– ODO- 15356 – 15440km
– Location- Mountain Ridge Past Segyi, Myanmar
– Weather- 27-37 Overcast at dawn
I was cooling off under a tree, leaning forward over my handlebars letting the sweat drip down from the bridge of my helmet onto my map case, when a Newcastle lad in a faded red jersey, a sports cap and wayfarers pulled up beside me. Steve’s bike, wrapped in slim grey bags looked clean, sleek and fast next to my dusty laiden tourer. “I thought you were in Mumbai” were his first words. I really have to get on top of my YouTube videos.
We rode together for a few kilometres and chatted about our journeys, the kit and the ups and downs of the road. So far I’ve taken a year to ride just shy of 17,000km from the UK. In just two months he’s caught me up and is long ahead in the dust of the Mandalay highway as I write this. I chose to follow the Google Maps route, crossing a bridge and immediately entering the building site for a new highway. He chose to stop that night in a guesthouse at the fork in the road. After 20km of riding on bare stones, loose sand and steep 50m climbs designed for oxen not bikes I text back to warn him.
This morning I woke in a shower of rain. My campsite was a beautifully secluded gully surrounded by bamboo shoots. I packed my damp tent and tied my sodden clothes to the straps on the bag to dry. The road began with promising flat sections of ungraded tarmac as the valley opened into a village surrounded by fields. The clouds hung low but they didn’t break the heat. At 5am it was already 27 degrees and so humid my shirt and shorts were soaked.
The track worsened all morning. Taking unnecessary climbs followed by useless decents. He who freewheels down must pedal up. On one sweeping drop I entered a puddle at the bottom and my back wheel, worn bald, slipped sideways. I struggled to un-clip my pedals and lay filly over in the pale brown mud.
As the sun came up and cleared the cloud the heat became unbearable. I dropped out of the saddle to push up the steep broken stones. Finally I crashed down exhausted under a tree. Under the trees shade I lay and felt my body. Felt my sweat pooling in the crux of my elbows. Smelt the sharp bite of my three day unwashed shirt. The day was only getting hotter. I pushed and pushed the bike, cursing my decision not to follow Steve. My water began to run low. At last a town came into site. I rolled into the first cafe that served food and quenched my hard earned thirst.