Today we are up early and packed, we are coming back to this hotel in two Days so we take the option of leaving one of our suitcases there-making it easier for Hurry to see out the back window. We gather up all our precious trinkets and laundry and fill one massive suitcase. He seems happy to see we’re one bag down when he arrives. Hopefully everything stays safe here- cause Hurry hasn’t seen Furry like two women who lose their trinkets. He is good looking- like a cross between old school 13 year old Christopher Winsor (those who know will get it…..) and Nepali 007. Dark eyes and good hair with a hint of danger- or confusion- or something. Can’t quite put my finger on it. But we make jokes about how he’d say his name. “Hurry. I’mina hurry.” And a wink.
We have a 5 hour trip ahead of us-if all goes well- and we will be taking the Only road heading in and out of Kathmandu- it stretches clear to India- so its well traveled and busy. At home on our highways? This trip would take less then 1.5 hours. 150kms.
It’s so bumpy! I have the entire back seat of the long new 8 seater van- and I bump from one side of it to the other-feeling like a kid in the back seat of the bus. After a while we catch on and put our airplane neck pillows on. More to protect the goods then for comfort. Like little boujee helmets. Hurry laughs. And swerves to catch more bumps. Apparently he likes his white people shaken not stirred.
Eventually I’m sufficiently convinced we’re not going to die, so I stretch out in the back seat- hands curled in under my chin-which I quickly realize is not the best idea- as I’m consistently punching myself in the face with all these bumps- or right hook holes as I’ve decided to call them. So, I lay on both my hands- use the seat belt to strap my legs down- and regret not wearing 2-3 more bras. This works for a bit until the truck ahead of us decides to stand on his breaks- causing Hurry to slam on ours- and I face plant into The back of Nicole’s seat so hard I near knock myself out- sitting up to see Gary and Nicole are now basically sitting on the dash board. Hurry laughing hysterically.
That’s when we decide to crack a beer. Our nerves need it. So- 9 am beers in a rolling bouncy house it is. Greg, Mike- plug in all those hand pieces. I feel some major front tooth trauma coming on. The beer helps- and after I apply some make up I don’t think anyone will notice the mouth bruising in the half moon shape of a can. I think of offering everyone a Mento’s that I have in my purse, But with the beer in our belly’s and this bouncing- one of us might blow. So thankfully I think Better of it.
The drive doesn’t disappoint in the scenery department. Mountains so high that we can’t see the top even if we crouch down in the van to look, village after village for the entire 6 hour drive- all precariously perched on the side of the mountains above and below the road. We are traveling along the inside of a valley of sorts, following wide meandering river, villages on both sides of the river- the other side only accessible by desperately long suspension bridges wide enough for 2 people that are speckled throughout- every 10-15 kms.
After some bathroom stops and some snacks we arrive at the little village that the resort is in. We’ve left the mountains and are in a huge steamy valley floor. Mountains now off in the far far distance on either side. The Himalayas- snow peaked and majestic. We drive up to Machan Villas. As we drive in Chris is in full panic. The village is very primitive- clean and friendly, but primitive. Like- no running water primitive.
When we arrive at the resort we are met by 4 impossibly beautiful women, who make quick work of emptying the van of our bags, placing the heavy ones on the heads and carrying the lighter ones. We walk through the jungle for just a few seconds and it opens up to a lovely bar and sitting area. Now your talkin. It’s back to about 38 degrees- but we’re talking almost 98% humidity. We are all drenched in sweat from the 3 minute walk from the van. We order beers- asking for local if they have any- and they do. Namaste beer. It is freezing cold and mild and delicious. Exactly what we needed.
Still no idea where our rooms are-Chris settling a little bit but clearly still nervous- we are invited for lunch- motioned to enter a large dining area with thatched roof and a set table waiting for us. We are the only ones here at the moment- and we have the staffs undivided attention- they serve us a beautiful meal of traditional Nepali food- chicken so tender it taste like it was done in a slow cooker- falling off the bone and moist- spicy, but not as spicy as India- and no curry! Yay! Potatoes slow cooked as well- braised in a thick red sauce much like red stew gravy. We devour it-I think we scare them.
Finally we are brought to our rooms- they motion us down a little walkway and finally Chris’s mind is at ease- adorable little houses- one for each of us with sweet covered front decks for sitting. Opening the door we see it is very well air conditioned, with HUGE bathrooms on the back-walk in stone showers. This will do just fine.
Our wildlife guide comes and introduces himself- well call him Blart. I’ll explain more later. Plus no way can I pronounce his name. He tells us that we are invited on a safari this afternoon- would we like to walk? Or would we prefer to take the elephants. What????? Um- warm up a couple of elephants please 🙂 He goes into a huge dissertation about what we should and shouldn’t wear- no white, no light colors at all actually, long sleeves and pants if possible. Yeah buddy. We’ve been told that before. Not happening twice. But he is very forceful- so we at least wear dark clothes.
He asks that we meet him at the park entrance at 4pm and we will be brought to the elephants and start our first ever safari! Through the jungle!
This is when I decide I can help pass the time until 4- about 2 hours from now. I tell everyone to get changed and meet Us at the park entrance- Chris and I have a surprise. We get comfy in our little huts, unpacking essentials and repacking our nap sacks for the safari, and then We sneak to the grassy area next to the resort pool, order 4 Namaste beers, and wait. They arrive and see the washer toss all set up- and burst out laughing. What kind of lunatics bring washer toss to the jungle? Our kind. So we play until it’s time to leave for our elephants- I mean Safari- staff all staring and intrigued.
We meet Blart and hop in a Jeep- driving though a little village and finally coming around a corner to see- ELEPHANTS!!! They are playing and waking around- 2 lovely big happy girls- sticking close to each other with young men on their shoulders. When they see the jeep coming they start to walk toward us- eager to meet us. We get out and are introduced. One- a smaller one compared to the other- is named Calisi- the other Marwanta. Nicole and I pick Marwanta- the bigger elephant, and after giving her snuggles we are motioned to a platform to climb so we can climb on board. As we’re climbing she comes over, turns around and backs into place ears flapping. Eager for us to get on board. Chris and Gary do the same on Calisi and off we go. We mosey along on the well tread path, and quickly realize that we are about to go elephant off roading- Marwanta veering to the left toward the river. She starts down a pretty steep hill- and we are told to hold on tight by the nature guide. We do and good thing! She easily walks down the embankment as directed by her rider and we realize this isn’t going to be like the India ride- this is a Jungle ride. Then she walks through the river- up to her belly- and up the other side. All the while stealing grass to eat- grass she rips from the ground and then smacks it on her own legs to get all the dirt off before eating it. She’s out for a stroll- and we just happen to be tagging along. From the open area of the river- we head into the jungle- and realize that what we thought was jungle before? Nope. This is the real deal. We are impossibly high up on her back and we can see the jungle floor perfectly from here. As we pass certain trees we are told to keep our arms close- don’t let it touch you- poisonous or thorny- Marwanta not even noticing. At one point I see a leaf coming towards us that looks normal- but is completely COVERED in three inch long red Beatles. As I’m in the front Marwantas ears keep me safe brushing it aside, and positioning it to whip back at Nicole. “NICOLE” I scream as it hits her and bugs trail down her leg- what?? She says. Nothing. Some things are better left unsaid…..right?
Both our elephants get ambitious and haul a small tree out of the ground. We ask Blart what the heck is she going to do with the tree?? He says give her some time- she’ll eat it. And we slowly start to hear her chomping it- impossibly loud snapping. We see barking deer (named Because their call sounds exactly like a barking dog) and wild bore…all staying pretty clear of us on account of the fact that WERE RIDING ELEPHANTS.
This lasts for 2 + hours, and during that time our elephant cry’s out to the other if we get to far in the lead. Our driver explaining that they don’t like to be too far apart in the jungle. They worry about each other. They are best friends. And by the time we get back our arms are aching from holding on- huge smiles on our faces.
We dismount and say our good byes- hugs and kisses for our elephants- we will see them again later because- they’re ours tomorrow afternoon also- when we have to bath them. 🤯mind. Blown.
We get home and are met with a traditional dinner- soup tonight- cauliflower soup-hot and spicy and delicious. Always amazes me how hot soup can cool you down. Then chicken and potatoes again- with rice pudding to end.
We gather some cold beers and head for our houses- Washer toss in the front walkway this time. And the girls ALMOST win. One of our dinner servers who we have come to really like- she thinks it’s hilarious that we ask for green chili’s every time we sit down- walks by on her way home for the night- and we rope her into a game- teaching her rules and how to throw. She is really quite good! And I think we’ve just opened the Nepali chapter of the muppet washer toss alliance.
We are pretty early to bed tonight-Probably 10? Because we’re up early tomorrow. Breakfast at 7:30 and our jeep safari starts at 8:30.
When we wake and make our way to breakfast Blart is excited to show us a slide show of what we can expect to see today on our safari. It’s somewhat painful- but we’re eating while we watch so we’re fine- but this is the reason we call him Blart. He is the Paul Blart-mall cop of tour guides. Takes his job SUPER SERIOUSLY, but seems to always manage to screw it up- while ignoring the fact that he’s screwing it up. The slide show has to be started over 2 times because he presses the “next slide” button too many times and doesn’t know how to go back. And doesn’t want us to miss the picture of the sparrow we may or may not see on our trip today. He also wants us to know exactly how to pick out the species of deer we’re seeing by memory. Barking deer, spotted deer, scared deer, monkey riding deer. Deer god. Over it. Anyway. Once done we are off. Cooler packed with boxed lunches for us.
We quickly see barking deer, and 300 other types of deer. We see monkeys playing in the river and crossing it- babies in tow. Much different from the monkeys we’ve seen so far although the same type.
We see two types of alligator-Chris getting way to close for comfort to one of them.
And Blart is on a mission- he is going to see a rhino today. So we drive from check post to check post, river to river, tree to tree. Seeing everything BUT the rhino. Eventually he gives up and suggests we stop for lunch. Sounds like a good idea to us- rhino chasing is hungry work- so we stop by a river, they pull the truck into the shade and hand out lunches. Buttered bread and chicken for us to make sandwiches. Mango juice and fruit. I remember how much the India elephants loved bananas- so I suggest we save them for our time with the girls later today- everyone agrees and a elephant boxed lunch is started. We also throw in our apples.
We pack up from lunch and Blart looks more determined then ever. We start through the jungle again. I wonder if one of us should yell-“I saw one!” So we can cAll it a day already. And just as I’m thinking that- Nicole does just that- yelling RHINO!! Thank you sister- then realizing that SHE DID SEE A RHINO! She spotted it before Blart – and I don’t think he’s to happy about it- yelling, “YES I NOTICED IT TOO BUT ONLY BEFORE YOU.” The Jeep stops and we are about 10 feet away from a huge mama rhino and her baby in the trees. I take pictures but they can’t possibly do her armor like skin and tusks justice, so I opt to just sit there and watch her. She sees us, and pushes her baby behind her to keep an eye. She’s certainly not afraid of us- but she doesn’t want us to even lay eyes upon her precious little one.
Blart says that 3 weeks ago 4 of the guests at this resort were on a walking safari when they came upon a rhino. It charged and the guide broke 3 ribs trying to protect the guests, and in the end one of the guests got hurt also- having to be helicopter evacuated. Yikes. So we stay right where we are in the Jeep.
Once we’ve had time to watch them, the driver revs the engine and scares them back from the road and off we go again, Blart saying- “ok now we look for tiger”. NOOO. Just no. It’s at least 40 degrees and so humid I feel like I’m wading through water.
Take us to your finest elephants.
He says “you sure? We’ve seen 3 tigers this year!” I’m pretty sure this could turn into a “Gillian’s Jungle” situation real quick if we let it-I’m hearing “a three hour tour…a three hour tour…” in my head. No, we thank him, but we would prefer to get to the elephants and back home for a cold beer. (Especially considering we wore the dark clothes today, AND we saw another Jeep group of people wearing flowy white tank dresses and men basically in Speedo’s. What gives Blart???) He reluctantly obliges and we start the 45 min driver out of the jungle.
About 5 minutes in I feel something fall on my head, and down my face…. and On to my shirt….. and I turn to the others calmly…. “um excuse me, I think something just pooped on me?” I see three HORRIFIED faces staring back at me. And then Nicole starts to laugh, and Chris scrambles for tissues. A monkey or bird or tree elephant- or some other curry eating animal- just pooped on me. I literally just got crapped on. There is silence as Chris cleans me up and considers how he’s going to break it to me that he’s never touching me again and during this awkward silence is when Blart speaks up and says, “oh yes. That is spotted owl feces. Very rare.” Almost in a “perhaps if you’d been listening during the how to identify poop section of this morning slide show…..” And that’s when he nearly gets charged like a poop covered rhino.
We continue on giggling off the poop incident- about 10 minutes further- when all of a sudden the Jeep goes silent. Try and try as he can our driver can’t get it to start- under the hood- shaking his head. Blart trying to get a signal on his phone the whole time. Nothing. I think that tree elephant was trying to warn us with that poop….
So after 15 minutes of trying, Jeep not starting and still no signal, they break it to us. Time to walk out of the jungle. Walk. Out. Of. The. Jungle. In 40 degree heat and heavy nap sacks and poop stained faces. So we begin. Blart still pointing out various types of birds- Chris and Gary holding Nicole and I back from jumping on him spider monkey style and clawing his eyes out and feeding them to the spotted owl. About 8 hours later (okay more like 25 minutes) we see a group of buildings- an army base- we had stoped there on the way in for security purposes-and I near cry. Our feet are black from mud and dust, Nicole and I with headaches from emergency rhino watching (me in the front as her human shield again) and we smell like a mixture of jungle bait and owl poop. I picturing us showing up to bathe the elephant only to be scrubbed down by them instead.
At the base Blart and the driver call for a new Jeep and by the time it picks us up 30 minutes later we all have a severe case of PTJD- post traumatic jungle disorder. To which the only cure is bathing elephants….Blart asking if we still want to….DUDE I DID NOT GET POOPED ON IN THE JUNGLE AND BASICALLY JUST LIVE THE MOVIE 7 YEARS IN TIBET TO NOT BATHE THE ELEPHANTS. HE backs into the Jeep slowly and calls to confirm that the cranky white ladies do, in fact, still want to see the elephants.
As we pull out of the tangle of jungle, we see one of our girls from last night- Calisi (pronounced ka-lease-ee). She is the smaller giant that Chris and gary rode and she is 68 years old. And she’s just laying on her side in the water waiting for us. Nicole and I put on our water shoes and literally RUN to her- while Blart strips to his underwear. (What the?) The water is HOT. Not just warm. Hot tub hot- warmer then the air. No wonder she loves to bath here. We hug her and start to scrub her down and she loves it. Playing with us and spraying us with her trunk. She is told to sit up and she does so by rocking her feet in the air and rolling over to her belly- eventually sitting up like a puppy while we rub her ears and belly with rocks- “elephant soap”. We ask if we can feed her- and her guy says that he doesn’t have anything on hand to feed her- oh but we do. And he says yes! She will love that! So we call for the bananas- and when she sees them her eyes actually widen! She reaches out and takes my two bananas one at a time- and then Nicole’s. And all of a sudden she’s even sweeter and even more playful. They say an elephant never forgets- and that even if we came back here years from now she would remember us and that we gave her her favorite treat.
Then we ask if she can have apples? Yes of course! So we yell- BRING THE APPLES in perfect sister unison. And feed her again. She is loving this bath situation. After we scrub her we are told to climb her! And she will give us a shower with her trunk. Um YES PLEASE! Nicole first- looking like a movie star- sprayed by water laying across Calisi’s back. Then she slides down and it’s my turn- looking like I’m doing the chubby girl version of “I came in like a wrecking ball”. But I don’t care- I am in heaven. On the back of an elephant while we play and she sprays me with water and then checks on me with her trunk- my hands squeezing behind her ears, feeling them flap back and forth. After much pleading I am forced to get down- and the minute I do she stands- the driver says she is wanting to make sure she is close to me. She likes me. My. heart. Swells. I give her hugs and start to walk away- and She follows me again- teaching out with her trunk to touch my shoulder. How can I leave this animal? Tears in my eyes. Heavy heart. I give her one last rub and tell her I love her. What a sweet beautiful girl. And I realize that along with a lot of emotional baggage and anxieties, I’m leaving a good portion of my heart in Eastern Asia when I leave. I will remember her too.
When I walk away she sees gary and makes a straight line to him- she defiantly remembers him from yesterday’s safari, and comes to say hi, lowering her head so he can give her a rub- and tell her she’s beautiful again like he did before.
We pile into the Jeep- day saved. Home for washer toss tourney and well deserved beers. They have arranged a traditional dance show for us tonight- and as much as we would just like to chill- I think this is a big deal for them. So we are prepared. Rum in our maritime travel mugs. And it works. Before we know it, Cheech and Chong (formally known as muppet number 1 and 2) are up dancing with the tribesmen. Looking like fools. Doing what they do, Nicole and I watching and filming. It’s the muppet way.
We leave tomorrow morning. So one more night of traditional food, washer toss and muppet juice (red wine). Tomorrow we head back to Kathmandu. That drive. So we need to live it up tonight.