The Road to Mandalay
February 1 to February 24, 2015
Day 19 - Mae Sot - Pre Burma Rest Day
An easy-going day after handing in our passports, which are now all at the Thai frontier post, with crews completing other formalities, such as exchanging 100 US Dollars and receiving a brown envelope of Burmese Kyats, otherwise referred to as “kit-kats” – so we all now have some local cash.
The rally-desk in the reception area of the hotel saw a long line of rally-crews receiving their Burma number-plates, with driving licence and insurance to follow when we reach their frontier-post. There is a general air of excitement and expectation now that the closed-road timed test-sections have ended but we are anticipating the prospect of being the first international car rally to cross the frontier. Rarely does a car-rally contribute to international relations but tomorrow we are playing a part in the opening Burma with the rest of the world.
We were all bracing ourselves to negotiate a heavily pot-holed road in “no man’s land” between Thailand and Burma, and then negotiate a steep descent down the side of the mountain where two-way traffic is not possible – traffic flow is governed by one day being for driving up, and all traffic at the top waits for the next day, when it’s all traffic driving down. This works, most weeks, until a truck breaks down and then the planning and the calendar is thrown into confusion. A long line of petrol tankers are lining up at the frontier at the moment, but they were going to be side-lined in order to give the rally priority.
However, there is now a last-minute change of plan and the Burmese authorities are allowing us to be the first to use a brand-new tarmac road, recently completed, which will be the new link to Thailand. This is good news and bad, as clearly we lose part of the adventure, which is one of the main reasons we are all here. But the benefit is that we no longer have to negotiate large craters and inch our way down a precipitous decline as our first experience of Burma. Anthony and Mike Preston will be busy first thing in the morning – when it’s still dark – nailing up the E.R.A. direction arrows as part of the planning for the sudden re-route.
While most crews chilled out today by the poolside taking in a warm sunny day, there was just one car still undergoing an overhaul in the car park this evening. Our photo shows the crew of Car 6, the Bentley eight-litre of Peter Pollet and Alexander de Groot from Belgium who were toiling over radiator repairs. The front of the Bentley was stripped out, after a local welder burned a hole through the radiator using a welding-torch in a haphazard repair attempt, which was only put right after our sweep-crews directed the Bentley Boys to a local radiator repair shop. The mountings were being repaired as the rest of us were lining up to collect our Burma number plates or drifting off to the lawns where we dined out under the trees.
Michael Wilkinson was looking pleased tonight as his Alvis gear-lever is now restored.