Visiting the Ta Mote Shin archaeological site, and pedaling south to Dawei #8
The hotel staff at the Kyautse Hotel just simply would not let me go! Their kindness was shown in furnishing me two guides to the great archaeological site of Ta Mote Shin. I rode on the back of a scooter with them for about 25 kms to the site. Immediately, I saw that this was a most professional excavation, led by archaeologists. A large metal building covered the temples that were about 1000 years old. Myat and the driver escorted me throughout it. But then, Myat, the devoted Buddhist, stopped. She explained that women could not go any further. I thought this to be unfair, but she accepted it without question. The staff at the hotel asked me to stay another night, but I really did have to get going.
I had a decision to make: I could pedal along highway 1 for 4 days to get to the south, thru intense semi traffic on a narrowish, dirty, dusty road thru flat, dry fields, or I could toss my bike onto a train. I choose the train because I wanted to pedal thru smaller, more safe roads in the countryside where the scenery and country life would be in full view.
At 5:00 am, in complete darkness, I got out of the train in Bago. I assembled my bike in the darkness, having zero idea where I was in the city. I walked my bike out to a major street and waited for light. And Gaia bless GPS on my phone. GPS has consistently saved me from making terrible wrong turns. It has been by far the most useful ap on my phone. So well before sunrise, I am on the road pedaling eventually south toward Dawei, Myanmar, close the the end of the peninsula.
These roads are much more pleasant to ride, with much less traffic. I observe the people making their living growing and harvesting food, catching fish, and making many useful things by hand to sell along the roadsides. For the next 3 days, I average around 100 km @ day pedaling. That is good enough for me. I think I can sustain that rate indefinitely. If I go longer, I might be too tired to go as far the next day.
I finally pedal the large river city of Mawlamyine. George Orwell was stationed here 90 years ago, around the time he came to condemn British imperialism. I have made the mistake of not getting a kickstand mounted on my bike. Someone in the hotel accidentally knocks over my bike and smashes the dérailleur. Oh no, now I cannot ride my bike at all. I am worried that parts may not be available. A German tourist observes my problem and comments, “Do not worry. These people are very skilled at fixing everything.” So I get to a bike shop and they have the exactly same Shimano derailleur! And it is only $7 US. Wow. It would be $30+ in the US. The bicycle repairman, with deft hands, quickly installs it AND a kickstand. I can ride again! He asked for $1.50 for labor. I am embarrassed at how little he wants. So I give him a good tip.
In Dawei I finally meet up with Jeff Mease again. There is a major power outage in the city, so it is running on candles and generators for the next full day. Then we hop on our bikes and pedal over a steep little mountain range to the Andaman Sea. We are now staying on the beach in paradise and not suffering at all. 🙂