The trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake is an extremely popular trip for many tourists in Myanmar, and given our brief time in the country, seemed like a perfect opportunity to get out in the countryside, and also to get from one place to another. We decided to do the trek the opposite way, from Inle Lake to Kalaw, and to do it in two days and one night, as opposed to the usual three days and two nights. We would later realise the reason most people did the trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, is because the lake is downhill from the former hill-post. I had organised a guide ahead of time and they were ready for us when we arrived at 8 am. We took a boat for about an hour onto the lake (which we assumed cut down the extra day from the trek). We walked through a small town and then through fields of sunflowers. Our guide knew exactly where to go, often changing direction suddenly and taking us across seemingly random fields. He also knew many people along the way, stopping to say hello to farmers, shopkeepers and people operating the sugar cane mill. Within half an hour we rested at a small hut, before the only ‘uphill’ hour of the walk. For us as inexperienced walkers, it proved to be quite a struggle.
We stopped for lunch (cooked by our guide), at a small village that grew pumpkin seeds and made cane baskets. Children in the fields loved to wave at us as we walked past and call out ‘goodbye’. As we ate lunch we attempted to chat with three young boys, who enjoyed practicing their English on us, especially swear words.
The trek is not known for its scenery, but rather for its agricultural and cultural appeal. However, one thing we definitely experienced over the two days was a huge variety of landscapes, from the lakeside, to fields, to the red earth hills that felt like it belonged somewhere in Africa. At this point in the trek, after a filling lunch, and having completed the most extreme uphill, we were feeling good. However, it was also at this point that our guide explained to us that the two day-one night trek was not in fact shorter than the three day-two night trek. We would just be covering the distance in a shorter time.
After a few more hours of walking, we passed a small shrine in a shady valley. A nearby dog, with a limp from a broken and badly healed foot, began to follow us (not an uncommon experience on the walk). After about an hour, she was still with us. Again and again throughout the day she would disappear, and we would think she was finally gone, only for her to reappear ahead of us. We named her ‘Old Girl’. After a few hours of her following us, we asked our guide if this sort of thing happened often, he just smiled and said “No, never.”
The rice fields were definitely the most visually attractive part of the trek. They were especially nice as the sun was setting as we came to them, meaning the day had started to cool down.
After nearly nine hours of walking, many of which were over rolling ‘hills’ that seemed more like small mountains, we finally arrived at the town where we would stay the night. Old Girl was still with us, but was sadly scared away by the protective dogs of the family we were staying with. It was heart breaking, but I’m sure she is still walking that track, occasionally picking a group that she likes and hanging around for a while. And enjoying the lizards she was so proficient at catching.
The next day
The lack of photos here should give an idea about how tired we were the next day. Everything ached, and we still had six hours of walking ahead of us. Finally arriving in Kalaw was such a wonderful feeling, but the trek was truly amazing. We passed quite a few groups on that second day, all heading the other way. Although the trek from Inle Lake was a bit harder, I think the quiet we experienced for most of the walk was more than worth it.