THE SECOND TREK
Our second trek was a couple of days later when our muscles had recovered - or so we thought. We climbed aboard around 3pm for a three, yes three, hour journey along the park boundary. My bum ached just in anticipation.
SPECIAL NOTE:The elephants we are on today are privately owned. Painted with cool designs, these guys look so much happier than the government-owned elephants of our first trek. The owners sang to them during our trip, letting them stop regularly to drink and graze on the juicy forest.
Our route took us to the northeast, along a corridor of jungle and grassland, punctuated with the occasional Tharu village of mud brick houses. The opportunity to interact with the villagers along the way was a highlight. Smaller river tributaries cut through open grassland fringed with forests. We observed rural village life in all its glory, eventually congregating at a large field where around six elephants and their passengers stopped to watch an intense inter-village volleyball game in progress.
We spotted countless peacocks, more deer, mongoose and noisy monkeys, before coming across some rhinoceros sunbaking in the afternoon heat. It was almost dark when we returned, a happy band of intrepid travellers indeed, but I swear my bum ached for a week afterwards.
FOOTNOTE:Padam, our guide, tells us that each year the area "loses" many people to the wildlife. Last year the figure was close to 50 and more than a few tourists have had close shaves. Most are killed by leopards and tigers with the occasional injury by a rhino. The animals wander freely through the villages and even some of the hotel properties, so you don't want to go wandering too far at night!