TREKKING WITH NINE-NINE
After meeting Nine-Nine, hearing his incredible story and sharing a meal with his family, I am feeling good about my choice to hire him for my final trek in Myanmar. My only regret is that the trek will only be two days with an overnight in a Shan village. Following an early breakfast, Nine-Nine arrives at our guesthouse and we are off by 7:00 am.
First a 20 minute tuk tuk ride up into the hills above Kyaukme (pronounced ‘chow-may’). Then we start to climb on foot soon gaining elevation. The morning is mostly uphill. It is warming up. I am drinking lots of water and none of it is making it to my kidneys, i.e., I am sweating bullets. However, we are passing through pretty hill country and there are no tourists or scooters anywhere.
Around 10:30 am we stop at a school at G Saw 1 (that is the name of the village). 9-9 has already told us that as long as we are with him we can take photos of anyone without asking…he knows everyone in these hills! At the school, we spend maybe 40 minutes having a blast with the kids. The students are divided into three general age groups within the large building. Many photos are taken and we have lots of laughs with the students and teachers alike. They are thrilled to have visitors for English practice. It is only with the greatest reluctance that we exit back into the heat to resume our trek.
We continue on to G Saw 2 where we stop for lunch. 9-9 cooks noodles with a tomato sauce his wife has prepared. This yummy lunch is followed by an hour siesta. A very balanced trek so far. As we continue to climb, we periodically stop for snacks which 9-9 magically keeps producing out of his knapsack.
As we pass various small settlements and homes we are frequently invited in for tea. We also get to see traditional weaving and farming techniques that have changed little over the centuries.
By now it is the hottest part of the afternoon. The temperature is a scorching 107°F. We come to a group of young women taking a break from working a field. We join them in the “shade” of a tree for a few minutes.
Finally we make it to Naung Pate where we will spend the night. We have climbed a lot and we are tired but in good spirits. I have drank about 4 liters of water today and never once peed. We have a nice cooked dinner and before long it is dark and we are ready for bed. I sleep deep and long.
The following morning we wash up and have breakfast. Then we say our goodbyes to our lovely hosts and head back. Today is much faster as we are primarily going downhill via a different route.
By 12:30 we are back in Kyaukme where we have lunch and part for the time being. I check back into the guesthouse. Along the way, I stop at a building that 9-9 has told me used to be a Jewish synagogue. It seems that it is now a doctor’s house and no one can give me much additional information.
Around 4:30 pm, 9-9 shows up at our guesthouse and takes me and the French couple to a hilltop monastery to watch a glorious sunset. Around 6:30 the German man from the trek joins us and we have a farewell dinner.
Although this was a shorter trek, out of necessity, I enjoyed it even more than the first trek. We never saw another trekker or tourist, only Shan hill tribe people. Even though everything was within a day’s walk, it had a more remote feel and since of authenticity. This in no way diminishes the Hsipaw to Lake Inle trek. But if I only had time to do one trek while in Myanmar, I would choose this one and perhaps book it for 3-4 days.