A long drive day today, starting at 6.30am. We are heading for the Odisha (or Orissa) tribal lands, home to over 60 different tribes each with their own culture.
Today is a festival in this part of India, Durga Puja, which celebrates goddess Durga's victory over evil buffalo headed demon Mahishasura. Schools and shops are closed and all the trucks we have seen on the road are decorated with banana leaves and marigolds - poor old Sotiri looks a bit naked against them. As there were no cafes open we drove onto some open land and set up the stove and had a truck breakfast - cereal and fruit, tea and coffee. A big crowd soon gathered around us and we were the star attraction again!
Continuing on through rice paddies and other crops, the roof seats were opened up and those who wanted to could sit up on the roof. The view was stunning as we wound our way up the mountains round hairpin bends, then down the other side. We were heading for a small village called Goudaguda, stopping on the way at the local Monday market - definitely not a tourist market, this was the real thing with ladies in saris and sporting nose rings selling veggies and fruit and dried and fresh fish.
Our guest house for our two day stay here is run by an Australian and is very comfortable with huge rooms. We arrived around 3pm for a late lunch then spent the afternoon relaxing before another huge meal this evening with a welcome surprise - fresh apple pie for dessert.
The next day we left early for our walk through the tribal villages. Even at 8.30am it was very hot, and only going to get hotter.
Our walk was through rice paddies, brilliant green all around us and hills in the distance - very pretty. As we approached one village we came across a group of women on their way to work in the fields. We stopped to chat as best we could with them and ended up (those who had pierced ears) swapping ear rings with them. These ladies have many ear piercings and also nose piercings and were quite happy to have their photos taken. We visited their village next and our guide took us to see the lady in charge of health - she instructs the villagers on nutrition and makes sure they are all immunised, also runs the pre school. The government has quite a few schemes going to improve the lot of rural families. Women are paid 5000 rupees if they have their babies in hospital, and with the infant mortality rate at around 20% this is a good way for babies to get a good start. There is a free ambulance service and doctors visit the villages once a month or so for the not so serious complaints. Girls are given two new dresses a year if they go to school and at school all children are given a meal every day, with eggs three times a week. Rice is also heavily subsidised for the poor people. There is a scheme where those of working age are paid by the government for 100 days work each year, and this work is found for them in or near their village so they don't have to leave the area.
At one village they were not happy to see us so we quickly went on our way again!
Our picnic lunch was on rocks near a stream - bread rolls, cheese, tomatoes, cucumber and bananas.
Then we walked back to where we were staying and visited a pottery on the way, where everyone was hard at work making little pots for the upcoming Diwali festival later this month.
The areas we are travelling in are right off the beaten track and not showing up on the map - so just imagine we are inland from our last port of call and will head back to the coast soon.