As the rain subsided, so did our enthusiasm about the Jeep safari. We had been lazing around all day and suspected the tour wouldn't be very exciting. We were wrong. We boarded our bright green open backed Jeep, me with rain coat, Paul in a t-shirt, and headed for the jungle. So, OK, we didn't really see too many animals. Some deer here, some peacocks there. And the deer and chipmunks here all look eerily similar to those in NJ. But it was amazing to stand up on the back of a Jeep and search left and right hoping for a tiger....or bear...or rhino. And we were the only ones out in the park in the rain; I love experiences where you don't feel a part of a packaged tour. Then our guide, never actually caught his name, suggested we go to a local village, ya know, see how the people do in the jungle. "Much better than the village tour [we were supposed to do day 1, but arrived too late], this is jungle life." And he went on to explain how at least once a year, tigers get hungry, wander into a home and eat an entire family. Jungle life is badass. Then he talks about how the locals right malaria, with, get this, rice wine. Man does this guy know his audience. We LOVE rice wine (raksi). We pull up to this cute little mud hut. Tons of people standing around chilling. It's after 4pm so the work for the day is done. We go inside said hut. There's electricity, TV, pictures all over the wall and then this boardlike bed with a straw mat. Wasn't expecting TV in the jungle! We drink 2 pitchers of Raksi with our guide and they bring out Buff (waterbuffalow), meat that had be spiced and cooked as an accutrament, and also raw garlic grown out back. Cool! We pry and ask about annoying tourists and he tells us some amazing stories. One Israeli dude was relentless on a 5 day trek to see a tiger, so he made the guide, against lots of warning, keep going when it was getting dark. Well, it did get dark and they started hearing wild elephants and tigers in the dark and had to post up in a tree all night and keep watch that they didn't die. Tough times. He also shared that during the Maoist rebel days the tourists obviously stopped coming. No tourists, no need for a tour guide. So he got a loan from the bank, a work permit and worked 600 hours a week in Qatar. Tough. Came home and was arranged to be married, and now has a darling 2 year old.
We finished our Raksis and got back into the Jeep with a deeper understanding of the culture we've been looking at from afar. This guy does whatever he can (learn English with no education, flee the country, fight off sloth bears....) so he can provide for his family. On the way we pass an army post. The guards had just been given a python by some towns people it was bugging, to be released back into the jungle. Of course they wanted us to look. It was pretty cool, so there's my one jungle snake sighting- finishey! As we head out the sun is going down. It's just Paul and I on the back of this jeep with the HUGE sky darkening above us. We both sat in awe and just thinking this is the coolest thing. People are packing it in for the night and we're driving through some of the most beautiful countryside either of us had seen. Definitely a favorite moment (well 45 minutes I guess) of the trip!
I suppose our guide took a liking to us, or perhaps felt bad all we saw were some deer and a bagged snake, so he invited us to his apartment for some more raksi, and so we could meet his son, Rowan. It was so much fun!!! His apt was tiny, like a dorm room, and we sat on the floor with him, his wife, neighbor who made the raksi, and the cutest little boy!! They brought plently o booze and even some potato curry to snack on with our drink. I feel so blessed that he and his family invited us into their house to share their world with us. You don't get that staying at a hotel. Whenever the TV played a song (some sort of American Idol kind of show was on) Rowan would break out in the awesomest dance moves I have ever seen. I swear Indian and Nepalese are born with moves. Then it was time to say goodbye, so our guide walked us to the hotel, we gave him a fat tip (Rowan's got to be a Dr. some day!), and enjoyed a drunken dinner at our hotel.
Our final morning and thankfully, NO rain!! Woo. We board our elephant, with 3 other people, at 7am, and head for the jungle. Elephant riding, especially on streets, is not so comfortable. It's just you being pummeled against a wooded box repeatedly. Once you're off the street and into the mud it's a little better. We'd be in the jungle no less than 10 minutes when we hear another guide yell, head towards it, and who's waiting for us?? Mom and baby rhino!! Our elephant, along with 2 others, walked right up to them eating their breakfast. They didn't bat an eye as we all ooh and awed and took pictures, of which I have approximately 200 too many. Then head back into the jungley jungle (out of the grassy jungle) and saw some deer, crossed deep rivers, saw frogs, held on for dear life, and tried not to think about the massive chest bruises that were being beaten into us with every step. It was really cool, but even with the rhinos, paled in comparison to hanging out in the jungle and with our guide at his home. And it wasn't just the booze :)
Alas, after breaky (ha so many English people everywhere) we sadly/hungovery boarded our "4 hour" bus to Kathmandu. It was actually a really nice bus, big seats, no AC obvi, except the fact we were in the last row. Which was bumpy. And the seats were raised above the windows. Awesome, so bumpy I may lose breakdfast, I can't read, write or see anything, and it took no less than 7 hours. Asa. LOVE buses! But guess what, IT'S THE LAST ONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We may do a few short excursions from Kathmandu, but NO MORE 5+ hour rides.
We got of the bus, got a free ride to a cheap, large hotel room (with TV and wifi!), and we LOVE Kathmandu. I wasn't expecting much, just another city, but there's flavor here. Shopping. Foreigners. Temples. People, people, people. Tos of restaurants and bars. My first tofu since Korea (that's over 2 months my friend). LOVE. Yoga will wait a day, we need to marinate in some Kathmandu tomorrow.