March 31, Southern Nepal
We’d been trekking through Royal Chitwan National Park with our two guides for the last few days. A lot of walking, but seeing a lot of cool stuff. Dozens of huge crocs, exotic birds and monkeys in trees, barking deer, and of course, rhino sightings/chasings which were paramount. But maybe we were getting a little cocky; trying to get too close for shots of the rhinos. Provoking some reactions from the wild. Our guides seemed to know what they were doing though, just as long as Quinn didn’t do anything too abnormal to threaten our group’s safety. And seriously, when someone says ‘sloth bear’ I’m not thinking of anything too viciously fierce.
Headed into the jungle that afternoon, Quinn tastefully jokes (these are his jokes) ‘I feel like somebody’s going to die today, like seriously get attacked and killed.’ So with that in mind, the five of us hiked, off trail, into the brush to see where some sloth bears slept, and maybe spot a tiger before the trip was over. We had been walking through the forest for about an hour when one of the guides stopped us and pointed with their weapons [skinny bamboo sticks] at some movement in the bushes about a hundred feet in front of us. It was a sloth bear, wait, no two, no three of them. And with ‘oh, how lovely’ thoughts dancing in our minds, we began to unsheathe our cameras for a possible shot. And then they all stood up on their hind legs. And then we noticed how big (bigger than men) they were. And then, pissed off and growling, all three of them charged at us. And then I was up a tree trying to tell my dad and whoever else to get-the-fuck-up one (the wrong thing to do in these situations).
While two of the bears stopped short of us, one-the biggest one- committed and zeroed in on my dad. Before I knew it, I was looking down at a huge, wide, black creature attached to my dad’s lower leg, shaking him left to right like a dog would with a toy. Luckily, in the heat of the moment, the two guides held their ground and began to wail on the bear’s head with their bamboo sticks. After about ten harrowing seconds, the bear retreated, I slid down the tree, and all five of us tried to make sense/a plan in the midst of panic. And then the bears charged at us again. (They’re known to make multiple attacks on resisting victims/prey) But the guides backed them off with sticks again.
As quickly and carefully as we could, my dad limping and bleeding gradually, we got to a dirt road miraculously close to where the accident occurred. White-faced and in shock, he wasn’t going to be able to limp much further. Within a few minutes though, a jeep full of guided tourists drove towards us, picked us up, and took us to the river to catch a canoe to the nearest town with a doctor. Along the way Quinn is cackling, ‘This is so bad-ass: you just got attacked by a fuckin’ bear!’ In the clinic, peeling off his sock, one side of his lower leg had a few deep puncture wounds from the bear’s canines- nothing too life threatening, however when we looked over at the other side, there was a substantial gash about 8 inches long and 3 inches wide, nearly hitting the bone and definitely slicing through tendons, muscle, and all layers of flesh. Said the doctor, “We must operate at the theater in the bigger hospital in town.” Theater? So we did. And he got all stitched up in a [malarial] mosquito-infested hospital and back in a hotel room by midnight.
And I guess it could’ve been a lot worse, really. Disembowelment, attacked by all three (not just one), slowly eaten alive? Today we asked one of our guides if he’d rather be attacked by a tiger or a sloth bear. He said, “A tiger will just rip your head from your body- very fast. But sloth bear keep attacking and attacking- slow death.” I hate nature.