After bidding farewell to Robby at the airport, I jumped back onto the bike and headed for the tropical East African Ferry Terminal from where I’d sail back into the Harbour of Peace, Dar es Salaam – the biggest city in Tanzania (though not the Capital – that award goes to Dodoma).
Managing to find a bean bag on my way back, I lounged out and took it very easy as we whisked our way through the crystal clear waters.
Back in “the City” I then set about finding a cheap hotel to rest for the night. In many ways I was super keen to fire back into the cycle, but overpowering all this was a desire to go have a curry, few beers and get decent night’s sleep in a comfy bed. I’m delighted to say the latter prevailed and after realizing all the very cheap places were full, I negotiated a reasonable rate at Rainbow Hotel, in centre of town.
Air conditioning, a Ruby Murray and a few beers I was most happy. So happy I vouched to stay another night, catch up on emails/photo editing before hitting the road, which I did, on January 11th after a very nice few days’ rest.
As I set out into the heat early in the morning, I passed the hotel I had previously celebrated with The Traaats on completing our journey from Mombasa to Dar es Salaam. I pressed on and out of the clutches of the city. The skyline lowered, grey became bright green and dust was all around – as was a lot of traffic. It was humid, very humid, but I cycled on hoping to reach Bagamoyo that evening.
After stopped for Wali (Rice) and a few cokes on the outskirts of Bagamoyo, I met the lovely Salma, a teacher at a local primary school who was very fluent in English. We talked for a while; I wasn’t in any rush as I didn’t have far to go – so it was a nice moment to meet the locals and catch up on some Kiswahili (that’s Swahili in Swahili).
Back to Mkata
After resting the night in Bagamoyo, I had my work cut out to get back to Mkata via Msata – a distance of 140km, but with the first 60km down a dirt track.
I vouched to get up very early, which is pretty stupid thing to say if you’re me! I snoozed before getting on the road and pushing through the immensely hot, white sand road as I peddled to meet the main road at Msata. It was quite a hard slog, but by late lunchtime I was back in Msata where just a few weeks before I had cycled and stopped with The Traaats on Christmas Day on our way to Dar es Salaam.
I loaded up before pushing on, knowing I was up against it if I wanted to get to Mkata by sunset. 10km north of Msata the road dips pretty drastically before heading over the river and then, steadily, back up the other side.
Like a cycling, biscuit eating machine I pushed on before the red hot golden sun set over to the West. Around the Equator one thing you’ll notice is how quickly the sun sets – between the hours of 6 and 7 you go from bright sunshine to virtual darkness.
With the sun vanished I was down to my cycle lights and hoping I had eaten enough carrots over the last few days. I generally cycle faster at night, partly because of all the rustling in the bushes as you cycle past…I’m not hanging about!
It was nearing 9:30PM and I was still 10km from Mkata; but the adrenaline was pumping so I steamed through the tranquil villages guided by the African Moon before eventually arriving at 10PM. The local lodge was unfortunately full, but I managed to bargain a discount deal and sleep on the office floor. My Therm-a-Rest never ceases to ensure I get a good night’s sleep; an essential, in my opinion, for anyone undertaking a cycling tour.
Having pushed it hard that day I offered myself a “go easy in the morning” day the next day, so spent the morning eating Chipsi Mayai – a Chip Omelette quashed down with Coke.
Back on the bike I headed for Segera before turning left on the road that leads to Mt Kilimanjaro – the highest mountain in Africa. I made it as far as Korogwe before checking into Motel White Parrot where I’d rest the following day.
That night, as I was about to order a beer and tuck into some Kuku (chicken), a young chap walked up to my table and asked if I’d like to join him and his friends. I duly obliged; let me introduce you to Henry Tooley.
I thought he was with his Dad, but turns out it was local German worker whom Henry had got talking too. Henry was also cycling; he had cycled here from Cape Town so it was a great opportunity to swap stories.
We chatted for a bit before heading off to a local restaurant to grab some food. Henry was pretty tired so didn’t come – but I took his number as I hoped to catch him up along the way. So I headed off with the Germans to a local bar where we drank (at least one) Serengeti – a very nice Tanzanian beer. The Germans actually turned out to be a little random, with Thomas, the older of the two in utter excitement at the block of dried meat he had managed to “smuggle” through customs. I ate fried banana and rice, but like a school kid sucking his first lollypop, Thomas devoured a block of meat. We drank (at least one more) beer before retiring back to the Motel.
After a day’s rest to stock up on supplies and nurse a hangover, I pressed on the following day hoping to try and catch up Henry. Believe it or not I actually got up early and by 10AM I had stopped for chapatti as the heat of the day soon approached.
The air was beginning to become less humid as the ground around me rose with mountain ranges in the distance. Green valleys, ridiculously blue sky and pineapple stalls all over, it was a wonderful cycle as I headed towards Kilimanjaro National Park.
Late that afternoon I stopped in Hedaru, from where I texted Henry to find out where he was. He replied back to say he was also in Hedaru and hadn’t made much progress as he’d unfortunately been attacked by a swarm of bees. Yikes; I peddled over to see him in his lodge and sure enough, his face was badly swollen and bitten. Poor Henry; but he was in good spirits and had even cracked open a beer, so not wanting to spoil the party I joined him and we shortly agreed to cycle the next leg of the ride together – most likely until Nairobi – the busy, bustling capital of Kenya.
Early (yes, I was up early again), we set out back onto the Tanzanian tarmac where we peddled through ever greener valleys before arriving in Lembeni. We found an amazingly good value Hotel just off the main road (take the road to your right from the main T-Junction and there are a handful of very cheap good value places).
A wonder of Africa
The next day we hoped to make it to Moshi, but neither of us expected the sight that stood before us almost the minute we left our hotel.
Early in the morning and before the clouds had formed – in front of us stood the utter jaw droopingly amazing, eye wateringly beautiful snow-capped wonder of Africa that is Mount Kilimanjaro. I really cannot put in words just how amazing it was to see – I was awestruck and my misty-eyed cycle towards it that morning was, without question, a major highlight of the ride so far.
A year or so ago I had pledged to Dan that I’d join him here to climb the mountain. Yet here I was, cycling up from the South having already cycled from the North – quite amazing how your expectations or plans can change.
We edged our way forward through the generally flat terrain before arriving in Moshi – the main and best base if you want to climb the 5,895m epic of Africa.
Climbing it was way too expensive for me, with some tickets costing upwards of $600. Instead we found a good place to rest for a few nights and take it all in – with a wonderful view of the snow-capped peak from our good value hotel, Hotel Buffalo.
That said, you’ll only see the summit of Kilimanjaro in the morning as come around 10AM, it’s covered in cloud.
After a day’s rest we got underway with our eyes on Arusha, 80km away. It was a pleasant cycle – not too long, but long enough to be making progress.
Too focused on the road ahead, we actually missed the turning that would have taken us into the main part of Arusha; but we weren’t too bothered – we had already taken in the breath-taking views of Kilimanjaro so were now focused on passing Mt Meru – which at an altitude of 4,566m is impressive, but next to Kilimanjaro it’s well and truly in the shadows. We stayed the night in the new and very pleasant Arusha Giraffe Lodge, before winding through the mountain pass the next day heading towards the border with Kenya.
Cycling around Mt Meru was glorious – it actually gets pretty cold and you hit a reasonable altitude (over 2,000 m) – but once you clear the main climb it’s a lovely downhill into the drier, warmer, dusty African land that leads you towards the border at Namanga.
Maasai Cattle Herders to the left, the twin peaks of Mt Meru and Mt Kilimanjaro to my right – most definitely a good days cycle 🙂
Just before the border, we stopped at Longido after a tiring, but wonderful morning cycle of over 80km. It was here, however, that the sheer, occasionally unbelievable, laziness of Tanzania was at its most comical.
Tanzania has a great vibe; wonderful scenery, good roads (despite the manic bus drivers) – but there is, admittedly, a general undertone of laziness. And no more was this evident than in the restaurant Henry and I pulled into in the hope of refuelling. As we sat, the waitress looked at us, seemingly horrified that we might want to eat something. The all-to-often sound of flip flops being leisurely sanded in a concrete floor preceded the stereotypical look of “so, err, you want to order something?” We managed to get food, just, but stood no chance of ordering a second main. Instead we cycled down the road where we bumped into a friendly bunch who whipped us up some more Chipsi Mayai; we laughed.
Loaded with eggs and chips we joyously took to the dirt tracks (the main road is being upgraded) and wound our way towards Namanga, crossed easily and without problem into Kenya.
After a simple waft of my passport, I had a double whammy of Good Luck. My Kenyan Visa was still valid – which saved me $25. Single Entry Visas are actually still valid providing you don’t leave East Africa – so as I had only gone to Tanzania/Zanzibar it was still looking healthy; Karibu (welcome) Kenya.
Not only that, I used the KCB ATM at Namanga to find it was dual currency – so I was able to top up with both Kenyan Shillings and US Dollars. So with a gleaming smile, Henry and I headed for the local lodge where we pitched our tents and got an early night with monkeys swinging in the trees.
Back on Kenyan Tarmac we headed for Kajiado, where we found super cheap accommodation courtesy of the ACK – Anglican Church of Kenya (about $3 each).
The next morning we headed through fog and into the suburbs of Nairobi. After being hideously Mzungu’d (ripped off by people thinking we’re rich because we’re foreigners), we joined the Mombasa Road at Athi River and stormed into Nairobi at pace. I’m not sure if it was the Cadbury, Java Coffee House or Burger signs that I had focused on, but we motored until arriving at the main junction on Haile Selassie Avenue – the centre of the City.
Shortly after, we arrived at our destination – Jungle Junction, a popular over-landing stop in the middle of Nairobi. A lovely stone built house surrounded by grounds suitable for camping…perfect. Hot shows and even an honesty fridge stacked with beers; lovely jubbly.
We actually had a bit of spare time; Henry needed to sort out Visas and I had a week or so to rest before being due at an orphanage in Thika – so with our tents happily pitched at Jungle Junction, we reflected over a cup of the black stuff in the Java Coffee House at Nakumatt Junction. Double burgers, chocolate brownie sundaes oozed down with “Minty Pineade” later, we were very, very happy, stuffed campers 🙂
Jungle Junction is a great place to stay; it’s good value and there’s a multitude of over-landers – some cycling (just us), many motorcycling and many mobile families in enormous over-landing vehicles. A lovely place to talk, swap stories (and numbers) and generally take it easy for a while. There’s also an onsite mechanical workshop, useful for tweaking (or rebuilding!) the many mechanical parts that get ravaged on the punishing Moyale (Ethiopian Border) to Nairobi road that goes via Isiolo.
Some poor folks had actually been there for many months as the Ethiopian Embassy in Nairobi had temporary stopped halted issuing Visas. Thankfully, I didn’t need to let my blood boil and deal with them again, but it did mean Henry changed his plans, rather considerably.
Henry had cycled up from South Africa and was due to end in Cairo. But since things were starting to look a little hostile in Egypt and the Ethiopian Embassy in Nairobi were throwing their toys out of their pram, he made a decision to fly to Italy and skip the Northern part of Africa entirely. This was a shame as he’d miss amazing places, but it did make sense and he’d instead cycle home from Italy.
It was a joy cycling with Henry; we had a very memorable few weeks together and I look forward to catching up again when back in the UK. So after mini-on-a-major adventure, we said goodbye as Henry packed his bike into a box and I headed for Thika, where I as due to meet John & Alice at Kenya Children Centres.
Kenya Children Centres
This wonderful project helps house and care for destitute orphaned girls, most of whom have been abandoned by their desperate mothers. Based in Ngoingwa (near Thika), they provide care and support to see the girls through private education – after which, they hope the girls will build a future for themselves.
I was given a wonderful singing reception and some lovely food. John & Alice were also very hospitable on my brief, but very joyful visit.
This project in relation to other projects I’ve visited (and expect to visit), is actually, and honestly, pretty well funded with a UK Registered Charity & Kenyan NGO supporting many of the key tasks. As such, it’s not a project that Better Life Cycle can realistically financially assist (we’ll make more of a difference at other, smaller, start-up projects), but I have offered to assist with their Website in the future.
Huge thanks to John, Alice & the girls at KCC for a wonderful day to learn all about their project; I wish them all well.
The next day I left Thika and its enormous Del Monte Pineapple plantations and aimed for Kerugoya, a distance of about 90km – but a map reading error made it 120 as I cycled to Embu (15 past the turn off for Kerugoya!).
I also had my first “close shave” with the local traffic as I wound myself though the gentle, dusty red hills that lead towards Kerugoya. As I was cycling along, I listened intently to the usual hum of car horns as vehicles approached from behind.
Unfortunately, however, one car horn was soon followed by screeching, quickly followed by a thud as a car ran into the back of my bike knocking off my rear panniers. Thankfully, it didn’t knock me off and I wasn’t hurt, but it did raise the adrenaline a little before I talked with the driver, a local Catholic Priest.
I actually felt sorry for the chap; initially he tried to blame me for not cycling off the road after he peeped, but soon apologised after I refused to accept his ridiculous assertion. As I turned round after the strike, his wide face looked mortified as he stared, motionless at me through his windscreen. After some “drive safely” advice he soon took off and I put it to one side – before cycling all the way past Kerugoya to Embu…doh!
A few hours after Sunset, I eventually made it to Kerugoya where I was met by the Uncle of my very great friend from London, Jinesh Shah. Jinesh’s Uncle, Vipin, and Grandmother, Rambhaben, were very hospitable to me in Kerugoya and kindly put me up for a few nights. They also, gratefully, took great pleasure in stuffing me full of wonderful Gujarati (Western Indian) cuisine.
Kerugoya School for the deaf
In addition to showing me their local businesses and friends, I was also introduced to Grace Murimi at a wonderful project – Kerugoya School for the deaf.
This amazing place, partly supported by International Charity CBM, takes children with hearing difficulties or deafness, some of whom are orphans, and offers them a fantastic, structured education. The majority of scholars are deaf from birth, but some are deaf of as the result of terrorism & violence, most recently the 2002 Hotel Bomb attacks in Mombasa.
Kerugoya School for the deaf houses and educates over 100 children, including some who are also deaf and blind. I was shown around the site by Grace and we talked about potential projects – once of which I’d really like Better Life Cycle to help with – if not in full, at least in part.
They have a potential project to build an onsite bakery, not only to provide skills and food to the children, but also make money through selling to the local community in Kerugoya (the local bakery closed down). In addition, free bread would be manageably given away to local street children.
It’s an amazing project with so many wins. The current budget/proposal is estimated at around £8000, so I hope to work with Grace to try and assist with cost reduction, further funding, business planning and, ultimately, sponsorship for this truly inspiring, life changing venture.
Full detail of the existing proposal and background information on Kerugoya School for the Deaf can be found here.
After saying goodbye to Grace and a very thankful goodbye to Jinesh’s family in Kerugoya, I got back on the bike and headed off on a trip around Mt Kenya. The road to the East of the Mountain is very hilly, with frequent hills and bumps until you arrive in Meru – where I rested for a day. After Meru I continued the long uphill towards Nanyuki, where I turned off to take the tarmac road and ultimately dirt track that lead me through to Thompsons Falls in Nyahururu.
Operation Elephant Fence
The dirt track past Sweetwaters Game Reserve was a great, but a very tiring cycle – complete with Elephant fences which I was a little nervous about crossing! These structures are built over the road and consist of metal danglers, which hang down from the top bar like jelly fish tentacles. They sway in the wind and come complete with numerous warnings of High Voltage. So I got close to the fence, tried to forget about the reality that it was designed to jolt an Elephant, waited for the wind to die down then made a dash for it…and thankfully made it through without being sizzled in the process.
A whole multitude of wildlife roams here – from Elephants (though I didn’t see any) to Zebra, Gazelle and very vocal birdlife.
Liz Tsakiris, my contact in Naivasha, wasn’t due in Naivasha for a few days so I had a day spare to relax by the waterfalls.
Into Rough Water
Following a day spent in the highest town of Kenya, I was back on the road as I rode into Naivasha Town. Shortly after, I turned onto the South Lake Road which curves around Lake Naivasha – a freshwater lake whose name is derived from the Maasai word Nai’posha, meaning Rough Water in English. I stayed that night at Camp Carnelly’s, where I camped on the lake edge with the wild sound of Hippopotamus in the distance. I was protected by an electric fence (thankfully), but great to camp on the lake and hear such an array of African Wildlife singing their dawn chorus just outside your tent.
The next day I met Liz, who very kindly invited me to her house – just along the lake and up the hill next to Oserian Flower farm where her husband, Ruli, works as the manager.
So often on the trip I have been the recipient of astoundingly generous hospitality, but Liz took this up a whole new level. Wonderful food, hot showers, an unbelievable view over Lake Naivasha…and even free beer. My connection to Liz was very loose (a friend of a friend of Dan’s Aunt)…but it was ultimately wonderful and I am very grateful to both Liz and Ruli who were so generously hospitable to me for the days I spent with them.
I was kindly shown around Oserian Flower farm and taken onto the shores of Lake Oleidon – a smaller, saline lake next to Lake Naivasha which in February/March is home to many thousands of Pink Flamingos.
We drove and walked around the lake in absolute awe of the diversity of African wildlife in front of us – astoundingly amazing.
After the weekend, Liz introduced me to some wonderful projects in central Naivasha. When asked with how long I anticipated staying, I responded with – “a couple of weeks”.
From the next blog post, you’ll learn that wasn’t quite true…
To be continued…