Thursday, February 2, 2012

Riding the rails

The next leg of our trip has begun. For the last three days we have been riding the rails, making our way to the highlight of this part of our trip — Orissa Tribal areas. Tomorrow we will be picked up by our local guide and we hope three fairly comfortable SUV 4-wheel drive vehicles.

In the mean time we have thoroughly enjoyed our three rides on the train. Our journeys have taken us to towns none of us can pronounce or remember. They are not on any tourist itinerary, and we have been the only Westerners in sight on the train platforms or in the towns themselves. This always makes for interesting interactions with the local people. The first question out of their mouths is always "where are you from?" After a few sentences we are bonded. When they move on in line or leave the station they always give one of us a tap on the shoulder to get our attention and wave goodbye. There is always an opportunity for a photo and their giggles as they look at themselves in my camera. This happens over and over again, but it never really gets old. A small connection with the local population that takes very little effort, but feels really good.

Interestingly, as we move closer to the tribal areas, the cities seem to be more developed, cleaner and more Western. We continue to be surprised by the many faces of this country. We just had dinner in a beautiful mall offering a full food court (including Subway and Baskin Robbins), Pizza Hut and KFC. The shops were like in any mall. Clothing stores with both Western and Indian fashion, an Indian version of Future Shop and really anything you would find in the West. We are always ready for a break from Indian food, so even Pizza Hut feels like a gourmet meal!

I think we have one more night in civilization and then we are off on a great adventure visiting local markets, meeting the tribal people, viewing their handicrafts and seeing how they live. This part of the trip was meant to be all wild camping. But the truck is still in customs somewhere in India so Al has arranged hotels for us. It will mean a bit more driving, but hopefully we will still feel immersed in the tribal life for five days wandering off the beaten track.

I am not expecting to have any internet while in The Orissa area, but you never know. They may not be as unplugged as we are! 

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