Leaving Pang Sang, the road began climbing immediately and we soon reached altitudes of over 1,500 metres. Once again, we realised that, given the steep mountain slopes, arid soil and lack of water and irrigation systems, it would be extremely difficult to successfully develop any crops in sufficient quantity substitute for poppy cultivation.
We did not see any rice fields or terraces, only a few rubber tree plantations. Near the ruins of and old stupa we made our first stop, and discovered a poppy field nearby. The bulbs of the plants showed clear signs of incisions and we encountered several women in the fields looking after the hardy plants. The harvest being over for many weeks, the poppy plants were all yellow and dry, but still alive. In the villages, some of which struck us as being unusually large, we saw clear signs of poverty. It became abundantly obvious that eking out a living in these remote and isolated hills is very hard indeed.
At Banno village, we had lunch and realised that if most of the food had not been brought along from Pang Sang, the locally available food would have a few upset stomachs. Shortly before arriving at the military headquarters of Long Tan, the air became crisp and we were travelling through spectacular mountain scenery at an altitude above 2,000 metres. There, we suddenly found ourselves in the midst of poppy fields as far as the eye could see.
Driving into Long Tan, at an altitude of 2,170 metres, we noticed two local men with their feet chained together being marched to jail by UWSA soldiers. Apparently the two men had been arrested for drug offences.