Trekking? Really?! – Kalaw to Inle Lake

Trekking is the last thing we ever thought we’d sign up for!  Anybody who knows us would tell you they’d be shocked, surprised, and maybe even a little scared for our lives if we ever went on a trek.  But, we heard such good things about the 2 day trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake in Myanmar that we just couldn’t pass on the opportunity.  Plus, Sam’s Trekking in Kalaw made things just too easy, including sending our enormous backpacks on a single motorcycle taxi to the hotel we planned to stay in at Inle.

Small backpacks, 1.5 L of water, bug spray, runners, sunscreen, raincoats ($4 at the market), extra clothes, flashlights, toilet paper, and a lucky rabbit’s foot is all we needed.  Sam arranged and provided the guide (19 year old Sanmya), gourmet cook (19 year old Sanmya), medicine woman (19 year old Sanmya), translator (19 year old Sanmya), food, and village lodging.

Before the trek, we had to prepare ourselves mentally, physically, and emotionally.  Mentally, we compared this upcoming trek to a hike in the Rocky Mountains, and convinced ourselves this would be much easier.  Physically, we ate cautiously the days prior so as to not disturb our bowels.  And Emotionally, we committed to sticking through this together, no matter what happened, and rocked each other to sleep the night before.

Morning came quickly and it wasn’t long before we were on the trail.  One of Thomas’ first questions was, “Are there any snakes?”, followed by, “What types of animals can we expect to see?”

“Cows, goats, pigs, chickens, snakes, monkeys, and maybe a squirrel if lucky!”, was Sanmya’s reply.  Thomas then proceeded to ask if there were any poisonous snakes, which Sanmya replied “No”.  Funny enough, because part of our trek preparation was to read some Lonely Planet, which clearly stated that Myanmar has the largest number of deaths annually due to snake bite.  Yikes!!!

Just 1 ½ hours into our trek, Sanmya suggested we take a break already, and she introduced herself to a young girl at a village.  We sat inside this girl’s home, for what we expected to be 10-15 minutes.  This “break” ended up being a 2 ½ hour lunch prepared by Sanmya on a small fire!  While she was in the next room cooking, we were left sitting with three villagers, in which communication consisted of staring, giggling, pointing, and laughing.  Awkward doesn’t quite explain it!  It wasn’t until our translator finished cooking that we could really begin to get to know these people.  Word got out quickly that there were visitors, and it wasn’t long before crowds of children were pushing and shoving outside of the house to try to get a peek of the foreigners through a window; one of which looked oddly like their own kind, only with lighter skin.

Before we could leave, the villagers kindly asked if Katherine would try on some of their traditional clothing.  Katherine really couldn’t refuse, and they thoroughly enjoyed dressing up their new doll.  With body language to us and words to our guide, they commented many times of how beautiful Katherine was because she had such fair skin.  We finally realized that the reason they wanted Katherine to try on the clothing in the first place was because they wanted to see how it looked on fair skin.  All of the people in this village were farmers, so naturally, their skin was dark from being outside everyday.  In Asia, light skin = beautiful!

Our trek continued after a pit stop at the village toilet (See Tales From The Toilet – Trekking in Myanmar), and our confidence in our trekking abilities was growing by the minute.  The weather was fair, and the ground was mostly dry.  We went from following every step our guide made, to taking risks by veering a little to the left and a little to the right.  Never once did we pass Sanmya though, as we didn’t want to be the one to spook the poisonous snakes.  The adventurous side in us was really coming out, though a misstep on Thomas’ part cost him a pair of Nike sneakers.

Shortly after Sanmya cheered and chased a squirrel with excitement matching that of the late Steve Irwin finding a crocodile, we reached our home for the evening; a bamboo house, complete with a tin roof to keep us dry and a raised bamboo bed with mosquito net to keep the critters off.  Dinner took another 2 hours to prepare on the fire, and we fell asleep early as the villagers stayed up to celebrate their one-day off for the month (full moon) by turning on the generator and watching karaoke DVD’s on the only TV in the village, which happened to be in the teacher’s house.

By the end of Day One, our shoulders, hips, thighs, and feet hurt badly, and we dreaded getting up in the morning.  This trek had quickly proven itself comparable, if not tougher, to a hike in the Rockies.  While the scenery we saw and people we met were unforgettable, Day Two consisted of Katherine counting down the minutes until we reached the 22 km long lake.  There was moaning, groaning, and lots of “how many minutes now?”  until we reached the boat waiting for us at Inle Lake.  The 35 km trek was worth every second though once we finally did arrive at Inle.  Sitting in that boat with a Coke in hand, breeze in the face, watching daily life whiz by, truly was an unforgettable experience.

Overall, we came away from this with a love/hate relationship with trekking.  While it was A LOT of work for being on vacation, it’s safe to say the good definitely out-weighed the bad.  We likely won’t make a habit of trekking, but if an opportunity arises like it did this year, we definitely won’t pass it up!


Katherine & Thomas

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Categories: Myanmar, Travel Tales

Author:Thomas & Katherine

A love for travel, adventure, and photography. We just can't help but write about it!

One Comment on “Trekking? Really?! – Kalaw to Inle Lake”

  1. Anonymous
    August 6, 2011 at 4:55 am #

    Hi Katherine and Thomas, we just received your postcard. Looks like you are having a great adventure. We just recently returned from a 12 day cruise in Europe along with 3 extra days in Rome. Caribbean cruises are simply mindless fun where Europe is a cultural feast. Bill and Jean


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