HIKING: KALAW TO INLE
Posted: April 2010

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4 Non Blondes on the way to Inle
By Ruby Hood April 2010
We arrived in Kalaw ready to take a hike to Inle Lake stopping off at various hill-tribe villages along the way. A number of options are available and many other travellers opted for a three day hike but we decided to stick to two. Bizarrely (or not as often happens in Asia) we were joined by two Belgium girls who we had met on a trek in Sa Pa, North Vietnam (backpacking really makes the world feel like a small place). We found them again in Kalaw whilst organising a trek so the four of us set off together.

The trek was more of a walk with gentle rolling hills rather than great big mountains, and being slightly higher up, it wasn’t too hot – perfect weather. It was beautiful right from the start – a wonderfully unspoilt pre-industrial landscape of rolling hills and fields still being farmed by hand, using buffalo-drawn carts in place of anything mechanical.

As we walked there were many places to stop and many great photo opportunities. One of the highlights for me was stopping in the villages and meeting the locals who were clearly just going about their daily business. Our guide could speak various different local languages in addition to his native tongue, which meant the villagers relaxed in our presence, and had them asking as many questions about us as we did about them. 

Just outside one village we met spotted a herd of buffalo being guided by a farmer with a catapult, something I’d never seen before. He was very proud to show us his prowess, something that none of us managed to match.

Before we stopped for lunch (which was a great spread of local dishes) we arrived at a small village on the day of a local festival. As we came round the corner, we saw most of the village on their knees at the entrance of a large hut, meditating and giving offerings. Once we were spotted, we were beckoned over by some of the men and locals were shooed out of the way to make space for us. It did feel a little uncomfortable but they didn’t bat an eyelid and certainly didn’t see us as intruders. The kids gravitated towards us and they seemed fascinated by us (and our cameras in particular). They insisted on posing for photo after photo (and absolutely loving the results). It was all great fun but I do feel a bit bad for disrupting the village festival. We plan to get some copies of the pictures printed out so that our guide can pass them on the children and their families.

After a long first day we finally made it to our night stop – where we’d be staying on the floor of a teak monastery. Meeting (and chatting) to the rather deaf Abbott was a rather interesting experience, and yet again we had more fun with some of the local village kids who came round to see who the visitors were.

Day two of the walk was much easier – as we headed mostly downhill from the village towards the lake (although we were also slightly nervous about the fact our guide warned us we’d need to look out for poisonous snakes escaping from the controlled burning that farmers were doing just a short distance from the path!).

The walk was a magnificent experience – the villagers we met are mostly still living a very traditional lifestyle, and were wonderfully friendly to us. I’d love to go back again though at the end of the rainy season (rather than at the end of the dry season, which is when we there), as I bet the landscape looks even better lush and green, rather than the dusty brown we got to see.

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