A Travellerspoint blog

Local wildlife and local people

Nepal day sixteen


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In Bardia NP

River safari

Although we could have done another full day safari, and potentially increased our chances of seeing larger animals, we decided we’d rather have some variety during our stay in Badia, even if it meant sacrificing a tiger viewing - which was in any case of course by no means guaranteed. So on our second day at Tiger Tops Karnali we opted to see the river that lends its name to the lodge, on a river safari. We started out after an early breakfast, as we had done yesterday, and the first part of our outing was in fact the same, riding a jeep through the forest to see if we could find tigers! But again we drew a blank, despite seeing some fairly recent footprints.

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Tiger footprints

Our sightings were limited to:

Wood Shrike
Changeable Hawk Eagle
Muntjac (barking deer)
Scarlet Minivet
Spotted deer
Langur
Parakeets
Black-backed Forktail

Of these, two were of special interest. The Changeable Hawk Eagle looked different from the one we'd seen yesterday and our guide Vishna explained that its colour can vary. Today’s example was a dark morph whereas the other was a pale morph. And he got very excited when he spotted the Black-backed Forktail, as he explained that it was rarely seen, and he hadn’t done so since before Covid.

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Changeable Hawk Eagle

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Black-backed Forktail

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Parakeets

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Spotted deer, and Langur monkey

When we reached the river bank we discovered that our boat had been in the back of the jeep all along! It was a largish inflatable which our driver and the boat ‘captain' proceeded to pump up while we enjoyed a cup of coffee.

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Launching the boat

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Launching the boat

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Boat captain

Then we scrambled aboard (well I scrambled, in a rather undignified fashion!) and set off downstream. The current did much of the work, but Vishna and our captain used the oars to steer us around obstructions such as fallen trees and rocks, and to guide the boat on the best route through the shallows. On those stretches the boat undulating gently, the rest of the time it was calm and silent. Such a lovely way to travel the river!

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On the river

Again, although Vishna told us animals such as tigers, elephants and rhinos were often seen by the river we saw nothing more than macaques and birds. The latter included:

White-throated Kingfisher
Common Greenshank
White Wagtail

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White throated Kingfisher

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White Wagtail

But despite the lack of animals we still really enjoyed the ride and I for one was sorry when we reached the landing spot. There the guys made light work of deflating the boat and we were soon on our way back to the lodge, where lunch was a delicious combination of chicken satay, Thai noodles and salad.

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Deflating the boat

Village walk

After lunch we had time to relax and catch up with emails etc before our next outing, a walk in a local village, Betahani. We took a jeep to a turning off the main highway, from where we started our stroll through the village.

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In Betahani village

The Tharu

The Tharu are a people of the forest. They have lived for centuries in the lowlands of southern Nepal and northern India. Often persecuted, they have now been recognised by the Nepali government as an official nationality. But their lives are still not easy.

In the past in Nepal the Tharu were forced to become bonded labourers, living and working on a landowner’s land as quasi slaves. This system was only fully abolished around twenty years ago. They have also been prevented from owning land, or had what land they did own taken from them. When Chitwan National Park was established any villages that lay within its boundaries were demolished. According to Wikipedia:

‘Nepalese soldiers destroyed the villages located inside the national park, burned down houses, and beat the people who tried to plough their fields. Some threatened Tharu people at gun point to leave.’

It seems from what we learned while staying in Bardia that the government is at last trying to make reparation. They have, as I said, recognised the Tharu as a separate ethnic group. And they have been given land on which to live and grow crops. But it’s still a tough life for most.

Betahani village

Our visit to Betahani was a really interesting experience. The people were friendly, though some seemed shy. One woman was stripping branches for firewood with a rather intimidating machete. Another was using banana leaves to fold into little baskets to be used to hold offerings at the family shrine. And one, whom Vishna clearly knew well, was happy to show off her new t-shirt with a photo of her with her son on the front and with her husband and son on the back.

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Making banana leaf baskets

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Stripping branches for firewood, and a new t-shirt worn with pride

The children, while obviously used to foreign visitors, still showed genuine curiosity about us, following us and trying out a few words of English: hello, what’s your name? One little girl from a more remote rural area, who was visiting family in the village, had, we discovered, never seen white people before and was shyly fascinated. I asked if I could take a photo. The family agreed, but made sure her hair was tidied and her face washed beforehand!

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The young visitor

At one house we were invited to enjoy a cup of tea. I don’t like tea and was also a bit cautious about the water used to wash the cups so declined, but Chris accepted and came to no harm! This was clearly one of the more affluent homes, solidly built over three stories. But like all houses here they had an external kitchen or rather two; one is for food preparation while the other houses the oven so that its heat is kept separate from where they work. She was slightly horrified at the notion of having a kitchen indoors, with all the attendant smells and heat. To be honest I was similarly horrified that they kept two macaques as pets, chained to small ‘houses’ on the front wall. But I kept quiet; we were guests after all.

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Pet macaque

Another house looked much grander than most. Vishna explained that the owner worked abroad, earning good money which he sent home to his family. Many poorer Nepali men in particular go abroad to find work. They can make good money but it’s not without its hardships and even risks. A recent BBC news item featured Tharu men who had gone to work on the stadiums for the World Cup in Qatar and suffered life-changing injuries or, in one case, died in an accident there.

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Village houses

The wealth, or lack of it, of each household can easily be determined by the building materials used. Mud and straw for the poorest homes, hand-made bricks for the better-off and concrete for the handful of rich.

Towards the buffer zone

At the far end of the village the houses started to thin. Eventually we turned on to a path through the buffer zone that lies between inhabited areas and the national park. There people are allowed to graze animals and can take fallen trees for firewood. But they can’t fell any trees, cut off branches or cut grass for fodder or roof-making.

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Fetching animal feed

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Local youths and buffalo cart

The path was uneven and once we left the village not very interesting, with no wildlife nor views. I found it hot and tiring and was glad to reach the end where we rejoined the highway. We stopped for a bottle of water at a local shop and Vishna called a tuktuk to take us back to the lodge, which was a fun and cooling way to end the walk.

Our final dinner here was a good one, with buff meatballs a highlight. Buffalo meat has proved an unexpected pleasure on this trip. After the meal we paid our bar bill ahead of departure tomorrow, and also did our online check-in for our flight home the day after. The holiday was drawing to a close.

Posted by ToonSarah 14:49 Archived in Nepal Tagged people birds boats wildlife village river houses walks nepal national_park Comments (4)

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