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Everything but the kitchen sink

July 28th

Im stuck in a village at the moment for reasons I will explain in a min. We left Monywa yesterday early because we had about a 8-9hr drive ahead of us to a town called Kale. There are a few mountain ranges we had to pass and because there has been constant rain for the last few days things got exciting. Most of the monsoon rains have been spotty throughout SEA (South East Asia). Most of the locals have been talking about El Nino conditions in effect but not in Myanmar. Its been raining every day. Once we started up the mountain I actually got the feeling that this is the most remote place I’ve been so far. Not sure why that was because in northern Vietnam and Laos we were staying in jungle huts and small guesthouses that were so far off the beaten path and wouldn’t see people for quite some time. Nevertheless that’s what these mountain roads felt like. About an hour into the mountains we come across a SUV that had lost control and was slammed into the jungle. Luckily this guy hit a few trees and vines before the car headed down a pretty steep cliff. I stopped and hooked up a tow strap and pulled him and his buddies out. This would be the first of many stops on the road. After that a small creek turned into a rather large creek and was running across the road. You could tell this would eventually erode the pavement and they are going to lose that bit of road. We talked across first to see how deep it was and it had some good force behind it. If you slipped you were headed into the jungle real quick. Water was about knee height and there was no point waiting around for it to get worse so we pushed across. The small van the guides are using went first and was pushed sideways a bit but the driver punched it and made it across. The Chariot had no issues since it weights over 5000lbs.

Our next hurdles came in the form of mudslides (not the cocktail although when is the last time you had a mudslide…sounds kinda nice…anyway), more flooded roads and fallen trees. We were constantly helping the locals chop up fallen trees and push them aside to clear a path. Other cars tried to go around but then they would get stuck and risk falling off the cliff. These drivers are nuts. In some places when we were clearing trees one local would keep an eye out on the hill due to more mudslides, boulders, and trees sliding down the hill. I think due to all this extracurricular activity is why I felt it was more remote than Vietnam and Laos. This literally goes on for hours. Whole communities would come out to help clear the road in the pissing rain and even guys with sledgehammers were out breaking up bigger rocks to help clear them. One stretch had big trucks sliding around in the mud and backed up 20-30 deep. Same place had a bridge busted so only cars and scooters could cross. So they brought out an excavator to help hook up to trucks and buses and pull through the deep mud and water. Guess this is why I constantly see trucks with no front bumpers… They were using a wire attached to the bucket of the excavator that look way to thin to be pulling laden trucks, not safe, especially when you got 50 locals standing in striking distance of this thing if it breaks…

At some point we passed a decent sized school in a village and decided to take a break from clearing debris and pass out some toothbrushes. I’m not sure who was happier the kids or the guides when everything had been passed out haha. The kids had confused looks on their faces when we started passing out the bushes but then big smiles broke out and not cheers but something similar. The school had 2 buildings, one long concrete building, and one 2 story wooden building that…well lets say it needed a facelift. They had grades 1-5 in the wooden building and 6-9 in the concrete one. In all we passed out 160 brushes for the kids and about 15 for the teachers and staff. Everyone seemed extremely grateful and we even got quite a few village people to come over and say hello. Quite fun.

After doing our good deed for the day we eventually ran into a hurdle we couldn’t get around. The river had come up so high that the road had washed out and the whole area flooded. There was a bridge but an overweight truck had tried to cross it last week and crunched it… There were 50 cars and trucks on either side of this massive road that were trying to get across. It wasn’t until today I really got a feel for how big the issue was. The river looked to be about a half a kilometer wide where we were standing. When we returned today we realized the river was only about 50-100m wide and all that land was flooded. It was so bad that government officials had been called in to deliver food and water to those waiting because the small village didn’t have enough food to feed everyone. The locals had never seen the river this high so it was definitely a big issue. Some locals took the opportunity to make some money and had built a bamboo raft so they could move people and scooters across at a modest price of a few dollars. There is always money to be made in a crisis right. We of course were forced to stay in the village for the night and there is only one “hotel” in town and it was full when we arrived. I started preparing the tent on the defender so I could sleep in the driveway but they gave us the option to sleep in the basement. The storage room I accepted was flooded with about 2 inches of water that they were trying to drain and had a strong smell of what I guess was mold or something else but was damn strong. It did have a toilet and a bum gun I could use for a shower so I guess not all that bad… We managed to find a place that could bbq up some okra, potatos and garlic and we called that dinner. I had bought some palm whiskey the other day and I convinced them it was going to go bad soon so we had to drink the whole bottle haha. They didn’t resist too much. After dinner we played cards and they do some funny stuff when they play, sniffing the cards for good luck, or tapping them on money for the same reason. Guess it worked cause they drained me pretty quick.

Woke up this morning and it was so humid in my room it felt like a mister had been running all night. Checked the river conditions and its better but not yet passable. Will try again tonight but looks like we might be here another night. Going to go try to find a school to pass out some toothbrushes again. Might as well do some good while we wait right.

Writing this at 1am on the 29th now.

Around 5pm the road opened and we could attempt to cross the piece of road that was damaged. 100m from the hotel on our way to the river we watched a man come off his scooter and lay in the street motionless bleeding from the mouth. Pretty sure he was drunk and no one would let us touch him. After what felt like minuets he started to move around like a half squashed bug. Some locals came around and we were told to leave and we did.

Passed the previous road closure around 6:30pm and didn’t make it 20k before another bridge was out and people were trying to go across. All the traffic that was backed up from the day before was now stacked up there. The crossing was something you would see at one of those monster truck ralleys when they make a huge mud pit for trucks to drive through. I pushed my way to the front and made it no problem but the guides car, and the next 3 behind him couldn’t make it out. I ended up towing all of them out one by one. Actually got some cheers at the end which was pretty cool.

The rain was steady the rest of the way to Kale and this was definitely the worst road ive been on so far. I don’t know if the flooding is regular for this time of year but we drove over long stretches with the tires under water, felt as though we were driving through a lake. We followed a long line of trucks that helped us stay on the pavement under the water. Crossed two towns that had rivers rushing through them, houses/huts were completely flooded and likely going to wash away sooner rather than later. Because of all the water cows were all over the roads. Must have passed over 500 cows that didn’t feel like standing in water so took to the road. Our 3hr drive to Kale was suddenly nearly 7hrs. The rough roads are taking a toll on the chariot as well, the other side of the tie rod is going out so we got the shakes again and might have a shock out as well cause there is a massive knock I cant put my finger on. Its pushing 2am and Im headed to the India border at 6am so done for the day. side note mt bed feels like plywood with a sheet over it.... Well lets see what Myanmar has planned for us tomorrow.

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