Dear Trek supporters - we wanted to bring you up to date with Trek planning.
With the closure of Kachin State, we spent much of the last year investigating and planning an alternative route, largely through neighbouring Sagaing State - one that was faithfully representative in terms of distance, difficulty, terrain and remoteness. Unfortunately, that option has been closed to us.
In recent months the Burmese Army (Tatmadaw) has launched an offensive along the India-Myanmar border area, and the areas of focus – Lahe and Nanyun - are right in the middle of our proposed alternate route.
Access to this area had formerly been straightforward, but with this conflict it is newly subject to the same permit restrictions as most of Kachin State and is therefore now off-limits – not just to us, but to everyone.
Our contact in Yangon has had regular, ongoing dialogue with the relevant ministers and Army representatives, but unfortunately has been unsuccessful in his attempts to get us in.
Kenton, Jacob, Ali and I stared at maps to understand the area, and we revisited the three stated aims of the project, to: commemorate the refugees’ exodus; raise funds and awareness for health, and have a bit of an adventure.
Together we discussed the Sagaing alternative that we had been endeavouring to advance, the original Kachin State route, or a new route in stages.
When considering a partitioned stage-wise route, the pros are:
a route that’s not subject to military activity, so less chance of our access being cancelled last minute,
reduced costs through fewer diplomatic requirements and less inter-cultural complexity
Trekking before the 2020 Myanmar National Election, and its predictably unpredictable results
taking pressure off our Myanmar-based contacts before we strain their normal commerce
The drawbacks are:
a route that is once-further removed from original refugee route and its supporting communities
an increasingly stretched connection with the original trek out of then-Burma’s conditions: because the walk would be in stages, the exertion would be relieved not sustained.
This last point really is important to us and connects with the name of the project. The Sagaing alternative retained the original appeal because it is in those same mountains, it’s remote, it’s steep, it’s sweaty in most parts and cold in others, it goes through remote communities and we’d be walking for 3-4 weeks with no break. To trek infers labour, distance and time. In a word, it’s hard.
In the end, we all came to the same conclusion: that we would rather again wait, then together reassess.
The northern Myanmar conflicts will likely not improve for a while, but this enduring project has become very personal and about the team. That is, Kenton, Jacob, Ali and I, together with our operators and friends, Ian and Myo Set, successfully achieving as near those original goals as possible together.
We wish we had some positive news to share with you but we have not given up.
In that spirit, and as we are unable to depart as planned in February next year, Jacob will spend this holiday season walking from Melbourne to Sydney along the coast!
Many thanks for your ongoing support, and we wish you all a safe and happy Christmas.
Kevin and the Trek Team.