Hiking from Inle Lake to Kalaw
By Jude Carvalho
If you’ve ever been to Inle Lake in Myanmar, you’ll definitely agree with me that just by spending a couple of days in this destination, you’ll be freed from all the burdens and hurries of life, and return to somewhat of a neutral state – a state that you often forget once you return to the hectic full-time job back home, or to the sounds of traffic jams and roadworks.
As a matter of fact, during my time there, I’d found such detachment from the unnecessary troubles back home – most of which were self-imposed – and didn’t even realise that I hadn’t checked my phone for days. It certainly did help that there was no signal during my trek from Kalaw, which was my starting point of this journey. These little blessings are what give me reason to travel.
I’m one for getting to know a new place by foot, because it gives you so much more time to familiarise yourself with your surroundings and interact with locals in a way that a bus ride can’t provide. So I chose from the many hiking operators in the region and paid my 45,000 Kyats, zipped up my backpack (they do chauffeur your luggage to your destination for free, but I travel light so that wasn’t needed), and was set to explore what this route had to offer.
Starting the Journey
My 3-day/2-night trek involved cutting through the lush green landscape, rolling hills and some of the villages along the way, and let me tell you that, even as an avid hiker, I’d never been so immersed in nature before. The trek started out easy, with little elevation and a rich hue of green everywhere you looked. It was as if someone had taken the landscape to Lightroom and amped up the saturation filter.
We continued the hike in silence, peppered with my heavy breathing from being out of shape. My friendly guide made sure to share random trivia of the surroundings along the way, and even cracked a joke or two to keep my tired spirits up. Still, the hike was mostly quiet, and I soon realised why. It was because we had come across only a handful of people, and even as an introvert, I found the isolation to be pretty intimidating.
This was quickly dispersed, however, as we started passing through more and more towns along the way. Children came up to me in droves, mostly curious about this weird visitor with a cap that didn’t fit in with the rest of the colourful headwear that the locals wore on their heads. We even walked along a train track, which looked particularly odd surrounded by all the greenery.
For those wanting to try similar treks, do know that they’re not particularly demanding, and there are frequent breaks before you reach your homestay for the night. Besides a delicious dinner and a comfortable bed, I’m glad to report that there was plenty of beer to help soothe my tired legs and lull me into a dreamless sleep.
Day Two and Beyond
The second day’s itinerary brought us through the more developed areas of the route, with farms and fields making up most of the sights. It was pretty much déjà vu, maybe because I’m not good at recognising the little nuances of the brush, and they all looked the same to me. However, that was a plus point to me, because it meant I got to spend another day in peaceful nature.
The homestay arrangements were similar too and, you guessed it, I treated myself to another couple glasses of beers to celebrate the day’s efforts. The calories would do me good, I told myself. This was supplemented with rice noodles, vegetables and fish. Surely it tasted more delicious than the food I was used to back home.
By the time the third day arrived, I was beginning to feel a little sad about having this journey come to an end. I seldom felt this way about hikes, but there was something about this place that made me want to stay here forever. Alas, reality beckoned, and I had to say goodbye to my beloved guide who had kept me company for the entire 3 days.
After the boat ride back to Inle Lake, I checked in to my hotel room and reminisced about the entire experience. There was no one defining moment throughout the entire trek. Instead, it was 3 days of pure bliss, as if I was in a meditation of some sort. My body was sore but my soul renewed, and for an adventure activity of that sort, it was fine by me.