Trek to Chau To

Trip Start Mar 03, 2005
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Trip End Apr 08, 2006


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Flag of Myanmar  , Shan State,
Thursday, February 2, 2006

We rose relatively early, but unfortunately Guy was still feeling a bit weak, so it was to be just the three of us embarking on two days trekking east of Namhsan. The first hour of the walk to our guide Tun Tun's village, Taunggyi, was quite difficult, descending down a few hundred metres into one of the the huge valleys. Not surprisingly the next hour was the complete opposite as we climbed up and up the other side of the valley to the village.

Due to our late departure we didn't arrive in Taunggyi until midday. Despite agreeing on the fact we would head directly to the mountain, Chau To, Tun Tun wanted to stay in his village for lunch. We reluctantly agreed, but then Tun Tun turned around and said not to worry as he didn't need lunch. We decided we needed a bit of sugar for the trek, so we found the village store which proved to be quite an episode in itself as the entire village came out to stare at us. It was quite obvious that the sight of two foreigners was not an everyday occurence here!

At around 12:15pm we made for Chau To, unsure of whether or not we could make it back before dark. Tun Tun informed us that it was three hours in both directions so we had to establish a steady pace. It wasn't long before he was complaining about being hungry though, which annoyed us somewhat as we had offered him the option of taking lunch in his village. Susan gave him some cookies which seemed to quieten him a bit though!

The next hour followed a slightly downward sloping trail along a ridge so we made good time. Shortly after we began the climb up the mountain we came across a friendly Nepali family living in a large clay house. From here it was a good challenging 45 minute climb to the summit where we were rewarded with spectacular 360 degree views. Susan and I sat on the hilltop letting the amazing views soak in as Tun Tun prepared some rice and vegetables at the small monastery. It was just incredible to sit back and look down on all the other mountains with the odd monk wandering by and the only sound the howling of the wind. It felt quite high, and we estimated we were over 2000m above sea level.

After having a late lunch we decided we had to make a move. It was now 4:20pm, and knowing we would be walking in the dark we at least had to minimise the time we would be doing so. We walked as quickly as we could back to his village, pausing occasionally to see the brilliant light on the hills and magnificent colours in the sky following the sunset, however we still found ourselves walking in darkness for about an hour.

When we finally arrived at Taunggyi around 7pm, Tun Tun's brother's living room was a smokey furnace, which wasn't good for anyone's eyes, let alone being a decent place to rest after nine hours of trekking! It was definitely an authentic village experience, with Tun Tun's friends sitting round and playing on a guitar while he searched through the pantry to find something to cook. Not too dissimilar from being at a mates house back home really! It certainly was a long day, and a little frustrating at times, but the breathtaking view from the summit of Chau To was definitely worth it.

* * * *

I managed to get a good nights sleep in Tun Tun's brother's house, sharing an upstairs room with six other guys. I also was fortunate enough to be able to watch the sunrise from my bed through a glassless window right above my head. After grabbing a coffee the three of us walked to Tun Tun's aunt's house, and then up to his sister's for breakfast. Everyone we passed seemed to be related to him in some way!

Tun Tun's sister lived directly opposite the village school, and the previous evening as we walked past she shouted at him all the way down the hill. Apparently he wasn't in trouble, that was just her way of inviting us around for breakfast! As she prepared it, we sat on her balcony while all the school kids came to look at us. A few minutes earlier we had a look at the school, but we'd obviously beaten the crowd. As we ate breakfast downstairs (more rice and collard greens, but with the addition of an interesting green potato like vegetable) the many school kids who had gathered continued to stare at us in utter amazement. I'd never been stared at like this by so many people before. Tun Tun's sister even had to open up some windows and doors so everyone could get a good look! As she sat down she continued to unleash her verbal barrage on Tun Tun which we found quite amusing!

The children finally went to school (some dragged physically) and we began making tracks. We took our time walking back down the valley and up again, bumping into a number of Tun Tun's sister's husband's brothers en route! It took about an hour longer than the previous day, and once at the top we took an hour and a half long detour through two other villages. We also climbed a small hill to a monastery where we could see each of the three mountains we'd climbed in the previous few days. I think the views just became better and better and better!

I was a little grumpy for the 45 minute trudge back to Namhsan due to a lack of water, but a hot shower at Maysie's fixed me up. We spent the rest of the day relaxing at her house, listening to her tell stories in only the way that she can. It really felt homely at her place, and that just made our stay in Namhsan all the more special. I could never have imagined a more beautiful place, with so many mountains and gleaming white stupas, friendly monks and inquisitive smiling children. I was so lucky to meet Guy and Susan when I did and join them for the epic trip. Namhsan and it's people was definitely the highlight of my trip to that point, and I knew that it would remain in my mind as one of those truly special places. I can only hope that it never becomes a huge tourist magnet and instead forever retains it's unique charm.
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