First up we welcome Charles to the Rally. Charles is to navigate for Neil M. from Bagan to the end. John still has another couple of days with Neil before flying home, so Neil has two navigators. Will they will agree on which way to go?
This was the day we had everything, and including two breakfasts. It was an early start again for a 7am departure for a 50kms drive to Mt. Popa where we were due to have breakfast. Except that most of us decided that since we had paid for breakfast in Bagan, we would have that too.
On the way to Mt. Popa we stopped at a sugar palm and peanut oil farm that has developed into a successful tourist attraction.
A bullock powered wheel grinds the peanuts to extract the oil and a young dude climbs a precarious ladder (no ‘elf and safety here).
The sap is then collected into bowls of from the top of the palm tree and passed to the ladies below the trees for processing.
Various sales stalls are devoted to sugar snacks, sesame seed sugar bon-bons and a distilled form of hooch that we resisted with such a long drive ahead.
Coconut was being shaved for other delights and retail therapy was successfully transacted.
The Mt. Popa resort is, not surprisingly, at the top of a mountain and it’s main attraction is the view. In the middle distance is the Taungkalat Monastery perched dramatically on a volcanic rocky outcrop with vertical sides. The monastery glows golden in the sunlight and makes a perfect backdrop for sunset pictures.
Second breakfast was taken but Stuart arrived a little later because a rock in the sandy verges had shredded a tyre. His luck has to change soon.
Leaving Mt. Popa proved rather more difficult than arriving as the village we are due to pass through was blocked the other side and we had to return and circumnavigate our way back to our roadbook route. The morning’s drive took in fast stretches, bumpy surface stretches, villages aplenty and one very large town. In Myanmar it seems as though something is happening all the time. Villages are teeming with life, ladies with baskets of veg on their heads, kids rushing around, motorcycles on the wrong side of the road and lots of bullock carts. Along the roads, there is always life; people walking or working in the fields.
We went through a town dedicated to breaking up a mountain into small pieces for road building. The mountain face is blasted and then rocks are graded into various sizes for different uses. We passed one village that was all white; their product being cement, and cement dust filled the air and coated the palm trees white.
Our lunch target was the Green Hill valley Elephant camp where elephants retired from the logging industry are cared for. The camp has eight elephants aged between 38 and 64, and one 8 year old orphan rescued from a conflict zone. We learned that elephant poaching is still a problem with one death a week in Myanmar alone, so the conservation effort is essential. The option of feeding the elephants was resisted by few and the most enthusiastic rallyists took up the offer to wash an elephant in the river.
We hope the pictures do this spectacle justice.
Sad to report that David and Lorraine came across another road accident. Two motorcycles had collided but the assembled crowd were doing nothing. The questioned why not, the answer was that “the police are coming”!. Dr David and Dr Luc were soon on hand to assist but it was a sad affair.
Although our afternoon drive was only 100kms to Inlé Lake, it was rated at 3 hours because of road conditions. In fact it would have been nice if the road had any condition because most of it was being widened and road works were underway in seemingly random sections. Whole hillsides were being reshaped by huge earth moving equipment and trucks were arriving and departing with soil and spoil. The road itself went through delightful countryside rising and climbing into the hills with bend after bend up to 1338 meters before dropping down into the plain at Inlé. Progress was somewhat hampered by huge container lorries on their way to China, that took up the whole width of the road.
And it didn’t help that the Myanmar army was on manoeuvres taking a convoy of light tanks to the next hot spot. But, intrepidly, we made it through to our destination and the lovely Villa Inlé Resort and Spa right on the lakeside.