Day 10. Kalaw to Mandalay
Finally we depart Kalaw and take a flight to Mandalay. Ray got a massage on the outskirts or the airport and Dave lost his passport. & money.
The pickup truck was downstairs at 8:30am just as promised. We loaded the bikes and headed towards Haho airport some 41km away. The bumpy trip took almost an hour but we arrived safely.
The calm before the storm
After unloading our bikes, Mucks treated himself to a masage. Afterwards, we took off the pedals, folded down the handlebars and went through to the check-in desk. I was through first with my bike and panniers tagged and taken away.
Bill called me over and told me that Dave has lost his passport, ticket and all his money. I could see Dave's face and the obvious stress he was under. We searched through all the bags and his hand luggage - his documents bag was missing.
After explaining the situation to the authorities we were able to call the Winner Hotel in Kalaw and check if perhaps it was left there - Ruby (the proprietor) said that her staff went through the room twice and that the passport was nowhere to be found. Dave grew more upset. It'll be next to impossible to check into any hotel and will most likely change all our plans for the trip. As always though we stick together no matter what.
The airport staff had Dave's ticket details on file but we were unable to get the ticket reissued because Air Bagan tickets are fully refundable, so without the original we had to pay for another.
Reluctantly we handed over the cash and got the ticket, checked his luggage and cleared customs (with some difficulties because of a missing passport) and found ourselves in a fairly barren departure lounge. Everyone was given a body search because the airport didn't have any metal detectors.
The plane was a 42 seater twin turbo prop which loved finding turbulent pockets of air.
Transformers, human midgets in disguise
After 33 minutes we landed at Mandalay airport - some 48km south of Mandalay. Given that we now had Dave's passport problem to resolve and only about 3hrs of daylight left, we decided against cycling to town and packed the bikes into twp Toyota Corolla wagons. With the back seats folded forward, two bikes and two people (one with the bikes in the boot) in one car and the other two in the other Corolla we sped towards Mandalay.
We needed to report the passport stolen or lost to the local police as well as report to the local immigration officials to possibly get a temporary travel document.
After checking in at the Hotel we asked where the police station was and were given some directions.
A brush with the law
Shortly we were sitting at Police Station No 8. No one knew English but we could make them understand that we have lost a passport and wanted to know what to do next.
Although we waited for over two hours the staff were quite helpful and arranged take us to the local immigration office. Suddenly the skies opened up and dumped half a meter of rain on the streets and we were kindly put in the back of a police 4WD and started the drive towards the immigration office.
Raining cats and dogs
The streets were filled with water; bikes were submerged past the top pedal and scooters created waves which crashed into people's homes as they sped past. I couldn't believe just how quickly the streets had transformed from dry and hot tarmac to a knee high dark sludge.
The police dropped us off and an immigration official was already there, however it turned out we were still going to have to wait for someone with authority to hear our case.
An hour passed and it was already past 7pm, we were hungry and starting to get cranky. A scooter pulled up outside and a front headlight shone brightly into the room. We could see two officials getting off and walking towards us. We greeted them and stated our case. After 40 minutes of explaining the situation, 3 or 4 power cuts and drawing maps of the city by candle light we were told that because of the hotel we are staying at, we fall under a different jurisdiction and we'll need to go to another immigration office. We would need to wait till morning to continue this further. Luckily by now I'd managed to find Dave's passport number on a piece of paper where he emailed me some booking details - it should make things easier tomorrow.
The hotel owner - Johnny suggested that we go to the BBB restaurant - it was a big hit with the boys, although getting there presented some walking hazards such as hip-deep crevasses in the foot paths. Not something you want to fall into when you're wandering the streets.