May 6: Pokhara to Chitwan National Park

The clearance came through from headquarters to continue on our itinerary -- so up early (5:45am) onto the bus (630am) and off down the road to the river drop in point for a rafting trip. The route, however, was several hours long on potholed roads, so it was more of a kidney shaking, teeth rattling, bumper car experience! But once again the scenery was beautiful. We were leaving the mountains behind and headed down into the Kathmandu Valley again. The morning sun kissed each peak as it rose over the top and then illuminated the entire snow covered faces as if turning spotlights on each one.

The people were also up early and off to their daily chores. The Maoists are still trying to keep everything closed up, so shop owners were reporting, but not opening the door. However, the farmers were trying to maintain their routines. Their lively hood depends on the daily crop tending. Rice patties had women pulling weeds, men plowing new fields, people carrying supplies to market, all basic requirements of survival for each one of them.

For much of the morning we were following a river as it winded and twisted down from the mountain top. Then it was the clear point where we would abandon the bus and float down the river to our next destination. Donning helmets and life jackets, we eagerly jumped into our rubber rafts and sailed off into the gorge. Both sides of the river were outlined with steep green cliffs that seemed to go up forever. Waterfalls cascaded down from above. An occasional songbird announced our arrival at a bend or a single fisherman casted his net out as we passed. The river is low right now because of the dry season, but occasional rapids did create a moment of excitement and definitely a cooling off as the wave rose up over the edge of the raft.

Several hours later, wet but happy the group pulled off to the side of the river and was reunited with our bus. With towels to sit on, we all settled in for another long ride to our final destination of the day, Chitwan National Park.

The Maoist are letting the tourist alone but on several occasions as we bumped along we were stopped by either the military or a mob scene. The military didn't bring up any anxiety in any of us, but the sight of the mob made everyone sit up straight and watch with concern. The Maoists have been trying now for several days to bring the country to its knees -- fortunately they are not being able to. The government is resisting and the local people are getting tired of being told that they could not continue with their daily life. The country on the whole is very poor and to deny people the right to work deny's them the right to live. We are now witnessing the Maoist against their own people. Even some of the protesters are quitting and going home. However, there is always the threat that the non-violent protest will turn violent and none of us want to be caught in the middle.

After taking a few back roads to avoid having to be blocked by the mobs, we jostled and bumped around until arriving at our home away from home for a few days. The Safari Narayani Hotel in the Chitwan National Park, "Heart of the Jungle" in Nepal language, is located far from the mountains -- and deep in the jungle on the Kathmandu Valley. The people here are "gatherers" rather than herders of the hills. Women can be seen cutting the elephant grass along the river edge each day to take back to their livestock. Fishermen are netting their meal each morning as the animals come down for their morning drink.

Special treat tonight -- a local shaman has come to demonstrate how to cure an illness. While none of us were told what the illness was, the shaman pounded his drum, shook all over as well as lit incense and tossed rice and flower pedals into the air. He has been a shaman for many years having been kidnapped at seven for three months to learn the trade. Now he is the respected "healer" of his community.

Neighboring us is the indigenous village of Tharu that the only way to access was by oxen cart. The local naturalist accompanied the group -- a member of this village himself -- and educated each one of us of the way of life that this village had done for hundreds of years. This is not a tourist village; this is not a village of "pretenders"; this is a village of real live people doing their normal thing everyday. It was a treat to have them share.

After such an early morning wake-up call it wasn't hard to convince people to retire early!


"I'm Ready!!!"

"Us Too!!"

"Is This The Way?"

Sorel: "Okay, I REALLY Know What I am Doing!"

Elaine: "Do we have to paddle? I am taking videos!"

Peg: "Are we sure this guy knows the right way?"

Susan & Gail: "Come on guys -- you just have to have a little trust!"

The Mighty River

Maoist Protest

All Around Us

And More!

Watch Out for the Police!

Don't Anger the Mob!

And the Women Keep Working! Weeding the Rice Patty

Local Taxi Ride

Tharu Village

Our Own Naturalist

More of Tharu

And Another View

The Children of Tharu

Gathering Elephant Grass

Our Lodge!