Wednesday 22 February – Mt Popa to Bagan

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When someone says “it’s all down hill from here” you never believe them, but occasionally it is true!

Today’s 53 km ride was said to be just that and so it was apart from 10 km or so in the middle which was easy undulating, snaking around the mountain and through the small villages we are becoming familiar with. It was also nice and cool to begin with as we headed down from the hills and the ride a real blast. We passed a place which makes products from the Totty tree: palm sugar, a light beer, a spirit, syrup, leaves for thatching, trunks for construction and we watched a chap shinny up the tree on a ladder attached to the trunk and place pots which catch the sap. At the same place we observed a cow attached to a grinder going round and round in circles to produce peanut oil. We sampled some yummy sweet products.

But it got hotter and hotter and we were pleased to reach the little restaurant for lunch. We visited a lacquered goods factory on the way to our hotel on the banks of the Irrawaddy river. The lacquered products have a skeleton of bamboo, are covered in lacquer from a tree confined to this area of Myanmar, dried several times and then decorated with designs and mosaics made from e.g. gold, egg shell and then polished. We have some placemats made from this process which are probably from here. Greg was OK again and managed the whole ride despite feeling not quite 100% but eating again at least. The many temples we passed are made of red brick -a nice change from the gold or paint, often deteriorating, we have seen elsewhere.

We are on the last lap of our trip and will be happy to say goodbye to the Trek mountain bikes which have taken quite a hammering on these roads. It is excellent to easily and quickly be able to change a wheel with a punctured tyre with a spare from the van as happened to me at the lacquer factory – shades of Tour de France!

Lazed around all afternoon, watched the sun set across the river sipping on smoothies, dined and were happy to hit the sack after a hot and tiring day.

We often tune into the BBC or CNN but are reminded of our disappointment in the past with their shameless and endless self promotion seemingly taking up as much time as the programmes themselves. Still NZ has featured – one of the cricketers has been bought by the ICL, NZ beat SA in a ODI due to Ross Taylor’s record and that’s about all.

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