Friday, April 15, 2011

Rafting with cows and riding with elephants

I figured it was a good time try to recapture the end of our trip for you and tell you what is on the horizon.  I have spent the last week being amazingly sick to my stomach due to the bland and fat infested food here at home.  Also my system is complaining from the truely purified water that I have begun drinking because it was finally used to Nepalese mineral water that I  half suspect came out of the river flowing through the city of Kathmandu.  Funny enough I bought some digestive cookies in Kathmandu right before we left and they have been the only thing here at home that seemed to settle my stomach!  Do wonders never cease?

So, after our trekking was done we had scheduled a rafting tour and a jungle tour to round out our time in Nepal.  The day after we flew back to Kathmandu from Lukla, we headed out to have some fun on a river called the Trisuli.  We were told that there were no crazy rapids to worry about and we were very happy to have a gentle raft ride down a pristine river flowing through the mountains, ahhh, the bliss of it~ we couldn't wait!  Our one-time porter turned friend, Binod, came along with us to ensure everything ran smoothly. 

The rafting place was unorganized to say the least but we eventually got life jackets fitted and helmets squashed onto our heads and we went down to the beach.  We were amongst a large group of Nepalese university students who were out for an afternoon of fun and we all filled up about 3 or 4 rafts.  The water was green and clear with very cool rock formations jutting out of the river bottom.  The mountains rose on either side of us making us feel tiny and insignificant as we paddled along.  At one point we passed underneith a man in a hanging basket using a cable pully system to get from one side of the mountains to the other, an amazing sight. 

Just as we were about to get really comfortable, our first set of rapids hit...our guide probably thought we knew what we were doing but all we could manage was to hold on for dear life.  It felt like we were going through the spin cycle on a washing machine!  How we celebrated when we manouvered through to calm waters and our guide told us that we could all jump in the water and swim for awhile if we wanted.  Us ladies were a little keyed up and our heart rates hadn't returned to normal so we opted to stay on the raft.  We were very tempted to jump in as the guide had encouraged but a strange odor caught our attention.  We paddled a little farther and saw a cow...dead, bloated and decomposing in the river and suddenly the university kids were jumping into the water and splashing each other and us...freak outtttttttt!  We were sure we'd be doing antibiotic chasers that night to get rid of all the parasites and bacteria. We ended up having a really good time navigating through the "Ladies Delight", "Man's Delight", "Monsoon" and "Upset" rapids, all without dumping ourselves into the water!

We had a 1.5 hour drive to the Chitwan National Park from the river and were happy to arrive at our hotel, the Jungle Safari Resort.  The rooms were very nice, each with a complete bathroom (which as you can tell was VERY important to us on this trip) and hot water for showers! 

The next morning we got up early, had a great breakfast and headed out to another river for a canoe ride to spot crocs and see birds.  We were in a group of about 8 people or so on this canoe and as each person stepped into the canoe to sit down it sunk deeper and deeper in the water...not really feeling the love at that moment in time.  I mean, why would we want to be only inches from the water with crocs swimming around?

After seeing a tiny croc way at the bottom of the river (harmless little cutie) we headed to the shore and the girls and I got dropped off with a guide and his helper.  Both were armed with bamboo sticks for protection from wild animals as we were bushwhacking through the Chitwan jungle on foot.  I know...comforting right?  What had we been told we might encounter?  Bengal Tiger, Sloth Bear, Rhino, Elephant, Mule Deer and various other creatures who don't take kindly to strangers and yes, we had 2 mighty bamboo sticks to save us. 

I must say that the guide was very helpful, he told us that Rhino's cannot see very well but have a keen sense of smell and if we came across one we were to get to a tree, run around it 3 times to leave our scent and then climb the tree.  My concern, I guess, was that if we actually ran into a Rhino that out of fear I'd probably have left my scent right where I was standing and wouldn't make it to the tree. 

We walked for about 2- 2.5 hours through the jungle and at one point caught sight of a Rhino but he was kind of hidden by some low-lying scrub brush and we felt relatively safe.  At another spot the guide stopped suddenly and we saw the elephant grass whipping and a loud thundering of hooves taking off away from us which he said was a Rhino that we had startled!  My adrenaline was pumping that's for sure!

We had lunch after going to see elephants taking a bath which was fun and then it was our turn to go for an elephant ride!  It was pretty cool to be on the back of the elephant going for a ride through the jungle!  We stopped by a mud pool where a momma Rhino was cooling off with her baby and they just layed there, not bothered in the least by the elephants standing around!  We also saw some deer and monkey's. 

Our tour ended the next morning when we went to visit the elephant breeding centre which was interesting to see.  We wrapped things up by 9 am and were on our way back to Kathmandu.  We went out for supper to a wonderful Nepalese resturant with Surya, the man who we had booked our holiday through.  It was a wonderful way to wind-up the trip, the food was fabulous and we felt all warm inside...wait, that was the rice wine!

By the time we flew out the next evening we were ready to be getting back home.  We packed an awful lot into the 3 weeks we were gone and will always look back on these memories with a lot of fondness...what a wild ride! 

So far as what's next on the horizon...well it has something to do with getting into a steady routine back at home, working my way through the experience I just had and deciding how it will shape my future.  I will say that the first chapter of the next story has already been written so you might want to stay tuned...


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