Friday, August 19, 2011

A Morning Elephant Ride

I dragged myself out of bed early—I had an elephant to ride before getting on the 9:30 six-hour bus to the Nepal-India border.

The lodge provided a vehicle to take me and two other guests over to the community elephants, and we climbed stairs up a wooden platform to gingerly step out onto the elephants back and then into the saddle.

I was hanging off the back this time—penance, maybe for having a good view last time I did this—and most of what I saw looked like this:


We didn't see any rhino, and certainly no tiger. We did see an elephant's back, of course, and we were glad to be up on it, given the deep water that the rainy season had brought to Chitwan National Park.

Every time the elephant flicked his tail, he brushed my foot in mud. 

We were back at the lodge before 9, scarfing down breakfast. 

I said my good-byes and got a lift to the bus. The bus to the border.

A group of tourists was on-board already. They'd spread out around the empty bus, one to a seat. 

"That's not going to work, guys," I said with a touch of snark. "This bus is going to fill up." 

They ignored me.

For the moment. Later, as people boarded, they grumpily shared. 

We pulled out, back into the green hills, onto the narrow roads of Nepal. No public transport strike today, so the roads were a good deal fuller than yesterday. Good thing there wasn't a strike, too, since this was a regular bus and not designated as tourist transport. 

The rain began in mid-morning, with drama and force, dripping in through old seals on the windows. But we were inside. So the rain wasn't really a problem (though my lunch of a fake Moon Pie and chips was kind of a drag).

Until we arrived at the border, where the conductor handed me a soggy backpack. 

The tarp hadn't been positioned right. The luggage had gotten wet.

My backpack—all my possessions aside from what was in my carry-on—was soaked. I had much of it packed individual containers, some waterproof, some not. And I was going to be on a train tonight, not in a hotel, so I couldn't survey the damage until tomorrow morning.

I hailed a rickshaw from the bus terminal to the border, put on my wet backpack, got me exit stamp, and marched into India.

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