Asia, Fitness, Myanmar

Trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar

23rd December 2017

Anyone who knows me is very aware that ‘TREKKING’ isn’t high on my list of holiday activities. In fact the word trekking puts the fear of God in me! But before I got to Myanmar my lovely friend Anni told me one of the highlights of her trip in Myanmar was the trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake.

Now I love Anni, and I trust her completely, but she wasn’t particularly specific about what this trek would involve. I have copied and pasted below her exact words from her email:

‘We did the 3 day trek, and they take your bag by car to Inle Lake which you collect at the end and just carry a small pack. It’s exhausting but amazing and one of the best things we did. Inle Lake where you end up is amazing – seriously beautiful!!!!’
So as you can see, it wasn’t much to go off! Considering the accommodation for the trekking is a local wooden hut somewhere in the hills I decided I wouldn’t be doing the longer option! I went for the much nicer sounding two day and one night trek. This meant you basically drive to where the three day-ers slept, and start from there. Perfect.

Booking the trek:

I booked through my hostel in Bagan before I arrived in Kalaw. I then took a bus from Bagan to Kalaw to get me there the day before the trek started. There isn’t much to Kalaw, you can tell it’s very much a town where people stay over ready to start their trekking.
There are a number of trekking companies and you can wander around and book them in town. As I said, mine was already booked before I arrived. The company it was with was Eversmile. I really recommend them! It was lucky, because I didn’t actually research the company before booking. As the hostel sorted it I just trusted it would be good!
I didn’t sleep much the night before the trek started. Mainly because I was terrified of being the one at the back holding everyone up while I do my nana-shuffle up and down the hills! My arthritis isn’t very forgiving going downhills or down steps, and I have to go slow and steady. Especially if the ground is uneven. I don’t mind that when I’m with a group of friends, but strangers can be pretty embarrassing. If it flairs up and starts hurting there was no way I would be admitting that to strangers.

 

Trekking prep!

I thought I better hit up my fountain of trekking knowledge to figure out what to pack. When I say fountain, I mean more of a slightly dripping tap! I was frantically Whatsapp’ing Anni as soon as I got to my hostel, which got her in a panic because now I’d committed she would be in trouble if I hated it!

I was worrying what to do with my laptop during the trek. The choices were to leave it in my big backpack and have it waiting (hopefully) at Inle Lake for me. Or take it with me and hope I didn’t fall down a cliff or anything to break it. We eventually came to the conclusion I could pack my laptop in my big bag, they can’t steal it or they wouldn’t get people trekking with them anymore with a bad reputation. It was well packed amongst my clothes and the zip was locked.

Next was what to pack. You want to pack light so you’re not carrying much but it gets really, REALLY cold at night! We were all pretty shocked how cold we got.

  • Clean knickers and socks
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Baby wipes
  • Deodorant
  • Hoodie
  • Long sleeve t shirt
  • Vest top
  • Hippy elephant pants (for pajamas)
  • T shirt (for pyjamas)
  • Camera
  • Go Pro
  • Phone
  • Money
  • Passport
  • Sun cream
  • Sleeping bag liner

Some people took a towel and showered, but it was a cold water, outdoor shower. We arrived as it was going dark and as the sun sets it gets really cold. So I was glad I made the executive decision not to shower. In fact, most girls did the same thing, and the boys braved the shower!

Time to trek!

Bags packed and mentally prepared as I would ever be it was time to go. We all arrived at the Eversmile office for 8am on the day of the trek. Small bag at the ready and big bag dropped off we stood around as everyone started to gather. There was quite a lot of people in our group, I think 13. Apparently this was one of the biggest groups they had had. Our tour guide Mo Mo stood us in a circle to introduce ourselves and break the ice.

It was a varied group, all ages and nationalities. I was so relived, everyone was lovely! We all got on and it really made the whole trekking sitch bearable.

The first day was the longest. We piled into cars and drove to our start point. The hardcore trekking peeps who had slept there the night before were setting off as we arrived. Mo Mo held us back a bit and then we set off.

Anni was right, it was beautiful. We were walking through these hills with incredible views of the fields. We passed local villages where the children came out to wave at us. Everyone seemed so happy. There were fields of chilli’s drying out and Mo Mo pointed out different things being farmed.

There was quite a lot of uphill but it was steady and not too steep. If this is trekking Jack bloody Froggatt has had me doing harder routes on ‘casual dog walks’ around the Lake District! They should get him out there to challenge everyone!

Food!

One thing I worry about on organised tours is always the food. Vegetarians are often an after thought and you end up with a bit of cabbage and boiled rice. When we stopped for lunch at midday we were all surprised with the amazing food we got! Bowls of vegetable soup came first, followed by noodles with an egg on top. There were bowls of crisps, loads fruit and it didn’t stop coming until we stopped eating.

Our evening meal was a feast again! So many vegetables, salads, rice, chips, fruit … we had a huge table and there wasn’t a spare inch of space. The best thing was it was all vegetarian! I think one bowl of chicken was brought out but that was all.

Evening in the hills.

After we reached our little base camp for the night we all quickly freshened up. (See above  – baby wipes for the girls, cold showers for the boys). We got cosy around the table and ate our feast and then Mo Mo and the man who was hosting us started a campfire. We all sat around it in our giant blankets from the beds and had beers. Mo Mo and his friend got a guitar out and sang us a number of Shaggy songs from the early 2000’s which were actually pretty good. They taught us some songs in Burmese and told ghost stories. That wasn’t really appreciated when we had to go outside, on our own, for a wee in the dark!

Our little hut for the night

We were all sleeping together in a wooden cabin with a horse shoe shape platform. Our beds were just mats on the floor with some thick blankets. The blankets were a life saver, but my face just got really cold in the night. When we woke up it was day light but still cold until the sun came up over the hills.

Day 2:

Once we were up and ready we had breakfast. Again, no-one went hungry! There was eggs on toast, avocado and fruit. Honestly, the best food I have had on an organised trip.

Day 2 was a bit more ‘trek’ like. But only towards the end. We had to walk down some steep rocky areas but luckily I kept up a good nana-shuffle pace and avoided the back once again.

We walked through more beautiful hilly areas, up and down them, stopping to admire the view. Mo Mo kept telling us more of his bizarre stories and ‘jokes’. He clearly really enjoyed his job, and had a story or a joke to trick us with at all times. He also was very intelligent and when he was being serious taught us a lot about the local way of life and the education system. We made our way down to the outskirts of Inle Lake and had another giant lunch. Considering we had walked 20k per day for the last 2 days, I think we deserved it!

This was the end of our time with Mo Mo, we were all getting in boats across Inle Lake and he was heading back to Kalaw (by bus!).

Inle Lake:

Once we were in our boats we set off enjoying the view. It was mid afternoon and the sky was bright blue. Inle Lake is fascinating, there are so many towns built on it. All different tribes of people with their own areas. Our boats stopped at various tourist traps, a silver shop, a silk shop … you get the drift. I was with 3 other girls and we asked out driver to skip the rest and just take us across the lake so we got a good sunset view. The sunset didn’t disappoint but as it went dark, once again it got bloody cold!

We raced the other boats across the lake and hopped off when we reached the dock nearest our hostel. Luckily most people from the trekking group had booked into the same hostel in Inle. So we checked in, showered and met on the roof top bar for a beer together to finish the trek.

It was such a good experience and I’m really glad I trusted Anni’s judgement and just went for it! I am so hesitant about things like that. Annoyingly, I get so anxious about my arthritis holding me, and in turn the whole group up! Luckily, on this occasion this wasn’t the case. And in the end, there were enough people in the group that I think I would have felt comfortable enough to tell them why I was hanging back a bit if that had been the case.

So if you’re in Myanmar and thinking of trekking, do it! And do it with Eversmile because the food was just the icing on the cake!

If you’re planning a trip to Myanmar you might find these posts useful:

BAGAN, THE REAL LIFE FAIRYTALE KINGDOM

THE TRUTH ABOUT BURMESE MASSAGE – A WARNING!

3 BOOKS TO READ BEFORE HEADING TO ASIA

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