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Travel: 5 Day Wild Camping Loop In The Lake District

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The roasting sun had been shining in London for months, our flat was dry, creaky and sun bleached.  Parks were bursting at the seams and my tan was reaching it’s Mediterranean limit.

So, we jested, why not ditch the the hottest heatwave since the 70s for some of England’s tallest mountains, largest lakes and most glorious countryside during its wettest month of the year! Welcome to the Lake District, a place whose precipitous weather predictions were correct. Despite the wet weather we had a fantastic time exploring lakes by foot, which was made all the more adventurous by wild camping.

 

Derwent Water

Derwent Water

We were drawn to the lakes after a short trip in May offered by Ali’s family. The Lake District provides many activities and it does so across a relatively small area of land. We saw potential for a walking adventure, so we arranged a trip back a few months later, oblivious to how wet it might be. Our plan was to take our camping equipment and wild camp our way between as many of the northern lakes (the quieter ones) as possible. We didn’t plan the route and did most of our mapping via Maps.me, deciding as we went where we’d go next. We also opted to keep this trip budget, aiming to spend £25 a day, we’ll let you know how we got on.

 

Travel

We travelled to Penrith from London via National Express on a night bus, acquiring £10 tickets pp per way.  We slept on the bus and set alarms for 5am when we arrived at Penrith. Luckily there’s a 24hr McDonald’s next to the bus stop were we could wait until 7am when the first bus (X5) to Keswick arrives. The bus takes about 45 minutes and costs £7.40 pp. For the rest of our visit we would be walking, so pack your boots!

Lake Buttermere

Lake Buttermere

Planning

There aren’t many places to restock your food provisions once you leave Keswick. So if you’re planning on walking the route, make sure you’ve thought about your supplies for the amount of days you'll be camping for. The following supplies lasted us for 4 days. We carried cheese, which could pose a few health risks if it gets hot, luckily for us the environment was cool and the cheese lasted well in the depths of our bags. Our food cost £22 for 4 days.

 

Breakfast

  • Instant Coffee

  • Milk powder

  • Porridge

  • Cinnamon

Snacks

  • Biscuits

  • Nuts

  • Bananas

  • Apples

Lunch

Sandwich made from:

  • Cheese

  • Bread

  • Spicy Chipotle Paste

  • Tomato

Or

  • Noodles

  • Spicy paste

Dinner

  • Salt & Pepper (brought from home)

  • Olive oil (brought from home)

  • Garlic

  • Pasta

  • Courgette

  • Tomato purée and water

  • Cheese

Those homemade sandwiches....

Those homemade sandwiches....

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Water

This was the trickiest part because people we chatted too were iffy on if we chould drink from the streams as there’s so much livestock. We didn't take any risks and filled up at pubs, cafes, campsites and even knocked on someone’s door. Everyone was happy to help us. We left London with 2 x 1 litre bottles and scavenged 2 x 500ml plastic water bottles, which we cleaned and reused. This was enough for half a day, with water for drinking and water for cooking with. We brought water purification tabs with us too but didn’t use them.

 

Equipment

We didn’t buy anything new for this trip, opting to use our beaten old equipment that wasn’t very expensive in the first place. Point being, you don’t need fancy equipment to get your camp on...you will find a link to our living in a tent post at the bottom of this article.

 

  • 2 person lightweight Berghaus tent - 2kg

  • sleeping bag (1 per person)

  • hob

  • gas

  • pots, pans and lids

  • small wooden spoon

  • 1 litre water bottle (1 per person)

  • penknife

  • cup (1 per person)

  • spork (1 per person)

  • waterproof jacket

  • decent hiking boots

  • gaffa tape

  • first aid kit

  • quick dry towel

  • torch

  • waterproof trousers

  • warm clothes, hat, gloves

  • phone charger / battery charger for emergencies

  • entertainment - ebook, cards, music etc

  • suncream and hat

Optional luxuries

  • roll mat

  • blow up pillow

  • dry bag

 

Map

Here is the route we took on our wild camp adventure...

Here is the route we took on our wild camp adventure...

 

Walking Route

The walk up to Castle Crag

The walk up to Castle Crag

Day 1 /  10 hours walking 

This was longest walk of the loop as we wanted to wake up somewhere new for day 2. Arriving in Keswick at 8am we started by stocking up on food at the Co-op and set off clockwise around lake Derwent aiming for the Chinese bridge. You’ll pass the Lodore Falls Hotel where you can restock your water. From the Chinese bridge we skirted south around the fell towards Manesty and then Castle Crag, these are clearly signposted. If you’re feeling tired you could camp at Rosthwaite or Borrowdale, which lie at the bottom of the Honister pass. If you’ve still got the beans head up to the Honister pass along the roadside path where you’ll soon see a YHA hostel and slate mine with cafe. We were tired so it would have been rude not enjoy a cake, or two (£4.50) and a free hot water!

With our sugars replenished we set off down the western side of the pass towards Gatesgarth aiming for Buttermere lake. Unfortunately, the only route available, short of tackling the Great Gable, is along the road or an easily missed mountain pass (which we did miss). The surroundings are stunning and this particular road is often cited as one of the most beautiful in the country, so walking it ain’t so bad. After 2 hours the lake becomes visible and we trace around the right of lake to find a secluded spot under large trees just below the huge rough ramblers house. Camp setup, we continue along Buttermere for another 30 mins into the village to restock our water and enjoy a swift half at the The Fish Inn. The sun shines at 5pm and we smile contently in the beer garden before heading back to the tent for supper with aching legs.

 

Sunset at Lake Derwent

Sunset at Lake Derwent

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Day 2 / 7 hours walking

It’s very wet the next morning so rather than tackle the Hay Stacks, a high fell overlooking Buttermere, we decide to walk the opposite way around the lake into Buttermere villlage. A whole circuit of Buttermere will take 2hrs. We arrive completely soaked and hit up the Skye Farm Tea Room for cream tea, which costs £4.50 per person and fills us up like Popeye and spinach. A rest bite from the elements is welcomed as we plan the remainder of the day. Rather ignorantly, we failed to notice the huge lake nestled above Buttermere! So spend the rest of the day enjoying a circuit around lake Crummock, which is a far quieter and larger excursion than Buttermere. The walk is lovely and changes across the circuit, and the sun even comes out towards the end.  Ali returns to camp to find she has a burnt nose, that sneaky afternoon sun can catch you off guard so pack your suncream!

On the way to a rosey nose!

On the way to a rosey nose!

A circuit around Crummock takes 4 hours at a leisurely pace. Wild camping makes washing difficult so we decide to dunk ourselves in the ice cold lake in our underwear.  The French tourists laughed furiously as we flapped about in the water, it was worth it to hit the sleeping bag so fresh and so clean (yeah, think Outkast!).

Alternatively, if the weather is dry and mountains clear you could enjoy a day walk up Hay Stacks /Scarth Gap/ High Crag peaks.

 

On the way up Hay Stacks

On the way up Hay Stacks

Day 3 / 10 hours walking

The day started sunny with clear mountain peaks so we set off early and restocked our water with some kind rough ramblers staying in the house above our camp spot. Destination.... Hay Stacks. On a sunny day this is a relatively accessible climb to 600 meters. But on our trek the rain clouds returned, the wind picks up and we get drenched. The peak includes a scramble and the high winds put us off, so we found another route to the top around the back of the peak. This secondary route gave us a pretty sweet view of lake Ennerdale further east. The rain clouds were so misty that we couldn’t see any of the lakes to the north, so we go for a quick dash down. From the top of Hay Stacks it’s a clearly routed, if rather slippery, path that returns you to the farmhouse near Buttermere. We heard this walk should take 3 hours but it took us nearer 4.

 

Praying for some sun, we packed down camp and trekked to Buttermere village again and enjoyed another round of cream tea, at £4.50 each.  We just can't get enough of those warm scones!  Plus we need the calories with this much walking.  We had heard there was a shop at Lorton so we set off north along the road running parallel to lake Crummock. What Google suggested was a two hour walk was, in reality, a 4 hour one. Especially as we took a scenic path on a national cycle route via Thackthwaite. Although preferable to the road, it took far longer. If you’re tired then just stay on the main road. We checked out a few of the campsites nearby but they were pretty grotty and overpriced. So we headed to the hills behind the Wheatsheaf Inn for a wild camp spot, finding a secluded pitch about 10-15 mins from the pub. We enjoyed a rather lavish supper at the Wheatsheaf and slept like stones (or maybe scones) after the 10 hours of walking!

 

Walking to Lorton

Walking to Lorton

Day 4 / 5 hours walking 

We awoke early to a spritely farmer rounding his sheep in the next field, so we decided to do a runner before he told us off for camping there! At 8am we stomped into High Lorton and onto a country lane that would later join onto the B5292 via Whinlatter forest, heading east to Keswick. Finally the sun that the rest of country and had been enjoying all week hit the Lake District and we wonder through pine forests for 3 hours in beautiful sunshine. Although a lightly busy road, the fine views more than make up for the cars. We stop for some more cream scones (£5 for 2) in Braithwaite and arrive back in Keswick for lunch, cheap homemade Mali sandwiches of course! 

 

We doze in the Lower Fitz park all afternoon and set off around the Derwent for our final camping spot in the sun overlooking the lake. We find an absolute beauty about 40 mins in and watch an incredible sundown in surely the most stunning camping spot we’ve ever christened! A weather app makes us very aware that the forecast is awful for the whole next day. Enjoy it while it lasts, as they say.

 

Day 5

For our final day we had planned a hike up Skiddaw, north east of Keswick, but the weather was awful again. Think torrential rain until 12pm. Plans dashed, we moved to Weatherspoons to enjoy unlimited refills on hot drinks that fuelled the writing of this post. Later we jump on a bus (£7.40pp) back to Penrith before our night bus back to London (£10pp), with a few pints to inebriate the evening, ready for solid if awkward sleep on the bus. Last stop, the big smoke.

 

£4.50 Cream tea, get in!

£4.50 Cream tea, get in!

Unique designs, that you can’t find on the highstreet….

Cost

Well our target for this trip was £25 a day, borrowed from the type of spending normally associated with Asia! We just about did it, averaging £22 (for two people) including travel and food. By wild camping we saved £75 and also gained the satisfaction of sleeping in some really interesting places, away from the often noisy hubbub of a campsite. We have omitted some of the luxuries like pints and cream teas because they’re not essential for the trip. If you were to add them in it will take our total up to £38 a day (for two people) which still ain’t bad for a trip in pricey old Blighty.

If you get a chance to trek up Cat Bells by Derwent Water on a clear day then you won't be disappointed by the views!

If you get a chance to trek up Cat Bells by Derwent Water on a clear day then you won't be disappointed by the views!

Video

 

With a bit of planning, the right equipment and the will to go against the grain a little, you can have a wild low cost adventure in one of the most beautiful spots in the country. We hope you feel Inspired to get out there and start your own exploration! It’s so much easier than you think...

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Video: Ali Walking The World

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Here is 10 months of travel condensed into just a few minutes. We recorded little moments of walking, trekking or hiking (they're all the same thing right?) from across the globe that took us to the following countries: Slovenia, Slovakia, Russia, Mongolia, China, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Jordan, Armenia and Georgia.

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Lifestyle: Has Technology Stopped Me Living In The Moment?

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The forward-planner

I think we’ve all been guilty of it, you’re heading to a place you’ve never been, it might be an event in a new venue, a restaurant or even a new continent. The inner planner ignites and we enter that habitual urge to research and prepare, gaze over the restaurants reviews, menus and websites, in search for your perfect supper, or we might star a gig venue on google maps or find that perfect blog on Zimbabwean off-road cycling routes, for a very specific example! Technology has allowed us all to experience the event before we’ve enjoyed the actual moment of being there. I am as guilty as anyone for using the internet to embrace and certify my idiosyncrasies, be it the history of the Caucasus to discovering the track Giles Peterson’s played on 6music, a 1980s Jayne Cortez spoken word poem with the Firespitters if your interested. Truly, the internet can be incredible but i’m worried it pushes me to live in the past or the future, when really, I should be living in the moment.

 

Seeking the best

The realisation that technology can influence your experiences is evident in travel. It’s far too easy to arrive at a destination with a detailed itinerary, knowing everything from timings, pricing, local customs, best accommodation, best visitor sites, even the best time and routes to enjoy the top sites with. It’s bewildering to think that you could know your entire trip back to front before you leave the sofa. Planning to this extent means the mind is always preoccupied on “what’s next” and the numbing details of getting from A to B. I know, i’ve been there, watching the sunset on a beautiful mountain but thinking about the route down and the bus home. An unnecessary worry that I couldn’t control, neither change, a thought process brazenly developed from forward-thinking, which, ultimately, has been worsened by the internets ability to know and teach me everything. 

 

Even in a place as beautiful as Nepal the tech can pull you in

Even in a place as beautiful as Nepal the tech can pull you in

My phone the sage

So what can we do? Well, I’m happy to report that over the last 8 months I have started to disconnect, although running a blog can suck one back in. My phone sits eternally on airplane mode like an ancient sage, I can only get online in hostels and most of the time the connection sucks, which is a good thing. It means I’ve become better adjusted to reacting to life as it happens. Absorbed less by technology and more by the bustling places around me; the children drumming on railings outside the window or watching the sun rays radiate across a valley. What I’ve learnt is the ability to just enjoy what’s happening around me, even if it’s nothing.

 

Discussion 

This change in mindset has helped me reflect on my pre-travel behaviour. Checking the phone in every dull moment, knowing minute by minute bus times and every enquiry becoming answerable within seconds. Life on the road is not like this. I might only access WiFi every other day and bus times are pretty non-existent out of Europe. Sometimes if you want to get somewhere you just have to wait. The amount of discussion Ali and I entertain on topics and questions surrounding the places we visit makes for some interesting debates that wouldn't have happened with a connected smartphone. Technology would have stopped all these examples, and countless more, from happening. 

 

Meeting Micheal in Jordan got me thinking about living in the moment

Meeting Micheal in Jordan got me thinking about living in the moment

Pre-planning mindset

So does technology stop us living in moment? I think it’s very easy to let it. The devil makes work for idle hands they say, well if that's true then surely the devil had some input on the addictiveness of the smartphone? Knowing everything comes with some downers. One I have been considering is if you know everything about a place before you arrive then do you set yourself up for disappointment? When we visited the Terracotta army in Xi’an I knew the whole story from reading blogs and the (stolen/ borrowed) guidebook. It was not the epic Indiana Jones discovery moment I had expected because I knew the whole story already. My pre-planning mindset had spoilt it. The same can be said for art, food or any experience where the outcome, meaning or review has been laid out for you. The opinions of others can shape yours.

Live in the moment, who knows what might happen...

Live in the moment, who knows what might happen...

Off-grid

If your agreeing or mildly complicit of these traits you’re probably thinking, “what can I do to change this?”. Well I’ve had some thoughts you could try. Why not stop booking up all of your free time. Perhaps you could keep a weekend free and contact your friends or family on-the-fly. Imagine not knowing what your weekend might look like? Kind of exciting when you think about it. How about going off-grid? Spend an afternoon with your tech on airplane mode and see which discussions come up without readily available answers, no arguments though please! Equally, if you jump on a train and your phone tells you it will take 25 minutes but in reality it takes 40 you've really just set yourself up for disappointment. Perhaps knowledge isn't always power. Choices, options and information go a long way to causing disappointments, well illustrated in this TED talk by Dan Gilbert, which I think is spot on.

 

The surprising science of happiness

 

Out of thin air

Many of the best memories seem to happen out of thin air. The ad-hoc gathering or the impromptu bbq. The pre party before you head out is often the pinnacle of night, normally better than the night you’ve planned, right? The afternoon in the park where you invented that game with a stick and a hacky-sack!? You get the point. It’s ok not to have plans in the diary because it creates potential for the unknown, the random and the, hopefully, memorable and fun. I’m going to try this new mindset when I return home. Starting with a £5 a month contract with 500mb of data, which means no data in the modern world. I see it as a return to my teens when the world was unknown and less planned. Travel has helped me recapture my thirst for living in the moment and the first step is a detox from technology, perhaps some of you might join me...but remember a little bit of technology is fine, just for checking our blog :-)

 

Has technology turned you into a mega planner? 

Do you like to know all the information before heading out somewhere?

Have people always been as plan-minded and organised as we are now? Or do you think this a growing phenomenon?

I am interested to know you thoughts so please continue the discussion below in the comments box... thanks for reading.

 

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Lifestyle: How We Changed Our lives

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When I left my job last summer I entered a strange state of loss and lack of direction. After 4 years at my school I had made good friends, was able to help lovely students, my teaching was pretty solid and the job was getting easier, perhaps I was starting to coast a little. All the pieces of a good life were in place; I recently married my best friend and Studio Mali partner of 10 years, had a great group of buddies and the financial stability of a mortgage of a London flat. We could’ve continued with our nice life but we felt it wasn’t right. We were worried about endless work, 30 year debt and wasting away the creative passions we’d had as teenagers, it was inevitable we would continue this life forever.  Or so we thought. After a life changing trip to Patagonia in 2015, we decided on a new plan to make changes to our lives. We are still in the process of making that plan a reality but we believe it’s been the best decision we’ve ever made, yet!

Patagonia 2015, we decided to making a change

Patagonia 2015, we decided to making a change

From the moment we all reach school, expectations are placed on us to work hard, study and get good grades. For some they continue to college or perhaps a degree. If you have a degree you are likely in debt, this was certainly my first experience of large debt. I believe debt is the system that locks us into a life of work. Let me explain my thinking, the government relies heavily on the taxes it takes from it’s citizens and it wants it’s people to work, climb the ladder and progress because it’s more taxable money coming in and consumer spending rises. If you start off your working life in debt, you inherently start working to stop the interest rising and pay off what you’ve borrowed, clever system. The only way to cheat it is not to work or not get a degree.

 

Graduate debt casts an immediate pressure to get working and earn a pay rise, scaling up to mortgages, credit cards, life insurance and so on. A tightly woven financial tapestry that you must pass through to have a decent life in the U.K. Or so it seemed. We started to question whether the life that was expected of us was an enjoyable one, did it give us joy, would we look back and be pleased with our decisions? When work dominates most of the week leaving you dead on your feet for the weekend the answer is no. So we decided to escape the big smoke, experience more of the world and come back with a plan to re-balance our lives.

 

Free from work and routine, eating blueberries in Slovakia

Free from work and routine, eating blueberries in Slovakia

So leaving school last summer wasn’t just leaving a job but leaving the life that I expected to grow old living. Ali and I stepped off the treadmill and into the unknown, free from work, routine and a ‘normal’ stable life. We saved as much cash as we could save in a year, combined with gift money from our wedding, boarding a flight to Norway in July 2017. Although it wasn’t the wisest decision to travel to the worlds most expensive country first! From then on, it’s been a rollercoaster of experiences, cool people, foods, sunsets and ideas and we are nearing the end with clear motivations on how to continue this free, happy and inspiring way of life. But how will we achieve this?

 

Travelling the world on £30 a day for the both of us means you’ll need to live like a local person. That means queuing up to use the same transport, eating in the same restaurants and shopping around for a good price. It’s fun, once you get better at haggling and putting on a front. Ali is much better at doing deals than me! We learnt that to be happy we didn’t need all the luxury we were used to at home. If we could scale down our spending abroad then why not do so the rest of the time? The first part of our plan for balancing our lifestyle is to cut our spending to what we need rather than want. This reduces our day to day costs and ultimately we’ll have to live with less. In comparison to the majority of local people we met travelling, we could see that life at home in London is not balanced, quite excessive actually and sometimes wasteful too. So living minimally is one of our goals.

 

Next, we want to be more creative in our daily lives and hope that we can return to London and put our creative skills into use. We can’t say exactly how or what this will look like but we’re convinced that if you’re driven to achieve something then it can be done. This attitude has been inspired by meeting so many crafty makers around the world who work so hard at their passion. We left Studio Mali open to grow and so we feel driven to make creative projects the centre of our new life by making objects that we hope people will love!  This goal could have only come from having time to think about it, talk about it and gather the confidence to actually do it.  Travelling has given us that time and led us to people making beautiful products in all corners of globe. We’re not interested in becoming mega rich by selling products, but we want to prove to ourselves that we can survive independently doing something we both love.

We want to make objects that people will cherish

We want to make objects that people will cherish

We setup our Studio Mali blog because we wanted a project to keep us busy on the road, we aren’t chasing fame, more an output to remember our trip by. But now it seems clear, we want to use Studio Mali to inspire others to re-think what they do in their lives. In just 7 months of travelling we feel like new people, excited about what’s next and driven to inspire others to think about changes they can make to their lives. It might be that you want to work less, or explore new places, develop a skill, start a new hobby, return a to sport you once played. These are changes or activities that can help you to be happy, live in the present and grow as people. Is a full-time, debt laden life worth the money that you’re paid? If the answer is no then what can you do to cut down your spending and live with less?

 

With 2 months until our return day, I’ve been considering what returning to structured life will be like. Ultimately I don’t want a five day working week so my plan is to work three days supply teaching. I’ll be planning to spend less, enjoy free fun like nature more, cook the foods we used to get takeaways of and be active and healthy. Ali and I love seeing our friends but perhaps we won’t meet them in the pub so much, perhaps the park instead. We hope to sell our flat and find something smaller, which is perhaps the biggest irony of our mortgage debt. The flat we purchased 4 years ago seems to have grown in equity in that time. Ali and I may be able to buy something small without a mortgage. We may be able to live a low cost, debt free life where we can concentrate on doing things we love, building a balanced lifestyle in the process. We hope our story inspires you think about what is important in your life, reflect and find your purpose.

 

Although half our a plan is theoretical, we hope you will check back to see if we can achieve our balance lifestyle goal!

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Minimalism.Life

Update April 2018: Our pals over at Minimalism.Life have published a slightly shorter, but just just as sweet and Americanised version of our piece on their website. You can peruse the article from the link then read some of their other awesome journal entries: How Travel Helped Me Change My Life

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Myanmar: Day Walks From Kalaw Without A Guide

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Walkers Behold.....

If you’ve made a trip, or are planning one, to Myanmar we are sure that Kalaw will be on your list. Famed for expansive walking routes across lush dynamic terrain, Kalaw is the perfect spot for some walks in nature. But while most guide books or guesthouses will tell you to book a local guide to set off on day walks, we will explain how you can enjoy Kalaw's amazing nature for free. Read on to explore our 3 day, guide free, walking itineraries....

Agricultural fields outside Kalaw

Agricultural fields outside Kalaw

3 x 1 Day walks From Kalaw With No Guide Needed

Thank you Marc from Thitaw Lay House for providing this amazing information as it really let us explore the area on a low budget without having to pay for a guide, not that there’s anything wrong with booking guides! You could include both the cave walk and mountain walk in one if it’s just a short visit to Kalaw but expect to walk for 6-8 hours.

Walk 1: Walk To The MyinMathi Caves Without A Guide - 4-5 hours

Tips: You may want to bring a torch or a fully charged phone as there can be power cuts in the caves! Remember the route as you walk, it will make the return voyage much easier. For extra fun you could leave markings on the route to aid you return journey :-) Bring water because there aren’t any shops until you reach the caves. Expect the walk to take 4-5 hours including 45 minutes in the cave visitor area.

The internet is very slow in Kalaw so you may want to download these notes in Bagan or Mandalay before you arrive.

Directions

• Starting from outside Thitaw Lay House follow the road up the path for 200 metres, at the turning, leave the road and continue straight into the forest towards the green building.

• Follow the gravel paved forest road for around 5 turns as the road tapers into a path, watch out for a big fig tree, follow the natural path for around 400 metres (ish) until you arrive at a Y. Take the left path.

• The path lightly descends and gradually become an ox-cart road, for those compass welding walkers you should be walking south to south-east.

• Expect to pass a little brook before leaving the forest area and arrive at a lush green agricultural valley. 

• Follow the ox-cart road until you reach the MyinMathi Village where you will meet friendly villagers and high-fiving groups of children.

• Continue walking into the village for around 500 metres and take a right where the road splits. Keep walking and you’ll pass an old bridge and then the path starts to climb a small hill towards a huge monastery. Turn a slight left at the monastery to the top of the hill and then down until you reach the National Road.

• The Pagoda is visible from the road, follow the road into the cave visitor entrance where there will be many locals who have come to enjoy this religious site. We were the only westerners in cave during our visit. Give a small donation.

• Return using the same directions or grab a motorbike taxi.

kalaw - walking routes

Walk 2: Additional Walk To The Mountains Near MyinMathi Caves Without A Guide - 5-6 Hours

Tips: Remember the route as you walk, it will make the return voyage much easier. Bring water because there aren’t any shops until you reach the caves. This a whole day trek so expect the walk to take 5-6 hours. If you have already walked to the caves the first 1.5 hours is the same walk.

Directions

• Starting from outside Thitaw Lay House follow the road up the path for 200 metres, at the turning, leave the road and continue straight into the forest towards the green building.

• Follow the gravel paved forest road for around 5 turns as the road tapers into a path, watch out for a big fig tree, follow the natural path for around 400 metres (ish) until you arrive at a Y. Take the left path.

• The path lightly descends and gradually become an ox-cart road, for those compass welding walkers you should be walking south to south-east.

• Expect to pass little brook before leaving the forest area and arrive at a lush green agricultural valley. 

• Follow the ox-cart road until you reach the MyinMathi Village where you will meet friendly villagers and high-fiving groups of children.

• Continue walking into the village for around 500 metres and take a right where the road splits. Keep walking and you’ll pass an old bridge and start to climb a small hill. Halfway up the slope take the second (horizontal) road to the right and climb and descend for 20/30 mins until you reach a hill tribe village.

• You’ll soon spot 2 lion statues guarding the stairs to the hilltop. Climb for an hour or so and enjoy the stunning view at the top.

• Return the way you came back to Kalaw or you could continue onwards to MyinMathi Caves by following the guide above.

Ox and cart on the way to MyinMathi

Ox and cart on the way to MyinMathi

Walk 3: Peaceful Walk To A Hill Top View Without A Guide - 2 Hours

This is a short easy walk just outside of Kalaw, we haven't drawn it on the map as its easy to find by following the instructions. 

Directions

• Starting from outside Thitaw Lay House follow the road up the path for 200 metres, at the turning, leave the road and continue straight into the forest towards the green building.

• Follow the gravel paved forest road for around 5 turns as the road tapers into a path, watch out for a big fig tree, follow the natural path for around 400 metres (ish) until you arrive at a Y. Take the right path (the left path will take you to MyinMathi caves).

• Follow path up to the Telecom compound where you should walk a few step up the concrete path but don’t not enter the compound. Instead, turn right passing a few alters and spectacular trees until the path circles the hill top.

• Enjoy the great views as you reach the meditation cabin, why not relax and take in the stunning environment. Afterwards, continue to the pagoda and the hill top. 

* Walk back the way you came or take the 585 steps down from the pagoda to the road below.

Sun passing through the trees near Kalaw

Sun passing through the trees near Kalaw

We hope you have found Thitaw Lay House’s instructions, presented by Studio Mali, helpful. With this information you should feel confident in tackling local day walks on your own without having to pay for it. We found the routes incredibly beautiful and surprisingly diverse and we would go as far as saying they are as idyllic as some of the landscapes on the highly rated 2/ 3 day treks from Kalaw to Inle Lake.

As you can see from the map above, the Kalaw day walks bring you within very close distance to the starting point of the 2-day trek to Inle Lake. If you’re interested, and adventurous, you could tackle the 2-day trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake on your own without a paid tour, we have written up our advice on the 2-day trek here:  Myanmar: 2-Day Trek From Kalaw To Inle Lake Without A Guide Or Tour

How To Get To Kalaw 

Bus

Kalaw is easy to access, most travellers will journey from either Bagan or Mandalay then trek on to Inle Lake. There is the option to travel in reverse from Inle Lake to Kalaw but be prepared to walk against the continual tide of trekkers coming towards you! The preferred route is the 2 or 3 day trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake. From Bagan you can book a VIP air conditioned coach for around 12,000 kyat (£6.50) pp. This is a 3 seat across coach that fully reclines if you need to sleep on it. They leave in the morning at 7.30am and the journey takes around 8 hours. There is also a night coach, ask in Bagan for timings and costs, all guesthouses can book a seat for you but always get a second price for comparison.

Train from Thazi to Kalaw

Train from Thazi to Kalaw

Train

We traveled to Kalaw from Mandalay by train which was a cheap, slow and scenic way to get there. It also includes a stopover in Thazi so it would suit a traveller on a low cost 2 week trip like us. We have written about the Mandalay, Thazi and Kalaw train ride in our 2 week itinerary here: Myanmar: The Ultimate 2 Week Travel Itinerary For Backpackers

Our beautiful room at Thitaw Lay House

Our beautiful room at Thitaw Lay House

Where To Stay

We stayed in one of our favourite guesthouses of our entire round the world trip in Kalaw! Thitaw Lay House and it’s smaller Thitaw II site are incredibly relaxing and well priced guesthouses. Another benefit (that became a benefit by chance) is that it’s not in the centre of Kalaw, which means you get to relax in quiet green gardens just 15 minutes walk from the train station/ city centre.

There were a few reasons we loved staying at Thitaw Lay House. Firstly, the owner Marc and the team are really friendly, runs a tight ship and provides all the information you’ll need to enjoy anything from a 3 day to a 5 day stay in Kalaw. The breakfast was also very good, imagine freshly baked banana bread along with homemade bread, jams, egg and rice all served in traditional Burmese lunch pots. We booked a standard room but by a strike of luck were upgraded to a family room at 4 times the price.  Even with a standard room the Thitaw Lay House is cheaper than most double bedrooms in Kalaw centre, our room was 26,940 Kyat (£14.61) per night.  

Although the best part is that Marc provides detailed information on the local walks that can be done without a guide.  We are using his information to help others enjoy some the amazing local walks out of Kalaw.

700 Kyat / 37p Shan noodles at Parami

700 Kyat / 37p Shan noodles at Parami

Where To Eat

If you’ve been on your feet all day you'll be wanting some good grub to refuel in the evenings. We stayed in Kalaw for 4 days, which gave us time to try out a few options and we found some really tasty cheap food we’d like to tell you about. Of the more touristic restaurants we enjoyed was Paradise Spa which sells yummy Mexican food at medium prices, around 2,500 Kyat (£1.30) per dish.

But our favourite spot was Parami restaurant in the centre of Kalaw (see map below). Parami sold tasty, cheap, Burmese and Indian food like the chapati and daal for 500 Kyat (23p) and Myanmar's ubiquitous Shan noodle soup for 700 Kyat (37p). If you’re on a budget you can’t do better than Parami, you can see the menu here. Other cheap fun can be found by grabbing bottled beers and watching the sun go down in the town park, you might be lucky enough to be joined by a local cow as we were. 

 

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