We pack and leave early the next morning but our early start doesn’t last long as we need to search and buy for a number of items before crossing the border.
Pliers (so P can fix our stove), water, snacks, sun screen, mozzie spray, and, most importantly, breakfast. We split up and manage to get everything on the list. While I’m walking back from the market laden with bananas, nuts and chocolate I spot the parked bike and smile. Paddy has found a super safe spot for the bike while we eat!
We also need to tweak my seat position before we leave…
It’s a short 15minute cycle between Mae Sot and the border checkpoint. We’re through easily and then spend a long time trying to extract cash from the ATM… Neither of our Caxton cards work, nor our credit card. We’re not the only ones who are experiencing problems… In the end we exchange our leftover baht (roughly 3000) on the street and get a pretty good exchange rate.
At least we have some Kyat for the next few days and we always have our wad of pristine US Dollars to fall back on if and when we need them.
So onwards towards Kawkeireuik which is our intended end point today. It’s roughly 45km from the border. First we need to climb more mountains though so we fuel up.
It’s the worst food we have had on the trip – paddy’s isn’t so bad but my spinach curry tasted like a mix between a cow pat and gone off fish. We hope these arent the standard flavours that will accompany us throughout our month in Burma!
We are cheered when a large wedding party drives past. Cars extravagantly decorated with gold parasols and streamers.
A huge truck piled high with speakers brings up the rear, some very cool techno music blasting out and four young men dancing their hearts out on the roof.
Until 2015, the only road servicing the border to Myawaddy/Mae Sot was a very narrow track. It was so narrow, bumpy and steep that the authorities only permitted a one way traffic system. One day the traffic could drive away from the border, the next day towards!
Last year saw the opening of a brand new highway which cuts a much more direct route through the mountains towards Kawkeireuik.
When Paddy and I got to the fork in the road which signifies the start of both these roads (both direction signs simply read ‘Kawkeireuik’) we were oblivious to the information relayed above.
We simply gambled and took the left fork – this ended up being the new highway, which we were very glad about in the end as the old, we later learn, is longer, bumpier and steeper.
The road surface is brand new with a decent hard shoulder. There’s also only 2 major climbs (and they are tough) but then we reach the summit and start to slowly wind our way down, spectacular jungle on either side, eagles circling high above.
The road itself is pretty impressive engineering wise, it follows a natural valley through the mountain but has been literally carved into the mountain side.
We were both torn between enjoying the road surface and feeling sad that such a beautiful part of the Burmese landscape had been scarred by this new highway – you can’t blame them for wanting to build it though and there are many ugly roads just like this one all across Europe…
As well as the road, the landscape also carries the unmistakable signs of some extreme deforestation. All that prized Burmese teak will soon be gone!
It was fairly busy on the road (if you take the right fork you get a lot less traffic) and we saw a number of trucks and buses broken down on the side of the road, bits of engine strewn across the road.
Burmese drivers are a bit like the Vietnamese. They like to overtake but they beep to let you know they are coming! We also gets lots of beeps and waves as they drive past.
It’s very hot and we stop to take a quick head dunk to cool down!
We arrive to Kawkeireuik through the flat rice paddies at the bottom and check into Honey Guesthouse. It’s clean and friendly but there’s no wifi and we’re told the electricity goes off from 11pm until around 5pm so our fan won’t work in our room during the night. Welcome to Burma! 🙂
We eat dinner with two other cycle tourers that evening – Jo a veterinary student from Japan and Victor a retired consultant who lives in Perth.The food is thankfully excellent this time and everyone seems to have great English. We eat in semi-darkness as there is a power cut half way through dinner.
We all retire early, tired after the hard day of climbing on our first day in Myanmar!