Our trip started with flight to Mandalay where we spent couple nights exploring the highlights of the old kingdoms.
From Mandalay we took couple hours scenic flight to Putao. After refueling in Myitkyina and continuing flight the mountains started growing bigger and we could not see any more signs of human inhabitation. The arrival to Putao came out of nowhere as if it was the only flat area, in the forest covered blanket of mountainous terrain, where planes could land in the north and suitable for farming. That’s probably why most people have decided to settle to Putao Valley including the Brits whose furthest outpost Fort Hertz was set here.
After meeting our Lisu tribe guide at the airport and him sorting out all paperwork with officials who had all gathered to the airport, we soon whisked off with a pick-up truck to our hotel in Putao.
Putao Trekking House or lodge was a comfortable base for our coming expedition to Phonyin Razi mountain.
We had a briefing and bought some last supplies from the main market in Putao before heading off.
After short drive we reached the end the road in upper Shangaung village. From here onwards we traveled on foot.
The trek to Wasandum village was good and gentle warm up for the coming days. Low altitude some canopy to cover from hot sun and some nice vistas. The trail climbed over a mountain range and shoulder and then descended to Wasandum, a Rawang minority village where we spent the night.
This first day meals where the most memorable ones. We were expecting simple fried rice or noodles but instead we were served multi course meals with tasty soups and desserts. Totally unexpected!
The first couple days of the trek were through mostly flat mountain valleys passing Rawang and Lisu villages we occasionally crossed hanging bridges over rivers and creeks. The trail got more challenging after the last village Zia Dam when we entered the jungle. There was no more wide trail. Without local guides it would have been impossible to find the route.. which occasionally needed to be “opened” as we went. Only a handful of travelers climb peaks in the remote corners of Myanmar making it a real adventure to make the 3000 vertical meters up.
While in the valley we would sleep in local houses and during the ascend we camped in 2 shelters which provided some protection from weather and wildlife.
The climb was amazing from sub-tropical jungle and bamboo forest to lichen and moss covered rhododendron and alpine conifer tree forests. We did not find the Thakin’s rare mountain cattle that live in Myanmar and Bhutan but spotted horn bills and other birds and could hear groups of gibbons calling in the distance. Perhaps warning others of intruders in their forest.
One of the memorable days was reaching and staying in the high camp. Above the tree line with amazing views over the valley below we pitched the tents to a rocky mountain slope surrounded by high mountains. It was the smoothest and safest place for a high camp.
It was a rough sleep in high altitude, and anticipation was high to wake up early for the summit push.
The weather was in our favour and after a cup of warm we started to climb up the steep slope with under stars and moonlight headlamps making a trail as we proceeded.
Some parts were bit challenging so we went slowly. Probably hour after sunrise we were all on the summit of Phonyin Razi.
Amazing views to Myanmar and India rewarded our efforts making up the way here. Celebratory group shots, refueling and spending a moment of contemplating the wonders of nature, last wilderness of Asia and simple pleasures of life.
The return journey down the mountain was the same way as we came up but going downhill was much faster. The climb took exactly as long as expected but since we were used to walking we decided to skip one day and walk from Ziadum to Shangaung in one day have extra night and day in Putao. Hot shower, cold beer and evening by lodge log fire were all welcome friends after ruffing it in the jungle and on the mountain.
From Putao we flew back to Mandalay and drove to Bagan and explored the archeological wonders of this ancient kingdom.
Our last night and day were spent in Yangon where our partner agent hosted us for celebratory food and drinks.
This was one of the most amazing treks I have ever done and I hope these forests and environment will remain as untouched as they are now. Putao and Phonyin Razi are truly some of the best kept secrets… travelling there is quite expensive but we felt that this was a very exclusive expedition and where only a few have managed to go before.
Karl, Sweden 2016