Pokhara and Chitwan.

After recieving our Indian visas in Kathmandu it was time to finally bid farewell to this city that we both fell in love with. Our next destination was Pokhara. Most people visit Pokhara  because it is the beginning point of many treks in the Annapurna range. Since we were finished with our trek we were mainly going there to relax and have a very lazy week.

Pokhara is situated on a big lake and has a couple of short day hikes nearby from which on clear days you can see the Himalayas. We took a bus there and after looking through tripadvisor, decided to stay in the Iceland guesthouse. Even though we hadn’t booked, the owner happened to be at the bus station when the bus arrived and gave us a free ride to the guesthouse.

We were very impressed when we saw it, it had beautiful old rooms with high ceilings and lovely wrap around balconies. The price was a little above what we had hoped for but luckily the owner dropped it for us since we would be staying for 5 days.

Unfortunately I can’t report much on Pokhara as we took those 5 days and just ate, slept and relaxed. We did go to a bat cave one day. The guide book said that over 1,200 bats live in this small cave so were looking forward to seeing that. Unfortunately when we arrived we found out that it was mating season so there were about 10 bats there.

Jason crouching inside the bat cave.

The weather was mainly cloudy for our stay so we decided to not do any of the short treks as there would be no views. Pokhara was a strange little place as it seemed to be a town set up purely for foreigners. At the beginning it was nice, eating pizza and fresh bread every day but after a while we got bored and were ready for our next destination…Chitwan National Park.

There are 2 main reasons to visit Chitwan and they are rhinos and tigers. Tigers are very elusive and sleep during the day so we knew that our chances of spotting a tiger were very low but we both really wanted to see a rhino.

Once again after looking on tripadvisor (our savior while travelling) we found the Chitwan Gaida Lodge and hoped to get a room there. Before I go any further I want to say that if you ever visit Chitwan you must stay at Gaida Lodge! It was one of the best places that we stayed throughout all of our travels.

Moving on, we arrived at the bus park and Gaida Lodge had a jeep waiting and had rooms available so we jumped on. Once we arrived the staff had cold lemonades waiting for us and showed us our beautiful room. We were staying in a bungalow with a nice balcony where we could listen to all of the sounds from the jungle (that was just across the road from us). That evening we booked our activities for the next couple of days which were a canoe ride down the river, a full day jungle trek and then a half day jeep safari. We were determined to see some wildlife!!

That evening one of the guides , Bishnu, brought us and another couple out for a walk around the area, we got to see the government owned elephants. We found out that a lot of times wild elephants come into the area and impregnate the female working elephants. We also got to see some birds and rhino poo. (so close!) When we arrived back after our walk the staff were waiting for us with some cold drinks and nice cold wash towels to freshen up with. It were these little extras and the fact that the staff were incredibly friendly that made Gaida so wonderful.

I got pretty excited when I saw these buffalos…mistaking them for rhinos.
A cute baby elephant.
The next morning we were up early to begin our morning canoe ride. I was hoping to see some wildlife but I wasn’t feeling lucky as I always seem to miss out on animals. For instance, while in Borneo we did a jungle stay where you are practically guaranteed to see a wild orangutan, Of course there were none to be found while we were there. While I was diving in the Great Barrier Reef all I wanted to see was a turtle, unfortunately my air ran out quickly so I had to go back up about 5 minutes before the others…in that 5 minutes they all saw a turtle. You get where I’m going with this.
Jason inside our dug-out canoe.

Myself, Jason, Kristel and Gavin set off with Bishnu and a local canoe owner and began our animal spotting. Bishnu had told us that usually the morning canoe rides are mainly about bird watching. It was so peaceful on the water and we saw so many birds, then after about 15 minutes we spotted our first crocodile, he was quite far away but we managed to swim up close to him before he went under the water. Then as we turned a corner Bishnu saw a rhino a bit of a distance away. We all fell silent as we got closer and closer to him. He was wading in the water so close to us. He noticed us but then went back to grazing on the grass nearby. We sat for about 10 minutes watching him, he was so beautiful.

One of the crocodiles that we saw.
Our first rhino!

Asian rhinos look different from African ones in that they look like they are wearing full body armour. I was so content after seeing that one that when we saw a second one I couldn’t believe our luck! This one didn’t like us hanging around and wouldn’t keep his eyes off of us for the whole time we were there. But as we drifted away he went back to his business.

It was right around that point that we spotted another crocodile. He went under the water as we were getting close to him but while looking for him he came up right next to our boat and swam away. It was crazy seeing him so close!

After the amazing canoe ride it was time to get out of the boat and climb up into the jungle. Bishnu gathered the four of us around for a serious chat. He warned us that we must not make any noises and to always follow him and if a rhino comes and tries to charge at us to try and climb up a tree. It was at that point that I got a little scared. We were in a jungle where tigers, rhinos, sloth bears and elephants live and we were walking around with no protection whatsoever!

Jason and Bishnu just after climbing out of the canoe and ready for our jungle walk.

The first area that we were going to be walking around was a long grass area. The grass was taller than all of us and we all walked around so silently pausing every time we heard a noise. Every once in a while Bishnu would make us pause and then check the grass around us. While we didn’t see any animals we did come across some tiger pee, it was quite fresh which meant that a tiger had been there maybe a couple of hours beforehand. After the long grass area we got into a wooded area, here we saw some deer, a snake and were tracking some wild buffalo but lost the track before we could find them. It was close to midday now and to say it was hot is an understatement. It was probably in the mid 30’s so we found a shaded spot and ate from the delicious packed lunch that Gaida Lodge had made for us. We then continued walking until we found a watch tower. It was so hot and we didn’t have any water so we decided to stay here for a couple of hours to get out of the sun and to try and spot animals from the high vantage point.

The long grass in Chitwan jungle.
Me looking out at the jungle from the watch tower, desperately trying to spot some wildlife.
Some claw marks, Bishnu thinks they are from Sloth Bears.
Our guide, Bishnu.
Jason making his way through the jungle
A huge termite hill.
These beautiful bugs were everywhere!

At this stage you are so desperate to see something that every grass that moved we were sure there was a tiger hiding behind it! Once it got a little cooler we decided to head back towards the entrance of the park which would take a couple of hours. In this time we saw some working elephants and more deer. As we were walking all of us were dreaming about getting back to the lodge so that we could have some icy cold baths. My fingers swelled up so much from the heat that I couldn’t intertwine them. While getting closer to the entrance all of a sudden a massive hail storm began. I’ve been in lots of hail storms in Ireland but none like this! The hail was actually the size of golfballs and hurt so bad when it landed on you. Luckily it only lasted about 15 minutes and before we knew it we were back at Gaida with some nice cool drinks waiting for us.

The next day we had a free morning so we went down to the nearby river to watch the elephants being bathed. Then it was time for our afternoon jeep safari. Since we hadn’t seen any rhinos during our jungle walk the day before, we were hoping to see some today. About 10 minutes into our drive we were all startled by a rhino right next to the road. Unfortunately I think he was a bit more startled as he immediately began charging at the jeep. Luckily he seemed to come to his senses a couple of seconds later and ran the other way hiding in the bushes. I was so scared when I saw him charging but it was incredible to get to see him so up-close. During the next couple of hours we would see 3 more rhinos, monkeys, wild peacocks and working elephants. It was an incredible experience for both of us. We were both so happy with the animals that we had seen and after hearing that the night before a tiger had come in to town and mauled 3 locals to death we weren’t too upset about not seeing one.

one of the elephants getting
washed by his owner.

The next day was to be our final day in Chitwan and with no more activities booked we spent the day with Kristel and Gavin by a neighbouring hotels swimming pool playing with some Indian kids.

Leaving the river after his bath
This is a working female elephant and her baby that we saw during our jeep safari.
A flying monkey!
A rhino in the lake, the bird was perched on top of him for the longest time.
A wild peacock.
Sunset by the river.

Chitwan was definitely one of of the highlights of our trip and would definitely reccommend visiting it for anyone that is in Nepal.

Tips:

Accommodation:

Pokhara:

We wanted a guesthouse that was close to everything but not too close and the Iceland Guesthouse was perfect for us. It is down a small peaceful road with other guesthouses there but only a 3 minute walk to lakeside.
Tripadvisor reviews:

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g293891-d1964995-Reviews-Iceland_Guest_House-Pokhara_Gandaki_Zone_Western_Region.html

Phone Number:   9856031305  



Chitwan:

As I already mentioned Chitwan Gaida Lodge was an amazing little guesthouse. The staff were the most welcoming of any place either of us have ever been and always have a smile on their faces (seriously…even at 5:30am!) They also really try to create the best itinerary that suits you and try to keep the costs down as much as possible…highly recommended!

Chitwan Gaida Lodge Website:

http://www.chitwangaidalodge.com/Default.aspx

Tripadvisor reviews:

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g1367591-d2083553-Reviews-Chitwan_Gaida_Lodge-Sauraha_Chitwan_District_Narayani_Zone_Central_Region.html

Activities:

We organised all of our activities through Gaida Lodge and most other guesthouses would have this facility. There is no need to book anything before arriving in Chitwan.

Gaida Lodge from our balcony
Jason enjoying a beer after our jeep safari.

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