I am a typical urban Kathmandutie; but unlike majority of my peers, I can proudly say I haven’t just visited places beyond Kathmandu but even lived there. Chitwan being one of them – however, the very famous national park of this district had been left undiscovered for quite sometime – until very recently.
In the midst of Monsoon (August 2015) I made it to Meghauli, Chitwan – about 178 KM from Kathmandu. Flew from Kathmandu to Bharatpur. Took a cab from Bharatpur to Meghauli (32 km) where Barahi Jungle Lodge is located. It takes about 1.5 hrs to get there from Bharatpur airport. This was part of a package tour.
Interesting things to witness on the way to Meghauli (as is with every other flat land of Nepal):
2) Vast farm lands
3) People commuting in bicycles: Again another typical terai feature. Like people in Paris or Amsterdam, except – here in Nepal, it is the cheapest way to commute – not that we care about the environment; unless they really do care about the environment.
While reading the reviews, I noticed people complaining about this long ride to Meghauli. On the contrary, I actually loved it. The downside is the bad road condition – otherwise it is a great way to watch the local world go by.
I felt very awkward by the fact that my brother and I were the only guests on the day of the arrival. All attention on us, just not used to so much luxury. Barahi Jungle lodge is located in a Tharu village, hence the reason they have mainly employed all Tharu locals. We were assigned Subash Gurung as our naturalist, he was an encyclopedia of Chitwan National Park and Chitwan itself. If you ever go there, hunt down this guy and learn everything you wanted to know about Nepal and its wildlife, and don’t forget to give me a credit – i.e if you are interested in one.
Things we did:
- Elephant safari: Monsoon is an off season. Since it rains so much, jeep safari is not allowed in the park. Plus elephant safari is permitted only in the community forest area, which I must say was still very impressive. You can also notice the extent of the thickness of this forest while you’re on board approaching to land in Bharatpur.
- Elephant Bathing: I technically didn’t do this because it involved taking a dip in the river and the heavily influenced American side of me got scared by the brown colored river. I know, I totally chickened out 🙁 Actually I suffer from aquaphobia.
- Boat ride: This was the best part of the package for me. I think Gorkha beer had something to do with it (or had everything to do with it). There were four of us (my brother, I and two other guests). This was supposedly only a boat ride. Those guys surprised us by stopping somewhere in the jungle – with beverages all lined up. I was like – heck, I’m drinking beer! But didn’t think I could take the whole bottle since my brother didn’t want to accompany me. Then this another guest and I made a deal – to share a bottle… and another one. It was drizzling in the middle of this green community forest. Very romantic. Then the two elephants were brought in to pick us up! another round of elephant safari.
- Visit to Tharu museum: Learned that tharu and Newars have in fact a very similar culture. I highly recommend this to those who are curious to learn about ethnic community of this district.
- Bullock cart ride: It was a fun ride
About Chitwan National Park: I was thoroughly impressed by the park. Out of 3500 national parks in the world, this one is the 19th best! The main park is spread across 900 sq meters plus the community forest separated by the river. Although, technically I didn’t get to visit the main part of the park, the community forest alone was very impressive entirely owned and managed by the local community. We could have had done, jungle walk in the main park – but it was way too hot to try that. So, I bailed out. The park is safe guarded my Nepal army, one of the reasons why poaching is under control. Considering nothing in Nepal seems to be working, turns out that’s not the case with our national parks. Nepal is in fact pioneering the wildlife conservation. Yeah, try beating that America!
Coincidentally, the last day when we had to leave – it was supposedly Tharu community who’d called for Chitwan bandh. But the Tharus of this village didn’t seem to have a clue. One has no idea what’s happening in Nepal, can’t trust the media either. Everything is happening in Nepal; yet nothing is happening in Nepal, if you know what I mean. All I can suggests is – do not trust the media. Talk to the locals instead. There are definitely no security issues, but that doesn’t mean you venture out in unknown areas without your guide either.
I’m definitely visiting this place at least one more time.
Chitwan, Nepal from Shailiza Manandhar on Vimeo.
Watch this video on YouTube: