Friday, September 6, 2013

Into the Wild: Chitwan National Park through Prithvi Highway

This is Day 5 of Nepal Travelogue (May 17, 2013)
Nepal's Chitwan National Park - a UNESCO World's Heritage Site
Our stay in the low-key Budhanilkantha neighborhood was so laidback that one more day could provoke bored Misha asking questions about wisdom of coming over to Nepal. Preemptively, I had been reassuring her that we would soon be going to the jungle – where she would meet her storybook friends – elephants and rhinos!

That was not an empty promise at all; our next destination was Chitwan – Nepal’s oldestnational park, situated in the lower country – or Terai, close to the Indian border and famous for one-horn rhinoceros, Bengal tiger, and many other rare species. Though it might not be as exotic as an African Safari but from Pakistan, Chitwan National Park might be the closest place for a full fledged Jungle expedition.

On the Road Again at 5 am: Kathmandu → Prithvi Highway → Chitwan – 175km/7hrs

We woke up before dawn to catch the first microbus from Budhanilkantha to downtown where tourist buses depart for Chitwan at 6-7 am. After reaching the makeshift tourist bus stop,  kids and Urooba settled down in one of the better looking ones while I bought breakfast from one of the vendors around. Soon the bus was running smoothly on the Prithvi Highway. The enroute scenery was as green and as refreshing as it could be around any hill station but the surrounding was more lively and happening than that in Pakistan’s North . 

However, when the bus left the Prithvi Highway, near Mugling intersection separating the routes to Pokhara and Chitwan, the landscape starts changing, so did the weather. This change got more pronounced when we crossed Bhaktapur, a major city near Chitwan, and evolved into a tropical setting with rainforests on both sides of the road.

In the bus, I had some interesting conversation with the attendant, who had been to Pakistan in an attempt to crossover to the dreamland, i.e. Europe where several of his colleagues had been living and working illegally. The poor guy, had already spent a hefty Rs. 2,500,000, ~USD 25,000, on his failed ventures! He had been deported every time he tried.

At that moment, I was only wondering if I had so much spare money, I would have thinking a Round the World road trip, in a more legal way obviously!

Weather Shock at 12 am: Traveling from 10°C to 35°C

We reached Chitwan’s Sauhara bus station, or Bus Park as they say in Nepal, exactly at noontime, and it was extremely humid and quite hot, with almost no air, completely opposite to what it was around Kathamdnu, and worse than what we had left at Karachi.

Nature Shock at 3 pm: Rhino Fight
After the cultural shock in Budhanilkantha and the weather shock at Sauhara bus park this morning, the coming nature shock was our third in Nepal and second of the day.

We were obviously expecting something exotic but not this early. Soon after we settled down in the hotel and went out for an orientation walk, we saw a rhinoceros running towards us passionately behind a harmless fence officially separating the wild and the civilization! Suddenly, a man nearby jumped from behind a tree, waved something at it and shouted, distracting the charging animal towards him. I realized that he was not the only man there as another guy repeated the same ritual the next moment. It was like a Spanish bullfight, live!

I looked at passersby who were unruffled with the show. One of them enlightened us that it was actually an injured young herbivore which had been brought to the ranger camp for medication and there was nothing to get worried! Unfortunately for us, wardens mind photography around their installations barring me recording that exciting episode.

Chitwan and Pokhara Bound Buses are Lined-up at Kathmandu's Kantipath
Tourist Flocking from All Around to Catch the Early Morning Bus
We Chose the Better Looking of All and Paid on the Spot
Maybe Because of Early Departure these Buses are  Parked on the Road Rather than at a Bus Station
Ramhes, the Bus Attendant Wanted to Work Abroad
Prithvi Highway Runs Along the Low Lying Hills
It was Mostly Green Along the Prithvi Highway
Cultivation in the Hill Country
Banana Tree: Fusion of Tropics and Mountains
A Vegetable Vendor on Prithvi Highway
Dried Fish Hanging on a Vegetable Stall
Leaving the Prithvi Highway for Lower Nepal
Close to Chitwan, Scenery and Weather Started Changing
Now it Looks More like a Tropical Country with Rain Forests
Finally Kids Find Something of their Interest
Today’s Bills – in Nepali Rupees

50 Logistics Microbus - Budhanilkantha to Thamel
70 Food Morning Tea at Bus Terminal
20 Pencil&Paper Newspaper
820 Logistics Bus Ticket - KTM to Chitwan + Loader Tip
400 Food Enroute Buffet Lunch
90 Food Milk, etc
1450 Total for May 17, 2013
11480 Total as of Today
* Room charges and hotel's food bill will be included in Day 7 at check-out

Traveler's Tip # 9: Kathmandu to Chitwan Tourist Bus
Daily tourist buses, of various companies, run between Kathmandu and Chitwan from Kantipath road around 6-7am. This is the exact location of the makeshift bus stop:

View Larger Map

We bought tickets on the spot for NPR 400 each: ~USD 4, one way, without much hassle. Advanced booking might also be possible, most probably through hotel or an agent by paying small commission but since they say "seeing is believing", I would recommend reaching their early to have a look around for the one satisfies the instincts and only then locking into it. 

We found the price and the seating arrangement, i.e. 2x1, consistent while bus condition varied from company to company, which was the major decision factor for us. In fact when we reached there, touts from the next bus quickly took our luggage and made us the tickets, without even me paying, giving the impression that if it were the only bus to Chitwan. But obviously it was not the only bus and one of the next buses looked in better shape so we shifted our luggage there after a little argument with those touts.

Public buses also run between Kathamandu and Chitwan but it would most probably involve multiple inconvenient transfers and will definitely take much more time.

All of the companies run two buses, each for Chitwan and Pokhara, from the same point, and so the above largely holds for Kathmandu-Pokhara transportation also. 

Tourist Buses to Chitwan and Pokhara Depart Before Working Hours Start
Refueling for 150 km Journey
We Found Blue Sky's Buses Newest
Bus Stopped for Lunch
Vegetarian Buffet Lunch was Good
Seating Hall of the Bus Stop Restaurant

1 comment:

  1. Another great post. Thanks for sharing. Keep them coming :)