13 November 2015
When we're set to roll out, we ask the hotel staff where the next hotel is on the road south. They say there isn't one. Not until Taungyi, at least, and that's miles away.
We decide to hit the road south and see how we go. As we trundle out of town, we get some yells of encouragement that have an undertone of "ya, rite, bloody good luck mate". A few people yell "Where do you go?", but we chalk it up to the usual garbled exuberance rather than any genuine concern. A guy in a car does the same, and somewhat confrontationally tells us that there's no accommodation on the road ahead, but that we should be able to make it through.
We agree to press on, though with an eye out for transport options after we've got a bit of a ride in. We begin with a long steady ascent. I suggest we crest the climb, descend and then look for onward transport to skip us over the hotel-less zone.
Just as I'm arriving into Taung Kham, I find Sander, who was riding a few hundred metres ahead, chatting with a guy in military uniform. The long and the short of it is that he's fine us being there, but he's saying we can't cross the river on the road ahead, because of the 'Shan insurgency'. We wrap up the conversation with a suggestion that we need to get into the village for some food and that 'maybe' we'll backtrack.
We go a few hundred metres more, get some spring rolls and noodles from a restaurant where the waitress/owner speaks surprisingly good English, four guys are sat in the corner drinking, and one of them leaps up from time to time to take photos of us on his Hello Kitty phone.
After eating we decide to press on as far as the river we're not supposed to cross, before backtracking to Naung Khio, the town we left this morning. We get over around eight of the ten kilometres to the river, before staring into an abyss - the road falls steeply during the last couple of kilometres and we decide that it's daft to descend it only to immediately reascend. We gaze across the valley at the mountains of the 'Shan insurgency'...
By now we've shed all the altitude we had gained during the morning, and we're back at around 800m above sea level. With no route forward, we're looking at just riding it back, and stopping at the same hotel again. We do exactly that: climb back out from the river valley, pass our lunch stop, climb up some more to the highest point of the day, and then bust it downhill to Naung Khio as we race against nightfall.
We pull back in to the town's only hotel, greet the reception staff with a cheery "hello again!" and are promptly shown back to the same room we stopped in last night. It was comfortable enough, so why not do it again?
We trundled out for some dinner, turned up some fried rice and bits and pieces, and then went to scout for a place to have a beer. Off of the main drag, we see lights. Kegs betray draught beer, and many local whiskies are also on sale. There are snooker tables. No females are present.
We're accosted several times in the evening by drunk Myanmar-Nepalis who have been celebrating Diwali. They make varying degrees of sense, but we end up with gifts of floral garlands and warm fuzzies about how it makes sense to step off the tourist trail from time to time, even if you end your day's ride in the same bed you set off from.
84km, 4hr26, 18.8km/h