High mountain Treks in Myanmar

This are places for trekking and exploring a exotic nature with plenty of wildlife, interesting people and marvelous scenery for great images.

In September on a sunny day we hit the trail at the northern Myanmar mountains. We passed through a good deal of second growth, but did not see a village all day. Here and there patches of bamboo jungle replaced the broad-leafed forest. The commonest bamboo was a tall broad-leafed thick-stemmed dendrocalamus, which formed huge clumps

Young shoots, now eight or ten feet tall, are a bright purplish pink. People had been felling stems and shaving down suitable lengths to make drinking cups and arrow cases. A second tall clump-forming species has thinner-stems. Still thinner and much branched is a climbing species which had lately been in flower. It scrambled to the tops of the tallest trees.

The blue pine was now a common sight; it did not descend to the river yet, but was conspicuous in the forest about a thousand feet high. In the evening rain and thunderstorm made noise some distance away.

On the following day we had to cross torrents

by makeshift bamboo bridges. It is quite unsafe; but the only person who met with a mishap was myself. We found temperate plants, now

becoming more common on the roadside banks and in marshy places: Plantago, Epilobium and Valeriana were common weeds. There also appeared a number ofsmall pea-fowered under-shrubs, some of them prostrate, of the genera Lespedeza, Crotolaria and Desmodium, all with brightly colored but tiny flowers. In damp shady spots, often by trickling streams, a plant bearing long spikes of attractive little blue flowers was abundant Rhynchospermum.

For the first time the bridle path climbed high above the river, giving us a fine view far down the valley. Some high Myanmar mountain peaks were in the distance but the fact that we had crossed several fairly big streams. It seems to be generally true in north Myanmar, that the watershed is always pushed as far over to the east as possible — no doubt because the rain comes mainly from the south-west.

As far north as Gawai the Tamai valley is comparatively thickly populated, though few villages are visible from the bridle path, even across the river. Unlike the Kachin villages, and the relatively huge villages of some of the Assam hill tribes, the tiny Daru villages are not perched on the shoulders of the spurs, staring truculently across a glen at one another, but are hidden from sight amongst the folds of the hills, no village being visible from any other village. The larger and stronger of the hill tribes seize upon defensible positions and, like wasps, seek security by warning enemies not to try conclusions with them, lest they be worsted; a mixture of bluff and resolution, for, like the wasp, they carry a sting.

Not so the poor hunted Daru, who is anybody’s prize. His only safety lies in concealment; sting he has none. The smaller villages are short lived, here today and gone tomorrow, owing to their system of destroying the forest in order to cultivate crops in a region where there is little arable land. When all suitable slopes within reach of a village have been cleared and cultivated one after the other, the people must either start again at the beginning, that is with the earliest cleared slope, and clear it again, or move elsewhere.

It requires several years for a cropped area to recover sufficiently to be cropped a second time, or for jungle which can be cut and burnt to grow up; and meanwhile the best soil is first impoverished, and then removed altogether by rain. Nevertheless, the same area is cropped again and again, and in thickly populated regions, like the Assam hill tracts, at shorter and shorter intervals.

It would be interesting to know what the yields per acre are over a succession of years. Possibly the natural rotation, or rather succession of vegetation, following the total destruction of the original cover, does benefit the soil; but it seems improbable that it will ever again be so fertile as it was for the first cropping, immediately after the cutting and burning of the climax forest. After two or three crops have been raised, each perhaps poorer than the last, it may iced a quarter of a-century to recover its fertility or it may in extreme cases, be left as bare rock.

Maize is the main crop in the Tamai valley, though rice could be grown. The Darns also eat a certain amount of fish, and on special occasions, such as wakes, harvest festivals, the planting of the seed and other ceremonies, chicken, pork, and even mhban. There are fish in die latnai, and the Darns catch them in thorn-lined fish traps and in nets, or they harpoon them.

They also snare barking deer,

gooral, monkeys, serow, pheasants, and shoot them with cross bow and poisoned arrows. In fact the Darn is not dainty about food, and on occasion will eat anything from frogs and snails, to lizards, snakes and wasp grubs, most of which it must be confessed are highly nutritious, and when cooked, hardly distinguishable from more expensive fare. It would be difficult to sustain an argument that the Daru’s taste in victuals is coarser than our own; but he lacks our culinary resources.

All the familiar blood-sucking pests were abroad when it rained, leeches being troublesome even on the road now. When the sun came out, blister flies swarmed, but there were fewer sand flies at night than hitherto. Our first day at Gawai was really fine, and a strip of blue sky appeared all down the long valley, like unrolling a silk carpet in heaven. The headman came to visit us and promised to help to reach the eastern ridge. He promised to arrange for pathfinders and someone to carry luggage, he himself would be our guide. He was as good as his word and I spent only two days in Gawai; by the evening of September 4th all was ready.

My spirits rose, there had actually been a cold weather mist in the early morning, and heavy dew! At 9 a.m. it was already hot, but there was some breeze after midday. Sunshine all day in September seemed almost too good to be true; the sky clouded over after dark and there was distant flashes of lightning and ominous rumblings; later came the rain. Water poured through the worn thatch in a dozen streams. Next day the headman arrived in good time, and we started soon after 9am, the sky rapidly clearing. Entering a nearby galley, where a noisy torrent flowed, we followed a track freshly cut through the bush undergrowth and up a forested slope so steep and slippery that I frequently had to grip the bamboos to prevent myself from falling, or to haul myself up. Thus on the north flank of the spur which bulged into the valley we ascended direct to the crest, and topping it saw the Tamai again, shouldering its way southwards. The south face of the ridge was covered with high grass; it had probably been cultivated at one time, but the grass now seemed to be permanent.

We found a well-marked track up the ridge, and presently entered the forest to emerge into a second grass blank later. This marked the utmost limit of past cultivation; From this point till we reached the alpine region we were never out of the forest.
And what a finest! full of the grandest trees, not tall but sturdy and with noble crowns; deciduous and evergreen, together with shrubs of all kinds, climbing plants, carpeting plants, undergrowth, epiphytes. When one meets with what appear to be different types of forest on every mountain, the difficulty of a simple classification is obvious. The best one can do is to arrive at some sort of generalization. Of course an intensive study of all the species and their relative abundance is necessary before one can do a complete classification of forests; nor is it possible to say offhand what local influence such important factors as light, humidity and temperature may have in effecting small alterations, without much study and comparison.

In a journey into the Myanmar mountains of the north

such as this it was impossible to obtain more than a cursory knowledge of the immense flora of north Burma. But here let us be content to take the trees and shrubs in the order of their appearance leaving the question of forest types till later.
From the gulley in which we started to the point where we finally entered the forest on the ridge at about 6000 feet altitude we were amongst broad-leaved mainly evergreen trees with an occasional blue pine towering above the canopy, or a graceful juniper. Other trees here were maple, Machilus (which was in fruit), Cinnamomum, Schima, Engelhardtia, followed on the ridge itself by Bucklandia and Eriobotrya. The appearance of the last two, and the disappearance of such trees as Saurauja, and the last of the climbing palms (Calamus or Daemonorops) and of the larger fig trees at about 6000 feet, marks a change in the type of forest.

We continued to ascend and presently met with thickets of shrubs growing amongst the rocks: the sticky Rhododendron vesiculiferum and R. megacalyx, Gotoneaster, Ilex and Berberis incrassata. This last makes a great display in June when its long gawky stems bear at intervals great spherical bunches of gamboge flowers, clustered like bees. Later these give rise to plum-coloured berries on crimson stalks.

I saw few birds. Those going north had long since departed, and were not due to return yet. In spring, when many trees, especially rhododendrons, are in flower, a host of birds visits the upper regions of the Irrawaddy; perhaps after June they depart, or spend the rainy season in the alpine region.

Several handsome shade-loving butterflies flitted amongst the trees; most of them when disturbed — and they rarely moved till they were underfoot — went only a short distance before settling invisibly again. The finest and rarest was a species of Kallima, the upper surface all shimmering peacock blue, otherwise like K. inachus, resembling a brown dead leaf when at rest. Rather common was a smaller insect, almost black above slashed with a diagonal cream band. There was also a large amber butterfly with a slow deliberate flight.

Finally we came to rocks over which we had to clamber, and so to the foot of a massive leaning tower under the shadow of which we camped. The cliff sloped up over our heads, a sort of Stonehenge overgrown with forest, and gave us sufficient protection from the rain; all about us were fallen blocks, entangled amongst the roots of trees and overgrown with moss.

Myanmar Trekking Map
Myanmar Trekking Map
Cross torrents by bamboo bridge
Cross torrents by bamboo bridge
Myanmar Mountain Peaks
Myanmar Mountain Peaks
Kachin Villages
Kachin Villages
Myanmar adventure travel images
Myanmar adventure travel images