Nepal has had a tumultuous political history. Previously a Monarchy, Nepal was overtaken by often violent Maoists who destabilised the country and made any form of decision making extremely difficult. In 2008, the Monarchy was completely abolished and a Federal Republic is now in place. Unfortunately, development of any form of Constitution has been derailed by inter party disagreements. There were over 160 political parties and no real leader!!! And this year, the government finally decided it was time to vote on a constitution.
Unfortunately for us, this meant the Maoist parties started their usual bouts of violence and scare tactics with the aim of preventing the election. We have remained safe and out of harms way, but the Maoists placed a "Bandha" on the country meaning it was difficult for anyone to travel or run businesses.
We escaped the 'Bandha' by heading to Nepal's jungle - The Chitwan National Park!
On arrival we were immediately sat in the garden to watch the local Tharu people's Cultural Performance. I have seen my fair share of cultural shows and this definitely is the best! They danced with passion and energy often lacking in 'tourist shows!' We shared a few too many "End of Program Celebratory Drinks" and slept in the most luxurious beds - a nice change from our usual digs.
The highlights of the trip have to be our Jungle Walk with guide Gopal. This guy sure knows his flora and fauna! He walked through the jungle without making a sound, whilst we sounded like drunk elephants stomping around! He prepped us on what to do if we were charged by a Rhino or attacked by a Sloth Bear! We thought he was exaggerating, but sure enough we were a touch too close to a Rhino and when he bolted out of the bushes we were sent into a state of terror!!! Luckily we survived and we headed up a tree in the middle of the dreamy Elephant Grass field to get a better look.
It was great to be a part of their celebrations, and to see the obvious joy at having a positive election result. Its not often you get to experience a situation like this when travelling and I count this experience as a top travel highlight that I will never forget.
Lets hope that the election brings some peace and stability to Nepal!