Auf der anderen Seite werden wir von einem kleinen Unterstand, einem Jeep und zwei Angestellten erwartet, die uns willkommen heißen. Wir bekommen unsere Willkommens-Tikas, kleine rote Punkte auf unserer Stirn, die uns als die Neuen in der Lodge ausweisen. Dann bekommen wir lauwarme Tücher zum abkühlen und Saft, der so dickflüssig ist, dass er unsere Zungen an den Gaumen klebt. Wir werden auf das offene Verdeck des Jeeps geladen und machen uns auf den Weg in den Dschungel.
Wir machen Lärm. Wir suchen uns Bäume zum klettern. Es verschwindet wieder und kommt zurück. Diesmal von hinten. Wir sind nur Meter von ihm entfernt. Als es schließlich entgültig verschwindet, haben wir zwei Möglichkeiten. Warten, bis der Fahrer einen neuen Jeep geholt hat, oder laufen. Warten ist nicht meine Stärke, so dass ich für Laufen stimme und die anderen stimmen mir zu. Und ich hatte der Botschaft versprochen, keine Naturwanderungen zu machen. Zum Glück ist es nicht mehr zu weit und von einigen Witzen unseres Guides abgesehen, schaffen wir es sicher zurück. Unsere Abenteuerlust für den Tag ist allerdings gedeckt. Nicht überraschend findet sich nur ein Freiwilliger für den Naturspaziergang am Nachmittag. Der Rest von uns erholt sich in der brennenden Hitze und liest ein Buch.
Der Nachmittag bring uns auch eine Lektion über Elefanten, deren Höhepunkt kommt, als wir die Elefanten mit Sandwiches aus Gras, Reis und Salz füttern. Nach dem Abendessen folgt ein Vortrag über die Tiere im Wald. Keine Kragenbären, Leoparden oder Tiger in Sicht.
On the other side we are awaited by a little stand, a jeep and two employees to welcome us. We get our welcome tikkas, little red dots on our foreheads that mark us as the new guys at the lodge. Then we get lukewarm towels to cool off and a juice so thick it sticks our tongues to our gums. We get loaded onto the open back of the jeep and set off into the jungle.
The road is barely more that a one lane path that winds between high trees, vines and termite hills. The tour lasts for about 20 minutes that we use to take pictures, mind our heads and generally be amazed and stare at the unknown beauty around us. Everything smells, sounds, and feels strange in a way that can only be described as exotic. I feel like an overly excitable child on Christmas. I cannot wait for the days to come and all the new things I will see. Just smelling the air and seeing the hundreds of birds around us is overwhelming. Then we reach the Lodge.
We get taken to the restaurant right away and get our first meal at the lodge. It is the obligatory Daal Bhat, rice with lentil soup, but with some nice vegetables and meat. And it tastes great! Afterwards we are shown to our hut, number 118 right along the riverside. A little log cabin on four legs with a straw roof. Inside there is a bathroom with
And then we get notice to set of. What for? Why, the elephant ride, of course. I’m so excited I can only just stop myself from jumping into the air. A real elephant! This is definitely too good to be true!
We get to the stand where the elephants wait for us. By now we are a small group: a honeymoon couple from
The morning brings us a jeep and boat tour. Along with the four Brits from the previous day we set of in a jeep to get to the river. We see some deer, keep hearing the jungle fowl, until finally a little rooster walks right across our path, looking just like the ones on any chicken farm. Given my fascination with chickens in general I’m thrilled and make it my task to get a picture of one of them during my stay. I will fail, by the way, they are just too shy… Then we see a stunning peacock on the way, just in front of us. We get down to the bank of the river and change into a small wooden boat, just like the one on the previous day. The boat is rowed by two men, one standing in the front, one in the back. They use paddles in the deeper water and stakes when it’s shallow. We drive down the river and see many more birds. Herons and cormorants are fishing in the water. Then we spot the grey shape on the bank of the river. A gharial, a long-nosed crocodile with a range of oddly-fitted teeth made to catch speedy river fish. We keep as quiet as we can and manage to get very close to it, before it hears us and tries to escape to the water. We follow and row along for a while before it dives and disappears.
There are fishermen on the river, their small tents on little sandbanks in the river. They fish just like their forefathers did hundreds of years ago, with nets, sticks and dugout-canoes. Our guide tells us that sometimes one of them ends up as prey of the crocodiles at night.
We reach the end of our boat trip and land on the spot we came in the day before. The jeep is waiting for us and we are sad that our tour is over. All but Oli, who sits next to the driver get loaded onto the back, and we set off. About halfway we stop. There is a rhino on the way, right in front of us. Given we are sitting on an open jeep, we are slightly alarmed. Our guide and the driver start to make noise to scare it away. The driver starts the engine to make even more noise and the rhino thinks a while and then finally runs into the jungle. We want to start the engine and drive on. Our hearts nearly stop as the engine quits service and does not start again. And the rhino returns. It is really big, male, young and aggressive. Rhinos account for most deaths in the park and being trampled to death by a mad colossus of over two tonnes does not sound like the most appealing kinds of death. We are told they are this aggressive, because they are very short-sighted. They cannot see who is there, so they attack. A charming character trait.
We make noise. And we choose the best trees to climb on. It disappears again, then comes back, this time from behind. We are just meters from it. When it finally disappears, we have to make a decision. Wait and let the driver get a new car, or walk. Waiting is not my best skill so I opt for walking and the others agree. And I had promised the embassy not to go on a nature walk… Luckily it’s not too far and apart from a few practical jokes from our guide we get back safely. Our sense of adventure is satisfied for this day, though. Not surprisingly, there is only one volunteer for the nature walk in the afternoon. The rest of us sits and chills in the boiling heat, reads a book and recovers.
The afternoon also brings a lecture on elephants that peaks in us feeding elephant sandwiches, packets of grass, rice and salt, to the animals. After dinner we get a little lecture on which animals are there in the jungle and see pictures of what we could have seen. No sloth bears, leopards or tigers for us, then.
The plan for the next day gets handed out in the evening. Two elephant rides are scheduled for us. I feel a bit sore after the first one already. The half-grown calf of our elephant follows us on this tour and entertains itself in its own way, while we are riding, as children do. We see many rhinos again, birds and deer and monkeys up in the trees (better don’t stop underneath them, they like to give too nosey visitors a shower!). Suddenly our mahout says something in Nepali and stops the elephant. And then gets off! It’s a strangely helpless feeling sitting on an elephant in the middle of the jungle while the only person able to ride it just disappeared behind a tree. Luckily, no tiger came while we were waiting. The afternoon tour gives me a (quite small) elephant to myself. Oli decides to stay in the camp and so I ride through the jungle with my own mahout and guide. A very nice last ride with dozens of rhinos. And then we see them: mother and baby rhino, the baby only about two months old. Unfortunately I don’t get to take a picture as it is hiding behind its mum all the time.