WPC: Baby Elephant Playmate

Down in Chitwan, Nepal in the late afternoon, the nearby river was the favourite place for the local kids to play. The rowdy young boys played football and swam in the water together. Our resort elephant took her daily bath and her three month old calf lolloped around the riverbank looking for a friend.  The kids would chase her and encourage her to push and wrestle them to the ground.  I thought it was so great to have a baby elephant as a playmate.  I miss that place!



30 Seconds: Chitwan Village Night Fall

As sort of a second installment of my recent stay in Chitwan, here’s a follow up video to The Bridge.

Most evenings, we like to sit by the river with a glass of wine, fight off the mosquitoes and watch the sun go down. Across the same bridge, a ten minute walk away, is the nearest village. On our second to last night there, we took a stroll over and shot the evening routines. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did:  


As I mentioned yesterday, this is our fourth visit to Chitwan and I’ve been lucky enough to go on an elephant ride the past three times. We didn’t plan on going on one again, but the very kind staff at the Nepali Center for Nature Conservation invited us over for tea and an elephant ride. While we were taking a look at their facility, something came running up to us….

baby rhino chitwan

More like a big dog than a baby rhino, she was curious and friendly. Who were we? Why were we there?!

It was an eight month old baby rhino. She had been badly injured after a tiger attack and the staff were taking care of her. She had suffered injury to her back leg, losing the pad to her foot and was recovering from an operation to repair the damage.  Its a great facility for her to safely wander around while she recovers.

baby rhino chitwan

It was so fun to pet a baby rhino! I never thought I’d get a chance. She was so tough and strong. The folds of skin are amazing.

baby rhino chitwan

…and she was playful too. Obviously feeling well enough to break into a run here and there

Charmed by our new friend, we set off to ride an elephant for an hour into the park. You never know what you’re going to see, although this is not Africa and there isn’t an abundance of wildlife roaming in packs. I go for the pleasure of the ride and the early morning peace of the park. If we see something, its a bonus.

After a little while we spotted a rhino sleeping under a tree.  Elephants and rhinos get on fine, and a sleeping rhino often won’t move when an elephant walks by.  This one stood up and gave us “the eye.”


Well? What do you want?!

Then we found out why. She wasn’t alone.

baby rhino chitwan

Another cute baby rhino! This one was even younger and sleeping..


All drowsy, she stood up and joined with mom in a curiosity stare ,,,

mother rhino with baby

…and they very kindly did a mother an child photo opp for us ;o)



Amazingly our rhino experiences didn’t stop there. A couple of days later, I headed out birdwatching with a guide.  He asked me if I would like to see a rhino and took me to a spot down by the river.  In a muddy ditch sat an old curmudgeon-like rhino who gave us an impatient snarl.  The guide said he was too old and weak to go into the jungle as younger rhinos would attack him.  So even often hangs out in the ditch for a bit of peace and quiet, if you can call taking photos from tourists peaceful.


Remember th e1990s Jim Henson series “Dinosaurs”? He reminded me of the dad!

old rhino

Yep. Definitely not impressed! Poor Guy!

A Walk in the Chitwan Countryside

A another little photo journal tale of a walk away from traffic and congestion in the rural countryside:

Chitwan bicycles

In Chitwan, bikes move everything…from people to produce to cement bags..


They are THE mode of transport, and I loved that we could just stroll and be part of daily life without feeling out of place or being run over.

rice paddies and hills, Chitwan

After the rain from the night before, the sky was clear enough to see the nearby hills. I’ve seen photos of a sky so clear that you can see beyond the hills all the way to the Himalayas in the North. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to see it with my own eyes…but this was very pretty anyway.

Rice paddy, Chitwan

This rice field had a head start before the monsoon, so the crop is well underway due to community irrigation ditches. The next day we came back to find the ditch dry, so they have a system of diverting the water too.


This looked like hard wark! The farmer was working at preparing the soil. His patch somehow was still unplanted in a sea of growing rice. He was still ploughing when we returned an hour later.

Rice paddy, Chitwan

Here’s another field on catch up mode. I’m not sure what she was doing. Planting baby rice, perhaps?

Chitwan Home Stay Project

This is the community hall of a home stay project. The “Welcome” sign was everywhere. An organization had funded a community effort to offer home stay lodging to foreigners and visiting Nepalis. It seemed very clean and organized. I hope it does well for them…I’ve no idea how much they charge but its probably a very affordable way to stay and a good source of income for locals.

Cows in Chitwan

In England when cows sit down its supposed to mean its going to rain. Here I think they’re just chillin’


Rhinos for Breakfast

We came upon them so quickly I wasn’t ready with my new camera, so the photo isn’t focused properly on the subject.  But you can see them hiding there in a mud hole, looking very much like giant clumps of mud, except for the giveaway ears.  We see you, Mr Rhinos!

Chitwan rhinos in mud bath

…And they saw us. Sitting on an elephant looking down, we watched them take an early morning breakfast bath in the glorious mud. Last night it had rained for the first time in four months, heavy jungle rain that left everything soaked and steaming, and we had lain awake listening to the thunder and lightening the night before.  Everything was now so wonderfully cooler, and the rhinos were enjoying what must have been their first mud spa of the season.

chitwan rhinos in a mud bath

Not surprisingly they were not too happy about being disturbed, but they weren’t really skittish or aggressive, just a bit put out. It reminded me more of young kids forced out of the backseat of the bus now that the big kids want their seat back. And the big kid was the elephant, not us. Apparently rhinos and elephants get along just fine. They don’t notice us humans freeloading on the elephant’s back. Its all about the elephant, not us, and the rhinos knew to move over so the big guy could take a turn.  Sorry guys!

chitwan rhino is a mud bath

We stopped to take a close up and the last rhino posed for the shot. I love his mud stripe!

Chitwan Jeep Ride

DSC01991 Our big adventure for this part of the trip was to go out into the jungle on a jeep. I’d been warned that the safari part of this was limited. There are animals there, but its not like Africa with an abundance of wildlife. So we took the adventure as a jungle trip, rather than a safari, as the experience of just being out there in nature is a special one. So first thing in the misty morning, as the first part of our adventure, we headed down to the Rapti river, which forms the boundary of Chitwan National Park. Its shallow and fast, and the only way to get across and stay dry (sort of) is by hollowed-out canoes. These are less than stable…I really thought I was going in!


Canoes made from hollowed out logs, ready to take us across

chitwan national park

Rapti river

chitwan national park

Heading out in the jeep

From the opposite bank,  we walked to our jeep, and then drove dirt trails into the jungle. In the early morning, the birds were really active and you could see kingfishers and all sorts of colorful and beautiful birds. It was hard to capture them on film without a fantastic camera lens, but wonderful to be there and listen to them sing anyway. When we saw the first peacock, we reached for our cameras and he flew into a tree. Here is my best shot:



Later peacocks kept showing up everywhere. It was mating season, and the males were strutting around. By the end of the day, we were saying “oh that’s just a peacock” and recognizing their cries. Hard to believe that we got used to such a spectacular bird, so they seemed common like pigeons! As it got warmer, the mist lifted and the terrain changed.  I loved how different areas of the jungle had their own feel.  My favourite was the open grasslands and the cotton silk trees: the beautiful reed-like grasses and the angular, vaguely oriental feel of the trees were stunning.  Add to this the imagination of what may be hiding in the grasses, and our eyes were set ahead, frantically scanning the view.


the beautiful silk cotton trees


elephant grass

We stopped at one of several viewing platforms to take a breakfast break. The rickety platform did give us more elevation to see around, but unfortunately no animals interrupted our meal.


Our rickety viewing platform. Note missing step!

termite nest

Termite nest. Apparently these make tasty treats for sloth bears. You could see claw mark-scratched holes around some of them…made by sloth bears looking for a snack.

So what did we see that day? No tigers, unfortunately. They are now considered the prime wildlife sighting because they are so rare. There’s only about 200 Bengal tigers left in the park. But, fortunately, there’s now a concerted effort to stop poaching and track the surviving tigers. Hopefully, their numbers will slowly start to increase. We saw lots of beautiful birds, countless peacocks, monkeys, deer, boars, alligators, cranes and wild ducks, a rhino and — most significantly of all — a black sloth bear. A large, male actually. They are considered the most dangerous and unpredictable of all wildlife in Chitwan. He was actually frightened by us and ran along the horizon, trying to find a way to cross our path. He finally darted across our trail, but too fast for me to catch a shot. Maybe next time.

Girls Roadtrip! Or Thelma and Louise (with a driver)….

… (hint) It has a much better ending!

It was so exciting that my really good friend, Susie, would be coming all the way to Kathmandu. I was a little apprehensive too as this is a difficult city to visit in a lot of ways — its dirty, dusty and congested — but I thought she would do ok and she did. ;o)


Susie arriving at KTM.  This is one of the few pictures we managed to get together.  Guess neither of us had heard of selfies…oh well!

I had planned a full week on the road to escape the grey dust of Kathmandu.  (We did exchange some of it for the beige dust of the Terai…but that story comes later.)   We were excited.!!  A whole week of no kids or husbands, and time to catch up on each others lives.

Nepal isn’t the easiest country to get around. The road system is limited and a lot of the roads are windy and potentially dangerous. So if you wanted to keep to tarmacked roads that have western quality hotels, Chitwan and Pokhara are the best bet.,,and that’s where we were headed.   We had our own driver, a serviced jeep, good brakes and plenty of trunk space.  So, we were sure to pack essentials like gin, tonic, Pimms and PG tips.  We were going to do this in style…!

nepal roadways

Notice the black top roads (in red) are all in the south of the country. Thats because the north of the country is covered by rather large mountains called the Himalayas. No highways there!



Ready to go…bags at the door…


.. and into the jeep.  Let’s get out of here….!

We traveled for 4-6hrs from location to location, glimpsing rural Nepalese life from the windows.  It wasn’t always easy driving…too many trucks…but our driver did a good job of keeping us safe and we were never in the jeep so long that we went crazy.   It was fun to watch the scenery change…and the weather too.  The south is so much hotter!


Grabbing the view from the front….


….and from behind!  That truck was stuck in a 2 foot gutter.  One of several “accidents” we saw.  Fortunately nothing fatal.

So the next few posts are going to be about our adventures in Chitwan, Pokhara and Lumbini. He’s a little preview:


Other people even hauled our stuff up and down the stairs, so bags magically appeared in the rooms.


Enjoying an elephant ride together


Making new friends in Chitwan

People brought us plates of food. Yes those are french fries. What the hell!


Finally being chilled out enough to lounge around and read


Review of Sapana Village Lodge, Sauraha


One of the 4-unit hotel buildings

Our arrival at the lodge didn’t get off to the best start. The resort was full and our names weren’t on the arrival list. But the manager somehow managed to find us rooms anyway. It was the start of a really different level of friendly service that I hadn’t seen anywhere since the Philippines.

sapana village lodge

They had great covered decks outside of every room. The chair was comfortable and the view was great.

I have to say, Sapana Village Lodge is really my kind of place. It was pretty and designed with thought and care, but it wasn’t too fancy which made it more charismatic and welcoming in my opinion. There were balconies outside the rooms with views, and places to sit in the shade and read…pillows and footrests..  There was a really chilled out bar area with giant floor cushions where you could just hang with a cup of coffee or something a bit stronger.  I loved the large deck overlooking the jungle and the river.  I could have hung out around the resort all day reading, except that I had to get the elephant bug out of my system….and I had to go ride in a canoe…..But now that I have experienced those, if we are lucky enough to come back, it will be to chill out, read, and just enjoy the countryside and friendly atmosphere for a few days.

sabana village lodge

The ultra chilled lounge. Just hanging out next to the jungle and river! This is where we spent new years eve in the dark, sitting next to a fire pit.

sabana village lodge

The rooms were pretty nice too. The bedspreads were made locally by a fair trade organization. We liked them so much we bought our niece one!

sapana village lodge

“Development Project for Poverty Alleviation” Not only was it a wonderful, friendly place to stay but it was run as a community project for the benefit of locals.

The lodge store had handicrafts made by locals from local materials. As we sat drinking our tea, we could watch people collecting the reeds from the river to make the baskets. 50 meters away was the elephant barn, and in the little shop they sold notebooks made from elephant dung.  (Which are actually very nice….  The elephants actually do most of the work making pulp out of straw for the paper making if you think about it that way!) There was a constant connection between the resort and its surroundings…their elephants footprints were definitely bigger than their carbon footprints!

They had a culture of friendliness and interest in the guests that was unusual too. The service ethic was there, but sometimes a waiter would come over and talk just to get to know you, or ask about your experience in Chitwan.  It was very engaging and yet laid back at the same time.  I started my Christmas plans in October and initially booked Tiger Tops Resort, as everyone told me that it was the best, the most romantic, and well worth the very high price they charge . However, I’m really glad we changed our plans.  I’m sure Tiger Tops has a lot going for it, but Sapana Village Lodge was excellent, friendly and very good value for money.  I highly recommend it and am already working on ways to get us back for a few days!