Some of the 'koochie' I made for Sundar Kali, stacked up in her stable next to the sack that I sit on
These may look like houses, but look closely and you will see they are stacks of straw. This is Sundar Kali's 'kitchen cupboard'
Seriously, elephant poop is BIG
At 8:00am I make my way back to the guesthouse for my breakfast. Just as I'm finishing up, Santos tells me that there is hot water for the next half an hour so I quite literally run to my room. Confession time: I have not actually had a shower since I left England on Monday. Ewwww. Thing is, it's bloomin' cold here and the water comes out of the taps like ice. I have had no real desire to strip down in an already cold room and then let icy water run all over me. I can see my breath whilst in the bathroom for goodness sake! So I have been relying on baby wipes (still probably the best travel tip I have received to date, thanks Ellie). But baby wipes only go so far and I so badly want to shampoo my hair I can't even put the feeling into words! I twist the hot tap and wait about 5 minutes for the water to become warm. I am silently praying for the whole 5 minutes. I check the stream of water with my hand and am thrilled when I feel the warmth. So next is the task of trying to position myself underneath the water. Turns out you can't re-position the shower head and currently it is welded (with rust) facing directly outwards and the water is bouncing off the toilet seat opposite. I end up having to stand up against the toilet, tilting forwards slightly, trying to shampoo my hair, keep my balance, stay under the hot water, and not laugh at myself at the same time. It's impossible and I giggle and wobble through the whole 'experience' ... but ultimately come out clean and refreshed. Yipee! I'm human again!
Morning sunshine coming in through my door - it's cold and foggy until about 9:45am
My grotty bathroom - before
And after! (it's the best I could do)
Enjoying a cup of tea on my veranda during 'morning break'At 10:00am, I head back up the road to the stables. It is only me and Ali again and, while he cooks rice for Saki, I make more koochie for Sundar Kali. We busy ourselves for just under an hour and then everyone starts arriving back. From Sundar Kali's stable I can see the road through some huts infront of me. There are some seriously huuuuge elephants around here - Sundar Kali is actually quite small in comparison - and I am beginning to recognise ones who are just passing through and those belonging to our 'neighbours'. The very large black looking ones (I had never seen an 'evil' looking elephant until now) live further away but the grey ones with chalk markings belong to our happy little community. Sundar Kali - as always - comes lumbering along the road in last place. This girl is soooo slow! Apparently, Saki sometimes draws lightening bolts on her forehead with chalk when they go into the jungle to encourage her to move faster, ha!
Saki calls me over to where he has stopped with Sundar Kali just outside her stable. He taps her head with a stick and she kneels down on all four knees. She rolls up her trunk and places it one of her front knees, resting her head. Saki climbs down and instructs me to help him untie the ropes that keep the 'box seat' on top of her in place. This is where the tourists sit when they go into the jungle with her. We heave the box off her back, and then the padded mat which that rests on. She knows we're done so she slowly gets back on her feet and awaits the command from Saki. He tells me to watch him and follow. He yells a word at her and she turns around. He yells something else and she starts walking forward. I follow them past the stables and to the water pump. Saki shows me how fast to pump the water and then lets me take over. He says something else to Sundar Kali and she moves forward again, puts her trunk under the flow of water and lets it fill up. After 4-5 pumps, her trunk is full and she stands back, spraying the water into her mouth. She repeats this about 4 times before deciding she's had enough water. Another command from Saki and she turns around again and heads towards her stable. She is so well behaved and gentle. I can't take my eyes off of her! When she is back in her stable, Saki lets me put the chains around her feet. She wears one at the back and two at the front. One leg is left unchained so that she can lie down and stand up with ease. I pat her trunk when I'm done and she nudges me with her head. It is only a small movement but it almost knocks me down the slope from her stable!
Lunchtime for Sundar Kali follows but she is playful today. Every other koochie that I throw to her gets half chewed before she reaches into her mouth with her trunk, takes it out and puts it on top of her head. Saki yells something to her and she picks up a whole bundle of straw in her trunk and holds it tightly at one end. She lifts her trunk up and cleans her head. I am in fits! I carry on making koochie, throwing her the ones that I had finished before she got back. She eats quite sensibly for a while but then decides "well this is no fun" and gets playful again. Every couple of minutes, she reaches over with her trunk and puts some straw on my head. I laugh and shake it off, and Saki yells at her, but she just keeps doing it. I find it hilarious and while I'm distracted and laughing, Sundar Kali waves her trunk through my pile of koochie making them all roll down the slope, landing right at her feet. Unfortunately, it is now gone midday and I'm already late for lunch so I have to say goodbye and head back to the guesthouse. Saki says he will teach me the commands tomorrow and once I have learned them by heart, he will teach me how to 'drive' her!! :-)
Meeting Sundar Kali and Saki on the road in the village. She lifted her trunk to say 'hello' :-)
Sundar Kali and her (bigger) sister
The beautiful Sundar Kali - I just love her!!!
Her friend, Puja!
Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go!
After I have lunch at the guesthouse, I am lying in the hammock outside my room reading when one of the staff says there is a telephone call for me. It is Sujan - he says he is thinking of coming by in about an hour so I say "sure" and tell him to meet me at the internet cafe. I wander down the road, leisurely taking in the sights. It's only a short road but there is so much life. It is a mixture of small houses and huts, newsagent style shops, souvenier shops (I haven't dared enter one yet because I know I'll blow my budget on elephant ornaments!), bars, restaurants, butchers, tailors. There are wild, mange ridden dogs running around (amongst the cutest litters of puppies - poor things), chickens, rats (yup) and tiger-like cats which are the largest I've ever seen (they must be living on the rats!). Families are sat at the roadside - the women brushing each other's hair, the men standing in groups and chatting, the children playing with badminton rackets (seems very popular here). Everyone smiles and says 'Namaste' as you pass and no one tries to entice you into their shop. It's much less intimidating here than Bujagali in Uganda was. I couldn't walk more than 6ft without being called at, or grabbed by, a vendor there. The road is a mixture of dusty dirt and rocks (and elephant poop). I am so glad I decided - last minute on the way to the coach station - to buy a sturdy pair of trekking shoes in the sales. Thanks mom for the Christmas money - I made the purchase of the century (and it was sensible to boot)!
I quickly update my Blog, make use of the free tea on offer, and then Sujan arrives. We jump on his motorbike and travel the short distance down to the river. This is a 'hang out' for local people and was where we saw the PM the other day. We order a beer each and he asks me how I am finding the hotel. There have been complaints and they don't want to use this place for volunteers again. I air my 'gripes' about the bathroom and some of the other 'issues' (staff openly smoking wacky-baccy in the dining room, even when families are in there) but tell him that I'm comfortable and the food is good. I also tell him that the 5:00am starts have been impossible due to the darkness and fog. He nods, taking it all in. Eventually, it is decided that I am to be moved from there and so I suggest Dal's guesthouse which is literally opposite the elephant stables. We hop back on the motorbike and head to Wild Horizons. Dal is happy to see us and invites us to enjoy a cup of tea with him. The business negotiations are all done in Nepalese but I find an old copy of Grazia on the communal bookshelf so I lose myself in that for a bit. Nearly an hour later, something has been agreed and chicken chow mein arrives at our table which we all tuck into. Once we're finished, Sujan says we will go back and pack my things now. On the ride back, he tells me to just go to my room and pack, and leave the talking to him. Fair enough.
As usual, all the male staff (about 8 of them) are gathered around a fire in the garden, smoking. I head to my room and leave Sujan to deal with the 'check out' process. 10 minutes later, he strides into my room and anxiously tells me to "be faster". I take heed and decide against folding, opting for the 'stuff & shove' method of packing. While I'm doing this, Sujan tells me that he has never liked the staff here and they are not good people. I'm now getting worried and we can hear rustling outside my window which overlooks the rear of the property. Sujan keeps glancing in that direction too and is putting me on edge. I was fine here a few hours ago and now I'm quite scared! Within minutes we are back on his motorbike and heading to Wild Horizon. Relief.
Dal is waiting for us at reception. He shows me to my room and I'm chuffed to bits when he tells me there is always hot water and that the electrity is only switched off during the day when there is no need for it anyway. I flop onto my four poster bed (with a real mattress!) and laugh as Sujan tells me that this place is actually cheaper than the previous - it is only 400 Rupees per night (about 4 squids!) and everything about it is so welcoming and comfortable. We share a drink with Dal in the bar and play Jenga before Sujan heads back to Chitwan, "happy that [I'm] happy" and I have another shower (just because I can) and then curl up in my comfortable, luxurious bed. Now this is my kind of Nepal, ha ha.