The Road to Mandalay
February 1 to February 24, 2015
Day 21 - Mawlamyine to Nay Pyi Taw
Our first full day in Burma began with a golden sunrise reflected in the River Salween as we left Mawlamyine for the long trip north to the new capital Nay Pyi Taw.
Swifts and or swallows, shrieked, wheeled and darted low over the water as the engines were fired into life. We’re getting into the endgame of this incredible Rally now and the mood of the paddock and pits is mellowing in keeping with the beautiful country we find ourselves in.
Nothing was planned today in terms of tests or regularities but there were three time and passage controls across the near 500km route to keep the Rally together and give the crews a chance for a coffee, lunch and to swap tales of what they’d seen on this incredible drive.
An early surprise came for the whole Rally though in the shape of nearly a full kilometre of monks lining the roads waiting for handouts of rice, alms and whatever else the Buddhist Faithful handed out to them. Traffic slowed respectfully as they filed past in their robes, old and young alike shaven headed and barefoot.
More busy towns followed with Rally traffic mixing with rickshaw, ox carts, touk touk and lorries plying their trade and loaded to the hilt with various cargoes of bamboo, timber, rice and anything else they could carry. We crossed wide slow rivers and many railways. Bright green flooded rice paddies were being planted, cane was being cut and watermelon was stacked by the roadside. Everyone we passed seemed busy but not too busy to wave, smile and call out as we approached.
Sometimes the sights sounds and smells were a little too overwhelming especially when anywhere near one of the many stalls selling dried fish. Desiccated eel, catfish tilapia and whitebait sat alongside more appetising baskets of oranges and grapes.
Some respite from the traffic was afforded however on the Ghost Expressway. Four lanes wide, well surfaced, level but almost totally devoid of anything but rally cars. This was an ideal way to get more than 100 easy kilometres under our wheels on the road to Nay Pyi Taw the new capital of Myanmar. Built in 2005 this is a showpiece city and is a huge and sprawling metropolis with roads as wide as Kansas with absolutely no traffic.
Hans Ullrich Wartenweiler was a late casualty; with around 50km to go he lost his steering and hit a tree damaging the front of his Volvo. With nothing hurt other than his pride and vocally encouraged by the gathered crowd he set to with the sweep crew of Andy Inskip and Tony Jones to disentangle the knot of Swedish Steel and Burmese Teak. Shaken but not stirred and with the car on a flatbed Herr Wartenweiler and Jean Christophe Gyr steeled themselves for a long night with the spanners. We wish them well.
On Friday 20th February, shortly after entering Burma, Rally Director, Philip Young fell from a motor cycle and sustained a head injury. He received immediate medical assistance from the ERA rally doctors and has now been transferred to a specialist facility in Bangkok for further treatment. Dependant on expert medical advice it is expected that Philip will be returning to the UK as soon as possible.