Monday, 22 February 2010

The Long Trek From Kalaw

Your two intrepid explorers are once again right out there in Asia, reporting back to you about life in this corner of the globe. Remember last year we revelled in the different modes of transport we had to take, from Indian Railways to the rickshaws of Bangladesh? (Does a bungee jump count as transport…?) Well there was something missing from that list, especially when we went to Nepal. Feet! Yes, we’ve managed to travel all this distance without taking a long hike, and that needs to be put right, immediately. Would 45Km be about right for you?
Off we go, armed with water and aided and abetted by our Sikh guide Harri (his great grandparents came to settle in this area with the British to build the railway we used yesterday) and a friendly, multi-national little group. The dusty scenery is not especially inspiring; we all comment on how it looks like rural Iberia. But just wait until tonight and tomorrow. We have lunch in the Pa-O tribal village of Konehla, where an old woman lets us use her house. The cooking fire occupies the centre of one room, wooden sticks placed above cow dung. Hanging some distance above is a small cradle for the drying and smoking of all manner of foodstuffs. There’s no chimney, which creates a magical and eerie effect. Later on we find ginger drying out in the village, again as a means of preserving the crop. All the rice paddies are arid and brown, for here there is only one rice harvest and now we are in the dry season. Occasionally during our huge hike, we were met by oxen and cart!

As the sun begins to set, we arrive at our destination where we are to spend the night: a monastery. In the twilight we explore this amazing place: built entirely on stilts, with walls of teak and with corrugated iron roofs, the carved metal decoration of the towers seems worlds away from anything we know. This country, with its sights of stupas as every turn, both rural and urban, its sounds of exotic music and smells of home cooking must surely be the most unusual we have experienced. Even down to the unique make-up worn by many people. Supper by candlelight at the monastery was a feast, with many memorable dishes: a tomato salad laced with peanuts; fried okra; a light, fragrant chicken curry. But don’t get carried away with the significance and spirituality of the candles. The government of this country is both wicked and incompetent: the power-cuts kick in every day, just when you need the electricity the most!
Now do you remember last year that Simon told us his childhood dream? It was to spend the day trekking and to arrive, weary and in need of shelter at a distant Buddhist monastery, complete with monks, incense and candles. We shall shortly see if this moment was to become the fulfilment of that ambition…

No comments:

Post a Comment