Gina writes:

Deomali is on the list of "tourist destinations" of Koraput district. It's the highest point in the state of Orissa. Since it's right in our district (only 35 km away from Koraput town), we put it on our list of places to go on a free day sometime.

A friend from SOVA organized a trip there this past Sunday. When he first mentioned it, we only half-expected it to happen, since coordinating a bunch of people is difficult in any country and maybe even more so in India. However, he developed a budget, hired the vehicle, made the list of supplies needed, and got 10 people to come on the trip! I was really impressed.

We're in the beginning of the rainy season, so there was a chance that it could rain or be too muddy to drive and/or hike, but it's been raining mostly at night lately anyway, so we thought we'd take the chance. When we woke up on Sunday morning, not only was it not raining, but it wasn't even overcast, just a few bright white clouds in the sky!

Shortly after 6 a.m., we headed out. We had to wait around for a few people to get ready (hey, it's India, did you expect punctuality?), but the drive to Deomali was actually pretty short. There were eleven people in the vehicle, so we were packed! Since it's been raining pretty regularly, the scenery is more gorgeous than ever. Rolling hills and field in dozens of shades of green.

The road leading up to Deomali was in fairly good condition, but was steep in places and had a lot of switchbacks, so we did have to all get out at one point so the vehicle could continue. At about 9 a.m., we reached the end of the road!

We had to hike/climb the rest of the way. The first quarter was fine, just a gently sloping grassy hike. Then we unknowingly veered off the trail and ended up picking our way over boulders for a long time. It wasn't really dangerous, since it wasn't a super-high slope, but it was exhausting!

We eventually crossed paths with the proper trail. It's a little difficult to see it in this picture, but I was standing on the path when I took this photo and you can see it marked all the way to the top. Amazing "trail" isn't it?

It only took about an hour total to reach the top, but we were so tired at the unexpected effort. Some of the others, especially the girls, don't ever do any physical activity, so it was hard for them, but I was proud of those who made it to the top!

After Deomali, it was picnic time! The biggest difference between and Indian picnic and an American picnic is the food. Indians bring a portable gas canister and burner, pressure cookers, and everything needed to cook a complete 3 or 4 course Indian meal. Also, the guys do most of the cooking (similar to American dudes “manning the grill” I guess). Strangely, I only have a picture of a girl cooking!

We had originally planned to have the picnic right near Deomali, where the vehicle was parked. But some bulls were taking a nap in our water source, so we drove down the road a bit to a natural spring instead.

There was a pool of spring water that was clean and cool and I really wished I had brought a change of clothes so I could go swimming. While the food was cooking, we played some games, danced to Hindi music (well, I watched, they danced), and ate snacks. Here's Corey daring Masi to drink water from the pipe. You can see the pool in the background.

Due to a slight failure in the planning, there was only one burner and 5 pots to heat, but snacks and fun held us over until 3:30 when lunch was ready. We sat down to a hot meal of mutton curry, egg curry, mushroom curry, rice, and daal (lentil soup).

Right after lunch, we cleaned up and headed home. Corey and I both made the mistaking of not thinking to bring sunscreen, so the 3 hours or so in direct sunlight gave us both bad sunburns, especially on our faces, so we were absolutely drained. What an incredible day!