Kalaymyo to Tamu 136km
I was ready to arrange a bus ride to Tamu. No way was I going to put myself through the pain of the last two days. Even though it's only 120km to Tamu ( reportedly), my body will not stand another thrashing, especially if it's anything like yesterday's 120km . But no. I'm told it's 120km of some of the best road in Myanmar, and I have two days......
So I start riding. And it is very pleasant. Initially I pass through a bunch of military bases, and then through many small tidy villages. And the road is really good. Except the bridges, and there's lots of them, are thrown together Bailey bridges, as seen at road construction sites in NZ. Except these ones have lots of gaps. Which pose no problems for trucks, cars with big wheels, and my 29ers, but I'm concerned about my trailer with its 20inch wheel, and decide I better check it's on tight at my next stop, and then forget.
This area is the first in Myanmar where I've seen Christian church's. I even meet a Rev. commuting between parishes. There is a different feel about
the valley. At noon, there are hymns being sung. A young Christian lad comes and chats with me, and tells me he will pray for the success of my adventure. Another young mother tells me, that three generations ago, her grandparents and the like, moved here from India, bringing the Christianity, and the English language. Most of the young did not bother retaining the English and learnt Burmese.
The day draws on. As usual it's hot. At 110km the undulations start...bother....not big, but it's the wrong time of the day. At 120km, crossing a bridge, looking ahead in the hope of seeing the elusive Tamu, and the bridge rips off the trailer wheel. It falls down into a canyon, and lands on the edge of the river. Bother. It's retrievable, but it's a climb. Double bother.
There's a wind now, and the scrub on my left, towards India, is burning. 100m in front of me I see it jump the road. Oh my goodness. That gets the adrenalin pumping. Everyone else just calmly rides on by.....nothing unusual here.....
Police check at 130km. Tamu is 5km away. Yeha. I'm shattered. There's a big difference between 120km and 135km when you're on a bike.
I find my man, for immigration, at his guesthouse, and he sorts me for a border crossing tomorrow, but he's got no beds available. Damn. By the time I've got a room, I'm exhausted, again, and it's on the second floor. I nap. I shower. I sleep again. I shuffle downstairs and across the road for some Indian, which I struggle to eat, I'm too tired. I drag myself up the stairs one last time, but my adventure isn't over. My key won't open the door. I collapse on the floor and fight the door lock. I win, eventually, and summon enough energy to drag myself to the bed......sleeeeep .
Lasting Impressions of Myanmar
Long hot hard days of cycling
Mae Sot hill was a winner
Yagyi to Kalaymyo Road was a killer
The lovely people, the smiles, the warmth.
Ben and the folk at Myanmar International School
The pain of Permits, Permissions and Prohibited areas. (you've got to wonder what they're hiding)
Don't come to Myanmar for the scenery, come for the people
The amazing work being done by folk like Eric and Therese
The rubbish and the smokey haze....everywhere
The obvious gigantic chasm between rich and poor
The huge temples
The scooter rides past, the lady on the back turns to look at you again, a wave and a smile from me results in a beaming grin from her.....what her man don't see she don't have to explain.
Burmese distances are measured in miles and furlong. Hence 1 mile 3 furlong to my village. There are eight furlong in a mile. A mile is 1600m, therefore a furlong, as in horse racing, is 200m.
SICK TIRED N OUT OF TIME
Monywa to Yagyi 83km
Yagyi to Kalaymyo 7km Cycle 120km Truck
Okay, so after being turned back the other day, I was keen to get back on the right track. My visa time is getting really short, and there are still a few kms to cycle, like close to 300km. A bout of vomiting, and two nights of diarrhea, (was it the chicken, the greasy eggs, or the grapes?), doesn't do much for your strength, but you do what ya gotta do.
Headed out of town again, deja vu, and after 10km, and 200m past where the diversion to the market had been, there was my turn off. Yippee. And no police stops. Just before I reached the turn off, a scooter sidled up beside me. One of the staff from the hotel... Sir, you left you book behind. I'd left it because I'd done with it.....only in Myanmar.
The road was hot, dusty and slightly undulating, and as I was now "off my maps" I was being very careful with the navigation, there being zero signage in English script. And, it wasn't long before I was starting to feel weary. At 30km, I was thinking, man this is tough, when an Irish, Aussie
on a BMW, heading to Anzac Cove for 25th April, stopped to say Gidday. Really nice to hear the mixed accents, and the chat.
At 40km, I stop for a sugarcane drink, and fall asleep at the table. At 50km, the lady gives me a huge fat banana. I struggle to eat it. I must have looked rubbish, because she refused to take payment. It's soooo hot. Within minutes of drinking a litre of water, my mouth is completely dry. My tongue sticks to the inside of my cheeks. At 60km I try to flag down a truck. I've had enough......but no luck. There is nowhere to stop to camp. The jungle around me is on fire, or recently burnt. Outside all the local grass huts are improvised dams filled with water, in case the fires get too close. The kids are swimming in them. At 75km the lady brings me a mixture of nuts and spinach. It's very yummy, and just what I need. Her baby son is taken by me, and keeps giving me hugs. I need them. The best news is that a town is only 3km away, and it has a temple. I can't find the temple. A very drunk man spills his drink on me and tries to give me directions. I head out of town, find a disused trail heading over a small rise, and descend into a once upon ago ploughed field. It's surrounded by smoking and burning foliage, but it's hidden, and I reckon I'll be okay. I sit and
snooze until dusk, before putting up my tent.
I'm on my bike at first light, and back out on the road, which has now deteriorated. It's basically broken asphalt, fist sized rocks, and six inches of dust, and it's starting to climb. Two hours later, I'm pushing my bike up the second big hill. I've done 6km, and I'm knackered. I've got at least 120km to go. I'm feeling really weak, I'm exhausted, and I've only got today. It's not going to happen. I need a ride, but there's been no traffic. I find a relatively flat spot to sit and rest, and think......and fall asleep. 30mins later, I'm woken as three vehicles come up the hill. The first is a fuel tanker. The second a Pajero, loaded with people and gear. The third a big flat bed truck, loaded with bags of rice. He stops when I wave, and yes I can have a ride......wooohooo.
For the next 120km I sit in the air conditioned cab, the mechanic has been banished to the back, feeling the relief. This road is tough. Occasional big hills, but more often smaller ones, deep in rocks and dust. Scooters were having a really rough time of it, and many times I was thinking even the truck wasn't going to get up the hills. Even downhill would often have to be walked on a bicycle. I do NOT recommend this as a cycling
My host and driver had no English. We stopped at two restaurants over the next eight hours. He wouldn't let me pay for anything. He was very keen for me to stay at his house. At every temple, he gave donations to those rattling their cans outside. He stopped whenever their was someone that looked in some distress, and offered help. An amazing, generous kind hearted angel. I turned down his offer of staying at his house. It is forbidden, and I need to sort myself out for the last leg to Tamu.
So I've taken my first ride of the trip. I have often wondered how I would feel about doing that. Well today my overwhelming feeling was RELIEF. You do what ya gotta do.