Myaydo to Magwae 140km
The rules in Myanmar, about where a tourist can stay make cycle touring difficult. No camping, no locals are allowed to host, only certain hotels are licensed to have us, and staying in a temple is a Grey area.
Today started well, except for the amount of smoke, choking, and eye smarting, but I managed to follow a very secondary road, dirt, through some villages, over rickety bridges, and away from all but local scooters, bicycles and tuktuks. Lots of curious stares....what's he doing here?.... and greetings. But after 10km, I was back on the main drag, although the road was very quiet.
A lot of the tourist buses travel at night. Fin and I had been talking to two Dutch girls the other night. They were having a wonderful time traveling, and we asked them what they were going to do that day. (Fin and I were confined to an area no further than 20m from a toilet).Visit the Buddha wearing sunglasses, another temple, and bussing overnight. The temples here are worth a look, once,they are huge, but traveling on a bus at night means you miss all those encounters and scenery that make cycling so amazing. Each to their own, I suppose.
Not that the scenery was fantastic today. I climbed slowly up onto a plateau. Everthing was very dry and barren, with scrubby vegetation. Very little agriculture seems apparent, although I saw what I thought was some cotton being grown. Huge areas have been burnt, with only the larger trees surviving. Locals were out gathering firewood for cooking. These guys have nothing, very very poor, living in what are almost desert conditions. Maybe the whole landscape changes during the wet season. A wealthy family has two bullocks and a cart. Others walk.
One job you could do is Waterboy. This involves visiting the local waterhole, the same one that people wash in, themselves, clothes, oxen, and carrying water to the houses. Some water boys have a three wheeled cart with a 40 gallon drum. Others just have a couple of buckets on a pole. At many rest places along the road are provided clay pots with water for traveller's. I've steered clear, unsure whether they were waterboys responsibility to keep filled.
So today's plan was to cycle about 80 or 100km and find somewhere to sleep. It was yet again dashed hot, and by 80km I was flagging. Stopped in a small village for food, drink and rest, and was joined by a bus driver. He wanted to practice his English. At first he sat quietly near me, but then his courage grew, and he started chatting....but not in an English I could understand. Then he went out to his bus and got his study book. I still struggled understanding him, even when I was reading what he was trying to say. But he paid for my drinks and food...... and told me it was only 40 miles (70km) to the next hotel. Damn.
Trudged on.... At 100km I spotted a temple, at the back of a small village. Took a chance, and risked injury, riding down the rutted, dust covered streets through the village. In seconds, I was being followed by every kid, and quite a few adults, in the village. The Temple took a bit of finding, and I entered a building to talk to some monks. They directed me to another building. When I emerged there must have been 100 persons sitting outside waiting to spot me. Turns out it's a Buddhist Family Festival, and there's no room at the Inn. Not to worry, I'm told, only 20 miles (30km) to the city. Not far in a car, but a huge ask after 100km in the heat on a bike.
At 120km I'm getting cramps in both legs. I have to stop several times to stretch. I've also picked up and escort. A policeman rides up beside me on his scooter. He tries to communicate, but I've got no idea what he's saying. He rides off. 5km later I spot him in a cafe, talking on his phone. He passes me again. I stop for a rest, read crash out on the ground, trying to relieve the cramps, and he comes back to see where I am. 5km on and he's waiting for me, back on his phone. This continues almost to the city. I'm in a bad way. Cramps in thighs, calves, back, neck, feet and toes, and it's getting dark. It's really hard to find hotels in the light, let alone in the dark.
I'm on the outskirts of the city. Ooops, I go the wrong way around a roundabout. A new escort turns up. Damn he's going to ticket me...... No. He will lead me to a hotel. Another scooter rider, English speaking, turns up, remember it's dark, and checks that the policeman isn't hastling me. We are riding three abreast, in rush hour traffic. I'm trying to make sure I'm not bouncing through ruts or deep sand. My bike lights are good for being seen, but not so good for seeing hazards. The cop and samaritan discuss which hotel I'm going to, and decide on a cheapy. Then the cop proceeds to get lost. We go all over the place, and he has to ask for directions several times. I'm absolutely stuffed. I have to stop, and then I proceed to vomit what little I have in my stomach, all over the footpath. This is not fun.
A bit of recovery, and about 500m later, a Guesthouse. I don't care what it looks like. I need off my bike. But I can't get off. My legs have seized up. The cop and host lift me off, but I can't walk. To bend my knees, I have to squat. I shuffle into reception and sit. 30mins later I am able to climb the stairs, only one flight, to my room. The staff carry all my gear. I crash out on the bed, still in my smelly clothes, and sleep.....until I try to move. Cramp. Bad bad cramp. I crawl to my first aid kit. Ju has included some homeopathic "Cramp Stop". I've never used it before, I don't know how it works,but it's magic. Almost instant relief, until you need to move again.
Twelve hours later, I crawl out of bed. A shower, food, liquid, first priorities. Fiona is not going anywhere today. I think I'll call it a "recovery day". Team Seagate would have just jumped in their kayaks for a six hour paddle, followed by a 50km hill climb. I'm obviously not World Champion standard.