Rockstars of Sorada

Gina writes:

We just got back from our first vacation while here in India! You might think that our whole trip so far has been one big vacation, but in addition to the fun and exciting adventures we have from week to week, we ARE working pretty hard, it's just not very interesting to write about.

On Friday evening, with our friend Siba, we hopped on the overnight train to Brahmapur, a large town in a district east of Koraput. On our last train journey, from Delhi to Koraput, we traveled in one of the upper class cars, with six bunks per grouping and air conditioning. This time, we were budget travelers, in a car with eight bunks per grouping, no A/C, and right behind the engine (so loud!). The engine noise and near-constant train horn were deafening, but earplugs and sleeping pills really came in handy! We arrived in Brahmapur at 5:30 a.m. and then took at 3-hour bus ride to Sorada, Siba's home town. The overnight trains are so great; it didn't seem like a 14-hour trip and we didn't feel like we wasted time traveling to our destination.

We were in Sorada for three days and then hired a car for a day to take us to some regional attractions. Highlights of the trip:

Welcome to "The White Man Show"
Sorada is much smaller than Koraput (population 10,000 compared to Koraput's 40,000) and attracts fewer foreigners. In Koraput, we've grown accustomed to the level of staring that we get on a daily basis. Kids still come up to us to practice their English, we still give autographs and pose for photos, and groups still routinely stop their conversations to stare unabashedly, but we've gotten used to it. In Sorada, the attention paid to us was so much more! In two of the homes that we visited, special glasses and tea cups were unpacked from dusty, seldom-used boxes, because I guess we were too good for the common metal cups. When we visited the hill-top temple, a group of people was literally lining up to shake our hand. After about 50 people got the privilege, the group started growing, so we left earlier than we otherwise would have. When visiting one of Siba's friends, the neighbor's were curious to get a glimpse of "The White Man Show" and crowded the doorway.

Holi - The Festival of Color
Every year in early March, millions of people all over India celebrate Holi by throwing and rubbing colored powder on people's faces. Why? Um...I'm not sure. The origins of Holi are unclear to me. More information can be found here. What I do know is that the celebration is TONS of fun!

Corey and I, with our new rockstar status, were the targets of many many many people's color. For awhile, we were up on the balcony and a group of boys would spot us, whisper to each other obviously daring each other to go up to color the foreigners, and then scramble up the stairs to put color on our faces. Adult women in rural India do not play Holi, but I can't follow ALL Indian customs, can I? After an hour or so on the balcony, we rode on the backs of motorbikes around town, attracting A LOT more attention (and color). After we were completely colored and wet, we joined about 10 guys in their "secret bachelor lair" for some beers. Some of the guys admitted that they had never seen a woman drink before! Then we rode to the reservoir and took a bath in the river! Such a refreshing experience.

Motorbikes and Ancient Boats
During this vacation, we rode around Sorada on the backs of motorbikes, something we do only occasionally in Koraput. While riding around the reservoir as the sun set, feeling the wind on my face, I had to close my eyes for just a few seconds to think about how surreal this whole experience has been and about how happy this adventure has made us feel.

The reservoir, and the scenery in general, was gorgeous.

Siba's fisherman friend was nice enough to take us out onto the lake on his boat. The fishing boats are wooden hand-made vessels that take you a few steps back in time. I wouldn't be surprised if the boat was more than a hundred years old! Being out on the lake was so peaceful, though the boat was less stable than either of us expected. In fact, we had to go out one at a time, because we just about flipped the boat when both of us were in it!

Hot, Hot, Hot!
We take it for granted that Koraput is a hill station and is thus about 10 degrees cooler than the surrounding areas. The temperature in Sorada was about 95F (35C) with high humidity. Keep in mind that we both have to wear pants and that I have to wear a stuffy tunic top and a scarf, so it was beyond uncomfortable! The bed that we slept in at night was on the second floor, in a room that wasn't well-ventilated, so it felt even hotter! Fortunately, we had fans at night.

How Much Malaria Does YOUR Prophylaxis Cover?
For some reason, the Sorada mosquitos really really really liked the taste of us foreigners. Though Siba assured us that malaria wasn't prevalent in the area (and we take anti-malaria pills anyway), we brought a mosquito net with us. There was nowhere to hang it, however, so we hoped the fans would deter the little buggers. Well...they didn't. We each have about 50 bites and look like we have hives on our appendages.

Buddhist Monastery
As long as we were hiring a car service to drive us to Chilika, Siba suggested checking out a new Buddhist monastery that was on the way. The dalai lama had been to visit the site just a few months back, so we figured it was worth a visit. The statues and buildings were beautiful. It was strange to see something so clean and new in India.

Planning for this part of the trip spawned this whole vacation. In the end, we only had the chance to spend two hours enjoying the biggest lake in India. We took a boat ride out to a temple that's on an island.

After spending a short while people-watching at the temple, we rode back just in time to watch the sun dip behind the hills. Gorgeous!

Home Sweet Home
Our train ride home was uneventful, a good thing here in India! Getting into Koraput really felt like coming home, such a good feeling. After such an exhausting vacation, we were glad to get back to our house and do nothing for the rest of the day.