Road sites while descending the mountains of Eastern Myanmar #6
I started out on this bicycle trip overweight and out of shape, and I paid for it in my first week of riding. But after a few weeks of riding, I had dropped 10 pounds and was finally feeling stronger.
So I packed up my bike before sunrise and left the comfort of my hotel in Hsipaw, a mountain city in the NE of Myanmar. At least I would be going downhill, or so I thought. But it was a sawtooth road all the way: climb 300 feet, drop 500 feet, and then, repeat repeat repeat.
But worse than that was the unending stream of large, smoking trucks, apparently carrying large amounts of raw material to China, and returning with manufactured goods. The drivers were polite, but the roads were narrow. I quickly bought a face mask to reduce the dust and particulates I was breathing in. I later noticed that it made a difference.
The day’s ride ended with a few thousand foot drop into the Gokteik Gorge. I imagine there were over 20 switchbacks. The whole descent required tight grips on both brakes. My forearms were hurting by the time I finally got to the bottom, over an hour later. At the end of the day, I did not feel like pedaling out of this gorge. So I started flagging trucks down. The first one that passed, stopped. He was going that way. So, for a nominal price, I tossed my bike in back, climbed in, and rode to the next city with a guest house. Then, the same drill: wash myself, my clothes, and sleep deep for 10 hours.
Up next morning, I set my goal of Pyin U Lwin. During the British colonial period, this was the British summer hill station, to escape from the summer heat in Mandalay, 3000 feet lower in altitude although just 35 miles away. I had read about Kandawgyi Botanical Gardens. Created by the British a hundred years ago, they were supposed to be a reserve for rare species, including the ginkgo tree and many varieties of bamboo. I wanted to see for myself.