The second destination on my journey was an “Eco-Village” farm near Chitwan National Park. So, from Kathmandu I took a local bus to Bharatapur, and from there had to take another, smaller, more crammed local bus to the park location. Between construction from landslide repair, and traffic, the roads were in terrible condition. The poor little girl across the aisle was throwing up all over her moms sari the whole way. I gave her the roll of tissues I had in my bag, I felt so bad it was all I could do. Later, at a bathroom stop she was able to clean up a bit, and her daughter presented me with some chocolate candies, then later, she helped me figure out where I had to go when I was dropped off at a dusty chaotic roadside. A little tissue goes a long way.
The “Eco-Park” was located in a small village of Meghuli, a pothole-filled dirt road an hour from the nearest city. The Park itself was open to the local community, even though only the volunteers and the woman who worked in the kitchen resided there on a permanent basis. The complex was composed of ample garden space, (most of it a mess with monsoon rain weeds), a stage (where morning yoga was practiced), a few buildings (not in use), the volunteer huts, and the kitchen, all surrounded by rice patties.
There was so much potential, a great advantage to the local community, but aside from the morning “yoga”, the only community gatherings were under the wifi router after sunset. There were green slogans painted everywhere, and eco info-graphics, but, plastic bits of trash strewn all over the ground. Instead of feeling serene, the heat and the crickets just gave the park a neglected air of stagnancy. A great idea fallen into disrepair.
We woke up everyday at 7, to get a few hours of work in before mid-day. We had “lunch” somewhere around 10 and then worked again at 4 until dinner somewhere around 8pm. The first few days were fine, I did my minimal amount of weed pulling and used my free time to write, workout, walk into the village, anything to keep myself busy. And then, it struck. Traveler’s diarrhea. Three days (including my birthday on which it was the worst) I was bound walking the path between my little hut and the bathroom. My fellow volunteers were super nice about it and even made me a “cake” for my birthday.
The highlight of my week there was the trek into the nearby protected forest area. The day after my birthday, when I was still recovering, our journey took us into the forest protected area, but not the national park itself. There, we spent a sweaty mosquito filled night in an observation tower.
The next morning we walked to the boarder of the national park, where we saw Rhinos bathing, they did not seem very happy being spied on. The park is a National Heritage site and known for it’s work for protecting the Rhinoceros, the one horned Rhino is an endangered species and the conservationists at the park have actually brought number up in the past few years.
Another endangered species that lives in the park is the Royal Bengal Tiger, that we did not get to see, much to my disappointment. But we did see signs that there was one close by, a paw print, some scratch marks, and a fresh puddle of pee.
This area is also famous for the over 500 different species of birds that call it home. We saw some peacocks, ( I kind of forgot they were animals and not just fancy decorations) ibis, eagles, and a giant crane. I thought the birds would be the least impressive to me, they are hard to see, and frankly, kind of boring, but the crane was actually my favorite part of the whole walk. From far away it looked like a scrawny old man wearing a cape, and with one step it spread it’s huge wings and floated away. It wasn’t fast, and it didn’t seem to really fly, but it just kind of hung in the air gracefully until it glided out of sight. Something about the way it moved, or barely at all, felt very beautiful to me. We tromped around the National Park Boarder spying on birds until mid-day, and it was just too hot to continue.
A day after our jungle walk I’d had enough of the heat and couldn’t contain my mountain fever any longer. I headed straight to Pokhara.