For the first day of our three-day hike, we chose the long way, through the forest, because it was our only chance to see a forest on the hike, which was 60km (37mi) long. Our guide, Nwenwe (whose name is pronounced like Noi-Noi), who had just given me peanuts, started moving. We followed. She had to be the smallest adult I had ever met – and ever would meet. Weighing 98 lbs, and reaching a height of 4’11”, it was amazing that she could put me on her back. She was wearing Thanaka, a traditional kind of makeup worn by women and young boys, that prevents pimples and acts as a natural substitute for sunscreen. It is made by rubbing the bark of a Thanaka tree with a very smooth stone. Boys my age can wear it, too, but I didn’t see any men with Thanaka.
We walked all day through the forest, even crossing some dangerous, thrown-together bridges across marshes. That evening, we reached the tiny village of Setkyar Gone, with only three roads. It was so small that you could walk from one end to the other in less than ten minutes. I liked how small it was, because it was easy to find all the village kids.
The village for the next night, Pattu Pauk, was much bigger, though. When we found it, we were exhausted, after our hardest day of walking. 500 people lived the village, and I wished it was smaller. I did have some fun working at construction sites, though. On the first site, I helped move dry cement from the pit to the pile, where it was to be collected. In the other construction site, I helped shave wood, with a manual tool.
On the third day, it was very steep, and half of the day, we were walking downhill. When we finally reached Inle Lake, though, I felt like saying “Glory Alleluia”. We felt so glad when our motorboat sped across the narrow canals, which were to be flooded in wet season. We got to our hotel, Shwe Inn Tha, and we felt as if it was at the peak of luxury, because we were all gross and sweaty and “dirt-tanned”, when dirt cakes your body and you appear to have a tan. It felt so nice to have a pedestal toilet, after three days of hiking! We also felt so good to have thick mattresses again, because while sleeping the the villages, we had mattresses not much bigger than two inches thick. We slept very well in the hotel, too, because we didn’t have to worry about freezing our butts off. The hotel was a relief after the three hard days on the trek!