In Chitwan, Nepal you can organize up to week-long treks into the National Park to try and spot rhinos, tigers and the ever-elusive leopard. I joined a three-day trek from the Gaida Lodge and came across something unexpected deep in the forest.
As the first rays lit the forest floor, the morning mist evaporating. In the half-light the forest was a tangible sensation, an embalmed space where you could taste the damp richness of the soil and touch the heady moisture in the air. Shards of white light slipped and spilt through the canopy, falling in soft ribbons to the murky floor. All you could see was green and all you could smell was that fresh, sharp, living scent. Our guide Vishnu started to run and the forest erupted into a deafening cry, whooping and screaming as we crashed through the undergrowth until we came out on a path and straight into the eye-line of a giant one horned rhino.
It was one of those breathless moments of utter silence and immobility as we all stood, frozen while it dropped its head and grunted. It made a few short runs at us before deciding we weren’t worth the bother and instead letting us creep beside it while it fed on the surrounding foliage.