So 3 days out of Bagan and only another 2 to Yangon. The first 50k from Bagan to Kyaukpadaung were fine, but I knew they would be as I was retracing my steps. Then I had to turn onto a main road Highway, No.2. I expected it to be a big road with a bit of traffic on as it runs all the way to Yangon, 400 miles to the south, it was neither. It's a narrow road and very potholed with very little traffic. I suspect most traffic heading to Yangon cuts across 100k to Highway No.1. To think this is the nations second road is incredible, it's terrible and very slow going and not just for me. Any repectable government would be ashamed of such a road and I dread to think what all the other roads are like. Magway, the days target location was another 100k further south and I didn't arrive until 18:15, very hot and very tired, but thankfully I easily found a guest house. I lay on the bed relaxing and sweating when there is a knock on the door, they want my passport. 2 minutes later another knock, what nationality am I? "British" I said, "Aren't you Swiss", "No British", "Are you sure? I thought you were Swiss", "No defineately British". 2 minutes later he returned again, this time will my passport, "Are you from the Netherlands", "No I am British, there it says British Citizen." "What does citizen mean?", "It means I live in Britain, but forget about that bit". He wouldn't, just what you need when you are shattered.
Yesterday was due to be a shorter day, existence of a guest house permitting. There was no let up in the quality of the road but I reached the next big town after 85k by 12:45. A trishaw rider said he would show me to a guest house, but was immediately sent packing by 2 on a motorcycle who took me there, they were police. At the guest house they wouldn't let me stay unless I had authourity, so the police took me to the local government office, more of a cricket pavillion, and after about 15 minutes and a few phone calls I was then taken to the immigration office. Another 20 minutes of studying the passport and I was told I couldn't stay as there was no guest house. Despite the fact that I told them the police had taken me to one they denied it. The guy who took me there was very appolgetic and seemed very genuine, but the immigration office was straight faced the whole time and never looked at me. I was told I could find a place to stay at Myayde, 55 miles further south. Great! After a bite to eat, well plenty of bites actually, I set off just before 3pm with the intention of taking it easy, then just finding a shelter to sleep under for a few hours. After a while I stopped for some drinks and my whole body oozed sweat. I found a monastry, but they didn't want me either and suggested I go back the way I came. By nightfall I was still happy cycling and as it was now only 25 miles to Myayde I decided to carry on, afterall it just makes the following day shorter. Riding in the dark on the rough road wasn't as bad as I expect but I didn't like the sandy riverbed crossings. The 5 miles before Myayde the surface went completey, just sand and rough gravel, I thought I might have somehow got off the road so was somewhat relieved when a bus bounced past. There was another terrible bridge to cross, I crossed one in daylight (photo) but it was too dangerous to cycle over and there were splinters galore and even walking I had the risk of punctures. At last I arrived at Myayde at 21:00. I easily found a guest house but not for foreigners so they sent me to the hotel next door, not for foreigners either, they sent me back to the guest house. Somebody offered to take me to the police station to get permission to stay they, so off we went. They too studied my passport for 20 minutes during which time I was told constantly, "No problem, don't worry". Then came the verdict, "You can't stay, but we will take you to the bus station and we will put you on a bus to Pyay". "It's alright thanks" I said "I have a bicycle, I will cycle there", "No you wont, you have to go by bus". "Sorry, I don't do buses, I will cycle, it's ok thanks". "No, you will go by bus". For the next 15 minutes or so there was a stand off as I refused to go by bus. I asked if I could sleep on the bench I was sat on but they wouldn't have that either. Then he started to get impatient, "Stand" he said, strange as it is exactly the opposite as they wanted me to do when I was last in a police station, so true to form I ingnored him. "STAND" he demanded. "I will not stand until you tell me I can cycle to Pyay, what is wrong with cycling?" "It's too dangerous", "Why is it too dangerous?" "There are no lights". "It's alright, I have a light and I have just been cycling the last 2 1/2 hours in the dark without any problems." "Well you still have to go by bus". I have always thought it ironic that outside every police station there is always a sign that says "May I Help You". I saw the same sign in his office next to the desk, so I went over to it and read it out to him "May I help you, why will you not help me?". "We are helping you, we are putting you on a bus to Pyay", "That's not helping me, helping me is either letting me stay in a guest house or letting me cycle. I never asked for a bus thank you". After they had a short conversation I amazingly got the break through and he said I could cycle. I was amazed, thanked him very much and offered my hand to shake. He wouldn't, he was in a grump. When I at last went to leave, not exactly relishing another 45 miles as I had already covered 180k a policeman said "Follow me", "No thanks it's alright", "Follow me, I will take you to the township leader, he will give you permission to stay in a guest house". Off we went to another pavillion, more studying of the passport as I watched and listened to the geckoes and the amazing sounds of the nearby toads. I was nodding off and was brought a bottle of cold water. At last I was taken to the guest house and I made it to my room at 23:15, too late for dinner and as I was shattered I had a quick shower and straight to bed. It's so hot here that all I do these days is just lie on top. I think there are two problems with me staying in non tourist places. Firstly that after the September uprising they have tightened up and I think my passport is checked to see the route I have taken to Myanmar, rather than just come here for political reasons. Secondly, given point one it is much easier to send your problem on to the next town, then you have no paperwork. But I do question myself when I am argueing witht he police, I must be mad, I risk getting myself into serious problems, but I just can't stop myself, afterall I am not doing anything unreasonable or unlawful. If all this is computerised, which is unlikely, then I will have a big long file under my name, not good in a place like this.
Today, as expected I had the police escort out of town, but only to the first checkpoint. The police officer had a point about it being too dangerous as the road for the first 20k hardly resembled a road at all and progress was really slow and difficult even in daylight. But after yesterday, it left me with a short day to Pyay, just 70k of bouncing about, but it was much hotter than yesterday and I suffered. Why do I always find the short days so tough, all I can think about is getting there. To make things worse my feet hurt now. The soles of both are very sore and my right big toe has four odd marks on, three are close together and look like a snake bite. I am sure it is not, but I don't know how it happened, but it does hurts. Today I booked into a posh hotel and intend making the most of it, I need a little bit of luxury!
So two days and 300k to Yangon, but the bad news is there is nowhere to stay between the two. I have 3 choices, find a guest house and ask the police for permission, hmmm!, cycle 300k in one hit, no thanks, or sleep rough somewhere, oh dear, that looks the best option.
See you in Yangon!