Dadu Aur Madak
Royal Chitwan Reserve
mentioned to the staff at Buddha Maya that we were heading for Chitwan
and they told us that they had a place there as well called the Maruni
Sanctuary Lodge. They knew we were concerned about the gas situation in
Nepal, as we had heard about long gas lines in Kathmandu and other
parts of the country. They offered to find gas for us, and told us that
their manager in Chitwan could do the same. Crossing the border we had
seen nearly two hundred gas tankers lined up on the side of the road on
the Indian side. This is all due to politics here in Nepal. The
Nepalese government subsidizes gas prices. They buy most of their fuel
from India. The gas is cheaper in Nepal than it is in India where it
originates. We are told that a fair amount of it finds it's way back
into India. There are those that believe the gas shortages would go
away if the government would end the subsidies and allow the price to
rise. However, there are elections in November so that seems unlikely.
For the first few days the stations all had diesel but all of the
petrol pumps were covered. By the time we headed out the trucks had
begun to roll and some of the places had gas. Most of that would be
gone in 2 or 3 days.
the first village after we hit the road we came across this all to
familiar sight. When they have accidents here they are stupendous.
Before coming to Nepal we had read a number of traveler's advisories.
Most of them really didn't apply to our particular itinerary. Many of
them are related to the Maoists and their practice of requesting a
"donation" or toll to pass through their areas. We had even read one
account saying that teenagers had taken to using the same ploy to
extort funds from tourists for one village improvement or the other. We
encountered no such activity. In fact, just as we had found in India,
the legitimate toll collectors encountered in some towns stop only cars
and trucks and wave two-wheelers right on through. We did encounter
large groups of Maoists though between Chitwan and Narayanghat. They
were heading to Narayanghat to demonstrate in support of a transit
strike. They were on bikes, motorcycles, on foot, and by the busload.
Red bandanas and armbands were everywhere. They were orderly however,
and nobody seemed to pay much attention to us. Karen did however have
her second flat tire. Unlike the crowd scene we had in India, we only
drew about a half dozen onlookers and they were not only polite but
they were helpful.
misconceptions about Nepal.
|In my mind I had made the association about Nepal of snow and sherpas. I envisioned people clad in sheepskins wearing woolen hats with earflaps. In fact the first week we spent in Nepal was spent entirely in the Terai. The Terai comprises a strip that runs across the whole length of Nepal in the south. It averages anywhere from 20 to 50 miles wide and it is constitutes Nepal's "breadbasket." There are sprawling rice fields that are harvested entirely by hand using small hand sickles like this one near Lumbini (top). It has a steamy tropical climate, and you can look out over banana trees to the snow capped Himalayas. The mountains seem to spring up all at once from a flat plain, and when the air is clear after a rain the sight is spectacular.|
checked some other places, but we were offered a great deal at the
Lodge that the folks in Lumbini had told us about. For a $140 USD we
got two nights lodging and three days of meals and activities. We each
had nine meals that were outstanding, and we nearly had to beg them not
to bring so much food. The activities included an elephant safari where
we were able to see the rare Nepali one horned rhino (above). There was
also a canoe trip down river, a trip to the elephant breeding center, a
trip at sunset to the river to watch the elephants bathe, and a tour
through a Tharu village that was guided by the hotel manager. This last
item proved to be the highlight of our stay.
we encountered the Rhinos in open meadow, the majority of the trip was
in dense jungle. The drivers spend years with their elephants, and only
they can drive them. They are always decorated. They "steer" them by
pushing behind the ears with their bare feet. Tharu natives are
traditionally jungle people, but more recently they have become rice
farmers. These Tharu women still go into the jungle to gather foliage
that they feed to their animals.
from top left: The local boatmen have organized a collective, so
everything is orderly and each takes his turn. Most hotels and
guesthouses arrange the trips as part of a package. Interestingly, the
canoes are carved from a single trunk of the ceiba tree, the same as is
done by the Mayan Indians in Mexico and Honduras. The most common of
the crocs here is the magar who grows to over 12 feet. The detail is of
the distinctive tail of the second most common crocodile the gharial.
It also has a weird looking narrow snout. Finally these water buffalo
do what they do best.
before sunset the drivers bathe with their elephants, and Karen gets
the "magic hour" shot.
from top: Among the Tharu, only women are tattooed, and only after they
are married. At right is the detail on the legs of the oldest woman in
the village. The walls and floors of the huts are plastered with
mixture of mud and dung that keeps the wind out and repels mosquitos.
The Tharu have a natural immunity to malaria. At left a Tharu couple
thresh rice by hand.
|As it happens,
we were in Chitwan at the time of a three day festival where unmarried
girls in traditional Tharu dress compete in traditional dances. We met
the girls at left on their way to the competition. At right, the girls
watch their friends perform.