It’s quite surreal to be awoken by the noise of an elephant trumpeting. Immediately, before you can process thoughts, nature is reminding you that you are now in her territory. The rules are different here, your eyes need to be open but unless your mind is also, then you’re forever blind.
Chitwan (meaning ‘Heart of the Jungle’) National Park covers over 900sq km of jungle marshland and forestry; it’s rich and diverse wildlife attracts those who are searching for a taste of the natural world. Are we not all eager to reconnect with the wild? To learn the language of the mountains, understand the complexity of the stars and follow the footsteps of the elephant. There is something more real, more authentic in that world, than the one that we live in.
Chitwan is one of the few wildlife parks in the world where you can still venture on foot with a guide. Krishna, our guide, highlighted the risks associated with a jungle trek, noting that we were now entering the home of wild animals and for that reason we were back within the hierarchal structure of nature. Rhinos, sloth bears, wild elephants and tigers ruled the land and we were nothing but minor visitors hoping for a glance of the untamed.
There is a high level of risk involved with attempting to obtain that glance and Krishna told the story of how he was attacked and bitten by a sloth bear. He explained that locals feared the sloth bear the most because of their unpredicatable temperament.
We had gained access to this region of jungle by canoe; a canoe that was purely carved from one tree trunk, no nails, no joints. It was impressive. The mist from the river was heavy and cold, it provided a dramatic and mysterious setting. There were two types of crocodile in the river, we had watched them basking in the sun the previous day. Krishna explained that only one type was a risk to humans but assured us we were safe in the canoe, he also added that most were asleep at this time of the day. He was humorous, liked to joke, had nothing but a large stick as protection but he was experienced in this environment. I trusted him, I felt safe.
On the trek itself, we were lucky to see a variety of different wild birds and deer, but no rhinos, bears or tigers. Part of me was disappointed and I suppose part relieved that an uncommon attack didn’t occur.
Our developed world seems so restrained and controlled, at times I feel it’s crippling on health and safety precautions. So that glance of the wild, the risk associated with it, the curiosity of the native unknown is essential for the soul. Well, it is for mine anyway.