Most imagine that Kathmandu, gateway city to Mount Everest to be mountains high, yet in reality, stands at 4,500 feet. Find me a traveler who cannot handle that altitude. Kathmandu (you recall Cat Stevens), Patan, its sister city, and perhaps the true wonder, the city of Bhaktapur, (Medieval throughout) by themselves make the journey worthwhile. Touring the three cities presents a kaleidoscope of unique scenes, rare scents, and traditions that are centuries old.
The Nepalese journey through life seeking guidance in their tri-fold beliefs of Buddhism, Animism and Hinduism, which for generations have remained embedded within their daily lives. The three powerful deities of Hinduism alone, with their hundreds of incarnations would baffle the mind of the most liberal of Christians, yet it is from this blend of philosophies do the Nepalese rely.
All of these sights and occurrences within the confines of the city limits alone make the journey a value-laden experience, yet for those not planning to climb Mount Everest; the true adventure lies in the excitement and pleasure of a visit to Tiger Tops Lodge and Tharu Village.
One begins the day with a flight aside the wondrous Himalayas to view Mount Everest, standing at 29,029 feet into the sky. Each passenger seat has a view window and a visit to the flight deck is most exciting. Ones return to the airport allows time for a visit to the heart of Kathmandu, prior to boarding the onward flight over terraced rice fields and mountain ridges to the grass runway at Chitwan National Park. Prior to landing, the pilot is sure to make at least one low pass above the runway to scatter the many animals and the after school soccer players who frequent the field between landings.
Upon touching down, lunch is served at the airfield, attended by local flute players, adjoining reed scavengers and the ever-present possibility of wild animal. Soon thereafter, Land Rovers transit guests to riverside, where longboats glide them across river waters and entry into the park. En route, one is sure to find a scattering of animals and on occasion a rhino or a tiger.
Tiger Tops Lodge, established in 1964, has a keen focus on wildlife preservation and environmental protection. The lodge itself consists of a dining area, with large fire pit and bar along with some 22 or more rooms, most of which sit above ground on stilted pilings. It thrives on a very rustic atmosphere; with sit down dinners under candlelight a real treat. The adventure begins when one mounts their elephant to nestle in the howdah, after which, the mahout leads the elephant into the tall grasses in search of rhino and tiger. Pre-dawn or late afternoon safaris each radiate their own magnificence, with the spotting of rhino a near guarantee and the sight of a tiger a real possibility. The rooms offer both hot water and private bath, with thatch-lined walls and the most rustic of settings.
Next morning, having completed a safari, followed by a delicious breakfast, Land Rovers traverse the jungle terrain to riverbed where guests board longboats for the hour-long passage to the shores of Tharu Village. Disembarking guests board an ox cart, which carries them to the courtyard of their accommodation for a leisurely lunch. In late afternoon, a walk through the village provides a fascinating view of how the locals carry on their daily lives, using generations-old methods of raising livestock and growing rice and vegetables for sustenance.
In the evening, after a delicious dinner, many of the village children will appear in the dining room to perform a series of traditional dances. It is one of the many highlights enjoyed over a two-day stay within the environs of Chitwan National Park.
A morning flight returns all adventurers back to Kathmandu to enjoy the remainder of their holiday within the city. Mild-mannered adventurer or hearty traveler, the experience of a stay at Tiger Tops and Tharu will long be cherished as a special lifelong memory.
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