Day #169: Trek day 1 - hills and green tea crops

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September 22nd 2013
Published: September 29th 2013
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Today we began a 4-day 3-night trek from Kalaw to Lake Inle, staying with hill tribes overnight. There are not many fellow trekkers at this time of year, the tail-end of the rainy season, as the terrain is not ideal, ranging from slippery rocky paths to soggy tracks where our feet got stuck in thick, sticky mud (reminded me of music festivals) to outright swamps. We were instructed before we set off to buy the comfy Burmese Army shoes, with tyre-tread soles and green canvas uppers, which grip on the rocks and don't disintegrate or weigh heavily when (inevitably) wet through. We also had to buy the tent-like waterproof coats that go over everything, including the rucksack (our large rucksacks were transported directly to Inle Lake; we just carried essentials), and were given bamboo poles, partly for balance but also for prodding the ground to check the quality of the mud. A big part of our guide's job is picking the driest, safest route through the more treacherous paths.

Despite the rain the day's walking through the misty hills was pleasant, with many beautiful views over the hills and villages. The main hillside crops are oranges and green tea; the latter more interesting as we saw all parts of the process, from the women with large baskets picking the leaves on the hillsides, to the leaves being half-dried in iron pans over wood fires, and then rolled in hand-operated wooden wringers to finish the process. Apparently the crop at this time of year is inferior compared to the summer's, but the cups we were served at the end of 6 hours' walking tasted pretty good.

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