As an 11-year-old boy in 1942, Colin McPhedran, with his family and forty thousand refugees, fled North-West across the Patkai Mountains towards India during the monsoon season to escape the invading Japanese. Twenty thousand perished. Colin was the only member of his family to survive his ordeal, losing his mother, brother and sister along the way. A personal account of Colin’s exodus from Burma is told in his book White Butterflies.


Our plan is to replicate this WWII refugee exodus in distance and mode of travel. Our original plan was to walk from Myitkyina, in central northern Myanmar, to the border with India, then 150 kilometres back out of the mountains: the first 250 kilometres through a low inundation valley until we reached Shimbuyang village at the foothills of the Himalayas.

Unfortunately, despite repeated applications and permissions, this valley area remains off limits due to ongoing civil conflict.

Our plan, then, is to walk a parallel, representative distance along a track through the mountains of Sagaing and Naga regions before intersecting the original route just west of Shimbuyang, and continuing to the India-Myanmar border crossing. At this point we will return to Mandalay, fly to India, and resume the Trek from the India side of that border point to it’s original terminus, Ledo.

This makes our Trek a world-first as no other groups or individuals have ever attempted this exodus on foot in its entirety since WW2. We have the full support of the McPhedran family.

We were first attracted by the historical challenge of doing something no group has done before, but as we began to understand the complexities that this adventure presents, we also discovered the plight of many living in this country.

To this effect, we are working with an NGO focussing specifically on the training of midwives in Myanmar to ensure women can give birth safely and infants survive their first years. We hope to raise $60,000 for these initiatives at the conclusion of our Trek.


Colin was interview on ABC radio about his amazing story. Listen below.

Colin McPhedran Part I - ABC Radio
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Colin McPhedran Part II - ABC Radio
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“It’s strange how things happen in this life. Most of us experience disrupted sleep from time to time. For me, when I wake I distract myself, write imaginary songs or listen to the radio. In the early morning, on this restless night, I listened to the radio. The program was Background Briefing, Radio National. Even though the radio is on, it’s there to distract, not to attend...”

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©2016 by The Colin McPhedran Commemorative Trek

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