Discover Nepal: Nagarkot and Chitwan

A 10-day trip to discover Himalayas home: Day 3

OH! How I fell in love with this magical place.

This visit to Nepal was my second time traveling to Asia. The first was a trip to Jordan (here). After ten stunning days spent here, I might say that I left a piece of my soul in Nepal. I hope that I can get it back one day.

After the first two days spent in Kathmandu (here), we arrived in the beautiful Nagarkot, which is the prime spot to observe the magnificent Himalayas.

Since our arrival was in the late evening, we actually didn’t have the chance to see what is there for us. Instead, we were welcomed with a fantastic Nepali buffet, a large guest room where we played tons of games and assimilated more into this culture.

After a long night of wild chatter and fun, we barely managed to get two hours of sleep, but it was worth it. When I woke up at 6:00 in the morning, I knew one of the most astonishing sunrises of my life.

Oh man, what a night and what an early rise…

For those active nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, there are lots of hiking opportunities to do in and around Nagarkot. Among them, the Nagarkot eco-trail (nature walk) along with Nagarkot panoramic hiking trail is the most popular ones. You can also do Paragliding with the Everest view in Nagarkot.
Which we actually hiked and after we had to continue our journey further, to Chitwan National Park.

Chitwan National Park

After an authentic, delicious Nepali breakfast, we hit the road again towards new adventures in Chitwan National Park. The ride wasn’t so long and I’ve got the chance to see some parts of the rural side of Nepal.

Once arrived in Chitwan village, we settled in our rooms, stuffed ourselves again with yummy and delicious Nepali lunch and we went to the park to watch the elephant bathing ritual.

As a fun fact, the name of Chitwan is derived from Tharu’s words “Chit” (meaning “dense”) and Ban (meaning “forest”).

Besides the natural wonders and diverse fauna, Chitwan National Park it has a very important significance in the history of Nepal. In 1973, it was the first national park declared and in 1984 it became a part of World Heritage Sites.

It covers an area of 932 km2 (360 sq mi) and is located in the subtropical Inner Terai lowlands of south-central Nepal.

But the true adventure was about to come: elephant safari.

I have never been closer to an elephant more than 60ft and separated by a fence, so I was truly excited and scared at the same time. Also, I have never been into a jungle so that added an extra to my adrenaline rush.

Since the end of the 19th century, Chitwan used to be a favorite hunting ground for Nepal’s ruling class during the dry/winter seasons. Camps were set up for the hunters and their entourage, where they stayed for a couple of months shooting hundreds of tigers, rhinoceros, leopards and sloth bears.

The fact that this amazing place became protected by UNESCO made a big deal on the species and fauna conservations.

Since the Chitwan National Park is home to at least 68 species of mammals, we were hoping to see the king of the jungle: the Bengal tiger. Accordingly, to Wikipedia, this part of Nepal is the largest natural habitat for tigers.
Unfortunately, this time we weren’ that lucky but we got to see other cool mammals such as One-horned rhinoceros, deer, buffalos, rodents, monkeys, other elephants, alligators and really colorful exotic birds.

Besides the ones that we have seen (is quite hard to stay focused when your elephant is running like crazy to chase a rhino and her cub), we could have seen leopards, sloth bears, otters, Bengal foxes, spotted linsangs and honey badgers and many more.

After one hour or more, who really knows because it seemed like forever to me, our crazy safari adventure came to an end. There are a few times in my life when I wanted to kiss the ground because I got out there alive after an adventure and this elephant ride was one.

The program for the rest of the day didn’t end so we continued our journey to meet the Tharu people from the village of Sauraha, Chitwan.

Chitwan National Park is the Homeland of the Tharu people, also known as  “Sons of the Earth”, who are the original tribe of this region. Around them, a whole legend was built, these mysterious people are being considered as the descendants of Budha. Although very little is known about Tharus, it is clear that they lived here long before the arrival of Indo-Europeans.

They have their own language, culture, and traditional beliefs. Until the late 1950s, they were the only inhabitants of Chitwan. Accordingly, to the Tharu Museum, their physical features indicate a Tibeto-Burman ancestry, but because of the proximity of the Indian plain, their language is similar to Bhojpuri and Hindi.

The architecture of the village is pretty basic, being composed of multiple muds and reed huts. Domestic and farm animals roam around or are in enclosures, like in the most of the countrysides of Nepal. It’s a basic place where people really do live and work, is like a living museum.

These simple, mostly one-room structures with no chimney and no windows seemingly have little to hide from the outside world. During a day, life takes place outside. You may find old sewing machines on the porch, pots hanging above the fire, carpenter tools, goats wondering around, hens and chickens scratching the ground for delicious worms and many more.

Besides their lifestyle, for centuries, Tharu people seem to be immune to malaria (recent medical research points to genetic factors acquired by Tharus’ immunological system).

Unfortunately, because we ran out of time we didn’t have the chance to dig deeper into their culture and history and visit the museum.

The sunset time was approaching us with fast steps so we all went to a prime spot and nourished our souls and glazed our eyes over Narayani River. What a fantastic end of our day!

How to get there: The GPS coordinates for:

Entrance fees: None.

Gear-up:

  • I have approaches shoes, but any hiking boot will do perfect, comfy hiking pants, T-shirt, and a rain/windproof jacket (it is 100% depending on the time of the year when you visit it)
  • BRING WATER, I usually carry camelback or nalgene bottles
  • And as a photographer, I took my Canon EOS Mk 2 with the 16-35 mm USM IS2 f2.8 lenses and the 70-200 mm usm is2 f2.8 lenses

The whole day trip map is here: https://goo.gl/maps/Xmpt1o7FUC72

Photo: Diana C.

Text: Diana C.

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