Chitwan Day 1: Bamboo Grass Harvest and Elephant Twins    

Elephant mom and baby
The mountains disappeared in the distance and we were in a tropical flatland, reminiscent of the Amazon. We passed villages and large fields of yellow mustard flowers where women in maroon, red, and purple saris walked like a scene from a Bollywood film.

Every year for just 3 days villagers are allowed into Chitwan National Park to harvest reeds. We had arrived during that time so the park was very busy. At first I was annoyed since it meant there would be lots of people. But as we stood on the shore watching the action, I thought we were lucky to be seeing this cultural activity. The hotel is located on the river and the main beach was the scene of lots of activity. Men stood at the ends of long wooden canoes ferrying people across the river, looking a bit like Venetian gondoliers with their long wooden poles.

Wooden canoes
Other men floated down the river on rafts made from newly harvested reeds or walked through the water pushing huge piles of floating reeds. On the beach in front of the hotel, the rafts were cut apart. Women and men carried the bundles away, sometimes loading them on bicycles but often just carrying them up the road by hand. The reeds, called bamboo grass were about 6ft tall though they could grow to 22 feet. They are used for houses but also are sold to paper factories. 100,000 villagers collect the reeds.

Bamboo grass rafts

Taking apart a reed raft

Carrying bamboo grass
In spite of all the activity, the village has a relaxed air to it. The sun is warm and air tropically balmy. The colors are dusty blue and green. The trees are thick but low. The river drifts by and maybe watching people hard at work makes one realize how much we are relaxing. A cool breeze blows.

The wildest thing we've seen so far is a huge bees nest outside our bathroom window. The swarm is about 2 feet long. There are at least 8 inches of it that is just solid bees hanging onto each other. It makes for interesting viewing while sitting on the toilet. Fortunately, there is a screen between us and them.

Wild bee hive
Later we visited the elephant breeding center where we saw baby elephant twins. All the adult elephants in the center are female. They mate with wild bull elephants that are excluded from the main herd (which only has one male to a group of females). So the Elephant Breeding Center also serves as a brothel for loser wild elephants. The baby elephants wander freely but the older ones are chained. One baby walked out of the pen and was soon surrounded by eager admirers. The elephants sway back and forth. I thought this seemed kind of neurotic but our guide said they just wanted their elephant treats.

Elephant twins

Elephant baby and fans

Dancing elephant
We finished the day with a short walk in the forest to a small pond. There were some cranes and we heard a lots of bird calls. The pond was quiet and still. In the distance we heard the sound of a barking deer.

Pond at dusk

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