For our third day walking in Chitwan we were accompanied by Bishnu and a guide named Givonne, as Krishna had a wedding to attend. Bishnu informed us that December is considered the best time to get married in Nepali culture, which explained the music blaring in the distance at 6:45 am. We could actually hear the distant dance beats while in the jungle for most of the day! After again crossing into the park in a dugout canoe we saw three spotted deer bucks with small antlers still in velvet through the thick fog. Soon after four patrolling soldiers passed us, quickly returning to let us know a rhino was just around the bend in the road. Our party of four joined theirs to walk slowly past the animal which was grazing right beside the 4WD track. Everyone was urging us to be careful and sometimes when the rhino would move the whole lot of men we were with started running to distance themselves from it. Sean said the whole situation had really gotten his adrenaline going and just shook his head at the fact that I hadn’t felt like we were in any real danger; I guess it’s hard to imagine such a bulk of a creature running at the high speeds they are actually capable of.
Later we climbed a watch tower to wait for the fog still blanketing the ground to burn off. Just as we left the tower Bishnu whistled from above and we climbed back up to see a second rhino that had appeared in the grass. A peacock flew over it with its long tail drooping in the air, which would have been a perfect picture had I been fast enough. The rest of the day was spent in an area of the park we hadn’t visited yet, and Bishnu was working hard to find us a sloth bear. At one point we heard a barking deer, which really does sound like an agitated dog. About midday we came across a forested area characterized by a labyrinth of interconnected underground tunnels large enough for a person to crawl through. We spent a while searching them with lights and sticks for a massive python known to frequent the area. Bishnu told us the tunnels had been formed by a river that no longer existed and further excavated by animals like wild boars.
There wasn’t much else for new observations though and we spent the last half hour before sunset in a tower overlooking a large swath of short grass, hoping against hope to see a bear in our last minutes in Chitwan. There was no such luck but we did see yet another rhino grazing in a nearby wetland. As we passed it on our way back to town we discovered a total of three rhinos noisily feasting on vegetation in the shallow water. There was also a stork standing in the water which was so large I momentarily mistook it for a calf! It was quite the picturesque ending to our wonderful Chitwan trip.
We hurried to beat the dark, the sunset beautifully silhouetted by the towering elephant grass. As we walked through a last bit of forest to get to the river we came across a sambar deer standing in the trees. It was maybe the size of a mule deer doe but a giant compared to the other three species of deer we had seen. The next morning Raj rode along with us on a tuk-tuk he had arranged to take us to the bus terminal. We couldn’t believe how well he had treated us from the moment we stepped into his office until we got on our bus to leave.