Looking for tigers at Bardia National Park
Adventures at Bardia National Park, Nepal
October 9, 2010
Pooing in a National Park at night is not the best option. Because you have to turn the lights on and all insects come to visit while you are in the toilet. So I decided to keep it for the moment being.
I was offered a job here, at the lodge where we are staying at the Bardia National Park. I could welcome the guests, show them the schedule, and so on. All for 1000 R (10 euro, per month? per day? I can’t tell; surely not per hour), Dal Bhat and lodging inlcuded. If it wasn’t this hot here I could think about it.
You can enter the park only with a guide. We were walking. So there was the risk to meet face to face with one of the big five. While we were walking along the river (the best place to see animals, while they go to get some water), the guide explained to us how to behave in case of close encounters. If meeting a tiger, you should look at it in the eyes and stare back; the tiger will leave (or at least that is what it should do). If meeting a rhino, drop something to the floor, a t-shirt or the camera, so that it is distracted (apparently rhinos are attracted by smells) and climb on a tree (???). With elephants, you just need to hide behind a tree. I wasn’t sure this advice could have saved us.
It would have been better if he taught us how to behave with leeches, as it was more likely we would have been attacked by them. During the Annapurna trekking I was worried I could get some, but I was lucky. This time it was a bit more difficult to escape. Wearing long trousers helps, but if you don’t see them in time they go through everything, even in the holes that hold the shoelaces, until the find the skin. They don’t hurt, but I hate those who get fat on my account! And it’s better if you don’t take them off sharply, or the wound will bleed. Salt or fire are the best way to take them off.
Thre are only 22 tigers at Bardia National Park, and it is very difficult to spot one. There were about 60 10 years ago. But the maoist guerrillia warfare reduced the attention reserved to the park, and smugglers could easily work at their illecit traffic. Despite this, our patience was rewarded. After hours of waiting along the river, we saw a tiger. From very far away, but I was able to appreciate its noble posture. I must also reconsider my hate for monkeys, as it was them who told us the tiger was arriving, with the screams they make when they want to alert one each other of an approaching danger.
There are 18 rhinos in this park, most of which are hidden behind tall grass (I only saw one, blind, in a rehab center, where it was kept because a month ago it killed an elder man of the village, due to his blindness), some crocodiles (that we didn’t see), lots of monkeys, and billions of leeches.
The village is also very nice. The houses are made in mud with a straw roof, and oxes help in everyday life. It’s like living in a different century.
We decided to stay one more day to relax. There’s a river where you can bath. That’s my plan for tomorrow. Maybe I’ll see a crocodile or two…
I would love a burger with a chilled beer in Crystal Palace right now.
From my diary:
10am. We’ve been for 3 hours and the only animals we’ve see so far were these damn monkeys. A bee fell in love with me and didn’ want to let go. Loads of leeches, only on the trousers so far, luckily. I am curious to see when I’ll take the shoes off.
We’ve been along the river for half an hour, waiting for something to happen (like a tiger attacking that pack of deers along the beach? An elephant coming to the river to drink? A rhino?). I’m starting to get hungry. And sleepy.
Earlier a group of man and boys was working on a dam to free it from trunks that got stuck there during the monsoon. A strong noise of broken branches behind us. I thought (I hoped) it was an elephant. No, just the usual annoying monkeys. I can’t stand them.
Can you believe someone would stay here for hours in silence to see… nothing? And I actually can’t be silent and still. With coughing and sneezing and hunger and writing, I’m constantly making noises. Now I’ll start to read. Yesterday I finished “The forgotten garden” (given to me by my friend Giorgia). I want to start “The art of travel”. I heard a growl! Oh, that was the guide’s stomach.
4pm. We are on the watch tower now. Juice and biscuits. I’m thirsty. I didn’t know elephants had a beard. And the skin so rough hectolitres of cream wouldn’t make it smooth. A boy with nice black feet. On the tower. It’s nice here.