Day 1: Pindaya – Ywengan
Distance: 80km (19th March 2016)
Road: up and down all day, paved but bumpy road; had to go 20km south from Pindaya first before you head northwest to Ywengan.
There is a steady climb out of Pindaya and then you get to enjoy some lovely rolling countryside. 8km in, our chain gets really jammed and we have to take an hour to tease it out from inbetween the derailer and kick stand… The cycle otherwise was pretty uneventful although there was a fair amount of climbing involved.
Ywengan is a small town (make your way to the centre) but there is one simple guesthouse (Khansan Guesthouse) for USD 10 – this is pricey for the room you get with a cold water bath and toilet outside although we did re-fill all our water bottles for free from his water dispenser. There are a couple of OK restaurants and a decent cafe half way up the hill – great for breakfast.
Day 2: Ywengan – wild camping 10km NW from Kyaukse (20th March 2016)
Distance: 90k by mostly downhill
Road: Paved – pretty darn good for Myanmar, especially considering how quiet and unused the road is – great ride down with spectacular views!
Mostly Up with a bit of down for the first 10k. You pass some sleepy villages where we stopped for a coffee and cake break and the scenery is great.
We pass a cool temple complex complete with four huge Buddha statues looking out across the valley.
The road is narrow but in good nick with very little traffic. It zig-zags down in front of you like a great black snake. The views are AMAZING! This is the best ride we have had so far.
Every so often we stop to give the breaks a chance to cool off and enjoy the breathtaking views and the big drops into the valley. The landscape is dry but still very beautiful – again, clear signs of mass deforestation.
There is currently 1km of road works near the bottom where the road pretty much disappears, replaced by sand and rocks. It’s amazing how much hotter it’s got as we’ve climbed down. Bye bye cool weather…
We stop at a large restaurant a few km after the road works. A large river runs through the valley and we follow this for a while still on Rd 411 – a lush, green strip of land clings to its banks.
A few km on we then take a right turn onto the white Rd, crossing the river and then skirting around the mountains north. This connects to another yellow rd further North. You can turn left at the T-junction and head to Kyaukse this way, a much nicer ride which avoids the main AH1/AH2 road to the west.
We had no plans to go to Kyaukse though as we needed to find a camping spot. We turn right again and head up past the huge Chinese cement factory following the road north. The landscape offers very little cover and despite it being a Sundy the road is still fairly busy. At dusk we agree we need to just get off the road as quickly as possible. A few people would likely see us but hopefull they wouldn’t take too much notice.
We spot what looks like an empty bamboo shelter at the side of a field about 250m from the road. We make a dash for it and it ends up being the perfect hideaway for us. We wait for a while to see if anyone comes but by 7.30 we think it’s safe to pitch the tent.
We watch a documentary about the English folk revival and then fall fast asleep.
Day 3: Kyaukse to Mandalay – the scenic, not on the map, back way! (21st March 2016)
Road: mostly unpaved, sandy and very tricky in places
So as to avoid the main rd into Madalay we cut a new route ourselves through the countryside north east of Kyaukse on our final day of this stretch from Inle.
We followed the road north towards the river, cutting through a valley and skirting the mountains on our right. The road is unpaved, sandy and pot holed but very wide. We need to cross the river to continue on but there is no bridge or official ferry crossing on the map.
Assuming there will be someone with a boat willing to take us across when we get there we turn off to the left and follow the canal network towards one o the riverside villages (this is not marked on the map). The mountains offer an impressive backdrop as we cycle on this dirt track, banana plantations lining our way on both sides.
It is bumpy and slow – definitely not for those cyclists who like to stick to paved roads but perfect for tourers who like to get away from the beaten track and don’t mind a bit of adventure, we cycled through some really lovely villages, glimpsing the daily lives of those Burmese who live off the land and who have very little.
We reach the village by the river an instantly spot a boat going back and forwards. It is absolutely stunning here and we both look forward to getting across so we can jump in the water for a pre-lunch swim.
Only 25k to our Hotel in Mandalay!
After being on a very bumpy track for another 8km we turn onto the canal again and follow it right into centre of Mandalay, avoiding all the busy roads.
The city’s roads are terrible but we find our hotel and get ready to go off to meet mum and dad!