Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Trekking Around Kalaw, Myanmar in a Monsoon

I fall asleep to the soothing sound of heavy rain which continues unabated until 6 AM. I rise, and step onto the soggy, padded earth, which sponges most of my momentum, adversely affecting the physics equation as I attempt to hop over a puddle. SPLASH.

My guide and I trek through town, friendly Burmese people smiling and waving hello; here, no soul is unknown. At the edge of the village, two four year old boys race to us, presenting brilliant, red welcoming flowers, the gesture so sweet it warms my heart on this chilly, overcast day.
green vista, few trees
We start ascending the mountain, 5,000 feet above sea level; mile high, explaining what look like deciduous, evergreen trees. 
The chasm in communication formidable, my guide speaks English- very broken.  I decide to keep my questions to a minimum. Most of the trees have been cut down, used for firewood, housing, and now exported as timber; plantations, mainly tea, replacing. Forests remain only on land where the soil is deemed too poor to grow.  
tea plantation, the small trees/bushes
The clouds burst, the power of the torrential rains shocking; drenching me instantly. I slip and slide across the slick, muddy path.  The vistas here are unspectacular, which isn’t much of a loss since my entire focus is needed on the slippery ground in front of me in an all-out effort to stay erect. 
Ten kilometers later, we break at a tiny village with a Nepalese restaurant.  The hot green tea is welcome, and I down several small kettles.  I fill up on bananas, and a couple chapatti.  A group of four Belgians and a Japanese man stop by.  They are going on a three day trek to Inlay Lake, a trip I surely would have been on had I not uncharacteristically planned out my stay in this country in advance. 
We eat outside, sheltered from the monsoon by a thatched roof. Having barely moved for the last half hour, I start to shiver, my body chilled. I see my breath for the first time ever in Southeast Asia. I’m suddenly feel grateful to have chosen the “less adventuresome route” for once.
I take refuge inside, surrounded by the restaurant’s meager collection of pots and pans.  A small fire burns in the room’s center, I warm myself, fruitlessly attempting to dry out my socks.
drying socks over fire
We head out. The steep road morphs into a waterfall, and I expect a mudslide to sweep us away at any moment.  We veer off the road into a remnant of forest, the vegetation absorbing more of the moisture. 
All wildlife here has been hunted out of existence, you'll be lucky to spot a bird.  We trek through the trees for almost two kilometers before we meet up with the main road.
Mud swallows my leg to my knee, which with great effort I remove from the quicksand.  We trudge 8 km through the deluge; our teeth chattering incessantly. 
I think of the soldiers in Vietnam, their descriptions of being in the jungle for weeks at a time, unable to dry out, shoes eternally soggy.  I shudder at the thought, how uncomfortable it must have been. If you wrung out my clothing right now, the water would flood the Sahara.
Slogging slowly through the muck for several hours, at last we make it back to base. I tip my guide and bid him adieu. I remove my dripping shoes and socks, take a warm shower, and throw myself, still shivering, back under the blankets, darkness fleeting, my room being lit by flashes of lightning as I listen attentively to the symphonic monsoon still playing outside.

PD'ing my Princess in Myanmar



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