Friends, farming and our first safari experience
04.04.2014 - 13.04.2014 33 °C
The main reason we went to Chitwan was to volunteer on a small "eco farm" in this tiny little village called Maghauli.
We arrived from Kathmandu by taking one tourist bus that dropped us into Narayanghat where we was abruptly dropped off to find the local bus to Maghauli. We searched the streets and asked lots of non English speaking locals for the bus. It eventually came, well all 6 ft of it. It was possibly the smallest bus I've ever seen and it was obvious that the bus had seen better days. Any who.. with our new found travelling bravery we got on, even though the bus boy just nodded when we mentioned the little village. Once squeezed on the hot bus with Hindi music blaring at full volume we made for the little village. The semi smooth concrete road quickly disappeared and turned to mountain like terrain as we where thrown around the bus with no room to swing any kind of cat in. Our knees were battered and bruised due to the little leg room available as more and more locals stared at our uncomfortable faces. After an hour on the bus we soon realized that we have no idea of where to stop but luckily enough the elderly Nepali gentlemen next to us was the neighbor of the park owner. And it seems the only white people who get on this bus must only be going to the eco village.
We got off the bus around lunch time to find this derelict house in the middle of nowhere and was told to walk around the back to the fields where we could see a number of small huts in the distance. We were quickly greeted by a young Nepali boy called "Divash". Little did I know that he would turn out to be one of the most annoying kids I have ever met! The farm consisted of 3 small huts, a slightly larger circular hut and a kitchen, set around a garden which had more concrete mounds than plants. We were greeted by Bishnu, the Nepali man who ran the project, and the team of volunteers. We weren't expecting there to be so many, which was a nice suprise when we found out we would be joining a group of around 8 people from various countries. After a quick walk around the farm and our first of many servings of daal bhat, we spent the afternoon getting to know the group and watering the plants.
The following day was a Saturday, so we joined most of the group on the 3 bus journey to Sauraha, the small town where Chitwan National Park lies. The weekend was spent relaxing on the riverside where the elephants crossed, taking dips in the water to cool down and playing frisbee in the fields.
Local children taking a dip in the river
Elephants crossing where we were swimming
When we all returned back to the eco farm there were even more new arrivals waiting to get to know the group. The day to day life on the farm was pretty chilled out. It was so hot in Chitwan that we could only work 2 hours in the morning and 2 in the late afternoon. The rest of the day was usually spent sleeping, walking into the village, or playing cards with the group.
These two local kids wondered onto the farm and woke us up every morning chattering away so loudly in Nepali
Dan and Ulri having a kick about
Some of the volunteers were slightly confused by the project because certain aspects which were advertised online didn't exist, such as a children's library where volunteers could help out, women empowerment projects and sports programs. When we asked Bishnu it was difficult to communicate our points because of the language barrier and from what we understood, the crops we were harvesting only fed his family rather than the community. We had heard many stories of volunteer projects which aren't quite what they seem here in Nepal. Despite this slight negativity within the group, we really enjoyed our week on the farm. It made us appreciate indoor plumbing, electricity, and gave us a passion to be more eco from now on. If there's one thing we've learnt since travelling, it's that the world needs a lot more looking after!
Our camp highlights would be telling stories around the campfire after making dough balls, cooking a non daal bhat meal all together, and dancing with the Tharu tribe women. But the people were really what made it! So many different characters from across the globe, all with a passion for travel. We already miss hearing Bishnu reply "YES PLEASE" every time we called his name, but we do NOT miss Divash noisily devouring every packet of biscuits we bought!
Having a lesson on how to build a fire from Ant
The local Tharu people came to perform a traditional stick dance
Making bread on a stick over the campfire
Judith's Harry Potter impression
Us, Ant, Giles, and Uri around the campfire
Seeta (makes the best Daal Bhat in Nepal) and Divash (cookie monster)
Upon saying our goodbyes and leaving camp we returned to Sauraha for a weekend in the jungle before leaving Chitwan. A small group of us rode the roof of the bus out of Maghauli village and spent the weekend together. This is when we did the jungle walk, realising we had best do some kind of safari activity before leaving. Our hearts were set on seeing a rhino but we had no idea what we were letting ourselves in for! We went into the jungle via an hour long canoe ride with our friend Nicole from the eco farm, and two jungle guides with decades of experience. For 2 hours we seemed to be walking around in circles spotting only deers and tonnes of rhino poo! Then we heard a loud crashing and the guides looked startled. It was mating season for rhinos and apparently very dangerous to be in the jungle (love how we wasn't warned when booking!). There were rhinos fighting nearby but we could only hear them through all bushes and trees. Our guides started gesturing for us to climb up a nearby tree which was not in any way, shape or form climbable! Before we knew it everyone turned in the direction of what sounded like the trees being trampled getting louder and louder. Everyone's eyes were popping out of their heads in fear as the guides screamed "RUNNNN!".. We both ran for our lives of course, but Amiee was way in front close to the guides in survival mode, as Dan seemed to be holding back the giggles behind. At that moment of time he was thinking.. "Yesterday we were planting radishes and today were being chased by rhinos through the jungle"... the beauty of travel!
Needless to say, we managed to escape the angry rhinos and later saw two more from a safer distance, along with crocodiles, monkeys, snakes, and lots of strange bugs. The only signs of a tiger were paw prints and poo, but after the rhino incident, we questioned if we wanted to cross paths with a tiger anyway!
Some snaps from the Jungle Safari