Another bus, this one not quite so crazy despite hitting a dog, took me from Bagan to Kalaw, up steep and windy mountain roads with breathtaking views. We were dropped off at a random point on Union Highway 4, a little before town, and made our way into Kalaw in the drizzle and cool air. Never have I been so relieved to feel a little chilly! I checked into my cute family-run hotel and went for a bit of an explore around town. It’s a really small place, used by most as a starting point for the Kalaw to Inle trek. The main pagoda is entirely covered in mirror mosaic, a sharp and bright contrast against the dark misty hills, and the main market is worth a walk around. Dinner that evening and the following two was eaten at the Everest Nepali Food Centre and consisted in different variations of steaming dhal soup and chapatis.
Instead of doing the trek everyone does, I decided to do a more local one for just one day in Kalaw Township and I am glad I did. Our friendly and knowledgeable guide, Kyaw Main from Sam’s Trekking, took us up and over the surrounding hills, into the rainforest, pointing out interesting fauna and flora as we went. I was pleased to hear the extra large spiders I’d seen around are not poisonous! Our hike culminated at a viewpoint which was unfortunately obscured since we were actually in the clouds but our delicious veg curry and ginger soup made up for it. As we sat in our little hut, feeling really quite cold as the sweat dried on our backs, we witnessed a torrential downpour, which eventually decided us to take the wider track back to town, instead of the slippery little paths through local villages. A bit of a shame but a lot of fun all the same!
Despite the above and though I had a really good feeling about Kalaw, the last couple of days have been quite difficult, emotionally speaking. I guess it’s only a wobble, but after over 5 weeks of moving every few days, I feel utterly exhausted. I am not able to pinpoint exactly what has brought me down but it is a mixture of hormones, tiredness, constantly meeting and leaving people, missing James like crazy, missing my family and friends as well, being alone again after spending a fair amount of time with other people, feeling guilty for feeling down in the first place, feeling grateful for the amazing opportunity I have, etc. Besides, a stinky, damp bathroom and having to kill rogue cockroaches didn’t exactly help lighten the mood!
Perhaps because of the way social media now portrays travelling, perhaps because people prefer to talk about the good things rather than the bad, perhaps because I am more sensitive than others, I have been surprised at how difficult I have found parts of this trip. As the first half of it draws to an end, the half where I have travelled alone and in more “difficult” countries, I can safely say that it has been quite a personal challenge. I feel that, with a bit of hindsight, it is something that I will be proud of and amazed at a little bit later, once it has all sunk in. I am trying my best to feel those things now, and at times I do, but it’s not always easy to bring yourself back into the present moment. And, on that note, without wanting to wish the next 10 days away, I absolutely cannot wait for James to join me in Bali :)))