Chitwan is about a five hour drive from Pokhara –on a good day– with no delays or divisions. We left on a good day. About an hour later than planned, after five hours of straight driving, we got into Chitwan around 1pm. It was a fascinating change of scene once we took the turnoff at Mugling and went up and over a mountain, descending into the flat, warmer terrain of Chitwan district.
The temperature was a bit warmer and it felt like a different country. And it was mustard seed season, with brilliant fields of yellow as far as the eye can see.
We settled in our hotel room and then headed down to a table next to the nearby river to watch the world go by. I just loved the terrain. From our hotel table we could watch everyday life and the river interact. Everything was going on. People walked or cycled from a nearby town to the main road, through the resort. Others washed their clothes on the banks, children played in the water, and women collected river reeds which I guess were being harvested to make baskets. With my binoculars I watched birds – especially herons — hanging out on the river banks.
Later, we took a canoe trip out on the river. There were six of us in the canoe, with a guide and an pole-pushing oarsman, and it was the most unstable boat I have ever been in. The water wasn’t that deep…perhaps waist-height…and as we wobbled around in the dug out canoe, lurching at the slightest move, getting wet wasn’t really the concern. I wasn’t even really concerned about getting our cameras wet once I spotted what was on the banks of the river:
Alligators…now they were a concern! As the oarsman balanced himself at the back of our boat, he took small, gentle stabs at the water to direct us downstream. For our part, we tried to manage the water coming into the canoe from a very small leak, and all of us tried not to twitch or move suddenly, as any action seemed to escalate down the canoe and threaten us with capsizing.
The funny thing was that we felt protected inside the canoe. As though the alligators couldn’t have tipped us over if they wanted to. However, they did seem more interested in basking in the sunlight, and it was eerie how none of them moved. Not even a little bit….not even the blink of an eye.
Scary as it was, I loved being out there and seeing the peace, wildlife and danger of its banks. I especially liked our time at the hotel and how close we were to the water. It may be a lot less enjoyable in the summer with humidity and bugs, but in December it was warm and clear and bug-free. I look forward to returning.