We Start Our Trek in Myanmar

The Karma has run out. For many years we have pushed the limit on the rainy weather, rainy season in Bhutan, no rain, rainy season in Africa, no rain, Ireland, no rain, The West Coast Trail, no rain. I always tell people I don’t travel in the rain and at the end of the dry trip they believe me. Now, we are in Myanmar; it is the end of the rainy season and for 6 days not a sprinkle. Then yesterday, the day before we are to begin a 3 day hike from the mountains, through the countryside to a lake in the valley, the monsoon that has been tracking the east coast of India enters Myanmar and the rain begins. Last night we thought we might bail and spend a couple of nights in a hotel but this morning we decided to have a go and hit the trail. If things are ugly we can bail tomorrow where the trail crosses the highway.

The rain has almost completely abated. Debbie and I decide we need to stop and buy a couple of cheap ponchos. We neglected to bring ours. It was a weight consideration and also the fact that it is usually stinking hot in SE Asia even if it is raining. Here in Kalaw, at about 4,200 ft above sea level, the climate is quite temperate and with the rain we experienced yesterday we thought Ponchos would be a good investment. Our guide Wai Yan helps us out with the details, no sleeves, a longer back, cheaper and a different color please. We each find one that suits our purpose. The price, 3,500 kaht ($3.50) each, but with my bargaining savvy and the fact that I have to bargain just for the fun of it, I manage to knock $.50 off the price and we get them both for 6,500 kaht.

 We leave town, head back up the hill from whence we came and there at the trail head are 4 porters sitting on the side of the road awaiting our arrival. By 9:30 our troop L, R, Wai Yan, 4 porters, Debbie and I are on the trail. Mud, mud, oh the mud with the deluge there is so much mud, slippery, sticky, sucky mud. Debbie and I are being punished for spending 7 dry days on the West Coast Trail earlier this summer and poor R & L are guilty by association and have to trudge through the mud, walk over wet log bridges and wade through raging torrents of water.

The walk is difficult but interesting. It is very WC Trail like. We have to dip our heads down and watch every step or on our butts we land. The trouble with the walking is we cannot look at the scenery, the big reason we are undertaking this hike in the first place.

Kalaw, Myanmar

View from the Trail

The morning passes quickly and we are right on time for lunch. Lunch is served in a village house. A table is set in the center of the main living space; we all sit around it on a mat on the floor. On the menu is noodle soup, it is hot and tasty and with 2 ½ hours of hiking under our belt we all eat well.

Kalaw, Myanmar

Lunch Stop

Just as we get inside for lunch the rain starts. It builds as we eat and it is raining hard when we head back on the trail. The extra water has a strange affect. There seems to be less mud. It is as if the mud washes away with the fast moving water. The other unusual thing is the amount of water. The ground is not able to absorb the rain fast enough so as we walk there is a sheet of moving liquid surrounding our feet. We are able to travel faster but we are definitely getting wetter. Our ponchos are keeping us dry to the knees and have officially become a good investment.

Kalaw, Myanmar

The Trail

We are now able to hoof it along pretty good. We round a corner and there is a stream crossing our path. It is far too big to jump so it looks like we are going to have to wade across. One of the porters wades across and indicates to follow his path. My shoes are muddy but my feet are dry until now. Up to our knees as we cross the stream, the rushing water washes our pant legs, which is nice but my feet are now squishing in the water in my shoes. 100M farther along and we encounter another unjumpable water course. This one is crazy, it is thigh deep. I manage to get across walking on rocks just under the surface, slipping once but only getting my pant leg wet. R finds a narrowing and with his long legs he jumps from shore to shore. L decides to take the same route. She makes it but barely and we almost lose her to the rapids below. Debbie gets to the edge and balks at the depth; one of the porters picks her up and carries her across the pond. More rain, more mud, and after another hour of trekking we arrive at our digs for the night,  Nan Thale thee Monastery in the hills. Not knowing what to expect, we are quite surprised when Wai Yan leads us to a simple but nice building we have to ourselves. As we sit inside, the rain gets worse.

kalaw, Myanmar

Monastery where we spend the night

I have never experienced an Asian monsoon and this is just the remnants of a fairly small storm. It’s not the tropical rain I have known that is a downpour for an hour or so then it stops. This rain goes on and on, ebbing and flowing in intensity. I am kind of glad we are on the tail end of the life of this storm – at least we are not house bound.

Not much happin’ at the ‘stery so we sit around and tell stories while our porters prepare dinner. When it arrives it is really good. Ginger tea, bean soup, and a few non spicy curries with rice. We eat and sit around chatting but with only candle light to glare on our retinas it is hard to stay awake and by 8pm we have retired.

Earlier we decided to depart the trail when we cross the highway tomorrow. I will try to scare up enough karma to keep us dry for our last one hour on the trail.

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