So there is a village that inspired my trip, where the children come to the Vidyadaya school. Westerners aren't allowed in the tribal area.
1 month ago a tourist ventured close by and was killed by an elephant so security is high and it's no no no to any questions about the village. Shame.
So when i'm told we're going I'm totally dumb founded, apprehensive and excited!!! The village leaders and elders and spiritualists got together and decided in one day of talking I could visit, the next they said i could have a 'sleep over'!!
And they want me to cycle in......
So it's on to Shirley (the wife) I get again and head off into the jungle. Villages get simpler, then simpler still and then we are in the jungle and my guides on motor bikes have to leave their machines and follow by foot.
After a few minutes the undergrowth parts and opens to a small clearing where there are 2 buildings. A nursery and a temple. Both made of mud with straw roofs. In the distance I can hear children and make out houses dotted into the hillside. women carry water from the stream up to the houses - some of which are miles away. If you have seen Avatar then it has many similarities.
Visiting the families I was welcomed with tea (as usual) and smiles. Some kept their distance form the 'strange one' others were transfixed. I saw some children with scabies but the hospital funded by Accord - the partner of Action Aid in India - has given the medicines needed to cure it.
Night was drawing in so we made our way up the hillside climbing roots and avoiding vines and palms. At the top the chiefs house is the same as all the others. Simple, clean and friendly.
We light a fire immediately to keep the wild animals away and after chatting for hours by fire light (there is no electricity) I am brought a gourmet meal cooked over a fire in the kitchen.
Lying down on the mud veranda the head teacher and I settle in for the night and its surprisingly cool after the heat of the day. The cool of the wild lulls me to sleep as birds and beast make their nest or begin to hunt by night.
I am woken in the pitch dark by the chieftain who says - listen - I can hear a calling. He says 'Tiger'. Oh my goodness their is a tiger close by. He says it is some way off though.... thank goodness. The only protection I have is my sleeping bag and I've even forgotten my mosquito repellent - not much use against the king of the jungle. I lye and listen a bit longer but the tranquility has me at its mercy and I'm asleep before I know it.
A few hours later and I jump out of my sleeping bag - the dog is going crazy - I switch on my torch and see a Leopard disappear into the jungle.
A leopard has become attached to the chiefs cow - I like to think 2 creatures from seperate worlds have fallen in love but the reality is probably a little more gruesome. The leopard unlike the India human population wants beef on the menu.
This wildest of creatures was one pounce from having Mr Bent ala carte.
Again I slip off to sleep lying on the hard floor with wild ideas in my head.
When I wake in the morning I am surrounded by children and a godzillion balloon animals and flowers later they are all happy and I'm allowed to go for a tour.
We walk down the steap hillside stopping in at many of the 150 houses the constitute the village. Lots of tea and smiles again.
Then by another simple temple we meet another chief who has his bow and arrow on him. We practice shooting my shoes (they are off my feet at this point). After a while a youth takes the bow and wants to show what he can do - he fires one shot and a bird falls from the canopy way above us. The young children scamper off to retrieve but the tiny bird and the arrow.
I felt a bit guilty - did a bird have to die just coz I'm here, "What will you do with it?" I ask.
"Eat it" they respond as if I'm an idiot. A fire is rustled up and the bird after being plucked i\and gutted is just thrown on. it's barely larger than a wren but we all take a piece. I had both breasts (about the size of a penny) as guest.
The second bird to fall I plucked and then when it was cooked I didn't want the most succulent breast - so they said take the head. I was told to remove the beak and gouge out the eyes. After doing so, very proficiently I have to say, I was left with this skull. What do i do with it?? Eat it. What the whole thing.
Man, they're thinking, this white guy has no idea - of course all of it!!
I pop it in like a boiled sweet and bite down. The brain oozes into my mouth and tastes like cream cheese. Yummy.
Before I know it it's time to leave - they invited me to stay for a week in the future - I'm keen!! very keen.
On the way back to the school we had to avoid the elephants again. This time I'm on foot coz the head teacher has taken my bike (after lowering the seat a lot) and is flying around like a kid at a fairground!! His eyes are wide and his smile is bigger than ever. He comes back to me and says, 'This is soooooo coooolll!!!'
So I'm back and teaching at the school - I have to force the children out the door of each lesson. It's wonderful, they're wonderful, you're wonderful, life's wonderful.
Again 'luckiest man alive' doesn't come close to me. And add to that Mum and Dad are coming out soon..... so lucky!!