Chitwan: the fuse of culture and jungle

The extension of our eyes.
The extension of our eyes.

When we began the trip to Chitwan National Park, there was traffic congestion due to lots of people walking along the road. We asked Kumar whether it was a demonstration (because if it had been a chaos, it would not be funny to be within it). He answered it was a celebration and nothing to be worried. We chose to believe him (as we could not even read Nepalese writing). 😀

Few of the "demonstration" participants. :)
Few of the “demonstration” participants. 🙂
Leading the mass
Leading the mass

After a good five-hour ride through dusty road, asking the whereabouts of our hotel, we finally made it to Eden Jungle Resort. We got a great bargain there where we only had to pay USD65/person for 3 days 2 nights including various activities. Since there were six of us, they prepared three rooms. But as there were three boys and three girls, we return one room ensuring them it was okay to have three persons in a room.  We put our bags inside the rooms and proceeded to the dine-in area. We were happy that they provided crackers (the one similar with Indonesian crackers), and we were even happier for the non-curry dishes!

Right after dining, we headed to Tharu Culture House to watch some traditional dances together with other tourists. Tharu is a tribe in Nepal who live near the forest. Since Chitwan was declared as a national park, people living there were resettled to another place. There is even a Tharu museum in which we can see the cultures of Tharu people and its resettlement stories.

We picked a row of seats in the middle. Not long after the opening speech (that was translated by Kumar though the MC spoke English – but not too clear for our ears as we were not familiar with her accents, at first we even thought she spoke Tharu language! *bad hearing*), a group of women opened the show. They danced and sang in high pitch voice. We believe the dance was something related to harvesting…

Harvest singing and dancing
Harvest singing and dancing

A dance then performed by a group of men. They used cut bamboo and traditional drums as the back sound of their dance. The dance itself was very masculine.

Another dance
Another dance

The show was continued by the performance of Peacock dance. The crowd cheerfully clapped their hands when the peacock entered the stage! At the end of the performance, the peacock gave a rose to a an audience (who happened to be from our tour group) sitting in the front row.  I clapped my hands when the dance finished and knowing that the man inside the peacock was bowing throughout the dance. It must be tiring!

The phenomenal peacock dance with Resham Firiri as backsound. Only then we realized that Resham Firiri is a folk song (other than our OST in the van)
The phenomenal peacock dance with Resham Firiri as backsound. Only then we realized that Resham Firiri is a folk song (other than our OST in the van)

My most memorable dance was a mourning dance of a widow whose husband had passed away. I was amazed when realizing the dancer was a man. It was more surprising that he looked like the reception guy of Raniban! 😀

The mourning dance.
The mourning dance.
.....aaand fire dance!
…..aaand fire dance!

We thought that the fire dance wrapped up the show. We could never been so wrong! They started asking audience around to join the dance on the stage. And the stage was full of people in just few minutes! Feliks, Willy and I joined to get the “South Asian” dancing experience, while Arini, Willy and Kumar just stood in front of the stage and looking weirdly at us. The locals and foreigners danced energetically without minding the little space. It was actually more like a zumba practice with a bit of Nepali style.

***

After having trouble thinking what kind of clothes we should have worn in case we have to bathe the elephants the whole night, we were woken up the next day by the morning call done by Eden’s staff. It was clear enough for us to go to the forest. We were doing elephant safari to see rhinos in the wild! Our group was split into two. Arini, Feliks, Putu and I got a ride from Latinekale, a female elephant. Meanwhile, Willy and Randy and other two tourists went on Danish’s back, a male elephant who is also a professional football player. We separated tracks and had different experiences.
Latinekale!
Latinekale!

Our elephant back ride was like a roller-coaster, especially when she tried to grip higher land, and even worse for the fact Feliks and I sat on the back row! (And worse than worse when she farted and pooped during the ride, it was so memorable that I can still remember the smell until now. 🙂

We went up and down, through the bushes, got knocked by tree branches. The mahout reminded us not to speak too loud since it might scare the animals. We did as he ordered and did whisper-laugh (is it even a widely accepted term?) when Latinekale farted. The purpose of riding elephants is to make sure that the wild animals did not feel our presence so that they did not get disturbed. Well, it was our conclusion as we did not see anyone walking in the jungle (at least not outside the provided path, which was nowhere to be seen in the areas that we crossed). Besides, riding elephant gives more mobility compared to walking.

We heart you too, Elph!
We heart you too, Elph!

Inside the jungle, there were various types of birds. The mahout must know them. Unfortunately, he only spoke limited words in English.  So, we could not ask him for more explanation. The mahout would say “Hello! Hello!” to us every time he crossed path with any animals in Chitwan National Park.  Other than birds, there are cute deers all around the Park. We managed to see lots of deers – relaxing deers, alarmed deers, running deers. Of course capturing running picture of deers was difficult  considering our tools and conditions on Latinekale.

Just chillin' and you know, acting cool.
Just chillin’ and you know, acting cool.
We also met three boars who were eating nearby the swamp area! Though the picture below makes them look small, in reality they were quite big and hairy.
They were so busy eating that they did not notice there was an elephant passing.
They were so busy eating that they did not notice there was an elephant passing.

Those who were very lucky might have seen tigers and leopard in Chitwan National Park, but it seemed we were not lucky enough (or they are that endangered that only very few are left). However, being able to see the rhinos were still a highlight of jungle trip. They were so big and magnificent and almost extinct.

IMG_4335

Having a snooze time.
Having a snooze time.
Look! The one-horned rhinos!
Look! The one-horned rhinos!

Chitwan National Park was once known as hunting ground of poachers. They mostly hunted tigers and leopards merely for their skins, and rhinos only for their horns! The horns would then be sold to be processed as “medicines”. Ironically, there is no scientific proof of its medicinal value! There were times when there were only about 300 existing rhinos.

Don't ever ever ever ever do this to rhinos or any other animals!
Don’t ever ever ever ever do this to rhinos or any other animals!

However, after doing some research, the hunting activity has now been successfully lowered. Their number has now been increasing! Even the armies have a base camp in the Park and play important role to protect the animals. (I am sure Indonesian armies have to have similar roles to protect the wilds from the greed of humans – local and foreigners, at the very least to prevent forest fire).

Later in the afternoon, after a long river canoeing, we got a chance to see another rhino. I saw it eating on the savanna across the river through binoculars that I borrowed from the guide.

The big dot across the river is the rhino. Try to see it through a binocular.
The big dot across the river is the rhino. Try to see it through a binocular.

I was awed again. Then I ran to the guide and asked “Can you see the marks on its belly? Are those ribs?” The guide answered “It means the rhino is old.” It was such a relieving answer as I thought it was starving. (eff)

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