The Day I Went for a Canoe and Elephant Safari Trip at Chitwan NationalPark, Nepal
Why did i even go here?
I am writing at the porch of my beloved guesthouse here at Sauraha called Holy Lodge. It's very cheap to stay here, at 800 rupees, i got a very big room with a balcony facing the river. You can't beat that. Other hotels may offer more expensive rooms with less atmospheric location, such as a garden and a dusty road. I chose this place solely for the location, never minding the less than glorious chipped off paint, and what seems to be old for Nepal standards. But the people here are so amazing. They look after me all the time, making sure i feel relaxed. I also appreciate that they call me every now and then when there's a rhino sighting by the river. These people know the meaning of hospitality, and i am not even a lousy and whiny guest. I take everything in stride.
I didn't get the tour package from them, because i cannot anymore pay cash. I use my credit card now more often as i am saving every rupee i got so i won't be penniless in the mountains. I got the canoe + elephant safari trip from Hotel Parkside, supposedly Trip Advisor's #1 accommodations here at Sauraha. Although i couldn't review the room because i didn't stay there, i could give a few inputs as i spent the rest of my day there... waiting. Obviously, i am an odd number as i am traveling solo. So i was squeezed in to two sets of groups: one is a 20-person tour group from Poland, and second is a family from Nepal.
I woke up early today. It was bright and sunny, as i open the window of my room. I usually check the sky as most mornings, everything's clouded by fog. Around 9AM, the sky becomes clearer, the warm rays of sun shining. I arrived 20 minutes earlier than the call time at 9AM because i don't want yo be the cause of the delay. At 10AM, after eating breakfast at the restaurant of the Parkside, i'm still stuck at the hotel.
Finally, as expected, the Polish tour group arrived, and we're off to the Canoe Point. As expected, these tourists can't follow clear and simple instructions. In a crocodile infested river, you never dip your hands or worse, sway your hands to feel the water. That's what most of them did. It didn't help that that these people were constantly moving so the wooden canoe was always swaying back and forth. Today, i saw a couple of goats, a few king fisher birds, two baby crocodiles, one big mama crocodile and two snakes intertwined and obviously having sex. In addition, i saw piles of trash, a pair of sandals, two men bathing, and women washing their clothes. Yes. In a crocodile infested river, a few meters away from two snakes making love. The ride was uncomfortable, but i am not complaining about that.
For a seemingly splendid experience as mentioned in guidebooks, i find it average bordering on less than average. If you would ask me, i won't do it again. I could totally use the time spent in the morning to something else. Heck, i even find the women harvesting on the river bed even more appealing.
I had about three hours break before the elephant safari ride scheduled at 2:30PM. I arrived back by the river in 20 minutes. That's how far Hotel Parkside is. As expected, the transfer to the elephant ride point only happened less than an hour later, now, with a Nepali family. They're overbooking, perhaps?!
When i got there, it was a quick jump to the wooden bench on top of the poor elephant. I was seated next two Chinese girls, and a very lousy Polish guy. The next thirty minutes was hell. And the rest of the hour and a half, my worse experience in Nepal so far. The Polish guy seemed to never liked the safari because he was talking the whole time, asking me, asking the Chinese girls, about all things besides Chitwan. It didn't help that he's making a total fool of himself asking us about different places, only to find out he's been there. Imagine that. What's the worse thing he could do? Halfway the trip, he talked to the mahout and tell him that we need to go back because he's with the tour group. I paid for this safari, too. Haven't you thought about that you're not the only person in the group? Did you even bother asking us if it was okay? Apparently, some people just lack the credence. Yes, you've been to Ibiza, French Polynesia and Mauritius, but none of that matters when you don't have manners. By the way, i saw six wild deers in a park supposedly littered with too many rhinos. Not a single rhino in sight. I picked one of the best months to visit, when leaves are cut down, and a good sighting is likely. Now, i feel bad again.
When we arrived back, earliest of the group, i was annoyed to the hell and back. The driver asked me how was the trip. And explicitly, i told him " it was bad." And then, he asked me again, which i liked more --the canoe or the elephant safari. Again, in all honesty, i said, "none."
The safari trip i had last August at Sri Lankan jungle was a mind-blowing experience. For wildlife, go there. Trust me.
Back in the Philippines, one value we treasure is to save face. We don't want to put people to shame. But i wanted to get this feeling out of my system. I hated the day.
UNESCO may have seen something in Chitwan National Park that's why they tagged it as a world heritage site, but let's be honest, it's not. Maybe, it's just me. Maybe, today was bad luck. Maybe, the rhinos didn't like me, Maybe, Chitwan doesn't like me. Ha! But i have to share my experience here. And nobody can say my decision to write this is wrong, because it's my experience.
For a country i so loved the most, by far, the worst place I've ever visited is Chitwan. After visiting more than two dozen destinations in Nepal this trip, Chitwan is my least favorite. I won't be going back here ever. And if friends of mine ask me for recommendations, i wouldn't even dare mention this place.
As previously written, the people here are also the least friendly people I've ever encountered. Lumbini is part of Terai, too. But i felt welcomed and loved there. Sauraha is also part of Terai. In here, I've been cheated a couple of times. The angry looking Gurkhas look at me like i am a criminal. And most of the people you will encounter on the streets are either selling you something, or even waiting to guide you around for an enormous fee.
Today, I've spent an overpriced package at 5000 rupees for one of the worst days of my stay in Nepal. Sometimes, we experience these sort of instances so we can appreciate more valuable moments in our life. The most precious experiences of my stay in Nepal didn't involve money. My favorite places in Nepal weren't even part of the top destinations. I still love Nepal. I do. But let's just say, i would try to forget Chitwan, and that i even went here in the first place. I am not a fan of animals, but seeing some here and there would be delightful.
Now, i am back in my hotel. The kind staff told me a rhino is swimming by the river. I told him, "No thanks. Can you get me a Masala Tea, please?". I watched my last sunset of Chitwan -- the only saving grace of this place. After five days, Tomorrow early morning, i am leaving this place for sure. For sure.