Friday 21 May

We head out of Liuku and up the valley, aiming to get as far as we can, but also to see if we can get over the ridge to the Burmese border. There are various stops on the way to check out the vegetation and sights, and we finally cross the river and roll up at an Army station. We explained that we didn’t want to drive up to the ridge that afternoon as it was too late – it’s a 2hr drive over extremely rough terrain. But they wouldn’t phone through to control to see if we could go the following day – we’d have chance it next morning.

We check into a truckers hotel which is having an extension built on – in lieu of maintenance or renovation; something typically Chinese it appears. The rooms are a bit seedy, but the bedding is clean. It’s right by the river and just a short hop from our border hop.

There are a few hours of daylight left to explore the roadside flora and a small settlement of homes high up above the road – John and Hans navigate across rice paddies to the higher ground, but I’m reluctant to wade through the slippery mud as I’m sure I’d fall and get covered. I take a few photos of the villagers instead who seem remarkably nonplussed.

We skip dinner as we had a massive meal at around 4pm at one of the small villages we passed through. Great views from the restaurant, and a very professional horticultural enterprise immediately below which we check out. Unfortunately no-one tells Ardong that we have no appetite, and the manager has sped into the nearest small town to buy beer and food and is busily slaving over a hot wok. However, the drivers haven’t eaten and they devour it ravenously – I slink off to bed around 9pm exhausted.

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