The original plan for today was to awake at 05:00am and watch the sun rise over the mystical place. the only problem was that it was a bit too mystical (in the cloud sense) and visibility was still very poor. Needles to say we took the opportunity to sleep-in instead.
Oh well, it was a magical place to visit either way. The morning was then all about the impending ride in the back of truck back down the mountain!
The first run for the trucks was at 09:30am so we made sure we were there on time as we were advised you can get held back with people queuing waiting for trucks. We managed to get on board for on of the first runs down and it was exciting to say the least, Very steep roads with sharp hairpins, blind corners and one extremely committed driver/pilot!
By the time we made it back to the base camp we all knew we were alive and there was a distinctive smell of over heated brakes wafting up from the poor truck.
Soon we were back to our bikes and climbing back into our riding gear for the 225km stint to Kawkareik which is the last destination before we hit the Thailand border tomorrow.
We finished the evening off with a wonderful dinner with our new friends (Ye & Bargyi) who had made excellent guides showing us their magical country.
We left the bikes at the hotel today and will collect them again tomorrow as today involved going into the town where a fleet of small trucks are used to ferry visitors up the nearby mountain to visit Kyaiktiyo Pagoda or “Golden Rock” as it was better known.
Cars were banned from travelling up the mountain road up to the Rock due to the amount of crashes. So now a fleet of trucks are used to do the job with a well managed entry and exit procedure as the road is extremely tight and steep with many hair pin bends and no room for error. For those of you who enjoy a good roller coaster ride, then this ride is for you!
Once up the mountain we checked into a hotel as the sunset over Golden Rock was a spectacular site we were told. As the day went on it was clear that we were not going to see the sun set as it was cloudy and raining and for the first time since Spain the temps were only in the “teens”.
After settling into the hotel we had a wonder around the area, which was solely geared for tourists. Fortunately the rain stayed away for most of the daylight hours left.
It is said that the rock is only being held in place by a well placed strand of Buddha’s hair which stops the rock from falling. Visitors buy small stamp sized pieces of gold leaf and rub it into the rock as part of religious practices.
As this area is a religious site, shoes were band from the immediate area around the rock and congregation areas nearby.
Distance traveled this week: 1,348km
Average speed to date: 53.1km/h
Average fuel consumption to date: 4.8 litre’s per 100km
Our ride today will took us to Kin Pun Sakan which is the town located near “Golden Rock”, Myanmar’s 3rd most important religious site. The distance was 320km.
The ride went straight forward, we were finding the roads much better the further south we travelled as they were less damaged by the wet season and flooding. It did start to rain as we approach our destination, fortunately only lightly.
Today inloved travelling from Old Bagan to Taungoo, a distance of approx. 360km. The ride took us along the Yangon – Mandalay Expressway which is a multi-laned top class toll way heading North/South. Our guides advised that we were the first motorcycles they were aware of that had been given permission to use the road, as bikes are typically banned from this high speed road as the typical 100cc motorcycle would be a danger due to their lack of speed.
All aspects of our tour were subject to being granted permission by the government which involved copious amounts of paperwork prior to our arrival by the tour company that did such a great job of looking after us.
The day was hot (mid 30’s) but fortunately the roads were easy going. We stopped for a break at one stage and was shown some the traditional farming techniques which involved milking a local coconut sized plant for its sweet juice that is then dried and used as a sweetener. We were also shown how the local “home brew” spirit was distilled.
As we made it to our hotel for the end of the day, a group of around 12 Ducati Multistrada motorbikes road by in the opposite direction on what appeared to be some sort of group organised tour. It was an exciting moment seeing other bikers riding by in such a country, unfortunately they did not stop so and we have been unable to work out any details which was a pity.
Today was a day of site seeing and staying at Old Bagan so no riding, just being driven around in the Hiace van for the day which wa s pleasant change.
As the weather gets very hot and humid during the day we started out at 08:00am to visit the many Buddhist temples that surrounded this historic area. We were told there are in excess of 3,000 temples in the region dating back to the 9th century, which after a short drive we were amazed at the number!
We took time to climb to the top of one of the larger temples which gave us a great view of the surrounding area.
Following the site seeing we popped back to the metal workshop to collect the modified bracket that had been made for Steve’s top box. We had joked with the worker as to what colour we should paint the new part and to our amazement when we arrived there was the bracket all freshly painted and ready to fit! It didn’t take long to do the final fit up and we were soon on our way back to the hotel for the afternoon. Steve was releived the box was sorted again.
The after noon was spent working on the Blog as the Internet was reasonable at the hotel and getting our selves sorted ready for tomorrow’s ride as we would be back on the road once more.
Today was an easy ride from Monywa to Old Bengan, only a distance of 244km.
The weather was fine and we made our way with ease, riding out front of the tour guides who had hired another vehicle while the original car was being repaired. Road conditions were improving as we headed south as we were leaking the flood damaged area behind.
Arriving at Old Began we had time to take Steve’s bike to a metal working workshop for additional repairs to the top box mounting as it had failed agin on the rough roads yesterday.
Mutu from Myanmar Expert Tours directed Steve to a great little workshop, with the young guy who knew exactly what to do in order to repair the bracket (hopefully for the last time). We ended up leaving due to failing light and agreed to return tomorrow to collect the finished bracket.
The evening finished with a relaxing meal and beer with our tour guides who were proving to be a great bunch, working ever so hard to attend to our needs.
Today was our first full day in Myanmar, with both Steve and I intrigued as to how our tour of this little known tourist destination would be. Our journey was to take us from Kale to Monywa, a distance of 335km’s.
We headed out for the ride with our tour guides in a vehicle in front that we were to follow. The surrounding area was clearly heavily impacted by the recent floods with muddy roads, many damaged and destroyed homes along the way. We also came across several “camps” set up to house many hundreds, if not thousands of family’s who were displaced due to flooding. Typically they were simply tent cities with very limited services.
We were soon allowed to ride ahead for the tour guides and asked to stop in one hours time at the local village. The ride was pleasant with the surrounding mountains gaving a great back drop. We soon made it to where we were to stop and with no moment on us (none of the atm’s we tried had worked so far) we settled in at a road side cafe and waited after ordering a bite to eat and drink expecting our guides to be along very soon.
No word and after about an hour, Ye (tour guide) turned up on the back of a small motorbike to inform us that the car had broken down and that we would have to wait another hour. No problem as this gave time to chat with the locals and wonder the village at a relaxed pace.
After another hour and more phone calls we made the decision to get Ye on the back of David’s bike and to carry on the journey, the others could catch up in due course. Ye settled the bill, put his chin strap on his sun hat and we were off.
The ride was a long one that day due to the delay and carying an additional passenger slowed progress on the rough and twisty hilly roads. Ye did a great job of not complaining and hanging on in some clearly difficult road conditions. It even started to rain at one point and with no wet gear it was a case of tucking up behind David to avoid the rain.
We made it tour destination after dark and all three of us pleased everything ended up ok for us. The other guys would later turn up at mid night after getting buses as the car required parts that were not available that day.
Over a beer at dinner Ye then informed us that he does not drive or ride and has only been on the back of a couple of small (100cc ish) scooters in the past. Today he was passenger on a 1,200cc bike hauling along at over 100km/h on what could only best be described as “average roads” without a word of complaint. He did admit to having the daylight a scared out of him however, which made us all laugh. A day for him to remember! Ha
Today’s ride is a distance of approx 120km from Imphal to Moesot, Myanmar. Where we shall meet up with our official tour guide and start our tour.
We left Imphal at 08:10am and made our way east through winding roads and climbing several hundred metres as we progressed. There were many landslides that had occurred in recent weeks and at a couple of points were had to wait briefly while the earth movers did their thing.
Unfortunately Steve dropped his bike on a muddy incline, causing some damage to his left pannier and also bruising his chest from an impact with the widescreen and also his left heal as he got tangled up under the big BMW. We got the bike upright again and Steve set about repairing the pannier box while I re aligned mirrors and levers on the bike. We were soon back underway, albeit at a slightly more cautious rate due to Steve feeling rather sore.
Along the route we came across many foot patrol army soldiers and also armed convoys of soldiers with turret mounted machine guns. the funny thing is we were pretty relaxed with this as in the past couple of months the site of military with heavy armour and guns had sort of become a normal site. Something to make us realise how lucky we are in Australia.
along our journey today we also had to stop at about 5 military posts to present our passports which were logged before we could progress.
We we had been warned about Moreh and the reports were pretty accurate. Moreh is a dirty, fairly disorganised town with a very large military presence. As we approached the boarder crossing yet another military check point. Steve was asking for immigration, however the responses were in very basic English and confusing to say the least. Fortunately our guides (Bargyi & Ye) appeared and introduced themselves, also sorting the army official out as well.
Thankfully our guides our new friends Bargyi & Ye were there to assist as the process of clearing the Indian and entering the
Following our discussion with the two “Aussie blokes” that arrived last night from Myanmar we had decided not to move onto Moreh (Indian Boarder town) as it was pretty horrible by all accounts and we should make the run to the boarder (100km) in good time on Monday morning which is when we actually need to cross the boarder.
This morning when we woke we read newspaper reports of more civil unrest in the Manipur region which is the area we are currently in and runs to the boarder of Myanmar. This is another reason to stay put for the day in Imphal.
The bikes required fuel which was proving an issue due to the unrest as deliveries were not happening to the petrol stations we had to buy fuel on the black market at approx 2.5 times the normal rate. The fuel was delivered to us in 1 litre mineral water bottles by some chap on a scooter. We find the hotels always have a “fixer” guy who knows people who know people when things need to happen.
So today is an easy day to collect our thoughts and we are research trying to understand the various requirements to allow us to ride our bikes in Singapore. We have been advised it may be an expensive and bureaucratic exercise to do so. We shall keep you posted.
Trying to do business with freight forwarding companies via email is also proving to be a major issue. We are trying to arrange flying (if possible) the bikes from Singapore to Darwin and getting a response to email enquirers we have sent off is proving rather hopeless!
Distance traveled for the week: 1,020km
Average speed to date: 45.4km/h
Average Fuel Consumption to Date: 4.8 litre per 100km
We had a day off riding today as we are now only 100km from the Myanmar boarder that we need to cross on Monday as that is when we have arranged to meet our guide (Myanmar requirement for travel). We also needed to do a bit of house keeping before we move on.
First on the list was to have our clothes washed. The riding gear was filthy and the weather has been so humid nothing dries properly, which leads to “odd smells”. Typically the hotels offer a same day cleaning service which is really cheap ($5AU for our typical load, including riding gear).
Following Steve’s top box (Tourtech) mount completely failing we needed to have a new bracket fabricated by a local metal working shop. Thanks to a hotel staff member who came with us we were able to explain the issue to the shop and they kindly dropped what they were doing and set to work fabricating the required bracket. This time we should not have any additional issues with this troublesome bracket as we have eliminated the original point that failed.
Next it was off to wash the bikes as they had been swimming in mud and brown water on our ride the previous day so they deserved a clean. No hose and car wash soap with nice sponge around here, just a bucket, rag and the local pond and elbow grease which made the work somewhat more difficult. Steve was lucky and two local boys must have taken pity on him as they soon got involved and worked like troupers to clean his bike.
As the evening approached a couple of other bikers pulled into the hotel car park. It was a pleasant surprise as they were two Australian brothers (Dylan & Lawson Reid) from Brisbane who are riding their Suzuki DR650 motorbikes around the world over the next 3 of years. We wish them all the best on their travel’s as they are couple of lovely blokes.
They were travelling in the reverse direction to us so we took the opportunity to swap stories and information about boarder crossings and local situations etc over dinner. It was strange talking to other people with a similar accent and not have to slow it all down.