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Day 4 – (February 17) Inle Lake 25 km/12 mile bike ride Plan for the day - We’ll spend the day exploring Inle Lake, from the shore and on the lake. In the morning we will start with a 20 km/12 mile ride on the shores of the lake, riding through villages and past temples. After a lakeside lunch we’ll board a boat and cruse to temples, floating gardens, monasteries and the In tha fishermen, who famously manage to row their boats with one leg. In the evening we’ll have a treat and visit a vineyard for sunset and dinner. The plan for the day is to bicycle for 12 miles along Lake Inle. Then we will board boats which will take us on a site seeing tour of Inle Lake. The boats will take us through the “lake agriculture” which is made up of “floating fields or crops” of various types. We will be exposed to the unique community of houses built on stilts in the lake which house the people who maintain the crops. Start to the day - We stay in Inle Lake for one more night! Since we did not have to be packed and have our luggage outside the door by 6:30 I slept in to 6:05? We got up and dressed in our bike clothes and went down to breakfast. Our bike ride would begin at 7 am. After breakfast we located the bikes we had been assigned and waited for our guide to tell us about today’s adventure. Today’s goal will be to visit Inle Lake. We would ride 12 miles along the lake shore and then board boats which we would use to explore the lake. Today’s ride - Even after hearing our itinerary from our guide I was not sure what to expect. I continued being” lost in Myanmar.” We got on our bikes and started our 12 mile adventure. The “dry” landscape we had experienced the last couple of couple of days disappeared. We rode by farms whose fields filled with water. In one field several women were stepping through the water pushing plants into the soil beneath the water. The plants were being placed into rows about 2 feet apart and the water looked about six inches deep. It did not look like rice to me but I do not have the skill to make that judgment. The meals we ate in Myanmar offered rice and this is the first abundant “water” supply I had seen. We continued along the lake, entered a village and turned onto a dirt road. After a short ride we stopped. We were above the dock where boats were waiting. They looked like long “canoes.” Each boat had five “chairs” setting in a row. Each “chair” was wide enough for one person. We left our bikes with the guides, walked down to the dock and got onboard one of the boats. I climbed into the second seat. I don’t believe any of our guides went with us in the boats. As soon as the boat had 5 people onboard the motor in the rear of the boat was accelerated by the boat’s “Caption” and we pulled away from the dock. We were soon in the open water of the lake. After a quick ride through the open water we approached a large area of plants floating “on” the water. We turned into a channel which took us between ”areas” or fields of floating plants. We then made a 90 degree turn into another channel and continued to travel between the areas of floating plants. I am guessing but I would estimate that there were “miles” of floating plants around us. They were stretched out as far as the eye could see. The floating fields were “held in place” by long poles which were “pushed” through the plants floating on the surface and then pushed into the bottom of the lake to keep the fields in place. This made me think that the “earth” surface of the field must have been no more than 2 feet below the surface. “Numerous” poles held the floating Plants in place. The poles were numerous and had been pushed through the plants floating on the water into the soil below. All manner of things from vegetables (tomatoes, watercress, peppers, etc), flowers, and other crops that I could not discern were being grown. There were “single story “roofed” structures” on stilts scattered throughout the fields. Some were filled with “spare” poles. Some were open. Some structures appeared more sophisticated. I assumed that these were buildings used by the workers during the growing season or for storage of fertilizer or equipment needed to support the crops. We passed houses on stilts near the “floating fields” where people were living. It could be assumed that the occupant of the these houses had leased the growing area near the house or worked for someone who had the rights to the floating plot of "land." It appeared that At the end of the fields was a “town” built in the water on stilts. As with any “town” some houses were fancier than others. This I assume is where the “owners of means” lived. The distribution of “floating crops” was not clear to me but I am sure the locals knew which “crop areas” belonged to whom. Adjacent to the “village” were the businesses which provided the services necessary to support the “floating farm community.” As we made our way into the “village” we docked at what was called “a weaving collective.” It housed a shop were clothes were being created from materials being manufactured in the shop. The group exited the boats and shopped. I am not a “qualified” shopper but several items were purchased by others while I wandered about the shop, and I heard several people comment on the quality of the items they had purchased. After the shoppers were satisfied with their take we returned to the boats and returned to a location near our hotel. Our crew was waiting for us at the dock with our bikes. We exited the boats and climbed up to where our bikes were waiting. Once the group was assembled we climbed on our bikes and headed for the hotel. Today’s scenery – The scenery today was the “floating agriculture” in the lake and the housing that was located there to support it. The whole idea of floating crops in a lake intrigued me. The thought crossed my mind; “could this be done in the US.” The answer is no! First is there a need for this type of agriculture in the States and the answer is no. The second is the cost. It would be very expensive to initiate agriculture similar to what we saw in Myanmar and it could never compete with the existing agriculture. But, it was fascinating to see. Bicycling notes - Each boat used to transport us today in the lake had an “outboard” motor in the back with an operator. The direction of the boat was controlled by a large handle held by the fellow (caption) in the rear. He controlled the speed of the motor and the direction of the boat via the handle. The propeller of the motor was held very shallow so not to become snarled in the growth in the water. As my wife described yesterday’s “peddle clip” adventure, “I pulled an Andy Schleck and, once again, stayed stuck in my clips! I banged the same knee in the same spot plus I sprained my wrist. But it felt pretty good today, so none the worse for the wear.” She continues: The two of us are quite compatible. If we were on this tour, last year, I would not have any doubt that I could hang. But, at my current level of fitness, I can hang for a while, but our fellow cyclists set a mean pace. So, if it were not for a few fellow souls I would be the lantern rouge. As it is, I am not fast, I am not fit, but I am a good climber, which is serving me well, since we seem to be stuck in an Escher-print country. You know, the Escher print with the continuously ascending steps? The people of Myanmar do not understand what you are saying! They are trying hard to learn English both in the hotels and in the streets but it is not there yet. We spent hours trying to find a restaurant in Yangon asking street people for directions. They tried but we never found the restaurant. The riders we joined in Myanmar are very strong and get high marks for “road protocol.” I have been on your toes when I am riding with the group. Having said that I have been surprised to look behind me and find someone following on their bike. I think I have been on my own and never bothered to check. Maybe someone else needs a lesson in protocol! Also I rode onto some soft sand on the side of the road, stupidly, and almost went down bringing a guy behind me with me. Yikes! “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” I think Obama said that. The Myanmar traffic continued to watch out for us again today. I am still nervous about riding so close to the cars, buses and trucks. The road continued to be very rocky and rough in places. We had to make several ugly turns with traffic. But, even with all of that it was an enjoyable ride along the lake or river. On today’s ride I was following my fellow cyclist “in a line” as we rode down the edge of a street in a village. A motor cycle come along the road and cut through the line of cyclists about 6 feet in front of me. I hit my breaks, clicked out of my (clips) pedals and put my foot down. He stopped about 3 feet ahead of me and sat on his motor cycle which was parallel to me. We sat there looking at each other for a minute or so and he finally cranked up his motor and continued. I think he stopped to allow me to go around but I was already stopped and it made more sense to me to wait. Plus my understanding of the native language is poor! We rode in heavy traffic at times but the drivers were very courteous. In some places the paved roads would become rough with “pot holes.” The cyclist would dodge around the hazards and the motorist would notice and not push through. At times people would be walking two abreast along the edge of the road and we were forced to pull out to go around and again we were never challenged by the traffic. Not sure I would get the same treatment in the States. I had not packed well at home and had to pull everything out of my luggage before I could find what I was looking for. I have had piles of “stuff” all over the room every night as I search for what I need. I am going to repack my “suitcase” and order things better. What the hell. We are a quarter of the way through the trip and I am just now catching on! Wow! Post ride activity – At the hotel we left our bikes with the crew and went to our room to get ready for our “dinner adventure.” We cleaned up and changed into our “street clothes” and at the prescribed time returned to the lobby of the hotel to wait for our fellow travelers. Once all were assembled we got into the vans and headed to the “vineyard.” The process described to us at the vineyard was quite impressive, though I think the wines of “Myanmar” are still under development. They have imported grape vines from France, Spain and Germany and are trying to determine which will best adapt to the Myanmar environment. So far, and I'm no connoisseur, based on my expert taste, they have a way to go. The winery's guide was as charming as could be. He has been learning English for only four months and was quite fluent. He had taught himself from books and watching television. Very impressive. Our guide, Joe, has done the same. I cannot imagine trying to teach myself Burmese from a book! After our tour we returned to the entrance of the winery. Of course there were tables and a bar serving the different wines produced there. The group sat at a long table and sipped their wine while discussing the bike ride in Myanmar, the country itself and telling stories of other adventures they had participated in. Our guide appeared and asked if we were ready to depart and we got into the vans and went to the hotel. Again I do not know where we went or what we ae for dinner! It must have been great!

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