A jarring drive on a putt putt ( a motorcycle with an attached covered carriage that holds 6-8 people ) carried our gear, guide and 8 porters to the trail head, about ten miles east of Putao, in about 2.5 hours. This was the end of the monsoon season and the roads were relatively good. At even the best of times, one begins using their own locomotion within 16 miles anywhere east, north or west of Putao. ( Consider the fact that during the monsoon, it takes a vehicle on average three months to drive between Putao and Myitkyina, the next major city 174 miles to the south. )
It was a beautiful morning to begin an adventure. The rivers and streams we crossed by simple bamboo bridges presented few challenges as the water levels were low; only once did we need to remove our boots and negotiate a bridgeless river by fording.
Today our route would take us up and over Shangaung Mt, that rises to a modest elevation of just over 5,000′. The steady incline led us soon enough to a bevy of recognizable minions of moderate elevations in SE Asia; Exbucklandia, Podocarpus, Begonia, Hedychium and Dichroa. The former is an odd and underappreciated evergreen member of the Witch Hazel family, the Hamamelidaceae, whose broad glossy leaves and prominent stipule have most mistaking it as the Chinese Tulip Tree, Liriodendron chinense. The Begonia here was also of interest to me; not only plentiful on the shaded moist banks along the trail, it was amazingly variable in foliage, from deep green to completely silvered and every imaginable permutation between. Its flowerswere large, white with a pink margin, and possessed a beguiling fragrance.
We hiked on the main trunk line of commerce between Tibet and Burma and it was not infrequent that we met porters laden with their fares heading down slope; their baskets filled to the brim with fish they had caught and smoked in the high mountain lakes or medicinal plants they had collected on the high slopes above us.
As is generally the case when hiking towards high elevation from low elevation, just when things start to become really interesting and a few rewards for the physical efforts are revealed one begins a down slope cant. Thus it was for us on that day, when we spied the settlement of Wasadam distilled in the fertile valley far below, still far in the distance from our trail, and in dimming light. The full moon was already rising above the eastern topography as we arrived to the home within the low elevation, malaria prone village that would host our contingent for the night.
Exhausted, and with full bellies of rice, lentils and the bony bits of a local chicken, we luxuriated on a dry sleeping platform with mossie netting draped above, fully realizing this would be the last of such luxuries in the days to come. Tomorrow we would stay at the last village, Ziyardam, and from then would come a significant change of accommodation.