Walking has always kinda been my bag, so it was fairly unsurprising that I would eventually join a trek at some point on this trip. I opted for a two day walk from Kalaw to Inle Lake, a sensible move as I was already in Kalaw and I wanted to see Inle Lake.
We set off in the morning in a van to the trek starting point. Had we opted for the three day trek, we would have walked there, but word on the street was that the first day was boring anyway. There were five of us whities, Marc, a fellow American, and Matt, Bec, and Chris, Aussies, along with our Sikh guide Harri.
The trek began easy and fun, everyone was chatting, the mud roads were of good quality, the scenery always stunning. It wasn’t long before we met our first local group of farmers. In this minority tribe, the women all wore bright red or orange headscarves, and married women wore a black dress. Harri told us that this group believed that they were descended from a dragon, and that one day they would become one again. There were kids everywhere, and as you’ll see in my pictures, they were all super cute. All of the children wore red necklaces, which are given to them by the head monk of their temple to protect them from evil spirits.
It started to rain, and things got a lot more difficult.
I was wearing my hiking sandals, which work fine in the city or the beach or the jungle, but not so well with mud. I kept thinking of my hiking boots, a useless appendage thus far in the trip and now smugly mocking me from a guesthouse storage room on Khao San Road just when I needed them.
I’d never experienced this sort of mud. Three or four inches of it stubbornly clung to the bottom of my shoes. Worse, a layer of it developed between my feet and my shoes, meaning every other step I took was just a slick slide in place. We walked down a ravine to cross a creek, then back up the mud slope on the other side, a tough task with four inches of mud stuck to my soles. On the other side of the creek, I deemed the shoes a liability and just carried them.
Everyone else had mud stuck to their feet as well, but everyone else had the good sense to walk in real shoes. It seems some people actually plan ahead rather than join a trek on a whim after choosing a random town and showing up.
At lunch, I was finally able to get the mud off my shoes, so after that we were back to the good part – nice roads, everyone chattering, everyone happy after a rest and an awesome lunch.
I should stop here to mention the food. We had a chef who would go to our meal spots ahead of us to prepare food, and all four of our meals were fantastic. Noodles with fresh local fruit and veggies for lunch the first day. A massive spread for dinner including chicken curry, tomato salad, potatoes, and rice. Banana pancakes and coffee for breakfast. Fried rice with nuts and chili for lunch the next day. The chef made extra everything, so nobody left the table hungry.
We spent the night in a monastery for young monks, under 10 years old. Several other hiking groups stayed there as well, but we didn’t really see much of them. Our meal spot was right on the front porch of the monastery, so at dinner we could hear the young monks chanting in the darkness of the building. I don’t think there was any electricity at this place, only flashlights and candles (and iPads) lit up the gloom at night.
The five of us had a makeshift room, separated from the monastery at large by curtains. Five simple bed rolls and a couple mosquito coils that we bought comprised the entire furnishings.
After breakfast the next morning, we walked to a nearby store. I noticed that a dog that was at the monastery had followed us to the store. Harri told me that this was common, this particular dog had followed him the length of the second days’ walk over fifty times. This dog then found its way back to the monastery on its own, and sometimes even ventured as far as Kalaw. It’s always interesting to meet dogs that have lives of their own.
The second day was easier than the first, other then residual fatigue. No mud and mainly downhill meant that everyone was in good spirits throughout and that my shoes had utility.
After lunch, we made it to our boat that would take us across Inle Lake and to Nyaunshwe, a town that fortunately offered such facilities as showers, draft beer, and beds.