Posts Tagged 'pokhara'

Existential Panic World Tour Part 6: Stripping for rhinos

I’m back in the noise and the stench of Kathmandu. I found that ten days worth of rotting garbage has accumulated a block from my hotel giving the whole neighbor some added ‘atmosphere.’ The garbage men are apparently on strike.

Anyway, about nine days ago I boarded a tourist mini-van bound for Chitwan a massive national park that boasts a sundry of wildlife including rhinos, sloth-bears, crocodiles and allegedly tigers. The park is located on Nepal’s southern boarder where the Himalayas level into the Indian plain. Tour agencies around Nepal advertise jungle safaris into said park and enthusiastically play up all the cliches associated with “the jungle.” Lodges with names like ‘Tiger tops’, ‘Wild Safari’ and ‘Tarzan hotel’ are seen repeatedly in the tourist literature. So with the theme song of Raiders of the Lost Ark playing in my head, and a massive can of bug repellent in my bag I ventured out of Kathmandu valley and onto the open road.

Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that the ‘open road’ was in fact closed due to a massive landslide. The population of the bus waited for about three hours at a truck stop. I ate a suspicious-looking omelette as I listened to a lantern-jawed Brit, Steve, and an Argentine who looked like Chris Farley rant about how terrible India was. We mused on whether Indiana Jones ever has troubles with landslides or indeed explaining the concept of travelers checks to a particularly dense bank teller, having flight delays or even getting a bad case of the shits from a cheese sandwich. As the hours drew on Steve the Brit grew impatient and lead a revolt against the bus driver. The driver wanted to hang out at the truck stop with his buddies. We, having met a number of people who have been waylaid at the truck stop for several days, wanted be driven to the sight of the landslide and fend for ourselves.

Since this was the only paved road that connected the East part of Nepal with the West, the crowd of buses, trucks and people stretched for at least 4 kilometers. The landslide itself was feverishly being worked on by four guys with two gas-powered back-hoes. One person operated the machine while the other doused the engine with water to keep it from overheating. After an hour, the road was clear enough to allow pedestrian traffic to pass. There was still a good sized pile of earth there though and there was ever the possibility that one of many large rocks could come down and brain some witless by-stander. Nonetheless, two days worth of foot traffic was determined to get through, including myself and Steve, the lanterned-jawed Brit. The clamor and crush of humanity recalled WWII documentaries of Chinese peasants fleeing their villages. People carrying huge bags pushing and shoving their way through. Later, after walking for about 10 km, we got a ride on a local bus that had the misfortune of getting not one but two successive flat tires. All told, it took 14 hours to get to a place that was supposed to take 5. Other people I met later had an even more harrowing time of it. One Japanese guy I met said he rafted down a river that paralleled the main road and then hitched a ride on top of a gas truck.

The next day, the first activity of the package was the jungle walk. Soon after we boarded hollowed out canoes across a river that demarcated the park’s boundary, the guide gathered us at the river’s bank and said in a tense whisper, “What I’m going to tell you could save your life.” He ran down the different methods needed to evade an attack by one of the park’s many large scary creatures.

If a rhino charges, one is to:

a) climb a tree

b) if that’s impossible run circles around a tree

c) if there are no trees run in zig-zags

and d) if all else fails strip.

Rhinos have terrible eyesight but an excellent sense of smell. The scent of one’s inevitably sweat-drenched shirt, pants or whatever might just confuse the Rhino into attacking the garment. With the Tiger, one simply stares into the Tiger’s eyes and walks away slowly. An inopportune sneeze basically will make you lunch. As he was saying this, I noticed that the only weapon he had was a smallish bamboo pole. Nary a stun-gun, dart-gun, pepper-stray can, cattle-prod, or lawn dart to be had. Just the pole.

More fun Rhino facts:

1) The African Rhino has two horns, the Asian has one.

2) They always deficate in the same location.

3) Mating for the rhino last 3 to 4 hours. During that time the female continues to walk about and graze as the male is, um, riding along.

Much of the hike was spent either walking through ankle deep mud or dashing into bushes. We saw a number of monkeys, some hog-deer, a rare bird that I’ve never heard of, and tiger tracks. But up until the last hour of the hike I saw nothing that would justify the images of Indiana Jones in my head. Until the guide signaled us to be quiet as we crawled towards a large hulking form that he said was a rhino. As I crept closer, I had one foot pointed in the opposite direction and I was ready to run zig-zags, strip or flap my arms and sing “The Yellow Rose of Texas” if the situation required it. The rhino did charge but fortunately in the opposite direction.

Next activity was the elephant ride, which was much more pleasant. Four of us climbed the great creatures and off we went galoomphing along. The ride was quite pleasant. There is no natural animosity between rhinos and elephants so we sauntered right up to several without the traumatic stress of the jungle walk. We tramped through the high amber grass of the park and the scene looked almost African. Rhinos grazing, exotically shaped trees, and mud huts in the distance. Beautiful. The cadence of the elephant’s stride, though does leaves one feeling a bit like the victim of a bad chiropractor, however.

Anyway, the next day, I boarded another bus for Pokhara where I was to begin my trek. Stay tuned…

Existential Panic World Tour Part 5: The News In Brief

I’m back from my six day trek around the Annapurnas. My legs are so sore that I’m hobbling around like Captain Ahab and my clothes smell like a Taiwanese nightmarket but somehow I survived. I’ll write all about it once I get to a web server that isn’t run by a bunch of mouth-breathing weasels as this one in the resort town of Pokhara is. I’ll be back in Kathmandu in a couple days where I will recount my adventures with rhinos, vertigo and bootleg videos. However, I have culled an actual article from the September 8th issue of the Kathmandu Post to whet your appetites. I did not make this up:

YAK BLOOD CARNIVAL ENDS

MUSTANG, Sept 7 (RSS)–An annual carnival of drinking yak blood, unique to Marche and Muli villages in this district, concluded here recently with the participation of 20,000 carnivalists.

On the occasion, the carnivalists from Baglung, Myagdi and Mustang districts participated in the rituals in which about 500 yaks were slaughtered.

There is a popular belief here that drinking yak blood is a remedy for gastrique, blood pressure and gastric diseases and many other diseases.

However, it is felt that health [sic] of the yak should be checked properly before they are consigned to the rituals; for drinking the blood of an unhealthy yak may transmit various diseases to humans.

Words of widsom indeed.


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