In the jungle, the mighty jungle…

14 12 2010

‘He stopped for a wee, he had been on his motorbike coming from Chispani. The tiger just jumped on him. That was about… 2 years ago. But don’t worry, it doesn’t happen much. … Just try not to stop. At all. ’ grinned Prashant reassuringly. Bardia National Park is home to over 100 royal Bengal tigers, 75 wild elephants, and 22 one horned rhinos, all padded round with a multitude of other food chain delicacies. And we have to cycle, alone, through around 100 km’s of it. Did I mention… alone… cycling… tigers? *gulp*

Pleeeease keep up’ jibbered Catherine as yet another unidentifiable crashing sound punctured the air and the thick undergrowth shivered its density at us. ‘But if it is a tiger we have to stop and stare at it.  If we go faster it will just chase us!’ smirked Liz ‘CRAP! What the hell is that?? Slow down slow down… look! A Thing!’  As we both slowed to a nervous revolution and drew into close formation we could make out something hairy and erratic skitting around the undergrowth some 50 meters ahead. Suddenly it bolted onto the road, a stocky 200 pounds of hairy grunting wild boar stared at us before jetting off into the undergrowth on the other side of the road.  Just as we sighed a nervous relief a trotter-skidding daisy chain of 4 smaller boars bombed after the mighty pounder.

As we continued our (slightly faster than usual) ride we passed crocodile littered river banks, we rode through families of monkeys milling about the road, we heard the ‘a tiger is here’ monkey call not too far away and we managed to get Catherine to the other side without any major hyperventilation episodes!

We threw in a rest day in the park (if you can call a 10hr hike round a national park a “rest”).

Taking a walk in a national park involves tiptoeing behind a guide, Indra in our case, and being as quiet as possible. For our safety (from tigers, rhinos and elephants) Indra carried a big stick and sniffed the air a lot – reassuring??!!. We spent much of the first few hours following rhino prints and wee marks, until suddenly Indra stopped abruptly and spun round ‘quick!’ he whispered in an urgent tone ‘move back, climb that tree, QUICK!’ We lugged ourselves into the branches of a big tree just in time to see the rough hide of a HUGE rhino sashay round the corner followed in close succession by a smaller version.  We stayed in the tree for some time, not least because we both LOVE climbing trees but mostly because the rhino knew we were there and wouldn’t actually let us down.  We watched the rhinos as they grazed and went (eventually) to drink in the cool river. Throughout the rest of the day we spotted bald headed eagles, yet more crocs, monkeys and birds. And right at the end of the day, as we were wearily trudging home a huge herd of wild elephants came crashing out of the forest and plunged into the river to drink and splosh about! Sadly (or extremely luckily) there was no tiger spotting or being pounced upon for us this time.

So we leave Bardia behind us and continue along the Terai; our route running us beside the ever-present Himalayan spine that sits to our left. We are happy to enjoy the flat (ish) road before we have to face the inevitable left turn and endure the lung busting creep that winds the road through 1000+ meter passes. Peeks that for now sit content to merely watch us, biding their time. As they threaten to break us we can only hope our legs are staunch enough, our wills resolute enough and Liz’s dodgy pannier rack repairs hold firm enough for us to make it. Cross all your bits for us would you?

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