“OH MY GOD!!”’ a man’s voice cries out. Possibly two men. It’s hard to determine over the loud girly screams, all coming from the other treehouse. Joe is immediately on high alert. “ What is that?” he states in a military tone of voice. Eyes bewildered. One knee up outside of his sleeping bag, ready to run. We had been talking animatedly at the big treehouse preparing our beds for the night, consisting of a sleeping bag and a thin straw mat. The floor of the treehouse is made of bamboo, which is surprisingly soft and bendy, yet sturdy enough to hold us all. I turn to Joe and say with a smirk “Don’t worry. They’re just being loud Americans.” I was wrong…..
“AAAAAAHHHHH’ the girls keep on screaming and they just won’t stop. After the second “Oh My God!!!” by the boys we know this is not just them having fun. Startled the three of us look at each other. Mr. Bike and Joe were gone in the blink of an eye, running to the other treehouse, which is about a hundred feet away. “Something is definitely up.” Sophie goes “They won’t stop screaming, even the boys!” She’s right. We can clearly hear the boys yelling almost as loud as, maybe even louder than, the girls. “Oh My God” They continue. “Oh My God!!!!’
We’re scared now. “It sounds like someone fell backwards off of the ladder and broke their neck or something.” I don’t even remember if I said this out loud or if it was just a thought. Philo remains rather silent and Soof and I are speculating. “A snake?” You think someone got bitten by a snake?” “Yeah, or someone fell.” “It really sounds like something terrible happened.”
We keep going round and round speculating until we hear Dave yell. “We’re okay! It was a spider!” A sigh of relief. We look at each other and burst out laughing. “A spider??? A fucking spider? What the hell!” I say. “But the guys were screaming too, as if their life depended on it.” Sophie adds. We shrug. Confused, but relieved no one got hurt, we snuggle up into our sleeping bags. It’s raining. The three of us are sleeping in semi open air tonight together with Joe and Mr. Bike, so Philo decided to move a bit more inward. It feels like one big slumber party and I’m loving it.
I’ve only known these two girls for a short while, but it’s been amazing partially traveling with them through Myanmar. We met in Hpa An, split ways and then bumped into each other again in Bagan. After that we moved on as a powerful Dutch force to Pyin Oo Lwin, where we spent a few days together. Easy breezy. No pressure. Respectful and relaxed. Just the way I like it! From there we took the “dangerous” train to Hsipaw. Little did we know that we were heading for what would turn out to be one of the most epic experiences we’ve had in a long time….
28 hours before the screaming incident:
“That must be him!” Philo says excitedly, her eyes lit up. I look over my shoulder and see a man walking towards us with the biggest smile, showing his crooked wide set teeth. Yup, must be him. Fortunately, we had booked the tour with ‘Mr. Bike’ in advance ‘cause everyone seems to want to join this particular trekking. Can’t blame them, this one does sound like the most fun. “Aaaah you Moni?” he asks happily with his round belly sticking out. I reach for his hand and shake it. “You Moni!’’ he confirms. Yep, I’m Moni. “Here in Myanmar we call the little round circle on top of the monk’s head ‘Moni’, so easy to remember.” he explains with a full blown smile. The girls introduce themselves and he just gives them a blank stare. This is not the first time that’s happened. “Just think of the word Philosophy” Philo explains playfully. “Philo…” pointing at herself “…sophy!” pointing at Sophie. “Together we are Monique’s Philosophy.” “Hahaha.” He’s loving that.
After some basic info, I show him my shoes and ask if they will do for the trek. His disdain can’t be more obvious, leading to all three of us buying the most amazingly comfortable, cool and cheap hiking shoes. Best decision E-v-e-r! Am still in love with them and want to marry them.
The next morning our perfect Mr. Bike shoes head off to meet the rest of the boots. There’s a group of five Americans (two boys & three girls), a half American- half English couple (engaged to be married), a German couple that’s been together for over seven years, and the three of us. A fun mix! We get to know each other a bit better on the walk up towards a village where Mr. Bike casually tells us we are actually in a war zone.
The Shan and Palaung tribe fight here over the usual; land and power. “But no worry” he says with his thick Asian accent. “I know military. I Palaung and we in Palaung area.” he explains. “I call and tell them we wahk here. No shoot!” Comforting! He also lets us in on a little secret about hidden ‘handmines’. These don’t go off unless someone from a certain distance thinks the counterparty is attacking and presses the button manually, hence the name. “They see big group wahkin’, they think we enemy.” Mr. Bike declares. This explains why we’re the only group doing this particular trek. Thankfully, Mr. Bike has it all sorted and I trust him completely.
Up and till the lunch by the river we all speak animatedly with one another. That quickly changes as soon as we start our ascend. Everyone is silent and seems to be focused. Think of it as a walking meditation. I tell myself, taking one step at a time. Breathing in slowly, breathing out even slower as we climb higher and higher. My head is as red as a tomato and this was even before we started ascending. Why am I doing this?? I don’t even like hiking! I think grumpily as it gets harder to breathe. The thing is, I love climbing and finding ways up (or down). Walking steadily on a steep hill in the burning early afternoon sun…not my cup of tea. You’re here because want to take beautiful pictures and create amazing footage for your Truly Feel Good videos. I remind myself.
My legs still feel heavy from the hike we did two days ago, to and from the ‘Anisakan’ waterfalls. We took a bit of a detour that day, following wannabe locals and got semi lost by doing so. We ended up climbing forty-five more minutes (again at the hottest time of the day) than we needed to. It was a lot of fun. Intense, but fun! A few more hours and you’ll be chilling at the treehouse, that’s why you wanted to do this! I’m back in the game, focusing on my breath and taking the steps. Your legs are light as air. I say to myself. Call me crazy but it works!! Telling myself I feel that way, actually makes me feel that way! I push on with a lot less effort then when I was focused on my legs being heavy. “Seven more minutes and then we take a little rest.” Mr. Bike tells us, trying to keep our spirits up. Some of us have gone to Base Camp of the freaking Mount Everest and are doing absolutely fine….I’m not one of those people! About half an hour later we reach the spot where we’re actually taking a rest. Great Asian sense of time Mr. Bike!
All the way up he keeps on telling us break times that are totally off, but it’s okay. As soon as I realize his timing is either off or this is his way to keep us motivated, I let go of all expectations and keep focusing on my breath. Taking it one step at a time until we finally reach the treehouse.
That evening I’m not really feeling the vibe of the group and decide to lay down on the floor for a bit. Listening to the wonderfully amazing sounds of the jungle completely soothes me. Tuning out the voices is easy to do ‘cause the surrounding animals are incredibly loud. Laying there gives me the feeling as if I’m the only one on the planet, completely immersed into nature. It’s beautiful. Ten minutes later ish, I join the group feeling revived and well. The nice conversation with German Arne and Janine, about life and the choices we make, is the cherry on top and turns the evening into a pleasant one after all.
Find out why it was an unknown epic trek! Click here for part two.