Corey writes:

We left Mumbai early on Thursday morning and flew to Visakhapatnam, and then took an SUV to Koraput. Gina and I had traveled this bumpy road a few times before, but it was a new experience for Chris and Jackie. I think they have a newfound respect for American roads. Here’s a short video that Chris took:

Once we arrived in Koraput, settled our luggage and stomachs, we headed out to get some Koraput lassis and dinner at the Raj. This was Chris’ first time experiencing a Koraput lassi, and his mind was sufficiently blown.

The next day was the official guided tour of Koraput by Gina and I. We took Jackie and Chris to the markets, the Jagannath temple, and the Tribal Museum. After my sister & brother-in-law and my parents, Gina and I are professionals at the Koraput tour. But we still enjoy showing our home to our friends and passing on a little of our earned knowledge about the town.

Jackie bought a beautiful sari.

And got her nose pierced. This is becoming a Koraput tradition.

That evening we threw a party at our house for all our Indian friends to meet our American friends. It was a similar format as past parties: we provide the fried snacks, sweets, soda, and foreigners; our Indian friends are the DJs and dance leaders. Everyone has a good time. My guy friends here in Koraput went over the top and brought a whole chenna poda decorated to say “Welcome to India”. This was an excellent surprise and really made me proud of my Indian friends.

My friends Bhabani and Masi breaking it down.

Indian air guitar.

The next morning we ate Spanish Tortilla for breakfast (my recipe in next week’s blog). This was followed by Jackie and Chris’ laundry lesson. While they enjoyed the experience, I think they also appreciated the work that our machines do back home. We had planned on touring one of SPREAD’s villages that morning, but the plans fell through because of an all-Koraput strike! Chris and Jackie got to experience how unpredictable India can be sometimes. So instead we walked to the SPREAD office so they could see where Gina works and meet some of her co-workers.

After that we went to the stadium near our house where a big health camp was taking place. Health camps are regular occurrences here in Koraput and are pretty effective. Since many people don’t live near paved roads, it’s difficult for them to travel to the hospital to see a doctor when they are sick. Many diseases end up going untreated or end up getting to an emergency stage. By focusing on a one or two day event format, the government or NGOs are able to bring together doctors of many different specialities, drug distributors, and patients in a way that makes sense. This was a good thing for Jackie and Chris to experience.

For lunch on Saturday we had a cooking lesson: mushroom paneer curry with roti and mixed pickle. I think our guests were pleasantly surprised at how easy Indian cooking can be. The results were delicious and devoured within a few minutes. We made another trip in to the market and then spent the rest of the day relaxing in our house.

The paneer mushroom curry

Sunday was our last day in Koraput, and it was also Holi. We had all started getting excited for Holi a few days before when makeshift stalls started showing up all over town hawking the brightly colored dust. Of course we purchased one of each color.

Before hitting the town and getting dusted, we ate a hearty breakfast of poori with channa curry. This is my second favorite Indian breakfast, next to dosa.

We spent the next couple hours walking up and down the main road into the town center saying “Happy Holi!” a million times, shaking people’s hands, and having color powder rubbed on our face, neck, and hair. It was a great time, as you can see from the results:

We left Koraput on Sunday evening by train and woke up in Bhubaneswar the next morning. Chris and Jackie got another taste of Indian spontaneity there. We decided to get off the train early at the advice of a new Indian friend we met on the train. We then had to scramble to the booking office, find out the details of the next train to Puri, book four tickets, and get to the correct platform: “3 or 4” said the fellow behind the window. We went to platform 3, and sure enough, a Puri-bound train pulled in. We got on and breathed a sigh of relief. Just as the engineer gave the warning toot of the horn, another train pulled in to platform 4, also going to Puri. We looked at our tickets and then at the other train, realizing with panic that it was ours. We were too late, as our train (the wrong one) started moving along the tracks. “Well, at least we’re going to the right place” we said to each other. Like many of our adventures in India, this one turned out all right too. The ticket taker never came to our car, we had plenty of room (the right train was packed), and we made it to Puri in half the time we anticipated.

After checking in to our hotel in Puri, we took a short stroll on the beach. There we met a woman who spoke good English and offered to cook us lunch in her home in the nearby fishing village. Gina and I are so used to touts (even women touts) and scams here in India that we really didn’t take her seriously at first. I even tried blowing her off with the Indian “Yes, we’ll come tomorrow, definitely.” But she still persisted in an earnest way, asking me to talk to my friends about it and “promise” we would come. Something about her earnestness convinced me this wasn’t a scam and that it might be a cool opportunity to sample Puri cuisine in someone’s home. So, we agreed to meet her in the same place on Tuesday for lunch.

The fishing village near Puri beach

We relaxed the rest of that day and ate dinner at the excellent Honey Bee (real pizza!). The morning Chris and I rented mopeds, Gina and Jackie recruited a rickshaw, and we all took off for Konark Sun Temple. Gina and I did this trip by moped last year at this time, so I knew Chris and I would enjoy it. It’s a beautiful stretch of about 35 km that has beach views, long flat rice fields, and shady forests. Unfortunately, it also takes over an hour by moped.

By the time Chris and I arrived at Konark, it was already 11:30 and we were supposed to be back in Puri to meet our lunch friend at 2pm. We quickly hired a guide and set off on the short version of the temple tour. Still I think Chris and Jackie really enjoyed the experience. Since we’d been there before, Gina and I opted not to pay the Rs 250 entry fee and watched from the perimeter.

The base of one wheels that surround the temple

Gina really is that tall, I swear.

It was 1:30pm by the time we left Konark: “We’ll be Indian late” we told ourselves. We ran out to the beach meeting spot at 2:40pm, frantically looking for our host. We got nothing but a bunch of stares from the locals. We searched and waited, but no luck. Defeated, we had a beer for lunch.

On Wednesday, our last day together, the four of us piled into another SUV and hit the road south to the town of Satapada, which is on Chilika lake and renowned for the freshwater dolphins living in the lake nearby. We arrived and hopped into a rickety boat with a rusting engine and headed out for a 3 hour tour (no Gilligan jokes). The tour was fun, but the dolphins were a little disappointing. I really just enjoyed the boat ride on a beautiful day with my friends.

The view from our boat.

For some reason, all the Indian tourists on the lake rented cowboy hats.

After Satapada, we headed for the Bhubaneswar airport and said goodbye for now to Jackie and Chris. Gina and I caught our own train back to Koraput later that evening: exhausted, missing our friends, but glad to be headed home.