We arrived at Chitwan national park bright eyed and bushy tailed. Or at least we got there. There was a lodge, or mosquito haven as I like to call it. The food there was ok but they did have an item called an Englishman in Chitwan. Basically eggs on toast. Still it tasted nice.
The first thing I saw was an elephant. A Pregnant elephant. She seemed happy but was hobbled by an ankle in the stable.
We had a brief wall down to the village. The houses were much better quality and the people generally more well kept than in India. In fact the whole place was cleaner, better built and quieter.
The people were working in the fields when we arrived to the village and working hard. The buildings were mainly brick, but had a thatched construction to their roofs. It was muggy and there were a pot of insects in the air, so I put my repellent on as we went.
The next day was much busier. We had a morning jeep safari, although we didn’t see any animals we did go to a crocodile farm. The lazy buggers were all laying in the sun, but it was getting hot by this point so I couldn’t blame them. The vegetation was in full bloom as it had been fed well by monsoon season and there were lots of birds around.
Some of the guys washed the elephants and were remorseless dunked and soaked in the river ( glad we avoided that as there were a few bad guts the next day). The elephants were smaller than African ones, and could fit three or four people on. Some of us signed up to the elephant riding the next day and then we were off to the jungle walk.
We were really lucky and saw four rhinos in three seperate sightings. These are even more impressive in person and there body armour looked formidable. We got as close as fifty foot but wisely left it there.
We didn’t see any tigers but as the rhino was the last of my big five African creatures to see (lion, elephant, hippo, giraffe and rhino) in the wild I was pretty chuffed.
We then headed back to the centre for elephants and found out a bit more about their domestication.
Apparently they take a calf from its mother at two years and then isolate it. They rope it up and teach it how to take direction by pulling it one way and the other. Then at night they burn there skins to toughen then up. This can lead to damage which needs to heal.
Wait, what. They burn elephants to make them rideable. I didn’t sign up to that.
We then saw all the elephants, hobbled by metal chains and a calf taking instruction (sit,stand) and a few of us began to feel a bit bad about there treatment. Not that there is anything wrong with domesticating animals. Horse breaking is common and there are obviously other creatures who are tamed, but there was something about the majestic creatures which towered over us and their sad eyes which put me off it.
Having ridden an elephant before it was an easy decision to make not to ride them. Jo and Dean were much more impressive in deciding not to on moral grounds, as they never had before.
If you’ve read my blogs you know I’m not a bleeding hearted liberal. As a meat eater I feel I have to be willing to put my money where my morals are and be willing to kill animals for food as well. It’s all sanitised when you get food delivered to you, but I have made sure that I shot something in Zimbabwe when I went to have the right to eat it.
In this case though elephants seem much wiser and sentient and I felt it would be wrong to ride them if I disagreed with the breaking process. Consequentially we cancelled our rides.
Everyone has to make their own choices though , so other people did what they thought best. They all ended up saddle sore for a day or two afterwards so I felt like I dodged a bullet there!
We then headed to Pokora and our penultimate destination of the trip.