We We prepares our 'thanakha' make up for the day ahead.
Tightly wrapped in our blankets like tacos, we all woke to the sound of roosters at the break of dawn. “Breakfast ready!” announced Yu Yu and we dragged ourselves 10ft from our beds to the dining table, sitting no more than one foot off the ground. 3-in-1 coffee sachets went quickly as we all needed a serious wake up ahead of our longest day - 28km.
Before leaving, we all adorned the Burmese traditional makeup,’thanakha’. Not only is it a beautifier but a natural sun protector. In many Asian countries, pale skin is seen as a sign of wealth and health. Darker skin is typical of poorer, field workers who spend more time in the sun. Strangely enough it’s made by grinding the dry wood from a ‘thanakha’ tree on a special stone, mixing it with water.
The first part of the morning was all up hill, with quick rest stops to remove excess layers of clothing and take in the view. Nothing could compare to the view at the top as we sat for some time absorbing the serenity while snacking on fresh mandarins.
Taking in the view over the valleys on the morning of day two.
The remainder of our day was consumed by chilli plantations. A shit ton of them! Huge paddocks filled by small red chilies… not the friendly types, the ones that melt your tongue right off. Ladies wearing pointed hats harvested them into large baskets up in the fields, while children worked by sorting them down in the villages. With such an abundance, it was strange to think that back in London, you can pay £1 for 3 chillies. £1 is about the equivalent of what many Burmese would spend per day, yet they were sitting on enough for Scrooge McDuck to swim in!
Chilli Fingers: A lady picks chillies in the mountain tops.
We arrived in Parttu for lunch almost an hour early as we managed to hitch a ride on the back of a truck for a couple of K’s. You’d think he would slow down having 7 passengers on the back, but he did just the opposite. The road was bumpy and with no elevation, would have made for some pretty average trekking. We were dropped off on Parttu's outskirts as roads were not yet built inside the town. A huge cloud of black smoke wafted along the main road, as tar was being burnt over open flame & coal. Women did the hard labour, dragging rocks in small baskets above their head while men seemed to have the easy job of working the machinery. Even the young boys helped rake piles of rock - all for a buck. The recent opening of international borders has meant a huge boost to their economy and their infrastructure is the first challenge to be tackled by the government. Even if the conditions are terrible, it's good to see some of the new money is trickling down to the smaller villages.
New development in Myanmar has meant more roads are being built, even it is done with old methods. Ladies transport rocks while men use machinery.
As on the first day, our lunch was vegetarian but nonetheless very tasty. My appetite was starting to return but the highlight was the £0.05 giant spring rolls bought from the lady who also prepared our lunch.
By this time we all had sore feet, except for our guides and Richard who had hiking sandals. Our lightweight running shoes just weren’t good enough to handle the rocky terrain. I’d managed to get blisters on both little toes and two on my right heel. Between that and my chaffing, I was walking like a retarded duck.
A small infant is strapped to his mother's back as they pass through the village
Some instant relief came when we crossed paths with an oasis in the form of a fresh water stream. It was a chance for us to have a proper clean, even if it was a bit nippily. Yu Yu offered us a natural soap that they use, which was some type of tree pod, when broken and rubbed in your palm, create a foamy lather.
Dripping wet with soaked shoes, we endured an hour of walking over red dusty fields. Nan Tain Pattu was our 2nd overnight stay and we were greeted by an elderly couple in what was the nicest abode in the village. Despite a few frosty beers over card games and having the thickest walls in town, we still froze when temps dropped below 5 Celcius.
Suffice to say, it wasn't a good night of sleep...