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January 20, 2005

Namyun Town Hall, 8:47 AM

It rained like crazy last night, and the pounding on the corrugated roof was deafening.  I wonder what it would be like to be in a tent in a storm like that? Fortunately, the sun is out this morning and there is a lot of blue sky.  The elephants have shown up and are now saddled and awaiting our baggage.  We've got 11 miles to walk today and it looks like it's going to be a beauty.

8:30 PM, Mile 21 Camp (N26°53', E96°12')

I am writing this by candlelight in my new L.L. Bean tent at Mile 21 between Shimbweyeng and Namyun on the Ledo Road. There's almost a full moon and the sky is clear so the moonlight is filtering through the skylight of my tent. I have positioned my sleeping bag to be able to look up at the moon before I go to sleep.  The only sounds I hear, besides the guys telling jokes around the fire in front of the palm hut where they are sleeping, is Aumbu's bell as she forages along the side of the road and up into the forest.

Today's agenda was walking.  We packed up the elephants and left Namyun around 10:30 AM. And then we walked. And walked. And walked until about 5:00 PM.  The good news is that it didn't rain - until we had almost arrived to camp. The weather was cool and clear like Fall in New England, the roadside was covered with beautiful forest, the vistas were gorgeous, I had a good walking stick, my boots were broken in, and my water bottle was filled with Oralite (re-hydration powder). The bad news is that we walked 11 miles uphill, climbing from 300masl to 1100masl.  Around every bend was another uphill stretch.  All together, I think we walked up about 2500 feet in elevation.

When we arrived, everyone was thrashed but we hurried to set the tents up because it was getting dark.  Myint Maung, Andrew, and I are in tents.  The rest of the crew is sleeping on the split bamboo floor of the 5 X 30 foot palm-thatched "hostel" that serves travelers here that need a place to stay. Every 10 feet or so is a fire pit, and the kitchen is at the far left of the structure.  My dome tent was a bit confusing to set up at first.  It was getting dark, and we were hurrying, and we got the rain fly on backwards, and the poles wouldn't fit, and the elephants were getting dangerously close to see what was happening..., but everything finally came together and the tent is a beauty.

The cooks prepared a wonderful dinner, and the Army officer from the military post down the road came to chat and stayed for dinner.  The poor man is probably starved for company.  He brought us some pickled, wild boar meat as a gift.  Not sure what everyone was saying, but they were laughing hysterically and Kyaw Lwin, who is usually very quiet, was the life of the party.

The plan for tomorrow is transects and collecting whatever we find. And the same for the day after that. We'll move down the road and make another basecamp at some point, but for now, we just got here, my tent is cozy, and we'll probably spend several days here until the forest stops yielding surprises.  Time to take my pills, brush my teeth, and go to bed.  I'm thrashed, as well.

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