6 May

Hard Times.

Yangon to Magway

Hard Times.

Sat on a hard bed in the small town of Thayarwaddy 120 kms north of Yangon. I’m covered in sweat, alone and feel rubbish.

I’ve got this weird burning feeling in my stomach which means i don’t feel hungry and do feel nauseous.

At a time like this the ‘food centres’ with huge steel pans of cold food sitting open in the sun and flies, although probably delicious are too high risk. With a bag of tangerines and some biscuits i ploughed on into the wind and sunshine, which is why i now find myself pouring with sweat and feeling ill. The result of demanding exertion without adding fuel.

Today started well as i popped into a national park just north of Yangon and cycled through the beautiful forests terrifying huge families of monkeys as i trundled passed.

Continuing north there was a larger military presence that id seen so far. Vans with well-kitted-out young soldiers in new bullet proof vests and shiny rifles. The sirens were blaring and a number of them flew past me. I worried there was unrest up ahead but later passed the same vans by the road side, with recruits either playing games or fast asleep.

Whilst this stunning route along the river is taking me through more delta country with tree lined avenues and paddy fields, the road conditions are poor with potholes and jarring bumps both trying and relentless.

When feeling ill, tired or just not in the mood, the endless use of horns brings you to the edge. They will beep when there is nothing on the road, or when they have already passed, sometimes you see vehicles miles away of open stretched of nothing just making as much noise as they can. The noise ricochets off the walls of your mind. All i want is peace, cool air and sleep.

The next day was another extraordinary one. Days like this i really feel like I’m fighting for every penny of charity donation for this cycle.

The calorie problem was not solved by the single half slice on bread on offer for breakfast. Setting off into the early day was lovely but It was soon spoilt by nausea.

Passing through lush green desert of paddy fields that stretch to the horizon watching the workers (nearly always female) out in the midday sun. As the afternoon progressed the green turned slowly to browns and reds as the crops turned to wheat, a sign of progress. But the poor roads, steady, slow inclines and headwinds just infuriated this ailing Englishman.

Suddenly I’m feeling dizzy, with fainting on the cards i throw the bike down and grab some shade. Sitting head in hands the trucks whizz passed my nose, honking horns to try and get my attention. It’s a lonely feeling, miles from anywhere, miles from home, feeling rubbish, no communication, no one knows.

Feeling slightly better i spent the afternoon with regular dizzy rests and stopped replying to waves and greetings. During a rest for soda, the very smiley family shop owners, all 15 of them, stood and watched me drink my bottle of unnamed fizzy limeade. It’s not awkward for them, just staring at an ill Englishman for 30 mins in complete silence as he sits unhappily in the shade.

Shortly after I’m cheered up by a passing truck with music blaring and 20 men dancing alongside, in the middle of no-where. It was great to watch, they were having an excellent time, but for no clear reason.

At times a Burmese person’s grin can become so immense and splendid that you worry for their face. Wandering the street of the small dusty town of Aunglan this evening watching dinner prepared by the roadside, boys washing in the river and men kicking a cane ball to each other i saw many of these grins.

Screams of ‘HEY YOU!’ from the darkness would be intimidating anywhere else, but when you look further you find the source was a mouth smiling wide with interest and happiness.

Walking under a shelter into a shop looking for some energy food for the morning, everyone stops and stares. Then as i start looking around, more and more family and friends arrive on the scene. Some sit, some stand, but they all watch. I smile away and they smile in return. I look at a shelf in the corner, someone rushes to point the light better for me. I look at a can of soda on a shelf, a cold one is immediately fetched from the fridge. I yawn, a chair is thrust behind me. You don’t get this in Tesco’s.

The following day things haven’t improved. In the delirium of malnutrition i become lost in thought, at last away from peering eyes, away from smell, away from noise. It’s lovely. I think of home, of being alone in the sun, of a roast chicken. Immediately a small van flies passed honking it horn, not repeatedly, he’s actually just leaning on it continuously. I’m the only person on this road.

This country is getting me down through no fault of it’s own. I just need to feel better.

I can remember with warmth each tranquil and peaceful moments on this trip so far. Camping beside the great lakes, resting in the Rockies, lying on your back through Kansas dessert evenings, Australian night cycling or listening to waves roll in on Queensland shore. Even tonight, climbing an old pagoda and looking across the town, out of sight and interruption. There will be more moments, but you have to work a lot harder for them around here.

A few days more and i’d be meeting up with Pete and Scotty again, just need to keep going and hopefully get better.

I wake in the night and begin vomiting. No cycling tomorrow.


Hlawga National Park, Yangon


Roadside Hippo. Obviously.


Show off.

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Women at work.

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Bridge over Ayeyawady River, Magway.


Recovery room.


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