Tamu to Moreh 7km
I was glad of the sleep, and the late start. I was due to meet my Immigration man at 11am, as Myanmar border opened at 9am, but India didn't open until noon. So I rested, ate more Indian across the road, and enjoyed. As it was, I arrived at my man's guesthouse early, and fell asleep in his reception area. No worries. No hurry.
The border post was only a few km down the road, just before a big old iron bridge. This crossing is not officially for Internationals, but my special permit should clear the way. My man leads me up from the road to the immigration office. I'm their only customer. He chats to the official, they wander about a bit, (did I see money change hands?), and he comes back with my passport stamped with an exit visa.
I ride across the bridge. No other traffic, not even locals. I climb a short hill and am stopped by some military. They pass me a drink. It's cold lemon juice. They refill my glass. I'm ushered into their camouflaged sentry box out of the heat. They discuss my passport, ask me questions, make
radio calls. I need to return down the hill to "Customs". Okay. Just leave your bike here. Okay.
I wander down the hill and find an obscure building, that may be official, and wander inside. The only person I can find is behind a desk marked "superintendent ". Oh you're at the wrong door sir. He ushers me through a couple of empty offices to a locked door. I will inform Customs you are here.
A young fella turns up, unlocks and invites me in. He has problems getting his computer going, and then getting it to read my passport. It's all very relaxed. I'm sitting next to him, and I even get to point out that he hasn't filled in a required section on his form. He does so, and everything clicks into place. Have I got my medical check? I presume he means my vaccination card, which is in a pannier on the bike, up the hill. I will go and get it.
The soldiers are all pleased to see me back. A civilian wants me to sign a form for him, and then I can go, but I need to return to see my Customs man, so jump on the bike and go back down the hill. He sees the vaccination card...no I've got it wrong. There should be a man near the military checkpoint who will give me a medical clearance. But in the mean time, I need to visit his friend, and
sign a customs declaration. You're on a bike? With five bags and a trailer? They want to see. They don't open anything, they don't ask any questions about what I've got, they're just fascinated by Fiona and the trailer. I sign a form, and ride up the hill.
My soldier friends send me to the civilian. He fills in a form and takes my temperature. It's 100°. It's hot. I sign the form, and ride back down the hill. My customs mate is standing out on the road to greet me, takes my form, shakes my hand, and welcomes me to India. Just one more time up the hill, a wave at the soldiers, and. .. I'm in India.
Moreh is just around the corner, and within minutes I'm in the central bazaar, and it's amazing. Colourful, busy, crowded. I cycle through and am shortly welcomed to the Senegal Hotel, recommended by other cyclists, by the owner. I have a clean room with bathroom, for cheaper than anywhere in Myanmar.
I'm sent across the street to a restaurant and am enjoying chapati when a family come in. The ten year old girl wants to talk to me, and very politely asks me questions in English. They are from Myanmar, making a day trip to India, their first
time"abroad". We chat while we eat. As they get up to leave, father tells me they have paid for my meal........
India is not what I expected. Last time I was here, Delhi, we were constantly being hassled and harassed. Here, everyone has been extremely polite and pleasant. Its just a little unnerving when one of my fellow guests is carrying a machine gun over his shoulder. This is a border town. Apparently, on Sunday, three people were arrested trying to smuggle drugs across the border, and one smuggling a rhino horn.
My hosts suggested that they cook me an evening meal, as the restaurants would only be serving very spicey food. I was dished up chapati with Dahl and vegetables. For the first time in months I went to bed feeling well feed, sated. What a lovely feeling.
Today I've been sleeping, eating, and watching. Wow, I'm in India.