It's day nine of our trip! We are over halfway through and today is going to be the most challenging; well for me anyway, because it involves a six hour trek through the hills. Now most people who know me will also know that long walks really aren't my forte - actually any kind of exercise to be precise! And those of you that read my blog (uncompleted) from last years trip to The Philippines, will also know that my legs caused me so much pain after all that trekking, I couldn't even climb up or down a flight of stairs - though admittedly that was the result from climbing rice terraces cut into the side of mountains and a volcano!
This year was only going to involve a three hour walk one way, followed by lunch in one of the villages, followed by a two hour walk back. The only incentive(s) for me was the stunning scenery we were going to see and the hope that I would shift some of the weight that was desperately clinging on from Christmas time. Oh and the fact that a small truck with 'comfy seats' was going to be following us should anyone need it.
TC was still fretting about her foot that she kept telling everyone she had broken earlier that year and I wasn't in the mood to get into yet another discussion with her over the fact that it was actually diagnosed as a fracture and yes there is a difference and that after seven months of healing; which included seven days of walking around numerous pagodas last week, it would be fine. I was almost on the verge of reminding her that I'd had abdominal surgery eight months before to have two fibroids removed; one the size of a side plate and the other the size of a coke can and I was managing fine, but I had to remind myself it wasn't a competition but a relaxing holiday where we could leave all our troubles and anxieties behind and just enjoy our once in a life time experience. So I pulled on my knee supports, packed my anti-inflammatories and set off with the others.
To be honest it really wasn't as bad as I thought. We were blessed with perfect weather; blue skies, sunshine and a temperature just right for walking in. According to our tour company Exodus, we were to be walking along "centuries old trading routes" and the sights lived up to all expectations: stunning! We passed by fields of various crops, Water Buffalo posed for our pictures, a couple of locals were out looking for fallen sheets of bamboo to take home and make into paper and the like. It was certainly the ideal setting in which to forget about dark and gloomy London in the winter.
As promised, we stopped off in a village for our lunch. The villagers were welcoming and laid on a massive spread of food for us. TC popped off to the loo and came back with an expression on her face that made me thankful that my stomach was feeling so much better! She sat down next to me and worked her way through a half a bottle of hand gel while Nicole tried on the local traditional dress which included two types of headdresses. One to be worn by the single woman and one more flamboyant one worn by a married woman. We asked if there were two styles of outfits for men to wear which would announce their marital status, low and behold the answer was 'no'! Bloody typical! Personally I think the married men should be forced into wearing a 'mankini' and preferably in fluorescent green!
After a delicious lunch, we headed outside and gathered together where Kay briefed us on the rest of the walk back to the hotel. As per usual we did get a bit of a telling off with a: "Hello! Hello. I need to talk to you. I want you all to listen to me. I will say this only once. (No she had never watched 'allo, 'allo) but if you don't want to listen to me that is fine you can stand over there". And she would point to a spot a safe distance away.
I decided that I would quite happily get the truck back to our hotel. My knees were starting to hurt but I wasn't sure if that was because by this point the knee supports were cutting off the blood flow to my legs. And I didn't feel such a wuss because Bob (the Canadian) had decided he was going to get the truck back too.
And so we bid our farewells to the family that gave us food and shelter, TC saw a couple of men sat on the wall staring at us and shouted 'Chezooba' (Burmese for thank you) as she rubbed her belly. They looked back at her bemused; it turned out they were complete strangers, they had nothing to do with our group. TC tried to hide her embarrassment and her concerns when we teased her that the gesture for a woman rubbing her belly could possibly have translated to them as 'Thank you I want your babies' and suggested she quickly throw on the marriage turban and they'd leave her alone.
Bob and I climbed on board the truck with Kay and headed along the bumpy road for an hours drive back to the hotel. By the time I returned to the room I'd started sneezing and by the time TC returned a short while later I was feeling like crap. So I decided to stay in that night and not join the others for dinner.
It turned out they all had a good time, especially Kay who said she'd drunk too much green tea (she doesn't drink alcohol) and was on a caffeine high all night. Apparently she was laughing and giggling with the others, she had finally let her hair down and was turning over a new leaf. It was time to say goodbye to 'Headmistress' Kay.
Overall I'd say we had a great day, lovely vistas, lovely people and lovely food ... and not a Pagoda in sight!