Four flights, one boat journey, one borderline off-road drive, one overloaded motorbike ride and six long, arduous days of seriously remote trekking later and our 2017 Burma team reached their summit. The peak in question? Mount Saramati, the most prominent of mainland SE Asia.
Within a landlocked and largely inaccessible region along Burma’s border with India, sits the Naga Hills of which Saramati is king. Once considered a secret garden Nagaland is bursting with life despite its isolation both geographically and culturally from the rest of the world.
This was Secret Compass’s third bid at reaching the summit of Saramati with both previous year’s efforts being snuffed out by poor weather conditions. His eyes bright with the determination to make the third attempt count, expedition leader Lachlan Bucknall was a focussed man in the weeks leading to departure. Opting for minor tweaks to the itinerary and seeking to lighten the carrying load of our 2017 team wherever possible, he was set on ensuring they had the best chances possible to get to the top.
“It was well worth the perseverance,” explains Lachlan. “Having been to this region twice before I had more of an idea what to expect than the team but it was still just as enchanting as the first time; spending time in the company of the Makuri Naga tribe, enjoying their warm hospitality and climbing their mountain was an absolute privilege and this year the weather conditions were in our favour, finally allowing us to push it out to the summit.”
One of the minor changes implemented this year was introducing porters into the mountain phase of the expedition which meant the team’s packs were down to a modest 10kg. Very reasonable. Needless to say though, if the team was going to make it all the way, they would rely on the strong local support.
“These tough people could not have been more welcoming to us,” says Lachlan. “They supported our team with amazing food, warmth from their fires and local knowledge of the trails to the summit. Not to mention carrying huge loads strapped to their heads on brutal terrain in just flip flops. Always smiling despite being soaking wet or cold and seemingly happy and content with so much less than we Westerners take for granted. It was an inspiration to spend time with them and an experience that I will draw strength from for a long time to come.”