To Kalaw, A Deeply Saddening Journey
This morning we both got up in fairly bad shape after a shaky old night. My food poisoning now two days in. Bear’s erupted after a dodgy prawn curry last night, on top of his really rotten cold, a very poorly boy. No breakfast, a full roll of toilet paper and a determined demeanour got us both to reception at our digs at just after 08:30. One of the workers had telephoned to confirm our booking the other day on Joyous Journeys, the company had suggested we be picked up outside at 09:00 as they have to pass the door. Really kind of them and saved us having to get in to town half an hour away. Just as well as it gave us a little more time to pull ourselves together. No idea what caused mine but if I didn’t know any better I would be nipping to the chemist to get a pregnancy test............. so unusual for me as my normal route is southerly........... Bear never seems to be troubled by anything he eats, so its fair to say a rare event.
The coach was on the dot of nine and not long in to our six hour journey breakfast was served. A bottle of water had already been put in our seat basket, we were offered fizzy orange or Sprite and in our little box were two different sorts of biscuit and a raisin roll. We thanked the stewardess and saved them for much, much later. Neither of us thought about pictures but Bear did take these three as we passed through a village.
Bear saw Mount Popa in the distance and tried hard to get a picture, loads had trees jumping in the way or hedges or palm fields. This was the first one and rather well it turned out methinks. Half an hour later and miles into the countryside we began to see debris on the road, then a motorbike laying in the middle of the road, then..............(please rush past the next picture if graphic upsets).
..............a handbag, a flip-flop, a purse and two young ladies. Bear was by the window and as I couldn’t see, I asked him to take this picture. There was nothing anyone could do, had there been we would have been off our bus in a flash but the bystanders faces told us there was nothing to be done. Our driver went to see the coach driver parked just beyond the scene. This was a sister coach that had left Bagan fifteen minutes before ours. Three quarters of an hour later the passengers from the other bus joined ours and we moved off. Later, at the lunch stop (we used the toilet and sat on a bench in the sun to defrost after the savage air con), I asked a lady exactly what had happened. The coach had bibbed (as all vehicles do here, this lets the person to be overtaken know and they always tuck well over to the side as the norm tends to be quite far out, thus avoiding cart pushers, pushbikes, lazing dogs, sharp tarmac edges and the numerous potholes and often deep puddles), the motorbike tucked over and as the coach had moved out to overtake the bike suddenly swerved way over to the middle of the road, straight in front, the driver stood no chance and ran over them. The saddest day in the families of these girls lives, our hearts go out to them. Also to the driver, he started out on a normal journey and now........ The thing is no-one covered the girls, is it such a common sight that evokes no horror ???
Not in this case it would have made any difference, and no surprise, neither wore crash hats - as is the norm here. We see very few of the hundreds of bikers we see every day, wearing lids, perhaps a handful at best. Pillions on their mobiles and just like in Morocco at night, a good number with no lights on.The other remarkable thing and strange to our eyes is most pillion riders sit side-saddle and of course many bikes hold a whole family.
I think the loan flip-flop, as an image, will stay with us for quite a long time.
Standing in front of our coach, as we did at lunch stop, all you see is a white band across the top of the windscreen. Inside you see part of the Our Father. When we noticed it we were surprised as nearly ninety per cent of the population of fifty three million are Buddhist. I stared at that for some time. An hour or so later Bear was really sick, poor love was so white he was grey. He looked at his phone to see how far we had to go and handed it to me to see the wiggly bit. The reason it takes six to seven hours to do one hundred and seventy miles, down to a snails pace for the frequent hair-pin bends.
Just as I took the phone to take this picture of our route, it vibrated. An email from Sabby telling us our dear, dear friend Geoff had passed away in the early hours of Tuesday. Heaven got a new angel. To say we were sad was an understatement. The rest of the journey was in private reflection and happy memories of one of Bear’s oldest friends. I simply loved Geoff, his easy grin and mischievous twinkle.
Meanwhile, the coach rose higher and higher up into the hills, I periodically shoved the camera to the window and clicked.
Hair-pins and overtaking.
Someone keen for ‘that’ picture.
Eventually, we arrived in Kalaw. Bear negotiated for a taxi at two pounds but I really needed to walk the fifteen minutes to our motel. My head was banging and I had to look away from the glinting stupa.
The street before ours.
I got Bear to crack a weak smile as we passed loads of poinsettia bushes.
At the end of the road this clock tower looked somewhat out of place.
Our digs, somehow we got through the check in procedure. The young girl couldn’t find our all important Visas and asked me to. Then, with no photocopier, painstakingly wrote out all our Passport details and long Visa number. She preferred payment in US dollars but had no change for a fifty. I ended up going to the nearest pound in dollars and kyats, Bear sitting in the corner manning the currency app. Up three flights of stairs and Bear fell on his sword as soon as the traditional Beds settled shot had been taken.
We have a skinny little balcony with one chair, the same as next door. Somewhere beyond is the train station we will use in a couple of days time to get to Lake Inlay. Bear’s idea to split the journey, mostly coach, bit of train, I’m very grateful for that now as my head is cracking. Middle view and view to the right and of course, no scenery here is complete without a Stupa or two. It may be early but night, night.
ALL IN ALL IN SILENT THOUGHTS OF LOSS
A SAD AND SOMEWHAT WEIRD DAY