During my recent field trip to visit four rural community libraries, we managed to sneak in an early morning visit to Royal Chitwan National Park. Officially created in 1973, area has been protected since the 19th century as a hunting preserve for Nepali and foreign aristocrats. In 1983 Chitwas was added to the UNESCO World Heritage site list. At the time of the 2000 census the wildlife numbers looked pretty good: 544 rhinos, 80 tigers, 50 species of deer and other mammals and lots of birds. Sadly, those numbers were reduced during the recent 10 years on conflict and the local economy of the Tharu villagers has been hurt by the falling tourist visitor numbers. The Sauraha area, which is the area where I spent the night, was hard hit by monsoon floods in 2002. The Rapti river flows through the Park and there are also numerous lakes.
Chitwan is one of the last refuges for the Gaida, or one-horned rhino. Only about 2000 survive worldwide. The Indian elephant is the largest animal on the subcontinent and the Park has a successful breeding program. With three of my traveling companions I rode on the back of one yesterday. You board from a platform and sit on a small web deck that has a railing around it.
The first part of the ride was through the jungle where we saw the rhinos and deer. We heard a tiger but our elephant flared her nostrils and balked and would not go anywhere near the sound. Our guide thought the sound indicated that the tiger had made a fresh kill and was content.
The best part of the elephant ride was after we left the jungle and slowly made out way back to the through the village to our lodge. From atop our friend we could see the people and animals slowly come to life and start their day. I saw more goats and water buffalo that morning than most of you are going to see in your lifetime. Seriously.
I LOVE rhinos - I am so jealous. :) I want to hear more about the "hootchie cootchie" pictures on the bus ride. Here, my favorite bus driver has soft-core porn plastered on his visor with the business cards of various sex shops. Pretty interesting when there are mostly 70-year-old, Eastern European women sitting behind you.
...victory, respect, and a salute to the divine. I'm on a one woman mission to help the whole world fall in love with Nepal and discover the divine embedded in the turmoil. To my home away from home: Jai Nepal!!!
I'm completing my Master's degree at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. I've just completed my International Public Service Project in Kathmandu, Nepal working with READ - Rural Education and Development - an INGO that opens libraries that serve as community development centers. What's next? More public service in Nepal and the U.S.