October 5, 2015: Bagan, Myanmar — A series of thunderstorms ripped through western Myanmar this morning and, a couple of hours into today's drive from Mount Victoria back to Bagan, Gideon, our driver Aung and I passed through an intense deluge. No big deal (good thing our Jeep has a roof, even if it has no back doors!)—I was just glad the weather held off until we'd finished birding for the day. I marveled at how quickly the landscape turned to brown, sucking mud; at one point, we maneuvered around a minivan which had become stuck and very nearly became mired ourselves. No wonder many of the local thatched houses are built on stilts.
After the rain had cleared, the sun returned with a vengeance. Halfway to Bagan, on a one-lane road under blue skies, we rounded a corner to find an unexpected sight: A wash which was bone dry when we passed this way two days ago had transformed into a turbulent, uncrossable river! Trucks and motorcycles lined up on both sides and, with nothing to do, waited for the water to recede. Gideon and I took the opportunity to do some roadside birding and scraped up an Oriental Cuckoo before, an hour and a half later, the river level dropped enough to make the ford.
In the next few miles, we crossed three more rivers with the water level nearly at the top of the tires. At the final crossing, the flow was strong enough to push our Jeep sideways—it fishtailed left, with the hood pointing upstream, and things were looking sketchy until Aung gunned it and churned to the opposite bank as if driving on ice.
By then we were running late enough to have decided to skip lunch. We might still have made it to Bagan by dusk if there hadn't been one more river in the way, this one with a flood-stage, four-foot deep current. We hit that one just before four p.m. and waited, with a gridlock of others, more than three hours for the water level to go down enough to ford. I've never just sat and waited for a river to subside before, and it's kind of like watching a pot boil except it takes a lot longer.
New birds today: 11
Year list: 4656