3 day trek, blisters ahoy.
Trip Start Jan 02, 2013
32Trip End Apr 25, 2013
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Where I stayed
family hut in small village
We left at 8.30 on day one carrying all we needed and looked forward to the first 'flat' day. This transpired to be a dusty 4 hour uphill hike (note to add gradient to distance and time as a factor that the Burmese grossly underestimate). The summit was however spectacular and it's 5000ft peak covered in flowers, tea plantations and lemon trees. We stopped for a delicious veg curry lunch, sharing the view with a bunch of hens. Batteries suitably recharged, we hiked on for another few hours, passing ox drawn carts full of school children, cattle herds and temples. Before stopping for afternoon tea, we walked a couple of miles down the railway line, feeling a little naughty initially and also acutely aware of the imminent danger that might announce it's presence at any moment. We need not have worried though as there's only one train a day and when it passed us, we could keep up with it at a hearty jog
We arrived at a tiny isolated village an hour before sunset and raided the shop for beer and sweeties. We were greeted by huge smiles when walking around the settlement. Every house appears to have a pig imprisoned in a tiny wooden cage gradually fattening. It begs the question that in the absence of refrigerators or a deep freeze, when the enormous piggy is slaughtered, what do they do with all the meat? Perhaps there's a village fiesta and everyone tucks in.
The house that we stayed in was spotlessly clean and completely empty. This family have absolutely no possessions. The children don't need computer games or expensive toys, they amuse themselves by playing together or chasing a rolling old tyre, I could watch them for hours. The shower was a huge concrete tub in the garden full of icy cold water despite the blistering midday heat. After a super speedy wash with lots of high pitched yelping, we ate a vast feast by candle light and at 8pm, there's nothing to so but sleep!
That night whilst trying to sleep on a rock hard wooden floor with a single blanket over us we realised why the water was so cold. The outside temperature fell to almost zero. I was utterly freezing despite wearing all my clothes so no wonder the entire family of eight slept in one room
We started off at 7.30am on day two and after a glorious early morning in the mist, we arrived at the first village stop where two people joined our little group. Daniela who is half Burmese, half Austrian, educated in India and at uni in London and her Parisian boyfriend Edward. Daniela hiked valiantly without any difficulty looking chic and carrying nothing but a handbag. What a woman! At lunch time, Ryan the American English teacher living in Korea joins our merry band entertaining us with stories of Detroit life. What a great troop we had.
After hearing tales of bedbugs and no supper, we decided against camping out in the local monastery and opted for another village. Great decision. We visited the local school where the children learn by repetition so there's always plenty of happy chanting noise. Ryan discovered that the local shop stocked abnormally large quantities and varieties of booze and with the help of Daniela's Burmese, bought 8.5% beer and persuaded us to start a little impromptu drinking ring. At some point in he evening there was a big debate about which was the North star, lots of giggling and a lot of stumbling around in the dark trying not pee on ourselves in the pitch black squatter. Realising that the other travelers staying in the same barn had gone to bed, we all decided to retire and were the last to bed (lots of German tutting) at 8.10pm!
We set off bright and early on day 3, no hangovers on board and trekked the flat dusty road to Inle Lake. Due to the venomous snake situation and fear of squatting on one, the Shewee extreme made it's first appearance and was remarkably successful
By the time we reached Inle lake the blisters were gathering and we all felt grubby hot and miserable so jumped on a boat tour around the huge beautiful lake, stopping to see cigar rolling, pagodas, the jumping cat monastery and the floating villages and gardens. It's picture postcard stuff.
There were a group of monks that trained a herd of cats living with them to jump through hoops and people flocked to see them but sadly the monks moved on and the cats no longer jump. They roam the building taking swipes at tourist toes intermittently.
The floating gardens are stunning, the inhabitants of Inle's stilt houses have created a floating plantation upon which they grow tomatoes, melons, vegetables and the odd flower. Ingenious. They rarely set foot on land.