বুধবার, ২১ অক্টোবর, ২০১৫

Chittagong Hill Tracts--Thaikhong to Saka Haphong to Honjurai

Woken up from a deep sleep in Thaikhong at 6AM by an 8 year old reciting his ABCs right outside the door of my room.  While today was merely a positioning day prior to the Saka Haphong ascent, we still traveled close to 8 hours, and 8 hours was a pretty average day of trekking with a lot of ups and downs on unmaintained trails consisting of cow rutted paths, boulders, river crossings, steep uphill scrambling on our hands and knees in some cases, bamboo forests, climbing hand cut ladders made from tree trunks, crossing rickety bamboo bridges, and dealing with slick rocks and gravely trails in some cases.  Our goal was the town of Tandui, a simple Bawm village with simple accommodation, which seems to get simpler every night.  The once great food is beginning to taste the same most every meal, since supplies are limited and we are somewhat limited with the condiments we picked up before the trip started.  Everyone loves Bangladeshi salads (which are simple salads with fresh tomatoes, onion (what they call onion, we would call shallots) and cucumbers and whatever else can be acquired to toss in.  Essentially, we have chicken curry with rice every night.  If chicken isn't available, then sometimes just a pumpkin curry with rice.  We all like our food hot, making things easier for Imran, the chef/guide/food procurer.
That's Imran on the left in a typical tribal kitchen
  We re lucky when we can acquire the ingredients for a salad, however.  A most exciting adventure was using the toilet.  At night you just pee over the deck, and when other bodily functions become necessary, we Westerners squat and hope to hit the hole.  In the situation here, a pig awaits under the toilet to handle the sewage disposal.  I hope I can eat pork again someday without that thought in my head.

The next day started slowly as the group got up a bit late.  I was rarin' to go since this was Saka Haphong day, but perhaps the smoking of the previous evening gave more incentive to the others to just sleep in.  Saka Haphong is the highest peak in the country based on GPS measurements by an English explorer (Ginge Fullen, 2006) and various trekking groups.  It's also acknowledged as such by the US and Russian topographical maps.  Sapa Haphong means Sunrise Mountain and since it's in the Eastern part of the country, it's the first part of Bangladesh to see the sunrise every AM.  The top is literally on the border with Myanmar, though you'd have to walk off a steep drop to illegally enter Myanmar.  The official measurements are around 3450 feet (1052 meters) as compared with Keokradongs 3172 feet (967 meters).  While this is hardly mountaineering, I again mention the difficulty of the trails and it is considered the most difficult of trekking.  As we approached the peak, we stopped in the village of Nefew Para and the village headman (chief) agreed to lead us to the top.
I was thrilled because he was my age, but I soon learned that his life time in the hills made him a much stronger trekker than probably anyone else in the group.  Nonetheless, I believe I'm the first American to summit Bangladesh's tallest peak.

Village Headman Prepares Trekking Pole as Masud and Ruhan Observe

The ascent was steep and took us about 90 minutes from the village.
Finally the goal was reached and we observed incredible views of a mostly unpopulated, forested area of Myanmar several thousand feet below in a river valley prior to our 60 minute descent and further two hour hike to our final evening destination of Honjurai.

We made it!  Note how small the headman is.  He just killed it.

Goal Achieved!  The edge of the cliff is Myanmar and the distant mountains part of the almost unpopulated Western Myanmar
Masud Was Stoked to Make It to the Top
We had trekked through Honjurai on the way up to Saka Haphong.  I was not happy to hear that we'd have to spend the night there, but villages are few and far between in this distant part of the world.  On our initial pass through, locals rudely attempted to force us to us them as guides and some of the teenagers were unfriendly.  Another basic guesthouse, but the owners were friendly.  I left two very nice, favorite bamboo trekking poles outside and they were taken during the cold night.  Perhaps the locals used them as firewood since it seemed that everyone in town was huddling around a fire in the morning.  Imran and I got an early start since we had to once again ford a river four times and each time involved removing my boots and drying my feet (the others wore cheap sandals-----ah, to have young feet again.

Source: http://bruce3404bangladesh.blogspot.com/2014/03/chittagong-hill-tracts-thaikhong-to.html

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