The elephant polo tournament is organized and sponsored by Tiger Tops Adventure Travel. The players and visitors stay at Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge.
The Lodge is located in the heart of the heart of the jungle. The name "Chitwan" means "heart of the jungle," and based on my limited personal experience, Tiger Tops has got to be the heart of Chitwan. To go between the Lodge and Megauli, we travel through some interesting veins and arteries. OK, before everything starts pulsating I'd better drop the heart metaphor. You're welcome.
It takes about 45 minutes to get to the lodge from the Megauli airstrip. The first section of the journey goes through fields, huts and woods, and crosses a shallow river. When we get to the deeper river, we transfer out of the jeep and into a boat, which takes us to the other side of the Rapti River where another landrover is waiting for us.
It's a good idea to wear or bring a few layers of clothing in this place. In the morning when it's cold and wet, the wind hitting your face while sitting in the back of a jeep is a little too harsh to be appreciated. In the afternoon when you're sitting in the little boat in the sweltering sun, you wish that you had changed into your shorts when you had an opportunity.
After six days of this twice daily commute, I don't think I'll ever go on The Jungle Cruise ride again at Disneyland (sorry, Mickey).
The first time Marya and I made the trip we were reminded of the entrance to Jurassic Park, and fully expected to see dimorphodons and triceratopses wandering through the fields.
It turns out we weren't too far off the mark on that one. Remember the scene where the tyrannosaurus eats the little goat tied to a post? Apparently it used to be customary at some places in Chitwan to use sacrificial goats tied to a post to lure the tigers out of the woods where hiding humans could watch the tiger chomp the goat. The tigers started getting fat and lazy, so this practice was discontinued, even before the goats were forced to hire an animal rights lawyer to protect their civil rights.
We probably saw as much wildlife during the daily trek between the lodge and the airstrip as we saw at any other time. Deer were the most common, both barking and spotted. We often saw peacocks strutting alongside of the road. I didn't see a peahen, though. I wonder if that's what you call a female peacock.
The Lodge itself has two main buildings, as well as several other groups of sleeping quarters. One of the buildings is built around a huge tree which continues to grow up through the middle of and provide structure for the building. There are several tents set up to accommodate more guests, as well as private quarters for the people who are lucky enough to live and work at Tiger Tops.
The walls in the main buildings are made from bamboo, so you can hear every sound the people in the room next to you make. Marya and I were adjacent to Alf and Jean's room, and all I will say is that all four of us know each other a LOT better now than we used to.
This year was the first year that the Lodge's new hot water system was in place. The showers were heavenly; it was such a treat to have hot water after a long day playing polo and exploring.
My personal favorite appliance at Tiger Tops was the hair dryer. The bar and dining room sits between the two main buildings. It's a round building made out of stones, with huge tusks framing the bar and a big cozy fireplace in the center. There is no better way to dry one's hair than sitting in front of that fire at the end of the day as people wander in for a drink and some warmth after they've been off on their various safaris or hikes or boat rides or lounging.
Dinnertime was a relaxing time of the evening. Jim Edwards and various others made some announcements each night and then we settled down for some good food and drink and chatter until it was time to move to the fireplace or the bar. It's a cozy, friendly place, and even when I went to bed early I found that the laughter and music and silly sounds coming from the bar lulled me off to a peaceful sleep.
I slept so peacefully one night that when I woke up, I literally didn't know where I was or what day month or year it was. I knew that I had some reason to get up, but it must have taken me five minutes to figure it all out. It was almost like I had amnesia. I think I needed this vacation.
Although the air is real cold and the humidity is 100% at night, the beds are very warm and cozy because hot water bottles mysteriously appear in all of the beds sometime during dinner, making the beds nice and toasty by bedtime.
There is so much that goes on behind the scenes at Tiger Tops, it really almost feels like Disneyland sometimes. The morning shift starts at 5:30, with people quietly bustling all about preparing coffee, fixing breakfast, stoking the fire, feeding the elephants, organizing the day. They continue all morning, seeing the polo players off, cleaning rooms, starting lunch, moving the lawn chairs out on the lawn, taking the lamps out of the rooms. Mid-afternoon is spent ferrying people off on their different adventures and continually waiting on those who choose to stay and relax at the lodge. Then, as late afternoon sets in and the cold damp darkness descends, all of a sudden you realize that the lawn chairs have been brought in and lamps hung everywhere and fresh wood put on the fire and dinner started and before you know it, those hot water bottles have magically appeared in your bed. Needs are smoothly and unobtrusively anticipated and met. These wonderful folks also stay up all night with you, mixing drinks and taking care of the fire and they try very hard not to look tired even though they must be. The people who work at Tiger Tops are very friendly and I only wish I could speak Nepali because I suspect the conversations among the staff members would be quite entertaining.
The days to me seem to divided into sections, each with dramatically different qualities. The cool, misty mornings; the hot sunny lazy afternoons, the cold damp nights. Dawn and dusk are so much more pronounced at Tiger Tops than in my world. Transition times. The world in flux.
I was continually indulging my senses at Tiger Tops, whether it was sitting by the fire listening to the surrounding laughter, ravenously eating those mouth-wateringly good lunches on the lawn in the hot afternoon, or sitting in the mist at dawn breathing the moist cool air.
For further information regarding Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge and Tiger Mountain Adventure Travel, you may contact them directly at:
P.O. Box 242
TEL : 977-1-411225
FAX : 977-1-414075, 419126
Next Section: The WEPA
Return to Main E-Polo 96 Page