No peace at Cox’s Bazar, no matter that it’s Bangladesh’s pride and the longest beach in the world. Whether it’s the touts or, more likely, invasively staring crowds, I just can’t get a second alone. I give up. Let’s try the nearby St. Martin’s Island instead.
It’s early monsoon season and ferries aren’t running. But who needs ferries anyways! With two friendly guys from Dhaka, we hitched a ride — on a local wedding boat, nonetheless. A devastated young girl is being taken away from her family to meet her husband on the island.
Rough seas. The whole wedding party is puking. And all the women struggle, even in such circumstances, unwilling to remove their face veils…
Tried to rebalance the load on my bike. Didn’t attach one bag carefully enough. Lost all my tools and spare parts. Sure enough — half hour later, suspension snaps. And I don’t even have as much as a wrench. Dammit.
DAYS 131, 132, 133…
I surely must be far from Vietnam when somehow I manage to blend in. With no permits but my determination, with my khau trang on and my helmet visor down, it took little else than a friendly hand wave to drive into Chittagong’s Hill Tracts Region.
Bandarban — Stunning views. Unobtrusive people. Culture much closer to Myanmar than Bangladesh. Better food. Cleaner streets. Why can’t the rest of this country be more like that?
Koptai Lake — It’s not without controversy that this man-made lake was formed (whole villages displaced). Still, my eyes tear up. It’s so stunning. It’s just too much to take in.
Rangamati — Stopped in town to fix my bike chain. Friendly guy invited me for lunch, then begged me to offer him work in my country, assuring me he even has a passport. I couldn’t help. He went off to smoke yaba (meth) with his friends, an invitation I had to refuse…
More people than I’ve ever seen in any one place. Cars with metal side-bumpers, drivers carrying sticks to whack the cyclos out of their way, double decker buses looking like crumpled, 10-year-old soda cans, bullet holes in their windshields. And the early monsoon downpour turns roads into rivers. I manage to safely park my Nemo — don’t plan on moving him again until we’re ready to leave here.
I’ve been disappointed with Bengali food. Grease, chilli, zero hygiene and no choices. Enough for sustenance but no joy to my meals lately. That all changed at Ramadan — surprise! — a grand, colourful feast of endless options. I wait impatiently for each sunset!
Sreemangal. An inviting little town surrounded by tea estates. I’m sipping my colourful, seven-layered tea. Last day of my visa and if not for man’s imaginary boundary, I’m looking on at India just a few hills away.
No Man’s Land
The border crossing I’ve been dreading. India’s known for bureaucratic difficulties and after Bangladesh, I’m preparing for the worst.
Three hours to check out on the Bengali side. I approach India. And… they won’t let me in. Hello ‘No Man’s Land’. Hours pass… Will I need to pitch my tent here tonight?
An official delegation eventually shows up — very official — considering the surroundings: rusty barbed wire, one cow mounting another and a fat, old soldier picking out dirt from his oversized moustache. They don’t have a computer here to process my bike and I actually feel some comedic pity for them.
A few more hours of pleading with Bangladesh to let me back in, another night in town, a 100km ride to another border town and a surprisingly smooth crossing. And… we’re in India. Feeling good.
For more on Matt’s films and travels, check out the Etherium Sky Production Blog at EtheriumSky.com/ProdBlog