I woke up today at 06:00, skipped taking a shower due to a lack of hot water (I know, disgusting, but the thought of a cold shower this early in Kathmandu in November makes me shudder), dressed, packed my bags, and carried them to the bus terminal. I then checked in and waited around until it was time for the bus to depart, which occurred as scheduled, at 07:30. We then traveled west toward Pokhara on the same route with the same stops as I had taken before (I used the same bus company, Greenline, that I used to get to Pokhara on October 19th); this bus was set to go to Pokhara and since I was ultimately traveling to Sauraha, on the border of Chitwan National Park, I would have to switch to another bus after lunch. After about two hours of winding through the mountains, we stopped for a twenty minute break; we then continued on for about ninety minutes before stopping for lunch at the riverside resort I had been to before; for lunch I had steamed rice, a thick lentil-based soup (“dal”) to pour on top of the rice, chow mein, a fried vegetable and potato mixture covered in a yellow sauce, and a cup of coffee. After lunch, I walked outside of the resort, found my new bus with baggage already loaded, and climbed aboard; soon we were traveling to Sauraha.
On the way to Sauraha, I talked with an Englishwoman seated next to me before she departed at Bharatpur; then a Canadian man sat down next to me and we talked for some time. We reached the Sauraha bus terminal, exited the bus, and were hounded by a number of Nepalese men offering us rides in to town; I was turned off by their relentless nature and decided to walk the twenty minutes in to town after grabbing my bags; as I was walking, one of the hotel trucks, which the Canadian man was riding on, stopped and begged me to ride with them since it was free and I was under no obligation to stay at their hotel; I relented and hopped on the back of the truck. During the drive to the hotel, the staff on the truck pointed out where the park entrance and offices were located; we then reached the hotel and the Canadian man and I checked the rooms, the wifi service, the electricity, the water temperature pouring out of the shower, and the price of the room; to my great surprise, it was all very swell (albeit the temperature of the water pouring out of the shower was just lukewarm); the Canadian man and I decided to take the rooms and we each had a beer on the balcony before walking to Chitwan National Park to inquire about taking a government tour tomorrow. Once inside the park ticket and museum complex, we were intercepted by some guides offering us different tour options; these guides, though dressed up with Chitwan National Park patches on their olive drab uniforms did not work for the government, but led us on to think otherwise. After hearing what they offered and the price of each, the Canadian man and I decided to take a two-hour canoe trip ten kilometers down the Rapti River, scheduled to start at 06:30 or 07:00, and then a jungle walk through the park, stopping at various spots and ending at 17:00; after paying for the tour, the guide then explained he did not work for the government, but was allowed to guide tourists through the park (well whoop-dee-do, so is basically everyone else who lives in Sauraha); oh well, at least I wouldn’t have to suffer alone and they (the group this guide belongs to and shares the profits with) did give us a guide shortly after settling the payment and our lunch preferences for tomorrow to take us around the buffer zone (the zone surrounding Chitwan National Park) as the sun set; during this short safari in the buffer zone, we did see two mugger crocodiles in the river, a one-horn rhinoceros resting partially in the river (our guide speculated that the rhino was sick, thus the reason it was not moving and staying halfway in the water), and, after we walked to the government elephant stables, we saw many adult elephants chained to poles as well as a cute five-day old elephant calf walking freely between two adults. After finishing up our tour, we then met the guide who sold us our tour and he informed us that all the canoes were fully booked in the morning and we would not be able to do the canoe trip until 09:00; I then asked if that meant our safari would last until 19:30 as opposed to 17:00, thus taking us in to the night when visitors are not allowed in the park; the guide then told me that we would still end at 17:00; I then asked what was to be cut out of our safari if we started two hours later; to which he replied, “nothing”; I then tried to explain the simple math to him, how we were losing two hours and were some how still ending at 17:00, thus logically concluding that the tour he sold us could not be fulfilled given the new time constraints; the guide either pretended not to understand or was too thick-headed to grasp such a simple concept. In the end, the guide offered to have us do a short walk in the nearby vicinity, from 06:30 to 09:00; we would then travel down the river in a canoe for two hours, and then walk back to the park entrance through the forests and grasslands, ending at 17:00. The Canadian man and I accepted this new arrangement since we didn’t have much choice and also since it appeared that the canoes were actually fully booked in the morning.
The Canadian man and I then walked to the Sauraha Tharu Culture House near the center of the town, bought tickets to the night’s dance performance, and then we ate dinner at a nearby restaurant; we shared our appetizers of popcorn and fried potato cheese balls and then I had a chicken pizza while the Canadian man had momos (we also each had beer); I had thought that the Canadian man looked familiar and during dinner I came to the conclusion that he looks an awful lot like Daniel Craig (blue eyes, graying hair, similar facial structure) and I certainly could not imagine any other actor who would best be suited to play him, if ever a film should be made about his life; after dinner, we hurried to the Culture House and watched the different “traditional” dances being performed: a Clapping dance, Stick dance (banging sticks together), Thekara dance, Dafu dance, Peacock dance (a man in a giant peacock costume came out and danced for us – probably not “traditional”), Jhumra dance, Single-stick dance, Fire dance, and a Jhilli dance; at the end, the performers invited all the audience members up on stage to dance with them; I just sat back and watched the display. Then, after the show was over (one hour of different dances for only a hundred rupees – roughly one USD – was not bad at all; also, the theater was packed, so they are definitely making a good deal of money each night) the Canadian Daniel Craig and I walked back to the hotel and prepared for tomorrow’s safari before going to sleep under my beds mosquito net (this is a malaria zone).