Jungle Bells, Jungle Bells and Elephants

by Annalise on December 31, 2009

When the bookings for Pokhara (the most mentioned tourist site in Nepal besides those mountains) seemed impossible and the local politics shut down the entire country in general strikes for three days making it impossible to make travel arrangements, we decided we just all needed to go back to the warmth of the Chitwan for our little Christmas break.

This setting provided us a most unusual Christmas but one filled with very memorable experiences. Unfortunately our good friend Cindy was unable to join us as planned due to last minute flight complications. So we toasted her rather than enjoying her delightful company as well. We put up our little tree, had a lovely gift exchange and did sing our Christmas carols. We had two spacious rooms with a large balcony over looking the warm and wide Rapti River. Each evening, the cooling of the temperatures caused a blanket of fog which didn’t burn off until mid morning the next day. It was wonderfully cocoon-like to relax in the soft light of this warm light fog.

Throughout our Christmas day Robin wondered aloud about what was happening at home: “Oma would be resting now for a minute after getting the whole house ready and people would just be starting to come … all those homemade Specalaas cookies with the Smarties buttons would be set out for each grandchild along with their chocolate letter initial…… Aunt Judy would be helping pass out Uncle Adrian’s baked Worstenbrodt; they’re so good!…. Now they’d all be downstairs opening the gifts from the exchange and … I’d be opening a package including a new pair of pajamas from Oma…… now we’d be ducking the balls of crumpled wrapping paper thrown around while visiting before getting ready for midmight mass….” Certainly we were missing our usual Christmas time with family and friends; particularly at Robin’s Oma and Opa’s house where the whole of the Van Ham family gathers each year for Christmas Eve. Robin’s reminder, rather than coming off as complaining was presented more as a list of all the wonderful things he’s enjoyed for many years past and looking forward to enjoying once more.

For boxing day we enjoyed a full day in the jungle including a 3 hour river ride in a long, dugout canoe, 2 hours of walking with our guides, our packed lunch taken at a tall, open lookout tower and then a jeep safari to return to our hotel. The Rapti river flows fast and the canoe was expertly steered over the nearly 22 km of river, much of it in that gentle fog. We were 7 in total, the four of us, the canoe operator and our two guides. As we glided long we’d occasionally dip our fingers in the warm water just inches under the gunnels but not for too long as we spotted many crocodiles sunning themselves along the shoreline. Over the course of the day, our guides lead by Bickram, the most knowledgeable and fun, taught us much about this jungle park, its many birds, animals and plants. Their skill allowed us to see hundreds of birds, monkeys, three types of deer (Rudolph, is that you?!), several rhinoceros quite close up including one which looked to be just a year or two old grazing with its mother, a king cobra (happily this was while were were in the jeep) and of course the crocodiles. It was a fantastic day!

Our final day was all about the elephants. We visited the elephant breeding centre with its small but excellent information centre and got to enjoy the elephants up close. There were several mothers with ‘little’ ones including the much celebrated year old twins. Two slightly older ones appeared to have escaped their enclosures and headed straight for their equivalent of the cookie jar when a keeper spotted them and chased them back to the fenced area, well, while still brushing his teeth – couldn’t make out what he was saying exactly. So one could understand why these two 3 year olds quietly came back to the fresh grass stash and began their play. They continue with their walk about enjoying biscuits and peanuts from visitors and following anyone that caught their curiosity. They followed Robin for quite a stretch wondering what he had in those pockets of his; two trunks checking it out. It was at once thrilling and disconcerting – they’re young but they’re by no means small!

We were lucky also that our visit landed upon the annual elephant races and football match. The races were fun to see and those elephants can pick up quite the speed but the football was the most fun. The riders chose the younger, more agile elephants for the football match, 4 per team. And they actually play football! The elephants kick quite well and it was such fun to hear the crowd get so into the match. When the ball was loose, they would all rumble over there and try to get a good kick in, their drivers directing which way it would best go. Imagine a group of three or four elephants looking for a football under foot! We didn’t see it but understand they do need to keep several spares on hand because the footballs do unfortunately get stepped on in most games. Oops! In the end, the team with green t-shirted drivers won the match. We caught the end on the evening TV news. We had to leave for our elephant ride.

Sitting in a box carrier which is strapped above the saddle padding, we all four were atop the same elephant and rode for over an hour in the jungle. Dave joked about motion sickness, being brushed off by the elephant, having to sit at the exhaust or business end of the animal but mostly we enjoyed this rolling ride motion in silence taking in the beauty of the late afternoon in the jungle and watching for animals. And once again we were lucky to see rhinos, crocodiles, monkeys, deer and amazingly a leopard just as we were returning at the park gates. Everyone wanted to see the camera evidence of the leopard; they’re quite a rare spot. The picture was there, not the clearest but I’m not deleting that one. It was an extraordinary stay.

Share and Enjoy
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • del.icio.us

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Joanne January 5, 2010 at 8:10 am

Always enjoy your descriptive commentary. We actually saw the elephant soccer (as the announcer called it) on local tv. It was fun to watch.

Annalise January 6, 2010 at 8:49 am

What fun! When I told Robin and Dave, their responses were: Dave: “are you sure it was the same elephant football game….” Robin: “what side did they see it from, could she see us?” Looking for our 15 seconds of fame behind an elephant. Certainly a fun coincidence that you caught it on TV.

Joanne January 6, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Actually when we were watching it, Gord said “There’s Annalise and Robin and Dave!” However I was not fortunate enough to actually distinguish you from the crowd.
We will be requesting your autographs upon your return.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: