30.12.2008 - 12.12.2008 20 °C
From Pokhara we took a two day rafting trip on the lower Seti River which was pleasant. The most interesting event was watching the locals dynamite fishing the river not far from the launch point at Damauli (I thought I was going to have to wait for the Philippines to experience this). We paddled past quite a few stunned and dead fish which had escaped the eager nets and hands of the locals at the rocky race immediately downstream. After this, we didnt see our rescue support kayak guy until after we had beached ourselves at the river campsite at dusk - the lure of easy fishing was too tempting for him.
Reading of our "Rough Guide to Nepal" suggested we should avoid the tourist fleshpot of Sauraha so after the rafting finsihed we took a series of buses and walked into the quiet villiage of Ghatgain, which sits on the northern banks of the Rapti River just opposite the Royal Chitwan National Park. The flat countryside was full of rice paddies and small mud walled thatched houses, it was very scenic. The next day we left early with a French couple and their guide and stomped through a thick mist for 3.5hrs to watch a game of elephant polo at Meghauli. Watching these huge beasts being riden around in pursuit of a tiny white ball was a crazy almost surreal scene.
The next two days saw us hire our own guide to hike 20km through the jungle in search of wildlife and I must admit having an undercurrent of anxiety for the whole duration. I just couldn't shake the thought that somewhere out there behind that wall of green foliage there were real tigers and even with his big stick I didn't hold much hope that our 5ft 5" guide was going to be able to adequately fend off one of these ferocious maneaters. As it turned out we only caught glimpses of spotted deer, monkeys, wild boar and maybe a sloth bear. We did however see many footprints and even a tiger turd...
After the jungle walk we decided that we really couldn't leave without riding an oliphant - so we took a late afternoon ride on two females housed at the nearby luxury safari resort. Ambling across the river on these huge animals was awesome and their ability to push their way through the 8m high elephant grass gave us access to areas you can never see from hiking along the ground. Perched astride our sitting platform felt grand and the heightened vantage reminded me of how I used to feel when I climbed up into my old VW Kombi. After our trip was about half way thru we turned back towards the river and I was giving up hope of seeing anything when a large wild boar sprang out from the grass in front of the elephant Max and I were atop. Our excited rider quickly turned around and with a big smile barked "loook Deer!", which was an absolute crack-up. After this, we ended up seeing a couple of wild Rhinos and Victor was over the moon. Although the price was steep (2000NR or AU$40ea) I would thoroughly recommend any visitor to Chitwan to take an elephant ride - its not like riding a horse at all, which never really thrilled me.
We have spent the last two days in Kathmandu doing a little bit of shopping. The boys picked up some silver rings they had had made (embedded with gemstones we spent two days finding during our previous stay in Katty) and I got myself a set of brass singing bowls. After getting skinned a few times over the last six weeks I finally feel a little more skilled when bargaining with the locals and I have learnt to relax into the process.
Today we moved out to Bhaktapur where we have all nestled ourselves in the best and largest room offered at the Sunny Guesthouse which directly overlooks a square filled with temples and statues. Its our last three days in Nepal and I am already thinking about how I can get back again...umm