the town of Pokhara and rented a kayak for Gene and a row boat for us to paddle around the lake. We had to rescue a German who appeared to intentionally roll his kayak on the lake. He must have thought that he could get back in - which is impossible. On the way back to camp we saw a man with a Sloth Bear entertaining people in the street. The bear was controlled by a rope strung through its nostrils. Sean unsuccessfully attempted to take a nap while Bill and Gene explored the rest of the town. A German family who drove a tank-like vehicle all the way from Germany was camped nearby and Sean played frisbee with their 6 year old son. It started to rain heavily and hailed from 3:00 PM on. We hung out in the cooking shelter and played cards.
For dinner we had noodle soup, fresh chicken, Dal Bhat, potatoes, vegetables, and chocolate layer cake. We bought beer for our crew. Another trek is being organized at a campsite near us. The assembled crew sang and danced through the night. The dogs joined in the chorus. Luckily we didn't camp under the electric lights. We walked around town after dark while Sean slept.
Monday, March 25
We were up at 5:30 AM and it was another clear morning. After breakfast we said good-bye to our crew. Only Natang is joining us for our venture to the jungle. Originally we were to travel to the World Heritage Site of Chitwan on our own, but Journeys wanted to ensure that we got there safely and were treated fairly. So they decided to send Natang with us.
Sean distributed some of his toys and trinkets to his friends, along with the tips. Everyone exchanged hugs with Sean, who was sad to leave his friends behind. They took such good care of us - especially Sean! The crew had to clean all the equipment and take it back to Kathmandu in preparation for the next trek. Balaram, the cook, arranged to meet us when we returned to Kathmandu.
Our Range Rover arrived and we started the 42 mile trip to Chitwan at 7:40 AM and didn't arrive until 1:00 PM. The road (one of the main highways through Nepal) was paved and full of ruts which we had to slow down for continuously. We got to listen to 5 hours of monotonous music from the one cassette the driver owned. The signs to the park were virtually non-existent and we had to stop several times and ask directions to ensure we were on the correct road.
A dugout canoe took us across the river to Royal Chitwan National Park Island Jungle Resort. It was extremely warm and we had to walk a while until we reached our accommodations. Our combination tent/cabin reservations were upgraded to enclosed cabins, complete with a working bathroom. Gene would have preferred to stay in the tents because they had an unobstructed view of the river.
We sat through a short orientation, dropped our gear in our rooms, and headed for lunch, which is served from 1:00 - 2:00. We ate buffalo burgers, French fries, vegetables, and fruit. This food can't compare to the fare our cooks prepared! Our first elephant ride was scheduled for 4:00 and dinner was not served until 7:30. Sean took a nap while we had a chance to read and relax. Walking unescorted in the jungle was prohibited, except for within the cabin area.
The elephant ride was extremely bumpy. Sean & I got to sit in the front, while Bill and Gene rode in the back. We saw spotted deer, a one-horned rhinoceros, Rhesus monkeys, and another elephant. The ride lasted for almost 2 hours and the entire time our elephant kept smacking my foot with her ear. Hanging out at the observation area/bar, we saw a herd of spotted deer and some wild boars crossing the river before dinner. The sunset illuminated the sky, but you couldn't see the sun setting.
Dinner was fried rice, potatoes, buffalo, lo mein, and pudding. Sean couldn't stay up long enough to eat anything. He also missed the cultural show which consisted of staff people singing, dancing, and trying to get the visitors to join in. There were about 20 visitors on the island, but more were scheduled to arrive tomorrow.