Week 1! And we’ve done… what? Well, we did a bunch today. First off, I stuffed myself at the buffet breakfast. Yummers! And then packed like mad. Debated whether to use the guesthouses’ LAME backpacks, or my backpack, which I didn’t want to get all wet and dirty.
There are 4 other people on this trek with us. Katya and Erika, two Swiss girls, and a German couple, Sabine and Norbert. They’re all very nice and speak good English. As does our guide Piroon, though he swallows the last letter quite frequently and has a habit of transposing letters, as in ‘fram’ for farm.
We drove for several hours, stopping at a market along the way, before arriving at our lunch spot. Despite it being past noon, we went on a 20-minute walk up to a waterfall where we could ‘shower’ – no pool to bathe or swim in. And the water was so cold you couldn’t BREATHE in it, let alone stay in it for long enough to truly shower.
Lunch was fried rice with fruit, after which we drove for a bit more, then got out to walk. It was on a dirt road, which was rather annoying, as it meant more sun and less forest. It went up, up, up, to a nice view, then down, down, down, DOWN, to a cute little Karen village. Took us about 1.5 hours, and the truck probably could have driven us there. On the way we saw a truck and two motorbikes go past – all with long rifles!
Piroon, when he caught up to us right at the village, said the boys were off hunting for squirrel, wild pig, deer, birds, and that the officials would call it poaching but only if they were caught. He also said that the road used to be just a track for motorbikes. But at the last election (of what, I do not know) one candidate said he’d give them a road. So a year ago a tractor went through there and made the road. It looks like it’ll slide away at the first rainy season, but at least the dude kept his promise.
The village, called Mae Joke, has 37 families and 197 people. The oldest woman is 96, and she has 4 generations. The village produces rice and ginger, all organically grown. We got a piece of ginger almost as big as my foot! Also in the village are chickens, cows, oxen, pigs, and dogs. Everyone’s Christian, and on Sunday they go to church 3 times and can’t do any work.
We stayed at the bottom of the village, by the river and the nursery school. There’s no school in the village – up until just a while ago, the kids had to walk 2 hours out the road we just walked to get there, and 2 hours home. But now they spend the week there and come home on weekends.
The river is very cold, and the shower basically is IN the river. It’s quite ingenious, actually. Two long bamboo poles stuck into the river at the top of a waterfall. Water streams into these and pours out the end. Unless they get blocked by leaves or other debris, that is. So you’re standing in the river and having the river pour over you. Brilliant. Cold.
Dinner was delicious – chicken & potato curry, chicken & vegetables, and a spicy dish. I ate way too much, but they just kept filling the bowls!
Dessert was fresh-roasted peanuts, eaten around the campfire. And then we all crashed. Tomorrow we hike again.
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