Whilst researching trekking in Myanmar there was surprisingly little information about this Kalaw to Inle Lake trek. Just some vague stories and a few descriptions of companies. Nothing to tell me the difficulty level (easy to moderate), the scenery I would see (think Lake District mixed with Norfolk countryside and some pine cones), whether I have to bring 3 days worth of water or not (no, there are shops on the way) or even if I would have a shower on the way (erm, kind of, a cold bucket one).
So here I will try to explain in detail about this Kalaw to Inle Lake trek so you can make an informed decision about whether you want to spend your time doing it. With only 28 days to spend in Myanmar most people will choose between this or the Hsipaw trek, so with that kind of decision to make, you want as much detail as possible. Well, I did anyway. Ok so here we go, 3 days of trekking from Kalaw to Inle lake with Sams Family trekking company.
Kalaw Inle Lake trek trip report.
Trek difficulty level: Easy to moderate. Not to many steep hills, mainly walking through farmland.
Having left Yangon as a 4 person group (met 2 people in the hostel there), by the time we arrived in Kalaw we were 8 having met another 4 on the bus who also hadn’t pre-booked a tour.
As soon as the sun was up, doors started opening around the tiny Kalaw township centre. Kalaw really is small, you can walk the whole main area in about 10 minutes. There is not much to see, a market, some food shops, some tea-houses. But you have come here for the scenery, the mountains, the fresh cooling air and not to stay in the town. So step 1, find a trekking company. You could attempt to do the trek alone, but it is highly unadvisable.
There are plenty of companies to choose from, so how do you choose which one will take you on your Kalaw Trek. Well for us it was easy, despite me having done plenty of research (basically reading tripadvisor), we ended up going with the only one that had space to leave that morning, Sams Trekking Company. They also give a discount the more people you are, so even though I had wanted to stay a night in the town to get some proper sleep before the trek, peer-pressure from the group meant I was going with them and we had 1 hour (tours leave at 8am) to pack our small backpacks for the 3 days and 2 nights. As part of the deal our big backpacks were being driven to Inle Lake to be picked up when we got there at wherever we were staying. Even more stress! Now we had to decide on our Inle Lake hotel before we even got there!
Looking back, the main stress was the not knowing how hard/easy it would be and what we needed. In hindsight, not having a good nights sleep didn’t make that much difference as it wasn’t as difficult or strenuous as I had imagined it would be.
‘Uncle Sam’ the main man at Sams Trekking ushered us over to the map on the wall and gave a quick run down of the route we would be taking.
‘Today easy, little hill. Tomorrow hard, big hill. Lots of farmers, you can go and speak with them. Lots of forrest, very pretty.”
And with that, our group of 8 went off along with our 2 guides. We left behind a shop-full of other groups also about to embark on the same tour however we didn’t see them again so assume they took a different route.
The anticipation was worse than the actual trek itself.
4-5hours of walking but it is hardly strenuous, there were 1 or 2 steep hills but they are only small 5 minute jobs that didn’t leave me to puffed. There are a couple of places on the way to buy water. The path was paved at first as you go through some pine trees (wouldn’t really call it forest) and some rolling hills, then slowly turned into farmland tracks where we passed farmers tending to their land old school style with their buffalo. It all looked very similar to Norfolk in England (apart from the buffalo of course, I think it was more the rolling hills actually), and as if to make the English feel even more at home, it then started to piss down with rain!
Was not prepared for that! No-one was and we solemnly tramped through the mud, wet through to our bones, no scenery to be seen because of all the rain clouds until we reached the tiny village where we would sleep that night.
The village was tiny, with wooden houses on stilts. Really cute. After a tasty warming dinner (we were FREEZING after that rain!), we passed out and fell asleep in our sleeping bags on the floor of the living room of the house. The toilet/hole in the ground was an outhouse down a muddy path, made for an interesting trip at 3am. Although the stars looked incredible out there! It was still pretty cold out there though.
Walking through fields of green
Met some of the locals along the route
The village we stayed at the first night
Sunset over the Kalaw hills after the rain
Hiking boots were slightly ruined after the mix of rain and mud we trekked through
Tasty dinner prepared by the guides in the kitchen of the house - later we used the fire for warmth and to dry our boots
Sleeping arrangements - packed in our sleeping bags side to side on the floor - was still so cold!