The Road to Mandalay

February 1 to February 24, 2015

Day 23 - Inle Lake to Mandalay

Ming-guh-la-ba as they say in these parts.

Well, we’re here, in Mandalay. The town made so famous by Kipling and, according the rally plate our destination. In fact we’ve got one more day to go, to Bagan but let’s gloss over that for the moment. Mandalay claims to be the cultural capital of Myanmar and it is said that the Buddha himself visited Mandalay not once but twice, the second time being disguised as a chicken.

Today though our very own Road to Mandalay has been thrilling and beautiful but it hasn’t been an easy one. We’ve been up and down, around and around corkscrewing through villages and towns, up hill and down dale. This has been a real driving adventure. There’s been some double width carriage way and a bit of dual carriageway here and there but mostly all we’ve been on is single lane tarmac and dirt. There are better roads we could have taken but where’s the fun in that?

We woke up to a cooler morning than usual on the shore of Inle Lake but after a good breakfast and with the sun making its presence felt we picked up a packed lunch provided by the Organisers before the day’s drive. It was market day along the shore so we were also able to collect delicious fresh fruit and the odd garland of flowers. No one bought a laurel wreath though - that would be tempting fate.

There was a Regularity on a smooth gravel road in the morning to keep the suspense going and to keep those very contenders for the wreath on their toes. As we explained yesterday it’s about control rather than speed but with loose corners and steep changes in pitch it still looks impressive. Small crowds of locals gathered with their step through scooters bemused maybe, interested definitely. With cars from a turn of the century Itala to a mid 1960’s Mercedes we certainly put on a show for them. John Rich gave them a bit more to look at when he parked up by the side of the road mid-way through the regularity thinking he was ‘out of gas’. He wasn’t - a faulty fuel pump was to blame and once sorted he quickly got back to the group.

From the end of this section we climbed, slowly but surely over farmland, past temples and through dense woodland before the packed lunches were unwrapped and eaten at the midday time control. 

From here on in to Mandalay it was downhill almost all of the way. Hairpin followed hairpin, as we plunged to the hot dry plains below us on an almost deserted road.

A quick check of the leader board tonight shows that Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown closed the gap a little on Bill Shields and Scott Herbstman but Bill still holds a 49 second lead in the Vintageant Category. In the Classics we now have the remarkable situation that Gerry Crown and Matt Bryson have snatched back the lead holding a miniscule one second lead over Peter and Zoe Lovett ‘s Porsche 911. Time to get an order in for the laurel wreaths I think, we’ll need them tomorrow night.

As is usual with a long distance Rally spirits are high on this the penultimate evening. There’s a candlelit dinner by the pool with a traditional puppet show accompanied by a six piece band playing the haunting hneh.

Syd Stelvio



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