As you might have guessed we didn't see any tigers in Similipal National Park. However it was a beautiful place to be for a couple of days. We stayed in what was once the Maharaja's hunting lodge (believe me it was not as glamorous as it sounds), which looked out over a clearing and a salt-lick in the otherwise dense forest. At dusk, a herd of spotted deer appeared where they settled for the night and while we didn't see a tiger the deer obviously did, as with night falling anxious barks from the deer on watch alerted the herd to danger. In the absolute pitch black the barks rang out across the clearing, which sent shivers down my spine, and had me heading for the safety of the villa!
Being in the middle of a nature reserve that has no electric light, apart from one solar-powered bulb in the room, when night closed in it really was pitch-black; you literally couldn't see your hand in front of your face. This made for excellent star-gazing. With a pair of good binoculars we could see thousands and thousands of stars and even a planet, but as none of the group are astronomers we couldn't work out which it was. Still it's one of the best night skies I have ever seen.
Apart from the deer we had another visitor, a rice-eating porcupine! Apparently he was a regular visitor to the lodge and the cook there often gave the porcupine left-over rice. On this particular night the porcupine must have been hungry, as he snuck back into the kitchen, pulled the pot of cold rice off a shelf and ran under our jeep to eat it. It meant that we had a small lunch the next day, but hey I wasn't going to argue with those quills. Here's a picture of our rice-stealing friend on his first visit.
So tomorrow we'll be heading to Puri, a major temple town on the Bay of Bengal. On the way we will be stopping at several villages known for their terracottas, wall paintings and stone carving. I hope to find a piece for the Weston Discovery Centre along the way.