My second day at the Chitwan National Park was a full day walk through the jungle. Wow. I had read that in the past people have been attacked by rhinos and tigers, but it is quite rare. Just the same, I did not object when I was told I needed to hire two guides (one in front, one in back) for protection. Just before the entering the park the lead guide talked about rhino-evasion techniques in case of an attack: 1) if there is a tree nearby, climb it, 2) run away in a zig-zag manner, throwing whatever you have at the rhino. Got it. The guides are both carrying sticks. I wish I had a stick. He never explained how to escape a tiger attack. I didn’t ask. We walked into the jungle.
Not 10 minutes into the walk the head guide grabs my arm, points, and whispers, “There, peacock”. I am squinting and searching as hard as I can, but all I can see is jungle so thick 10 men and machetes would take forever to get through. “Look for the blue”, he says. Finally, I spot the peacock. OK, this guy has eyes like a hawk.
So, we are walking through tall grass so high and thick there could be anything just five feet away. He suddenly jumps back and says, “Rhino”. Sure enough, this huge beast with a large horn is not far away. He sees us. When I saw a rhino from high up on the back of an elephant, I felt pretty safe. Now the rhino and I are on the same level. Yikes. This is a little more exciting. I sneak a few pics and we take our leave.
A couple more amusing (for me) incidents. We are walking along a river bank and we spot a crocodile up ahead. “We will sneak through the jungle and get closer. Make picture”. Sneak up on the croc? Is this really a good idea?? I’m not sure about this. Anyway, as we crept along some dry leaves/branches gave us away and we heard a splash. The croc had heard us coming and dove into the river. I was really disappointed our ambush of the croc did not work. Really.
Oh, we spotted some monkeys up in the trees. My guide does a few monkey calls. They started ripping around the tree tops in an incredible display of agility. They screamed at the top of their lungs. In doing so, they knocked off a ton of leaves which snowed down upon us. “We should go”, he says, “they will piss on us”. OK, good tip. That’s the kind of advice that makes a guide worthwhile.
If you’re not less than 4 feet behind your guide, you lose him in the tall grass. Btw, what is lurking in the weeds?
Mr. Rhino, sir. We were just on our way out…
A few days ago I watched part of the 2008 World Elephant Polo Championships. I’m not making this up. I have the t-shirt to prove it. I could be one of the few people on the planet to ever have witnessed this. I heard it was going on and I just happened to be “in the neighborhood” (what I mean is, “in the country”, the country being Nepal). Basically, the polo players ride around on elephants trying to whack a tiny ball into a goal using a mallet. It is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen. It was great fun to watch. To give you the feel of it, here is a video of a goal:
Anyway, I’m back in India. Tomorrow I’m going to check out the Taj Mahal. The word on the street is it’s magnificent, worthy of all the tourists it receives. Somebody needs to check it out and see if it lives up to the hype. Sigh… I will do it. Somebody has to. I will report back.