Distance: 50km by bike another 75k roughly by bus
Mektila is a pretty large town and we stopped for breakfast (tasty samosas and large churos like bread sticks) before continuing east. The countryside here is very flat but we knew that we’d reach the bottom of the mountains which lead up to Inle Lake after roughly 65km.
Paddy was still feeling a bit dodge and out progress was a bit slow. We managed 50k and then agreed to stop and hitch the rest of the way. We wanted to get to Kalaw that night.
After two minutes of standing by the road a small truck stopped and two guys got out. They were already pretty loaded up with boxes and we couldn’t see how we were going to fit the tandem in. They inquired as to where we were going and then helped us flag down another vehicle, this time a minivan.
This van was going all the way to Kalaw. Yay!
It wasn’t clear what this van was… Initially we thought it was just a family car. They said they could strap tandem to the top and nothing was mentioned about payment… Paddy by this time was feeling pretty ropey and we were just glad that we had managed to catch a lift so quickly.
The journey took about 2 hours total. After around half an hour it became clear that we had actually flagged down a private bus service, run by two guys. People were picked up and dropped off as we twisted and turned up the mountain.
We were met with some spectacular scenery but neither of us regretted the decision to grab a ride rather than cycle. This was a tough climb, busy with cars and trucks.
As we neared the end of our journey we had come to the conclusion that some sort of payment would be required. We were happy to pay, and discussed whether we should raise the subject before our stop. In the end we decided to ask how much before we arrived. We think this was probably a mistake as it gave the two guys a good while to discuss how much they could get away with charging – it was pretty obvious what they were discussing!
They quoted 20,000 on arrival – 7000 each + 6000 for the bike. This, we though was a bit steep, and we tried to question it but a local stepped in and explained this was a fair price.
Tandem was lifted down from the roof unscathed. In the end we paid the two guys their 20,000 in the knowledge that at least it was all going directly to them (rather than us paying a local bus or tour company who have to give a heavy cut to the government.)
We learnt a lot from this experience. When hitching, if a passenger van stops – check to see if it has a sign in the windscreen to indicate it’s a local pick up service. Always agree the price (if any) before your bike is tied on and if you can check how much locals pay before you set off then that always helps!!!