Sunsets by the Rapti river in Sauraha
Sauraha is that town beside the huge tourist attraction Chitwan National Park. As such it caters accommodation and tourist services to everyone from 3-4 star guests down to the humble backpacker. And that’s about it. Welcome to my last night in Chitwan.
In the evenings there’s not that much to do. Indeed once it gets dark the town basically shuts up shop. Because Sauraha hasn’t really tried to expand beyond being “that town beside Chitwan”.
A walk down to the Rapti river that separates Sauraha and Chitwan National Park to watch the sunset is about the only thing one can do in the evenings. More than a tourist attraction it’s a great way to watch the sometimes bizarre world of Nepal go by.
Finding a place to sit down by the river in Sauraha
At the end of the main road in Sauraha lies the Rapti river. It’s a calm wide river that on one side has a dense jungle and on the other side a row of hotels, tables and chairs. The idea is that you can sit on the chair and enjoy the sunset over the river with the jungle in the background.
Avoiding all manner of tout offering hotels, beer, hashish and seats I wondered if they also own all the tables running along the river front too? I walk to the end and find an empty white table to sit down on. A man approaches and asks me what I want to drink? I decline.
He comes back again and says the table is for his customers. I ask if he owns the land it’s sitting on? He puts on a confused face as he knows what I know.
His table really isn’t meant to be there.
He starts up a long spiel about his hotel behind us and before he continues on I get up put a finger to my lips and move on. It’s not worth the hassle.
The fact of the matter is most of the tables are empty. The hotel owns them. They are on public riverside land. We are both right. But it’s not worth the hassle to argue for a quiet evening. I just want to watch the sunset in peace.
Sitting with the boat men
The late afternoon canoes are coming in and the fishermen are tying up their boats by some large rocks. I finally have my place of solitude for the sunset. I’m a little early and well positioned to watch as random tourists come down the road for the over priced drinks at the aforementioned tables. An odd elephant and mahout saunter by. And finally the last of the fishermen silently come in.
At this end of the river I get friendly smiles from these fishermen as they walk past me to join some of their friends as they talk about the day. A few stop for a “Namaste” and ask the usual friendly questions of where from, where going, okay bye.
I enjoy it as I never have a problem with someone greeting me just for the sake of being friendly.
Then up by the white tables I see the tourists sitting down to beers and odd whoops of joy as an elephant and Mahout enter the river for an evening bath. It’s still all quite tranquil though.
Watching an elephant take a bath with his Mahout in Sauraha
Wading out into the middle of the river a mahout instructs his elephant to sit down into the water. The elephant obliges as the mahout stays on top of the elephant almost like a surfer on a board.
The elephant lies on its side with only it’s trunk and large chest poking out of the water. The mahout stands balanced perfectly. Gently turning back to a sitting position there’s some trunk splashing as the elephant gives the mahout a quick shower.
The tourist crowd nearby rushes to the river’s edge to snap photos and clap. Some evenings these impromptu shows take place with a purpose. Other evenings like tonight it was just a man and his elephant taking their baths. As they emerge some paper rupee notes are handed out as if it was a show. The mahout isn’t that interested. It’s getting dark and he seems simply to be trying to get home before nightfall.
Sunset by the Rapti rivers evening show: elephant’s, camels and awestruck tourists
Back at my end of the river the fishermen are all in as the sun finally sets. More tourists are arriving, a little late for the sunset. But with their arrival the music is cranked up from the hotels and the atmosphere changes a little.
I’m thinking of what to do next as a camel saunters by. It takes me a minute to wonder what a camel is doing in Sauraha Nepal when I figure it must have something to do with the nearby proximity of India.
Two Korean tourist rush over to take photographs of the camel. They stand there with big grins and that little “V” pose. I see what’s coming next and look behind me. I am not alone. There are two older solo travelers set up in similar positions watching the show.
Back to the Korean girls and there’s a shout from a mahout that sends them squealing away as an elephant walks up right behind them. The camel grunts crankily and starts to graze on the grass. The elephant continues on his walk home. Show over.
Enjoy the sunsets, I’m going now
That’s it for Sauraha and Chitwan for me. It’s been an interesting and somewhat confrontational time here for me. Years ago I avoided coming to Chitwan. I’d already seen a lot of jungle and wildlife in Africa. The kind that isn’t frequented by tourists. Chitwan National Park didn’t appeal to me due to that more than anything.
In the off season it’s a dry/wet place with not much to do. Good for a book to be written or some solitude. Bad for independent adventure seekers.
On my return to Nepal It was surely a shame to miss out. So I went for it throwing all expectations to the wind. I approached it all more on a business level than for personal enjoyment. That was the right thing to do for me.
Highlights of Chitwan and Sauraha for tourists
That said, I also explored what it’s like to confront your own beliefs in tourist towns like Sauraha. Took a canoe on the rapti river Went jungle trekking in Chitwan to see a rhino. Bit my pride and took a couple of elephant safaris. Learned about the elephant breeding center.
After a sunset, I’d return to a very quiet little guesthouse with a generator and WiFi. It didn’t always work, but then that’s Nepal.
From a personal standpoint I enjoyed the challenge of proving myself right and finding out what it’s like to go against one’s own grain so to speak.
As a tourist I’d have to say the highlight for me in Chitwan National park was the jungle safari trek. More so due to having the opportunity to not be a part of a tour and the excellent park guide making things exciting.
Now its trekking season again. Only this year my boots broke apart before the trek not during …
Everything breaks after nearly 8 years …