(1256 km - 28 days)
1 and 2 October - Bagan
As mentioned before, the central plains of Bagan are literally littered with temples. I'm not exaggerating when I say that there are temples everywhere! This time around I spent most of my time exploring the inside of these amazing buildings. I could, however, not resist climbing one of the higher temples and snap a few pics of the overall view.
Bagan dates back to 849 AD, but it was between 1044 -1283 AD that it reached its true greatness and that these temples were commissioned. Today about 2 000 remain and it felt that I visited all 2000!
On the morning of the 2nd of October, I woke to a steady rain and found my laundry still sopping wet. That was enough to make me stay put for another day. I hired myself a horse and cart to take me around to temples I have not visited, and it was a wonderful relaxing day. What I found most extraordinary is that people live and work amongst the temples; they farm, kids play, cattle graze and, most of all, they still worship at these 1000-year-old temples.
3 October Bagan – Pale 130 km
I knew that I had already wasted too much time and that I had to take a lift somewhere to get to the border by the 7th. I decided to give it my best shot and see how far I got. Again, it was already late by the time I left.
The road was not too hilly but narrow and bumpy in places; just before Pale it disappeared altogether but, fortunately, appeared not too far down the road. I cycled into Pale just as it got dark. Pale was a small village with a few shops spread along the main road. After asking around for a guest house, I was pointed to a building that did not much resemble a guest house but it had a good few rooms, all very basic with a toilet and shower in the back yard. I did not complain.
It made sense to take a lift over the slowest part of the route, especially after the owner offered to phone around and see if he could find me a lift to either Gangaw or Kale the following day.
4 October Pale – Kale By bus
Getting a bus was easier said than done. In the morning, I was informed that the small busses cannot take the bicycle and that the big bus departed only at 8 p.m. That meant losing another day, not something I had bargained on. There was not much I could do about it, so I settled in for the long wait. I was not looking forward to the bus ride over the mountain at night.
I took a walk down the road to find breakfast, and that alone was an experience. The little restaurant was tucked away and fitted with a dirt floor and a few wooden tables. A whole array of food arrived while people came to take pictures with me. In the end, they wanted no money for the food.
The day passed quickly, and the little village was quite lively with the pre-election activities. Truckloads of people drove down the main road, all with load music and huge speakers announcing (false?) hope for the future. Flags were being waved, and all seemed to have a jolly good time.
At around 8 p.m., the bus arrived and by then it was already filled to full capacity with both people and luggage. In some miraculous way, they found space for my bicycle inside the bus and off we went on the narrow road over the mountains. We bounced along, and there was not the slightest chance of catching some sleep. Not only did you have to hang on to your seat but the music also kept playing through the night.
The 270 kilometres took 11 hours, and we only arrived in Kale at around 7 a.m. the following morning.
5 - 6 November Kale – Tamu 140 km
I got off the bus and straight on the bike, heading for Kale. I knew it would be a long day and heard someone say one cannot do it in one day. I did not know what to expect so hurried along. I had a quick bite to eat at a roadside stall, and although I could have done with a bit of sleep, I wanted to get underway a soon as possible.
It sure was a long day, but at least it was not mountainous. Along the way, I even met another cyclist going in the opposite direction, and at least felt that I'm not the only crazy one out there.
I had reached Kale before it got dark, something I was worried about as the sun goes down around 5.30 p.m. and it is pitch dark soon after that. Just as I cycled in, I spotted the Shwe Oakar Guest House, where I was to pick up my permit. It looked a good enough place to stay so I got myself a room and could not wait to have a shower and get some food and beer.
My permit stated that I had to cross the border on the 7th, so I had a day to relax before crossing into India. It was an exciting day as the elections were the following day and the town were busy with pre-election activities. Truckloads of voters took to the streets, waving flags and singing songs. They appear to be from the opposition party, I don’t blame them as there is no electricity in Tamu. The guesthouse where I was staying had a generator between 6 pm and 10 pm and it also used solar energy.