Being Right Where I’m Supposed to Be

My alarm was set for 6am, but I woke up at 5:20am and as I was in the bathroom, the room phone started ringing. I hadn’t ordered a wake up call, so I knew it meant only one thing – rhinoceros!

I rushed to the phone, and sure enough, the manager who had told me about the rhinos in the river was calling to tell me they were there now. I flung clothes on and ran outside.

The sun was just coming up as he walked me down to the river, apologising because a mother and baby had already left, but pointed out a rhino downstream on the other side of the river.

Even from a distance and through the morning mist, the sight of a wild rhinoceros casually grazing in the water made it feel like time had stopped.

I became very excited for our jeep safari at that point. Because of the remoteness of our location, my naturalist guide had told me that this area of Chitwan National Park is considered more virgin territory than the more populated side of Sauraha, so there were better chances of seeing a wide variety of animals.

We were due to set off at 6:30am, but a few minutes before, I realised I didn’t have my hat, so they took me in the golf cart back to my room to retrieve it and then I needed to use the bathroom, further delaying my group.

I’d like to think that the events that later unfolded, where we were front and centre, were a direct result of my disorganisation and I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

As we went to the canoe to get us to our jeep on the national park side, two other groups were already in their jeeps and on their way.

Quite quickly, our guides pointed out two rhinos in the distance, which turned out to be the mother and baby I had missed earlier.

Next we encountered some spotted deer in the distance.

We stayed silently in the jeep for a considerable amount of time because the guide had heard the deer making a calling sound indicating a predator and the deer had been acting in a manner of high alertness. Tiger!

Unfortunately, despite our stillness, no tiger appeared. We did however get to see the footprint of a wild female tiger, which felt thrilling regardless.

Our guide kept pointing out a variety of birds and our trip was halted again due to a pair of peacocks duelling it out by tail display. We could hear the sound of their feathers vibrating even from 10mtrs away.

We hadn’t travelled far due to the periods of sitting and waiting, so we stopped for breakfast to my relief. My stomach had been grumbling for 10mins.

While they prepared our breakfast, I tentatively climbed to the top of the tower as it felt quite shaky going up, but it provided views across the vast park.

We were told we were going to a different part of the jungle, but shortly after our breakfast location, we came to an open plain and saw another rhino in the distance.

As we all silently pleaded with the rhino to turn towards us and walk closer, our guide turned our attention to a noise from the other side. He thought it was two rhinos fighting.

Just as we were registering the first sounds, we could hear the sound of something crashing through the jungle and getting closer. Suddenly, two rhinos burst out of the jungle, right near our jeep!

The first rhino had to veer away and crossed over the road. The second rhino chasing the first remained on the edge of the jungle but they were both so close.

If I hadn’t been the early morning waste of space that I was, we wouldn’t have been parked on the road right at that moment to nearly have a rhinoceros run into us. I later heard the two groups before us saw rhinos in the distance, but nothing like our experience.

Our guide told us the first rhino was female and the sounds we heard was the second rhino trying to mate with her, but now he had entered another rhino’s territory, so wasn’t coming further, especially now that the rhino in the distance had had his interest piqued and was slowly moving toward us.

The chasing male turned around and headed back into the jungle, which bothered the female he had been chasing, because after a beat, she turned around and followed after him, despite previously running away from him. This seemed to bruise the ego of our distance male, because he picked up the pace to go after the female.

Rhinos are incredibly territorial and mark their territory by going to the same area to poop, so we’d often see giant mounds. I hope the young male casanova rhinoceros does not suffer the consequences of the female’s wandering eye.

All of this happened in mere moments, but it was one of the most breathtaking moments I’d ever experienced.

They could have said we were returning to the accommodation early and I would have said no problem, but we had more to see.

We came across a group of monkeys having a dispute on the road, then scattered to the trees on our arrival and more deer.

But it was when we hit the river that I was delighted again…

Our guide explained these group of elephants were former captive elephants, that are now able to wander freely in the National Park and return at night to a safe enclosure without any chains.

We tried one more location looking for tigers without any joy. Sanjay later told me there is a saying in Chitwan – “A tiger will see you 100 times before you see the tiger once” and considering how few tigers there are in the huge expanse of jungle in Chitwan, it is no surprise of the rarity of sightings. It was an incredible morning and worth every expensive penny.

I had a little bit of time to fill before heading to the airport, so I wandered around the extensive grounds that I somehow missed during my stay.

I headed to the area I had been taken to in the dark the previous night and as I went to walk inside, stopped dead as I saw the sign to the entrance.

I had goosebumps seeing that sign on so many levels. Of all the quotes by all the hundreds of well known people they could have chosen, it was this one.

Bree adored Winnie the Pooh and still to this day, I struggle seeing him. But it was the saying that also got under my skin. For people who have lost a loved one, they will understand this. I will forever love and miss Bree, but this doesn’t seem enough at all. It is a never-ending ache.

I knew I needed to leave one of Bree’s hearts in this amazing garden.

I sat quietly and cried and let the beauty and serenity of the surroundings heal my heartache a little.

I kept exploring and discovered an area of the pool I had not encountered, as usually I was there at night. It was lovely lying back on a lounge chair, just watching the water and frangipani flowers gently dropping in the water.

As I lay there, I felt Renee tapping away at my thoughts. I hadn’t expected one of the photos to come to mind as I had already been here for a couple of days, so I had to go to my bags and take Renee’s photo out.

I hung it on a tree, near a sun lounger, overlooking the pool and the river.

I think Barahi Jungle Lodge has finally given me a new happy place after losing Langkawi to development and I was incredibly sad to leave.

Sanjay drove me to Bharatpur Airport and came inside to make sure the ticket had been put aside for me. He was apologetic for the delay, but I was far more impressed with his service than a small delay, especially when, sure enough, I had a ticket.

Bharatpur Airport is the most basic airport I have ever been to, where I would have fully expected to see chickens on the flight, where the name on my ticket was spelt wrong and I was the only westerner, but I didn’t care, knowing I wouldn’t be losing an entire day to a bus trip.

We took off and I had a few minutes of agitation when we hit some turbulence that I’m sure loosened bolts on the plane, but from the moment we got up in the air, we were already descending into Kathmandu. The total flight was only 30mins!

It was interesting seeing Kathmandu by air during the day as previously, I only saw it at night, so you don’t have a concept of how densely packed it is. Daytime brings it into sharp reality. There was barely a scrap of space anywhere, especially when comparing homes when coming in to land in Melbourne.

The lady beside me had a young child asleep on her lap and asked if I would take a photo for her. She asked if it was my first time in Kathmandu, but I explained that I’d been before, but I couldn’t take the bus again. She told me the flight is better. More dangerous, but better. I’m so glad we did not have that conversation at the beginning of the flight! ūüėź

Much to my relief, we landed without incident, and I booked a taxi to my hotel. It was accommodation that looked good in photos, not so much in reality, but I was too tired to do anything about it.

I went out in search of some spicy food and thanks to google, found the Third Eye Restaurant. I was a little dubious as it appeared to cater to westerners who were too afraid to sample the local cuisine, but as I went inside, it was also filled with locals.

I had the most divine, spicy vegetarian curry with a melt in the mouth garlic naan. It was awkward closing my eyes in ecstasy due to the mirrored walls surrounding me, but I was in taste heaven.

I polished off the small bowl and made my way back to my room. It was then I received the bad news that my planned helicopter flight had been cancelled due to bad weather in Lukla, resulting in the helicopter not being able to return to Kathmandu.

It has been rescheduled for Wednesday and I sent a message to Bree and to Lierre, who’s photo I am carrying specifically for this location to work some magic and make the weather ok for this day.

With no plans for tomorrow, I happily climbed into bed with a do not disturb sign on the door and hoped for a much needed sleep in.

4 thoughts on “Being Right Where I’m Supposed to Be

  1. Just spectacular those Rhinos. I had no idea they existed in Nepal. Loved your writing

    1. I didn’t expect to be as taken with them as I was, but maybe it is just the awe of seeing them in the wild.

  2. Hi Karen,
    What a wonderful time you are having. Seeing all those animals is amazing, something you will treasure forever.
    Thank you so much for leaving Renee’s photo where you did. Renee loved frangipanis and her room is filled with frangipani things. I buy everything with a frangipani on it, so it was quite fitting that you chose that spot, or did Renee??? I’m sure she was there guiding you.
    Thank you so much for doing this and honoring your beautiful Bree.
    Have a wonderful time and stay safe.
    Di Russell xx

    1. That gave me goosebumps Di! That was 100% Renee as it was only at that time I had even seen the frangipanis and within a few minutes of sitting there and admiring them floating in the water, I felt Renee. I am so blessed to be able to do this for you xx

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