Happy New Year to you our supporters. For us it hasn’t been as happy as we would like as the trek has recently been delivered a major set back. On December 29th the Myanmar government issued a notification to our travel operator stating that “all permits issued to foreigners for traversal of Kachin state outside of Myitkyina have been withdrawn effective immediately. This includes The Colin McPhedran Commemorative Trek”. We have not been told much information but this is what we know:
• The withdrawal was made in response to renewed conflict in the Waingmaw township less than 10 kilometres from Myitkyina with ongoing fighting along the Myanmar/China border.
• The withdrawal was not specific to us, it effects multiple travellers & tourists.
• The withdrawal effects more travel operators than just ours.
• The areas of retracted access in Kachin state are unclear.
• The decision to withdraw all permits seems to have been made regardless of the level of actual threat to individual towns and villages.
• What has been made clear to us is that there is no longer any possibility that our trekking team will be able to walk from Mogaung to the Indian border in full.
We believe that our trek route is still safe, and we are not giving up just yet! Here is what we are doing:
• We are currently working alongside our travel company to re-negotiate access to some of our trek route, mainly the mountain stages past Shimbwiyang which are many hundreds of kilometers away from recent fighting along the Myanmar/China border.
• On Tuesday our Agent will be flying to Myitkyina to meet with Government Ministers (who continue to show a willingness to talk to us). They are not giving up either!
• Our proposed Guides will also be consulted with regards to the alternate itinerary.
• We will continue our communications and preparedness training.
We are very saddened by the withdrawal of our permit, but all we can do now is work to re-instate our access to sections of the trek that will allow us to continue to honour Colin’s Story and those of many others.
This trek is as much symbolic as it is physical. Whilst we are disappointed that the physical challenge of a long distance and many days on foot will no longer present, we will still strive to symbolically finish what Colin started and, complete the final mountain stretch of his trek 75 years on.
We are grateful for your support and for the support of many people within Myanmar, we do not know when the Ministry for Hotels and Tourism will make a decision on our case, but in the meantime we will continue to prepare ourselves to depart at the end of the month.
Kenton, Kevin, Charles, Jacob and Trek HQ