25/04/2008 | by Vinc Deur
March 30, Southern Nepal
It’s all fun and games until the bushes fifty feet in front of you explode into a charging rhino and the low sound of galloping mixed with a twisted snorting is getting louder and louder. It’s at about this point that you stop fiddling with your video camera and start negotiating the fastest way up the nearest tree. Which brings us to the climax of said situation and the zenith of my own ‘rhino tracking’ expedition. Anyways, the rhino, pretty pissed off and ornery looked around (thankfully its vision sucks) and lifted its nose to the sky to catch a scent of the perpetrators [me and Quinn] that have crossed its personal bubble. Luckily the rhino stopped charging before I had to get up the tree, and slowly I slipped my camera outta the bag to get some sort of shot. But my hand is shaking from the initial brush explosion, and the shot comes out blurry. Like I’m a fuckin’ photographer anyways-? How did we get here?
Out of the human jungle of India and into the, well, jungle jungle of southern Nepal, I crossed over the border by foot and immediately notice flags everywhere. Elections (twice postponed) are happening soon, and there are political flags and banners hanging from every telephone post, rooftop, and motorcycle handlebar- mostly all Communist. I’d known that there was an ongoing bloody conflict between Maoist insurgents and the congressional Nepali government, and now I was seeing its present day politikas. I had also just begun traveling with my old friend Quinn. Who is Quinn? Quinn is the kind of guy who not even ten minutes after meeting someone feels he’s created enough personal trust to deem giving them a ‘tea bag’ or ‘fruit bowl’ an acceptable gesture of friendship. And not the kinds from Safeway. Unashamedly American, the opposite of P.C., frequently immature, yet always on point, Quinn is going to get us killed.
We had heard from an American couple in India that there was a really cool wildlife park in southern Nepal they’d gone to to see tigers, rhinos, crocodiles, leopards. deer, blah, blah, blah- you might get chased by rhinos. And though pretty stupid and dangerous, that this was the funnest part about the park. This bit of info was enough for us, so we were on our way though Maoist territory to get to Royal Chitwan National Park. Dropped off by the bus in a town a ways before the village near the park, we got aboard a rusty rickshaw manned by a frail yet feisty old man named Ramupandi. Within a couple of minutes Quinn was belting out hits like Fergie’s “Lady Lumps” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” into the crisp, night air. It was a long-ass ride though and being the old man that Ramupandi was, we had to get out and help him up the tricky parts and inclines of the road. But he was grateful, and along the way introduced us to his family. It was nearly midnight, but we all had time. Going deeper towards the jungle, the town lights faded and fireflies or maybe animals’ eyes flickered all around us along the way. By the next morning we had met two guides and thus began our excursion through the park.
And although we were at least 1000km from the nearest ocean we were ‘rhino chasing’ in Nepal. The original form. Or maybe more like furtively-sneaking-up-on rhinos, really. Seriously, those things are massive; some the size of a small two door , I dunno, Hyundai for example? And the rest of the blah, blah, blah’s were cool too: crocodiles lazing on riverbanks, wild boars darting through bushes, or herds of deer jumping in unison behind distant trees like some mythical apparition, or maybe like in Lord of the Rings
By now, Quinn has gotten the two guides provoking each other; taking turns tapping one another in the gooch with their walking sticks. This is the form in which America shares its culture. Occasionally we see women, bless their hearts, carrying heaving loads of grass on hunched backs back to their villages. Quinn turns to one of our guides- Sauras- and asks, “How come in this country only the women carry the heavy loads? Why don’t the men do any work?” Sauras casually replies, “What we are- da girls?”