Kalow.... And the Trek. / by Mark Boyd

Our trekking group consisted of 9.... But there were many groups, maybe 45 people, preparing to embark on various treks. Some one night, some two, and some in different areas.

There was a sea of unattended backpacks waiting around to be collected by the tour company, and Judith was becoming more and more concerned that our own packs may end up being left behind, as opposed to them arriving safe and sound at our randomly selected hostel in Nyuang Shwe. I wasn't too worried. They'd put tiny little paper labels on each bag. What could go wrong? Tiny little paper labels are fail safe!  Ha ha!  I assured her everything would be fine (and before you start thinking ahead, everything was fine! HA!).

We followed our guide Momo as he stomped back through town and on to the trails.  Today we would trek for 7 hours, tomorrow 7 hours and the following day somewhere around 4 hours. Momo was full of laughter and chat. A real nice guy. Our group was a mix of Manx, English, Argentinian, Spanish, German, Czech and Australian.... and what a fine bunch of folks they were too. There were many stories and much laughter.

                               The Team

                              The Team

I hung my t-shirt over my daypack to let it dry.  By lunch time the t-shirt had somehow fallen off and no one behind me had noticed it.... Tha'll teach me for wearing earthen colours! That t-shirt represented 20% of my main clothe items.  

On the first night the outdoor washing 'facility' was as simple as it gets. A small wooden shelter with a corrugated tin roof, with a large concrete circular well about 1.2 metres high. This wooden shelter was split down the middle by a dirty old grey ragged piece of material which rested just above the top of the concrete well structure. Two metal bowls floated on the surface of the bracing water. Aussie Emma and I shared the facility. She was scared of spiders. Very scared. And even though it was dark, the light provided by the two little candles illuminated enough of the tiny washing area to highlight any eight legged beasties that one may want to or indeed not want to see.

                                           Make up table for the lady of the house.

                                          Make up table for the lady of the house.

 Laura and I walked ahead.... The path split, and we found ourselves on the other side of the river to the rest of the group.... Whoops!  !0 minutes later the paths rejoined....Ha ha!

Laura and I walked ahead.... The path split, and we found ourselves on the other side of the river to the rest of the group.... Whoops!  !0 minutes later the paths rejoined....Ha ha!

'Oh my God that is massive.' was my personal favourite scream from Emma..... God knows what the rest of the crew were thinking! Probably that there were some big spiders in there I suppose! Ha ha! And Laura, well she almost managed set the tiny shower shack on fire when her plastic toilet bag caught alight on the naked candle flame. Oh dear!

Over the two days we passed through a couple of small villages during the day. It was nice to see how the locals lived so simply in their small communities.

                                                                      Tea Anyone?

                                                                     Tea Anyone?

                                                  Handmade textiles.... The old way.....

                                                 Handmade textiles.... The old way.....

At times I think this must be a hard way to live, but if one is born in to such a small community in the hills in Myanmar, then one has never known anything else? These people seemed happy and content.

 Everywhere chillies were drying in the sun.... Hot.... and hot.

Everywhere chillies were drying in the sun.... Hot.... and hot.

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                                                      The Boys....Chilling at break time.... 

                                                     The Boys....Chilling at break time.... 

                                                                         Moto-monks

                                                                        Moto-monks

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                                                                      Water Buffalo Boy.

                                                                     Water Buffalo Boy.

                                                                           Laundry

                                                                          Laundry

                                                                       Family Life

                                                                      Family Life

                                                                            Kids.

                                                                           Kids.

The beginning of the third day saw the team falling apart. Emma's heel blister was a huge rank looking mess, Laura's 'between toes' blister looked raw and dirty whilst Judith, and Sarah (from Madrid) both fell ill. To add insult to injury it was absolutely pelting it down with cold rain.

I popped my backpack in to my Sea to Summit Ultracil drybag and reached for my poncho. Hmmmm a poncho bag with no poncho. Must have left it on the Isle of Man.  Useful.

The sick and injured walked 15 minutes to the nearest village and were able to get a taxi to Inle.  Laura decided to soldier on with her gammy toe.... It continued to rain and rain and rain.... To the point where I was getting cold. The ground was wet, muddy and treacherously slippery. The crew, including myself whilst arsing around, had slipped and landed on their bums getting absolutely filthy. At one point, Laura almost ended up in a hole big enough to engulf her due to her slippery soled footwear. I grabbed her hand as she slipped down the steep banked path just in the nick of time. Dangerous? I would say so. Our trainers, boots and trekking sandals were clogged with mud. It felt like we were carrying an extra half kilo on each foot, and it continued to rain.

 One of the girls on her arse, but still smiling.... For a few more minutes!

One of the girls on her arse, but still smiling.... For a few more minutes!

After 90 minutes we took a break for 5 minutes. This was just enough time to allow the cold to seep in to my core. We strode on.... and over the next 35 minutes the rain became slightly lighter and lighter, until it eventually stopped. Relief!

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We slipped and slid until we reached some incredibly treacherous looking terrain. The first of a series of steep, narrow descents awaited. I squatted down, pushed with my hands and skied down the first. Others tackled it in their own way. I spent much time helping Laura, her footwear really letting her down. She was like Bambi on ice! There was a lot of laughing and a lot of mud everywhere, but once we hit the steep, narrow bouldered area things became more serious. Now I was worried that someone slipping and falling could easily breaking an arm, ankle or worse. We crept down this horrible section of dangerous terrain for over 45 minutes. On a dry day I think it may have taken 10 to 12 minutes to negotiate, but today was different. The sighs of relief when we finally reached a slippery flat surface were probably audible on the shores of Lake Inle. We trudged heavy footed for another 15 minutes towards the 'restaurant' where we would end the trek and fill our bellies. The sun was now out.... We could wash our hands, arms and feet.... We could enjoy a cold rewarding beer.... Soon we would be on a boat travelling up through Lake Inle enroute to our next town where our backpacks would be waiting for us.

                                                    Ancient but still with nimble fingers...

                                                   Ancient but still with nimble fingers...

The quiet inlet that lead to Lake Inle was a real treat. Peaceful, tranquil and idyllic. Small wooden huts on stilts and crops growing in the shallow margins.

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As we moved on to the main lake speedboats tore along the surface loaded with tourists wanting to see the various attractions dotted along the shoreline.

As we drew closer to the town Lake Inle fishermen with their unusual rowing technique worked the shallow waters. I loved watching these guys at work. Slow and beautiful. Serene to observe.

                                          Why use arms when you can use your leg eh?

                                         Why use arms when you can use your leg eh?

On landing we headed towards the hotel where we had our backpacks dropped. Judith was still feeling rough, and Laura was hobbling quite badly due to her horrible blister. Twenty minutes later we were gathering our packs. The hotel was a little too plush for our budget. We logged on to Booking.com and found a three bed room nearer the main town.

Judith, still unwell crashed out and slept.

Laura and I headed out to meet with the rest of the group after after cleaning and patching her very messy and infected toe.  This town would be home for a few days.

There was a 'Balloon Festival' to attend..... and the Super Moon was also approaching.

        Laura capturing a picture of a young boy.... This image that she took was very nice....

       Laura capturing a picture of a young boy.... This image that she took was very nice....

                                                               Waiting with his cow.

                                                              Waiting with his cow.

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                                   How to slowly kill your buffalo.... Or slowly cook them???

                                  How to slowly kill your buffalo.... Or slowly cook them???

 Reunited.

Reunited.

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                          A woman peels corn all day with her baby alongside the smoking fire....       

                         A woman peels corn all day with her baby alongside the smoking fire....       

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