Cycling through the Villages of Chitwan
Sauraha is many travellers’ base while staying around Chitwan National Park, but lesser known are the other activities you can do in the area, besides jungle safaris. During an average two or three-day stay in Sauraha, you can easily rent a bike and cycle among the nearby Tharu villages. It’s possible to rent a bike from hotels, travel companies, and even some restaurants.
When I rented a bike in Sauraha I had no plans regarding where I would go. I activated my location on my GPS and cycled down the main street. After the crossroads with a rhino statue on one corner, the paved road turned left towards Bachauli village, while the main road became a dirt road, heading towards the Rapti River.
I pedaled along the dusty main street and stopped on the northern bank of the river at a terrace, from where the Himalayas could be made out in the distance. Some tourists were preparing to cross to the other side of the river in a wooden canoe. I noticed a crocodile in the water near the island, where the river splits into two branches.
I turned left and headed to Bachauli village. Soon, I passed a small Buddhist temple. I tried to avoid the bumps in the dusty road, but it was too crowded for that. At the first crossroads, I suddenly decided to turn right along the Jankauli Road. This road is less crowded, and more suitable for bike riding.
I pedaled up to a bend in the Rapti River, where I crossed a stone bridge. Black oxen grazed in the meadows along the river, and some of them bathed in the river. I reached Harnari village, the houses of which were built of local materials such as clay, mud, dung, and grass.
I passed the Tharu Museum in the center of Harnari village and continued along the main road. Near a Hindu temple, I watched some men who sang and played drums. I turned left onto a secondary dirt road and cycled among country houses, with colorfully painted verandahs. In a courtyard, I saw a bamboo swing surrounded by children. I crossed a branch of the Rapti River, this time on a metal bridge that connected with the villages on the northern side of the river. Women washed their clothes in the river while their children played and bathed nearby.
At the main road between Bachauli and Tarauli villages, I headed north in a loop, towards very small villages. From Jhuwani village I went towards Mahuta village, until the loop route brought me to a place with panoramic views of the Himalayas.
I turned back to the Harnari village around midday. It was too early to go back to Sauraha so I headed off on another loop route, among villages along the main branch of the Rapti River. I headed this time to Kumroj village, hoping to see women with fishing nets by the riverbanks. I pedalled slowly through the tangled, sandy roads. Children shouted “Namaste” or asked for sweets. My answer always discouraged them: “Sweets are not healthy for your teeth.”
When I couldn’t continue towards the river, I had to give up my plan of seeing local women fishing, and turned right along a deserted road that went out of Kumroj village. I entered the Harnari village for the third time that day. More tourists were canoeing on the Rapti River. On the other side of the road, clay and earth houses were decorated with colorful naïve paintings with printed hands and feet. The rural village was very picturesque. When I completed the second loop route among the Tharu villages, I turned back to Sauraha along Bachauli Road.
Cycling among Tharu villages is a good way to observe the lifestyle of this ethnic group from the southern parts of Nepal. It is also a good opportunity to see how long you can cycle during a hot day! Although the cycling is fairly easy in this area, you should listen to your body. A day of cycling in the Nepali countryside will definitely give you a different perspective of this country.
Inspired? If you would like to stay a one of the Community Homestays in Chitwan, you can book this at CommunityHomestay.com.
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