At Charity Challenge we love inspirational people, and there are few more inspirational than Shirley! She has been on 5 trips with us and at 80 years young is one of our most committed challengers! Below is her recent wonderful account of her Burma Trek for Scope…
“So I survived this tremendous trek, but before I get carried away with the wonders of Asia may I say thank you (again) to one and all who supported me, allowing me to support Scope because we all know cerebral palsy is a condition one is born with, not an illness and anyone of us could have a child born with cerebral palsy. Between us we have banked thousands of pounds for Scope.
I didn’t once forget why I was undertaking this arduous journey, the hardship I endured on five days was nothing to compare to what people with cerebral palsy have to face each and every day of the year, for instance getting off public transport or just crossing a street.
Myanmar has to be seen to be believed, it is vast with scorching sun, lush crops of fruit and vegetables, cared for water-buffaloes, tea and coffee plantations and paddy fields and mud! Have I mentioned the mud? One of the first things I learned in Myanmar was that the life span of a woman is 65 years, so you can imagine how I was treated and spoiled by one and all. The guides referred to me as ‘my grandma’. I just loved it!
The whole of this trek as far as I am concerned just mingles into one long exciting escapade so as I remember incidences I will pen them. The weather turned on us on the Monday, the ground turned to red clinging sticky clay-like mud. Progress on foot was slow to say the least, especially for me. We spent the night in a monastery, children as young as 7 were training to become Monks draped in orange/ tan robes, either working, praying, chanting or gardening, they were happy to be photographed. As early as 4am, the monks offered prayers through chanting at this rather unearthly hour it was so beautiful to hear. A wrist band was presented to all visitors, a red string with knots representing the support in one’s life – Buddha/ Parent/ Teacher/ Family.
In the first monastery an amazing alfresco shower was erected for travelers which overlooked a view to die for, with chicken scratching round at will. The strange thing was, whilst we were showering a monk came down to feed the chicken, a short while later another four women went to shower and that same monk came down to feed the chickens! The same story was told by another group a little later on – very well fed chickens eh! Or do I mean naughty monk! Lol.
Each day started from 4am onwards. It was so peaceful and full of love. Oh and the cock crows BEFORE dawn might I add, quite a noisy blighter! I took a photograph of a petrol garage on one of the trekking days, only because it consisted of a shelf holding disused whiskey bottles now filled with petrol! The transport I saw was of wooden carts being drawn by water buffalo, bone shaking trucks with what looked like lawn mower engines, plus the inevitable motorbikes and a few larger lorries.
The food was delicious and plentiful, fruit and vegetables growing everywhere. Myanmar has to be visited to be believed, it is a lush and welcoming country. After trekking for approximately 70 miles over the early days, long-boats were ready to transport us to see the sights of the floating markets on Lake Inle with the hustle and bustle of everyday life, We stopped to see the local crafts being made, like tobacco being hand rolled into cheroots by young women, their aim is to roll 2000 a day for the pay of only $4. Another warehouse run by a family extracted silver from the rocks and turned it into beautiful silver jewellery, this was followed by silk being weaved into material like gossamer wings. Teak long boats being hand-made by skilled young men, such talent.
On the Inle lake, which spans 11 miles surrounded by purple mountains were fishermen rowing the boats with their legs – whilst fishing! All around the lake were floating gardens, the houses are built on stilts. Pagoda’s, golden Buddha’s, mauve mountains, thick red mud , torrential downpours, searing sun and wonderful scenery were on offer in Myanmar. Whilst getting there takes a long time by air, if one wants to see all these exotic places then the getting from A to B is all part of the challenge. I felt that my boots will be hung up for a while that is after I manage to get the mud cleaned off. Have I mentioned the mud?!
Will there be another trek?
Never say never as the saying goes!
Whatever, the fundraising continues, the hill walking beckons and our wonderful planet is still there for the taking.”
Shirley x 2014
If Shirley’s story has inspired you to go on a Charity Challenge please have a look at all our challenges here: Challenges!