Saturday, March 22, 2014

Stoned wanderings with a Rhino in Nepal

I have just re-found an article a friend and I wrote for Red Eye Magazine so thought I would share it with you. It was Gonzo journalism.

Nepal- It was hot and we were facing down a two tonne living and breathing prehistoric throwback with a bad attitude. At 6.30am the previous morning it had seemed reasonable to head into the Chitwan jungle with a block of the finest hashish, a half gram of cocaine, a bag of mountain weed, and a quart bottle of Gin. Armed with the latest Sony’s, we were 21st century digital hunters tracking the pixel image of our prey.

However, foot slogging it through the dry heat, in search of Nepal’s most dangerous wildlife had made us both complacent and weary. Lighting up a succession of well packed pipes made it all too easy to forget that wild beasts surrounded us. Just about managing to avoid stepping on the many dozing crocodiles, we recorded the fresh paw prints and droppings from a number of formidable feline predators. The scattered peacocks and monkeys may have added a dash of colour to our wanderings but never even came close to breaking into our reservoirs of adrenaline.

Coming face to face with a full-grown and wild Rhinoceros, (and Chitwan boasts more than 500), guarantees to burst the dam creating a monsoon of anticipation. Eyeballing the beast, one of our tracking guides anxiously whispered that the armour plated beast would charge at 45kmh if disturbed. Meanwhile, tracker number two was busy banging the ground with his bamboo stick while grunting out mating calls. All this within spitting distance of a shortsighted animal that charges first and doesn’t bother about questions afterwards. The good Doctor Doolittle would have been dismayed when the same guide then began chucking rocks in its direction.

Current stoned thoughts, apart from who could outrun whom, included ‘why had we dragged a stack of library books this deep into the jungle?’

How could a paperback edition of Hunter S. Thompson’s ‘Songs of the doomed’ help us outrun a horned beast? At least page 303 of ‘The Rough Guide to Nepal’ offers advice on ‘How to stay alive in Chitwan’. Apparently we should prepare to sprint in a zig zag pattern while shedding articles of clothing should the beast puts its head down to charge.

When our guide finally riled the animal enough to react, we lost sight of it in the high grass. Recall that scene from ‘Jaws’ when you know there is a Great White homing in but you have no idea which direction it is coming from? Half expecting to hear those eerie bass chords plucked out of the hot air, we followed the example of our experienced trackers. We ran.

If we had remembered, perhaps we could have called upon the Diety of the Jungle to intervene. That very morning we had stumbled across a shrine to Bakrim, Hindus supreme being of the greenery. Broken remnants of clay chillum pipes still lay scattered from the annual three day worship. Smoking copious amounts of Marijuana while ringing bells displays the locals’ faith in Bakrim’s divine protection. They certainly need all the help they can get during February, when the villagers risk their very lives each year crossing the river to enter the jungle. Dozens have been killed or maimed while cutting and gathering the elephant grass for thatching their roofs. Only this morning, locals preparing to drag huge bundles of grass across the river on their heads had disturbed a sleeping rhino. The shouts of panic could be heard all over as villagers ended up hanging from trees.

Mind you, the animals have every right to be pissed off at humans judging on past atrocities. The highest slaughter record was 145 tigers and 58 rhino’s in one hunt led by the British viceroy of India. King George V himself slaughtered another 39 tigers and 18 rhinos during a hunt in 1911 and their skins are probably lining the floors of stately homes across England to this day. 

Luckily our rhino figured that we meant it no harm or perhaps Bakrim had noted our own Marijuana offerings. Whatever it was, the rhino decided to turn and make its way further back into the jungle leaving a dark tunnel in its wake through the long grass.

Long live the Wilderness!

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