It was ok, but...
30.05.2010 - 01.06.2010 90 °F
We spent last week in Chitwan National Park for 2 nights, 3 days as part of a packaged tour. That is not at all the way that we like to travel, but it seemed the best way to see the park. Having never talked to anyone about the park, we didn't know quite what to expect. We read about the amazing animals that you can see and how wonderful it is. So...we decided to go.
We took the bus from Pokhara to Souram, a trip that normally takes 4 hours. We left at 7am and arrived after 5pm! Does that make sense? A little more than half way there we came to a stop a couple of kilometres from a small town. Apparently, a group of frustrated people had blockaded the road and so we sat, and sat, and sat. The bus fired up and we moved three lengths and then we sat again. And sat. And sat! Finally we were allowed to drive through town only to be stopped by another group of similar protesters another hour or so away. This time the whole town was striking and it was eerie to drive through a town with all the shops closed, not a soul on the road, until we turned the last corner and the entire town was blocking the road. We did make it to Chitwan, but the journey was quite long.
This is what we pieced together from the rumors: A well-known doctor from the area (southern Nepal) disappeared about 10 days prior. His car was found in Pokhara and his briefcase on the side of the road. The protesters were making a demonstration to gather attention demanding that he be returned. Does that make sense? At this point we just nod and smile!
When talking with a Nepali man (from a different area) later, he said, "Of course they need to strike. Striking is the only way that we would hope to get him back. It's obvious. The police are corrupt. They found his car, right? Of course they know where he is." Again, smile and nod as if everything makes perfect sense!
Now, back to the tour. We went on some uneventful nature walks and a canoe trip where we didn't see any animals and then saw an elephant Breeding Center. The Center was extremely depressing. Captive elephants are chained and confined to a small area where they are bred. Their young are also chained, but at a distance where they can't have any physical contact. They are rode once or twice per day for exercise. The worst part is the plethora of sharp tools and prodding instruments that are used to "control them." Hearing an elephant cry is one of the worst sounds in the world.
We went next for "elephant bathing" where the elephants are rode into the river and perform stunts with tourists on their backs. Again it was difficult to watch the caretakers use tools to control an elephant that clearly wasn't having fun anymore. Needless to say, we did not participate. I was at least encouraged a little when our guide was not supportive of the past few hours of our tour.
Later, after much deliberation we decided to do the elephant safari portion of the trip, but I told Kym if we had a handler that was cruel to the elephant I would take the stick and beat the handler! As it turned out, we had a very nice handler and a very nice elephant and nothing cruel took place. We had mixed opinions about supporting this, but in the end it was ok. We saw some deer, a peacock, and two wild boars, but the "guarantee" to see wild rhinos wasn't really a guarantee! We were not unhappy at all as we realize that it is not a zoo, but somewhat of a wild environment. We were satisfied, and on this portion actually had a good time. I don't think we ever need to come back to Chitwan.
In the morning we did a quick walk to see some various songbirds and the like and then took the bus to Kathmandu. This ride was actually uneventful.
And by the way, when we arrived in Kathmandu, we learned that the doctor was safe and sound, returned to his family! We just smiled and nodded!
Here is the evidence: