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The Quiet Jungle

Posted on Tuesday, June 30, 2009 in Wanderlust & Wonder

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Right in the middle of our time volunteering at the monasteries, we took a long weekend to travel down to the Terai Valley in southern Nepal to visit Chitwan National Park. We took a bumpy, windy road 200 kilometers south of Kathmandu and the difference in temperature was astonishing. It was a sweltering, oppressive heat, the kind of heat that can strike abject fear into the heart of any redhead. But it was great to take in a different climate and landscape.

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We went through a tour group and stayed in a guesthouse that was just outside of the actual park. We got to walk through what we were told is a traditional Tharu village.

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Tharu are the local people that inhabit the land around Chitwan National Park. They are of Indian origin so they have a look that is quite distinctive from other regions of Nepal. Most of the people in this area work as farmers. One thing interesting about the Tharu people is that they have somehow managed to build up a super strong resistance to malaria. People still do not know how or why they have this resistance, but it is believed that it stems from some mysterious gene they possess.

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Chitwan National Park has a splendid collection of flora and fauna that make this place a national treasure and a must-see for anyone who is visiting Nepal. They have the one-horned Indian Rhino, the Bengal tiger (alas, we did not see one), wild elephants, wild boar, leopards, sloth bears, hyenas, jackals, otters, rhesus monkeys, ganges dolphin, Indian pythons, crocodiles and more.

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I really had my hopes up to see a tiger, a leopard or a mongoose. Heck! I would have been very satisfied with seeing a red giant flying squirrel (and, perhaps a bit terrified).

Our guide for our journeys through the park was a nice Nepali man named Laxman. He had about 20 years working as a guide under his belt so we felt confident in his level of competence.

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In the morning of our first full day in the park, we boarded a long, narrow dugout canoe and Laxman told us about the history of the park and pointed out different species of birds as we made our way down the river.

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Once we reached a good entry point for the park a ways downstream, we disembarked and Laxman led us through some key safety tips JUST IN CASE.

Just in case we come upon a tiger…

Just in case you come upon a leopard…

Just in case you come upon a bear sloth (apparently they have a rather nasty disposition)…

Just in case you come upon a rhinoceros… This was my favorite advice. Since the rhinos have pretty poor vision, all you really have to do to escape them is to run in the opposite direction in a random zig-zag pattern.

But we felt pretty safe all around because Laxman walked with authority and he carried a very big stick.

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Alas, we walked for hours and hours through the dense jungle and, for most of that time, the only creatures we were able to spot were some wild cocks and these huge red bugs.

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Towards the end, we did spot a rhinoceros through the bushes. We crept around very carefully so as not to disturb him and incite a one-rhino stampede, but we never got a clear look at him.

Fortunately, the following day, we came upon a small rhinoceros family. They are very bizarre creatures, something straight out of Jurassic Park, but  they seemed rather docile and easy-going. This may have just been my naive impression though. We were safely removed from their stampede range since we were seated atop an elephant when we spotted them.

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Bring on the comments

  1. AmyH says:

    It would have freaked me out to hear the “just in case” speech!

    And were you doing a spin on the Roosevelt quote? To “walk softly and carry a big stick.”? That’s pretty clever.

    Looks like fun.

  2. Shannon OD says:

    Yes! That is exactly what I thought too Amy when we saw him with the big stick!! That was the whole essence of his “safety” speech 🙂

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