Day 7. Thazi to Kalaw
This was perhaps the hardest days ride on the whole trip. The road went on for ever and Bill got sick. Nobody reached the Kalaw at the top till after dark.
We departed at 8am although again we'd planned to leave much earlier. Bill and I were a little off color before breakfast. Not sure what it could be caused by because all four of us had been eating the same things.
The road leading out of Tazhi was in good condition and we made good speed. Billy takes the honor of getting the first flat for the trip and as if by a miracle a nice man pulled over and offered him a foot pump to make the job easier.
Gradually the road got worse and we were dodging craters in the road. Our speed at times dropped down to 4km/hr.
I have a Gut Feeling something's not right
Around the 30km mark Billy was sick and feeling nauseous, we pulled over to let him rest up. I gave him some anti-nausea pills and let him lie down, but unfortunately he was throwing up shortly afterwards.
With Bill's his head hung in the bushes, Dave took some time to entertain some kids
Delivered unto The Promised Land
A bunch of Israeli cyclists rode in and stopped by. They were on an organized tour and had their own support bus. We organized to put Billy on the bus and would meet up with him in Kalaw.
For the next 25km we weaved through the hills following the river. The hills boulged to either side of the road and teamed with wildlife and vegetation.
After passing a monastery we started to climb for around 10km, again the surface was poor and dusty. We were constantly playing chicken with the oncoming trucks and cars which all seemed to think that the road is for their exclusive use. They would sound their horns until we rode off the road and stopped in the gravel or mud.
We had lunch at the top and a refreshing wash in a well. The next stage was going to be 15km downhill before we get to the 30km climb to Kalaw - or so we were told.
Mixing diesel & dust with mud, for good measure
As we moved closer to the mountains the road got worse. Later in the afternoon as it cooled more and more traffic travelled with us. Trucks with thick black diesel fumes were slowly suffocating us and the constant dodging of craters was exhausting. Concentrating on the road made it hard to admire and take in all the surroundings.
Eventually we started the climb - the road only got worse, sometimes turning to deep mud in which we had zero control on our semi slick touring tires.
Kalaw, Kalaw! Wherefore art thou Kalaw?
Up and up we cycled, every time we thought we'd reached the top of the mountain the serpentine snaked up further along a side of the mountain we hadn't seen before.
The sweat dripped out of every pore and we had exhausted our water reserves. Only the three bottles left in cages every man carried on the bike. Every dwelling we passed little kids came running out and shouted "hello", "bye bye". We pulled over in a village and bought some bananas - they were the sweetest bananas I've tasted and gave us a real energy boost.
Slowly day turned to night and we still had a further 15km to go. It was slow and painful but luckily it was a full moon so we didn’t suffer complete darkness.
The white dust on the road scattered the bike light so that it was very difficult to make out the pothole from smooth surface until you hit a rock or felt the bike fall into a ditch.
With nightfall the temperature dropped and the wind died down - the diesel fumes seemed to hang around long after the passing trucks and tractors had choked up the surroundings. Breathing was hard and my lungs were clogged up with the polluted air.
A full moon festive finale
Finally I'd reached the top and could see the lights of Kalaw. It was 7:40pm and I’d been on the bike for almost 12 hours. I could hear fireworks and people shouting and singing - the full moon festival. I was about 30 minutes in front of Dave and Mucks, my body was destroyed and I was amazed that the bike had survived the day.
I waited for them at the entry to town. When I saw them approaching I waved my head torch - it was good to see them again. We set off towards the festivities to find where Billy was staying.