After the Annapurna Base Camp trek, we move on to Chitwan National Park. With the help of the hotel manager, we hire two guides to explore the park on foot. To defend themselves and us, they carry large bamboo sticks. Together, we take a small boat across the river that separates the village from the jungle.
What you should do if you meet a …
At the edge of the forest we receive our instructions while a group of monkeys announces our arrival with shrieking sounds. There is a different strategy for each of the potentially dangerous animals in the park. We learn that if we meet a sloth bear, we have to form a group, raise our arms and try to appear as large as we can. If we meet a rhino, we have to climb a tree or, if there are no trees, we have to run zigzag and throw things away to distract it. There is no strategy for tigers but we are not to run if we meet one.
As we walk through the forest, we are very aware of all the noise we make even though we try to walk very silently. We feel vulnerable and as if many eyes in the jungle were observing us. But for a long time, nothing happens and the only interesting thing we see is tiger dung. It may not sound so very much exciting but it is. We are relieved that we do not meet the corresponding cat.
What we really do when we meet a rhino
We enter another patch of forest and continue to walk without seeing much wildlife. But suddenly, there is a sound from somewhere not too far away. We are told to wait while the more experienced guide investigates the cause of this noise. We suspect nothing when he gestures at us to climb the tree next to us. We try our best. But we lack practice, there are only very few branches and heavy hiking boots are not the best for climbing trees. We do not get very far up that tree. Our guides are much better climbers and they sit very high up in their trees when we see the reason for this exercise: a huge rhino is walking into the forest. It is massive. My heart races. It is maybe 30 m away and it feels very very close. It walks his way through the forest but then stops, sensing our presence. It sniffs and looks around with his angry little eyes. There is nothing but us and this huge animal. We hold our breaths, avoid to make any sound and luckily, the rhino cannot figure out where we are. They have very bad eyesight. It walks on and after a while, we jump down from our tree, relieved and excited.
Time of visit: September 2013
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