This past winter my buddy Jordan and I went to Nepal for the standard reasons, mostly trekking in the Himalayas. I had been to Nepal once before and have a network of friends and guides there. This was Jordan’s first time out of North America. Long story short, Jordan ended up getting very sick our first week there and we had to shelf our trekking plans.
Nepal ranges from it’s lowlands at 194ft (60m) to the top of Mt Everest at 29,029ft (8848m) above sea level. Because of this you have almost any climate a land locked country can offer. One of my favorite regions in Nepal are it’s jungles. We’re not talking about dense canopy jungles like the amazon with over 100F (38c) days plus unbearable humidity. Nepal’s jungles are closer to 90F (33c), but a much more comfortable heat.
Jordan and I went on a 25 mile (40km) bike ride with a guide I know named Ravi and his friend to do some wildlife shooting in the area. Nepal has the second highest amount of migratory birds in the world passing through it and is home to mega fauna like crocodiles, tigers and one horned (Indian) rhinoceros. We had old rickety single speed bikes, and lets just say Nepal does not have the smoothest roads. The few paved places are cratered with potholes.
We eventually made our way into a buffer zone. A buffer zone is an area designated by the government of Nepal around national parks to minimize negative effects on animals and maximize the use of the surrounding resources. After riding for a bit we passed a few jeeps with tourists who were also out looking for wildlife. The fourth one that passed stopped to talk to Ravi. He came over to inform us that they spotted a rhino about a half mile up in a field off the side of the road, and wanted to know if we wanted to leave the road and get close? Of course we did! We made our way into the clearing by crossing a creek where Ravi pointed out a fresh tiger track in the mud making sure to tell us it was the largest he’d seen in the area.
The rhino was about a quarter mile (.4km) into a clearing. We slowly approached, but stayed close to the treeline. Although a female one horned rhino can reach 3500lbs (1600kg) they can run at speeds up to 35mph (50 km/h). As Jordan and I clicked away inching closer, Ravi kept an eye trained on our subject to make sure she wasn’t about to charge. Rhinos have terrible eyesight, so she didn’t really take notice of us until we were about 50ft (15m) away. Have I mentioned yet that this was Jordan’s first time ever shooting wildlife? We inched in a bit more (maybe 40ft away) until she slowly started to come towards us. At this point Ravi told us to slowly start walking backwards toward the encroaching forest. She proceeded to slowly herd us around for about five minutes through the forest, during which we continued shooting. When it looked like she was taking too much of an interest in us Ravi threw a stick far out behind her to divert her attention while the three of us slowly made our way to a safer distance. After a collective sigh of relief Jordan looked at me almost shaking from the adrenaline coursing through his veins, “That was amazing!” was the only comment he could muster at the time.
We made our way back to the road where Ravi’s friend had been watching our worn bikes and started the grueling return trip to the village. Despite the bone-shaking ride we were happy to come away with our lives and some great images to boot!