We want to see animals, not in a zoo environment but free and wild hunting animals, so decided to skip Chitwan and instead head for remote Bardia, the second largest park in Asia with populations of Bengal Tigers, Rhinoceros, Elephants, Wild Boars, Pythons, Crocodiles, various types of monkeys, deer, and birds. The park lies in the far west of the country in the Terai, where the people speak a different dialect. The ride out isn't easy if you're in the middle of the country, so after leaving Pokhara in the morning, we endured a hellish 17 hour ride on ancient Nepali buses over bumpy roads, frequent stops, steep drop offs on the roads, cramped conditions with people sleeping in the aisle, and of course Nepali music blasting through the night. We made a few stops along the way and got hot chapati and vegetable thali for dinner. Despite the ride, I found myself tapping my feet at times to the rhythmic traditional music.
We had arranged at our hotel in Pokhara for a pick up at the bus stop in Ambassa to the Park, so were met by Madhu at 5 AM who had been waiting for 3 hours due to the late bus. He drove us for another 30 minutes through the dirt road to his little hotel, where exhausted went to sleep. Bardia is one of the few parks in the wild where you can scout for animals on foot and so skipping the raft and the jeep option decided to try and get up close and personal with the fauna. During lunch Sabeen drank some suspicious looking water and started feeling nauseous, which turned into full blown sickness and before long she started throwing up, which lasted two days and was finally cured after Madhu took us on a bumpy ride to the village clinic and after swallowing a pill started feeling better.
With a day lost but thankfully our park permit refunded for the next day began our walk with Prim, our guide to the park. Looking for wildlife requires lots of patience and our first day's resulted in spotting deer and some birds. Sabeen spotted a massive Python resting on a fallen tree along with Prim locating a crocodile on the riverbanks.
The next day, we came face to face with a huge elephant a few feet away and were ready to make a run for it if it charged. Luckily, we backed away slowly and continued our trek. Going through high grasses got our hearts racing for fear of sneaking up on a Bengal Tiger and every time we would hear deer or wild boar, we would freeze and fear for the worst. At our lunch stop by the river, came upon a huge Rhino bathing in the river and watched it playfully bathe itself for a few mesmerizing hours. Beginning the walk again, spotted a troupe of few hundred monkeys sitting by the river and as the day began to wane, we came again to the watchtower and were surprised to see another elephant in the far distance. We quickly descended and tracked it's movements across the river, when it stopped for a few seconds, turned to face us, and disappeared into the jungle. Great way to end the day, walked back to our camp and slept peacefully.