It was late spring but already very hot in Chitwan. A lazy, restful silence was in the air until a jeep drove past the empty road billowing a cloud of dust.
“You’ll just be making a round of the jungle,” the rickshaw man said as we sat in a restaurant waiting for the elephant to arrive. He was beetroot-red in the face and sweating heavily after the ride in the sun.
Heaving a long and tiresome sigh, he wiped his face and hands with a damp towel flung round his neck and continued, “There are tigers, rhinos, leopards, and other wild animals out there, but it’s mid-day and very hot, so they’ll not be easy to spot. They will hide deep in the bushes.”
The heavily built restaurant-owner nodded. “He’s right. If you’d come later in the afternoon, like at 3 or 4, you’d have had a better chance of spotting wild animals. It’s very hot now.”
“Nobody told me that before,” I said, feeling a little helpless, “not even the man who sold me the tickets. He claimed that some tourists had spotted a tiger just this morning. Was he telling me a lie just to sell the tickets?”
“Only rarely are tigers and leopards seen in the jungle, and certainly not at this hour,” the restaurant owner replied. “They come out of their hiding to make a kill or drink in the ponds late in the afternoon when it is much cooler. But you’d still have to be very lucky.”
Sauraha was not accustomed to welcoming visitors at this time of the day. The shops were still shuttered and restaurants deserted, save for waiters fanning themselves or lounging on tables under the shaded terrace. There was nothing to do, but wait. Continue reading…