From the very start when I started preparing the trip and seeing Charlotte’s and other friends photos, I knew I was quite curious about going trekking, meeting people outside of the beaten path. And I am immensely glad we did it as it was a major highlight of our 2 weeks trip in the country.
It is an, albeit touristy, it remains an authentic experience. It’s not that hundreds of travellers suddenly decided to go all trekking on the same path but rather that it’s the only route where the government doesn’t have any (lengthy) pre-authorisations process. We started from Kalaw where our guide John Sylvester, got us to fill a simple form with our names and passport numbers that he then dropped at the police stations, a 5min business. In comparison, fellow travellers who wanted to explore the southern region, border of Thailand, had to wait for over 2 weeks, ask for local help, and a pinch of luck to get their permits to go exploring the band of shore land on a bike. Amazing adventure that I hope they will relate soon on their blog 😉
I have to make one big acknowledgement there, John totally made the trip worth it. He started as a young boy as a porter in the family business and learnt English by having tourists in his environment from then. Passionate about his region, trekking and the world in general, John has been running his own trek company for 15 years and knows his job well. He also speaks a very good English which makes the whole difference between seeing the region and experiencing it. I thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent in villages, sharing freshly cut tea and discussing about the recent changes in the country.
We started in the afternoon and spent the night with the Nepalese family who runs the little shelter at the view point, after having enjoyed a magnificent sunset. And finally, shared the evening activities with them, steaming the fresh tea leaves and preparing the dinner mostly.
The next day was longer, we probably covered about 35/40km, stopping in different villages and …sharing more tea. The tribes we met with are organised in different ways, have different traditions. And as we advanced, the landscape also changed much. From tea leaves, to tobacco fields, rice terraces quite labour intensive and helped by ox carts, gingers and chilly fields, sesame, Our little company was pretty tired and didn’t last much after night fall. Some houses will have a little solar panel but must don’t have electricity at all and “pitch black” takes a whole new dimension. How shinny the stars are in the middle of the mountains…
On a house-keeping note, for those interested by the trek, it’s a good idea to carry the following:
– A 20L day pack
– Comfortable walking shoes, we went at a sustained pace (about 35km a day) and I’m sure that John is more than happy to take it a little slower but in any case, sports shoes are a good idea
– A little torch lamp
– Light sleeping bags – most families will provide you with blankets but I felt more comfortable having my own
– Sun cream and mosquito spray
– A good jumper for the evening and the early morning
– A camelback type of water supply or a water bottle
– Leggings or cropped pants instead of shorts, especially for girls. I started in shorts and quickly changed into running trousers with a longer hem line.
– Wet wipes / hands dry wash and a small Eco toilet paper roll (and their little zip bag to bring the rubbish back with you)
And our full itinerary and packing list can be found here