Day 11/12 : 1st & 2nd October 2019
What a day. I normally take a couple of hours to get ready (do my regular things and including reviewing & posting this) every morning and today was going to be different. Got up really late and I had to finish everything in an hour’s time and I don’t really like that kind of time constraint. Came down to see all the group members were ready and waiting for me. Normally we take a group picture before any such journey and we didn’t have time to do that. Just a simple hello or good morning and we started our ride towards the border. Asian highway one 1 is the one we had to use and it’s getting extended to 4 lane roads.
. That means the existing 2 lane road was not great to travel and it was difficult to ride through rough and muddy roads. Controlling such rough patches after rains makes your ride more difficult and you need to do that for 50% of the 125 km ghat section from Imphal to Moreh. Such lovely surroundings (mountains covered with clouds and greenery everywhere) but your focus remains on the bike and the roads. Crossed the first checkpoint and our tour organizer has done all needful work and we didn’t have to wait for long. While descending the ghat, I realized that something wrong with my rear brake and stopped.
Manish checked and oil pipe which controls the break had been damaged. While doing the vehicle service, the mechanic placed the pipe in an incorrect position and the pipe was touching the disc. The heat generated from the disc did the damage to the pipe and break failure happened. No mechanics around (in the middle of a ghat), we decided to take it slowly and move on using the front breaks. Riding like that for 35 km maneuvering turns/curves and downhill was almost impossible and not sure how we made it.
What could have taken an hour took more than 2 hours but we reached the immigration center without damaging anything or anybody? Still, no resolution but Naren assured that something will be done to make it work. On getting the immigration clearance, we got stopped by the customs officials because of some missing documents. There is something called carnet (sort of paperwork to carry your vehicle to another country by road) and we don’t have it. We discussed this in length during the last 4 months and Naren had checked with the regulatory body and got confirmation that carnet is not required for the countries we are visiting. Also, it is very costly to take one.
Either you have to pay a nonrefundable deposit of 1.8 Lakh Indian rupees or a refundable deposit of 200% of the value of your car. Our agent at Moreh had shown the immigration authorities all the relevant rules but he was not ready to listen (the statement said “may be used” and caused the confusion). They have been taking tourists to Myanmar without carnet regularly and the new officer (the old one was accommodative) was not ready to listen and he wanted time to do his research. We waited for close to 5 hours and finally got clearance. Carnet seems to be an ambiguous area and needs to be researched well before such travel.
While doing this, I got some time to interact with the “Assam Rifles” army division staff and they were erecting a metal stage for some event. Very disciplined/systematic in their approach and they are excited to see us taking such a journey. We crossed the Moreh (India) / Tamu (Myanmar) border and took our obligatory pictures at the friendship bridge. Our Myanmar clearance happened in less than 5 minutes and we continued our ride (me without rear brake) toward a restaurant which is around 5 km from the border.
We started seeing the difference. Roads were not wide but clean and smooth. Right side riding (instead of our regular left side riding IN India) and the milestones showed us the distance in miles (not in km). Reached the hotel quickly and we ordered our lunch (rather a dinner) at 5:30 pm. While having our lunch, I started looking around and people looked different from our Manipuri friends. A distance of 5 km showed different facial structures, language, and dressing styles. Many vehicles on the roads (particularly 2 wheelers) had no number plate or headlights. The one sitting at the pillion carried a mobile or torch as headlight and that’s it.
Covered with trees on both sides and clean air and I started enjoying Myanmar already. We discussed our game plan. Finish lunch, get the vehicle ready and move on towards our decided destination (Gangwah which is around 265 km and could take 7 hours to reach). Considering the evening & darkness, we decided to change our destination and head towards Kaley which is only 4 hours riding. Naren and Manish know a lot about bikes and they started working on the break (they got some replacement pipe of another brand from Moreh).
Took some time but they managed to fix the issue and we started our ride towards Kaley. Our escort team (mandatory to use one escort vehicle and local guide) gave us confidence that the roads are good, you won’t find traffic and it’s easy to ride. I don’t like night riding but the situation demanded it. We have been told that we would have to cross 33 metal or wooden bridges (actually we counted and it was 43) and the wooden bridges can be slippery because of floating planks and rains. Believe this stretch was built by “BRO” and standard of the roads were fantastic
. We started our ride and I was not fully satisfied with the break condition (believe it was only 40% ready) and we started slowly. We didn’t really push ourselves and went on a slow speed and stopped after every 10 km. Handling those bridges was really tricky (and can be dangerous) and you need to keep the vehicle on one plank and go straight. Moving from one plank to another can make your Tyre slip and lose control of your vehicle. We somehow managed to complete the journey and reached our hotel at Kaley around 12 midnight. We had to cover the balance distance (125 km) tomorrow in addition to the daily dosage of riding distance.
The tough day it was and another tough day ahead. We checked into the hotel and hit the bed straight. Believe I took less than 30 seconds to sleep and it was really sound sleep (not enough but well deserved). The hotel provided breakfast and they start the buffet services at 6:30 am (ends at 9 am). Got myself ready and had breakfast (fruits, some paratha like stuff with aloo bhaji) and waited for others to join. Everybody was tired and they got up late and that delayed our starting time. We started at 10 and the roads were super good to ride. Just visualize a road in between green fields and you are heading towards mountains cover led with white colors and no trucks emitting bad smoke.
Such a color combination gives you more energy immediately. We stopped to refuel our vehicle at a service station supported by a women-only team. Very professional (cannot talk English) and they did their work as a team. One managed the pipe, the second one managed the machine and the third one handled money. Petrol is termed as Ron 92/95 and very cheap in Myanmar (45 rupees per litre). This gave us more happiness and we continued our journey toward our destination for the day.
We reached Gangwah and stopped for lunch and I gave my vehicle to a mechanic for further checking and repair. Came back to see my bike ready and the break was almost working 60%. Manish/Naren added their magical touch and expect the hydraulic brakes to work fully after riding some kms. I am used it because the breaks take time after every service and I have experienced it in Mumbai. We had to cross a ghat section (more than 100 kms) and my break started working to its full capacity before reaching the ghat section.
I got my confidence back and started taking on these different ghat sections. Unlike In India where you have to maneuver ghat section which are in snake like shape, here the ghat sections are like camels back. Your ascent was steep and straight without much turns and descent was similar m. The ascent needed more thrust and downhill ride needed more control. And you have to do this again and again and we believe we would have crossed some 10 ghat sections within these 100 kms. Reached the destination for the day which is “Bagan – City of temples” and tomorrow is going to be an easy day.
Either you can take rest or you can go and see the 11-12th century Buddhist temples. Not deciding now and will take a call tomorrow. Naren has checked us into a very good hotel called “Razagyo hotel” and the spacious/clean rooms shows it is definitely more than a 3 star place (mandatory for tourist to stay at a 3 or above star hotels). 2 long days and feeling good with the adventure. Manish taught me how to manage speed only with gears, Naren gave me morale support and my confidence level has increased a lot. Do expect lots of “warning response” from my friends & family after seeing this post and be assured that I am not the one who takes dangerous risks and all is well with me/my bike and the team. We have already arranged for a replacement pipe and it’s waiting for me at Chiang Rai in Thailand.