Our Myanmar Trek: A Pain in the Butt

It’s been a long time since I told you about our one-legged Indian hero, and so much has happened since then. We spent 2 weeks in Thailand, 10 days in Myanmar, 3 weeks in Australia, 10 days in New Zealand, and we’ve been in Japan for a week. No big deal.

I’m ashamed for failing to update this blog, but please don’t judge me for it… I get lazy. Let he who has never binged on Netflix for 5 hours cast the first stone.

Now that that’s settled, here are some of our highlights:

Chang Mai, Thailand
Volunteering with elephants in Chang Mai

1) We volunteered with elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We waded through muddy rivers with them, fed them countless watermelons and bananas, bathed them with massive buckets of water, and then rafted down a river. It was absolutely amazing. I actually almost faceplanted in the mud once, but an elephant saved me. True story.

Hiking in Myanmar
Hiking in Myanmar

2) Myanmar was quite the adventure. We hiked through the jungle for 2 days, with an interesting layover. We slept spent the night in a Pa’O tribe member’s home, with no running water, a Buddha shrine that shone its heavenly bright LED lights on us all night, 6 cows, 1 pig, and a half-blind cat. I also encountered the world’s most terrifying bathroom, toilet, spider and mosquito-filled hole in the ground. Plus, strangers sniffed my face and we had the most boring guide of all time. More on some of this later.

Skydiving in Lake Taupo
Skydiving in Lake Taupo

3) We watched Maori people perform the Haka in New Zealand, went tubing in an incredible glowworm-filled cave, and I went skydiving over lake Taupo.

Tubing in New Zealand.. We're the smart-looking ones in the back
Tubing in New Zealand.. We’re the smart-looking ones in the back

Did I forget Australia? Of course not. It’s just that 3 weeks deserve more than a bullet point. We had an amazing time there: We spent our days wine tasting in Margaret River and Barossa Valley, chilling with kangaroos and koalas, beaching in Bondi beach in Sydney and scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef. What could go wrong?

For some reason, Abe wouldn't let me kidnap that baby koala
For some reason, Abe wouldn’t let me kidnap that baby koala

Well, lots could go wrong. Thank you “friends” (and mom) who posted crap like this before my trip and sent me links about Australia’s killer spiders and snakes. I was constantly scanning for redback spiders, at least until I drank enough wine to temporarily forget them. I hope you’re pleased with yourselves.

Anyways, let’s scuttle over to the star of today’s post. And that’s our trek in Myanmar. I’ll break it down because there’s just too much to say.

Abe watches the sunset from the top of a stupa in Bagan, Myanmar
Abe watches the sunset from the top of a stupa in Bagan, Myanmar

The Trek

I’ll come right out and say it: I’m pretty proud of myself. I went trekking, and that’s quite a feat for me. Though I have a completely unexplainable, unrealistic ambition of hiking the Appalachian trail (go figure… watching ‘Wild‘ probably didn’t help), I actually dislike roughing it for more than a day. I may look like a badass in some blogging pictures, but you ought to know that the internet can be misleading. I’m ok with a tough hike, so long as there’s a promise of wine and a bubble bath at the end. A massage would be nice too.

Starting a rainy trek with high hopes
Starting a rainy trek with high hopes

I digress. We started trekking. I was naively optimistic, despite the fact that it started pouring as soon as we started our first 7-hour hike. I figured things couldn’t get much worse. The rain wouldn’t get me down. But they did, and it did.

The insistent rain got to me. My feet were sloshing in my shoes. Prickly plants pierced my socks and pants. But then, worst of all, I had a flashback to my Brazilian misadventure. As I struggled to follow our guides, I was alarmed to see a swarm of bees under a nearby bush.

“There’s bees,” I told the guides.

“What?”

“Bees.”

“What?” (obviously, there was a language barrier).

“Bzzzzzz,” I buzzed, flailing my arms stupidly. “Bees.”

“Ok! Walk, you come. Come. Come. Come.”

I trusted them. I figured they knew best. What an idiot. I should have known.  The bastard bees stung me in the butt. That’s right, straight in the ass. And somehow, even with me clutching my butt and howling like a nutjob, the guides looked surprised and asked, “What happen? Let us see.”

No way, bros. No way. You’ve gotten me stung in the butt. You’ve done enough. You don’t get to admire your treacherous work.

A boy sits near a Paho village
A boy sits near a Pa’O village

The universe had had its laugh. And it could have stopped there. But no, it wasn’t done. It watched me as I persevered bravely (heroically, you might say), hiking through muddy paths, one hand shielding my face from the rain and another comforting my aching butt. And then, it snatched away the rest of my dignity.

Within 5 minutes of my painful and embarrassing bee sting, one of my feet got stuck in the mud. And then, the other did too. It was horrible and pathetic: I faceplanted in slow motion. First one knee went down, then the other. Then my shoulder. Then my elbow. (“No, please, not the face, please not the face…” It was a like a gangster movie, with me silently and pointlessly begging the universe to spare me). And then, my face. Straight into the mud.

I’d held back tears until then. I was fine, really, until Abe comforted me (“No paso nada. Un susto, nada mas”). And you know how it is: it’s always tenderness that kills you.

The Overnight Stay

Any decent human being would agree that I’d had enough for a day. But as you might have realized by now, the universe didn’t give a shit.

Our sleeping situation in the Paho village
Our sleeping situation in the Pa’O village. Don’t let Abe’s smile fool you – it was just for the camera.

We arrived at our overnight stay in a Pa’O village, somewhere in the jungle between Kalaw and Inle. And that’s when we realized we’d have no running water, no beds, and no toilets.

Our shower in the Paho village
Our shower in the Pa’O village

Now, I want to clarify something. This year has really changed my toilet standards. I never thought I’d say this, but I would have been ok with a ‘normal’ hole in the ground. I really would have. What I couldn’t deal with was a spider- and mosquito-infested hole, in an area where there is both dengue and malaria. It was the ‘toilet’ of anyone’s nightmares.

I suppose I was lucky though. My food poisoning only started the day after we returned from our trek, so at least I was spared from being sick in that monstrosity.

Don’t worry though, my misadventures had a happy ending. The following day was sunny and we hiked through countless beautiful fields. And, best of all: I got to recover in one of the most unique and beautiful places: Inle Lake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
A home and it’s reflection along Inle Lake.

 

Happy arriving in Inle Lake after our eventful trek
Happily arriving in Inle Lake after our eventful trek