the Derbyshire home with echoes of southern Spain

The Telegraph

On the trail of Nepal’s most fearsome predator

I was strolling slowly through the jungle of Chitwan, sandwiched between two elephants, when it dawned on me how rarely you get to see their backsides up close. Chunchun walked just ahead of me, her colossal rear reminding me of wrinkled baggy trousers, her skinny tail similar to a pendulum, swinging rhythmically. Champa walked behind, with mottled pink ears, super-long eyelashes and a layer of beige dust like foundation powder on her face. We moved silently, like spirits of the forest, and I almost forgot about the tigers and rhinos we might meet en route. A year ago, just before Covid-19 hit the headlines, I flew into Kathmandu past jagged Himalayan peaks that sparkled snow-white against clear blue skies. On previous trips to Nepal, I had gone trekking in the foothills, but this time I was there purely for the wildlife. Resident tigers and rhinos, both increasing in numbers, were being hailed as conservation success stories for the forthcoming, ill-fated Visit Nepal 2020 tourism campaign. Unsurprisingly, it was suspended in March. Nepal’s airports, hotels, lodges, tea-houses and mountain trails closed. Even Everest, its biggest earner, went into lockdown. Today, domestic tourism is tiptoeing back, albeit cautiously and under strict protocols, with hotels and restaurants allowed to reopen since July 2020. Limited flights for international tourists resumed in October, as did some trekking and mountaineering trails, including Everest, for those with permits already. And the country’s national parks and reserves, closed since March, opened their gates in September.