I stepped off the bus to a swarm of taxi drivers and hotel workers trying to get my business. They surrounded me like 5 year olds on a soccer ball. I looked over and Caitlin was experiencing the same problem with another group of men. It was impossible to hear what anyone was saying as everyone was shouting out their lowest price and shoving brochures in front of my face. Caitlin started walking through the masses towards a Nepalese man with dreads and a Rastafarian t-shirt. I followed… Anything to get out of this mayhem. We rode in the back of an open beat up jeep to the Sauraha and our home for the next few days. That night we watched a Tharu cultural dance complete with stick dance, fire stick dance, and dance with guy dressed up as pregnant lady.
Mist and fog filled the air the next morning as we walked through town to our canoes. The canoes were carved out of a single cotton-silk tree. I saw a number of different species of birds along the paddle and at one point observed a jackel stalking it’s prey. Once we were deep enough in the jungle, we got out of the canoe and started our jungle walk.
Before starting the walk, the guides explained what to do in different scenarios like getting attacked by rhinos, bull elephants, and tigers. Pretty much don’t run, huddle together as a group, and look big. But most of all don’t run! I was also told by our Rastafarian travel agent that the most dangerous part of the walk is in the grasslands, where the elephant grass extends 20 feet above the jungle floor. First of all, you can’t see a thing as you are walking so the likelihood of crashing through an animals home is increased. Second, if you happen to piss off a rhino, elephant, or tiger, there is no where to hide. Oh ya and it’s mating season for the rhinos and elephants so they are much more aggressive. And with that pep talk we were off…
In the jungle you walk in a tourist sandwich, one guide leading the way and one behind, each holding a large bamboo stick just in case we meet an animal. First we would huddle together and make noise and if all else failed, our trusty guides Lalu and Marco would fight the rhino or bull elephant by hitting it with a bamboo stick. The jungle was amazing, we walked on small paths while Lalu and Marco pointed out rhino prints, and massive piles of dung. We saw a couple of deer before heading into the grass lands.
We were walking down a large path in the grasslands and Marco pointed our a magnificent bird flying in the opposite direction. “Honney Buzzard” he says enthusiastically. Marco was Lalus senior and was very happy to share his knowledge of the jungle. Little did we know, the Honney Bastard had just finished pissing off the local Honney bee community, for which we were about to pay the price.
A small unknown insect flew into my hair and buzzed around so I hit it and threw it to the ground. Within seconds more and more of these insects landed on me and after the first sting I quickly realized…Bees! We were surrounded! Marco and Lalu stopped dead in their tracks yelling “DON’T MOVE..they are attracted to movement!” so I covered my face and took a few stings trusting my guides that if I didn’t move, the bees would magically disappear. Well… Next thing I see is the guides booking it down a slope and deep into the elephant grass shouting at us to follow. We ran 10 feet into the grass and crouched down like a cruel game of hide and seek. The bees were persistent with more and more of the hive finding us. #@$&! Everyone had been stungh multiple times at this point and our attempts to crush each bee individually failed miserably. Lalu took off like a shot through the thick grass. “They’re going to kill us!” Marco exclaimed over and over (the one thing you never want to hear from a guide)! He then started running through the grasslands screaming at us to follow. It was similar to running through a corn field that is 3 times as high with no spaces between stalks. You can’t see a thing so we were running blind though the most dangerous part of the jungle. All I could think about what how badly I didn’t want to run into a rhino or bull elephant and what I would do if I did.. Do I stop dead like I was instructed and take the bee stings? Do I turn around and run back into the swarm? Or, the more tempting option at the moment was to charge the animal and let it squash me like an ant to end my suffering. Flashes of Jurrasic park, Jumanji, Avatar, and Hunger Games (yes… Sadly enough you read that properly) appeared in my head. My thoughts were interrupted by Marco’s brilliant plan… We would run to the river.
Run to the river!? Great idea Marco… Let’s just jump into crocadile infested waters! Sadly there was no other option so that’s what we did. I was quite impressed with Caitlin’s ability to run completely blindfolded by her purple buff. At one point I asked Marco where Lalu went, and his only reply was “don’t worry, he’s a smart boy”. As luck would have it, just as we make it down to the river, a crocadile slithers into the water like he knew his next snack was about to jump in. Caitlin and I looked at each other suddenly weren’t in the mood for a bath. In the meantime Maro was taking off his clothes.
The bee army decreased in numbers at this point and we were able to kill the few that were left before tending to our wounds and picking dead bees out of our hair. Caitlin and Marco succumbed to around 20 stings and my count was somewhere around 30. In the distance we see Lalu crouching by the water holding his face. Marco was right.. He is a smart boy! We all met up and popped a Benedryl that I had in my FA kit to prevent any further complications which led to a sleepy walk out of the jungle.
Apparently the reason we were attacked is because the Honney Buzzards goes up to bees nests and flaps its wings to get the bees out, steals their honey and flies away ASAP. Unlucky for us, we saw him take off and we were the first things the bees saw.
In the next day and a half, we went on a Jeep tour, bought some honey (no way I was getting stung by 30 bees and leaving the honey behind), rode elephants, saw rhinos, has our picture taken by locals, concluded that a killer bee attack ranks amongst one of the most painful ways to die, and arrived back in our hostel to the realization that the last shower I had was given to me by an elephant and was likely to stay that way for the next few days.