Tim and Bruce are busy cycling across Africa to raise funds to build 2 classrooms for a rural school in the Eastern Cape, so far they have raised R106,000 out of their target of R180,000. You can view their website here and make a donation (they are only looking for R100 from each person)
Marsabit to Nairobi
This section has been an education in contradictions. On one extremely hot day it took us over 3 hours to do a 55km offroad section. On another day we cruised past the snow-capped Mount Kenya with a cool breeze at our backs. We’ve camped in bone-dry bush in the middle of nowhere, and we’ve camped on hotel grounds complete with flushing toilets and even a pool! Please do not underestimate the value a flushing and clean toilet can have on your overall state of mind….
28 February, Day 45
Rest day in Marsabit
Highlight: 1.5kg of braai (barbeque) meat between the two of us
Not sure how the name ‘rest day’ came about for the non riding days as there’s little that rests apart from your bums and legs. Starting with a solid weeks worth of seriously muddy and dirty laundry, thanks to the previous nights thunderstorm then shifting onto bike maintenance, tent repair, email updating and eventually locker clean up we’d passed most of the day.
In town we restaurant hopped having samoosas, andazi (kind of like a doughnut style bread without the icing or jam) and sweet smoky tea. A fascinating fact is that in Kenya, one of the worlds premier coffee bean producers, you simply get a sachet of Nescafe when you order coffee. It seems Kenyans don’t like coffee quite unlike the Ethiopians. We found a small stall called ‘The Coffee Bar’ but they had no coffee… the irony wasn’t lost on us.
What Kenyans do make very well, certainly much better than the Ethiopians, is beer. We had a few on route to the butcher where we purchased our half a cow for the evenings braai along with many more mangos than we could possibly eat. The braai was awesome, the meat great and the mangos to die for. We didn’t manage to dry any of our clothing or tents during the rest day thanks to further rain and the high humidity but we did manage to go sleep happy after all the meat!
1 March, Day 45
97km Marsabit to Bush Camp (on a school’s grounds with many, many kids and ladies selling beaded stuff)
The road from leaving camp this morning to lunch could easily have been our best days riding yet. We passed some fantastic scenery as we descended down the volcanic mountain on which Marsabit is located back into the lava rock desert. Picturesque African bush filled with wildlife, a wind which occasionally blew as a tail wind as we rode through the mountain passes and of course downhill – an awesome combination.
At lunch someone spoke of the ease of the day after last night being told it was quite challenging to which Randy, our tour director, replied ’the days not over yet’… a truer word has not been spoken. After lunch we redefined our understanding of a corrugated road. The road was corrugated from side to side for kilometers, they were un avoidable apart from a section of soft sand which was even more challenging.
In camp and en route to afore mentioned doughnuts Tim mentioned that should he one day be driving his possible future children over a corrugated road and they complained then first he’d lecture them on a time when he was 27 and cycled through Africa and how much worse the road was it was easily the most corrugated road ever! Then he’d find a bicycle and force the complaining child to cycle over the corrugations cause then they’d have something to really complain about. I laughed at this thinking it was a great plan. The weather got quite warm but at least the air was dry, literally sucking moisture out of our wet laundry and tents – happy, happy times after a fair few days of EVERYTHING being damp.
2 March, Day 46
87km Bush Camp to Bush Camp
Highlight: Getting off the bike!!!
Please note that while this diary entry was conceptualised in thought while in pain and on the bike, it was later written with a broad smile on the same tortuous day.
At precisely a quarter of noon, someone somewhere in Kenya flicks a switch. Said switch immediately changes the temperature from a slightly uncomfortable 33 degrees Celsius to a think and heavy 38 degrees Celsius. This happens every day to us without fail in Kenya and you can set your watch by it.
Now, while the temperature jump can easily be handled if you are sipping Margaritas by the pool at the Nairobi Hilton, it is another story altogether if you bouncing around on the Great Northern Kenyan Highway on a triangular-shaped torture device called a bike saddle. If there is one thing we can clear up emphatically right now, it is that there is absolutely nothing “Great” at all about Cecil John Rhodes’ Great Northern Kenyan Highway. In fact, it is actually just a piss of shitty dirt. Sandy like beach, rocky like a mountain, thorn-infested and corrugated to all hell, the today’s stretch was proper kak.
By lunch I was popping pain-killers like tic-tacs to numb the rib-pains that shot through me with each and every single corrugation. You know you’re in for a long day when the first 50km to the lunch stop takes you 3hr 20. There was simply no respite from the ‘road’ at all. It took it all out of everyone. It was so bad that it even sheared the spare tyre loose from the one support truck!
At 74km I had an official sense of humour failure and started to engage directly back with the road. It must have been a sight to behold for the locals, as this Mzungu (white person) started shouting obscene profanities at the ‘road’. I tried reasoning with the ‘road’, pleading with it to give me a rideable line, pleading with it to play fair, pleading with it to just stop the corrugations for just a little while. It ignored me, and so I swore back with all the vengeance and foul language in my vocabulary. I was so insanely hot and body-buggered on the ride today that the slight headwind was welcomed, simply because it helped cool me down. I mean when does a cyclist ever welcome a headwind??!!
At 87km I found the support truck and my sense of humour at the finish line. As we watched the other riders slowly come in over the course of the afternoon, it was clear that today was perhaps the hardest day we’ve had so far. But in camp, and in the shade of the support truck, we all swapped our humorous war stories of the day, laughing at ourselves and what we had achieved on this hot and tough day in Africa. And the funny thing is, we do it all over again tomorrow…..
Tim’s liquid intake for the day:
2 x 3 litre fillings of the Camel Bak
3 litres of Energy juice
4 litres of water back in camp
1 litre of soup to relace lost salts
1 litre of seriously sweet tea – because I can
3 March, Day 47
87km Bush Camp to Isiola
Highlight: Reaching tarred road
Today was the last of the ‘seriously tough’ Northern Kenya days. Not nearly as corrugated or sandy as the days before, apart from a few earlier sections, thanks to the road construction. The day started out picturesquely as we passed through bush and mountains to our right but then road construction started so there were many trucks, steam rollers, construction workers, etc which ruined the ambience of being in the Kenyan bush. There was a service road running parallel to the road under construction that we cycled along for many km’s until finally near the town of Isiola the service road ended and we hit the old tarred road.
It’s with great bitterness that I’m describing just how happy I was to see the beautiful flat black top as I consider myself a mountain biker not a roadie but it was truly, truly a happy sight for my tired ass and weary legs. Tim resorted to wearing two pairs of cycling short this morning due to his painful bum. After just a few more km’s we arrived in town and after numerous teas, chipatis, andazis and a plate of chips the rain started coming down and hard. We took this as an omen and ordered two beers, then two more and then one last one. Bearing in mind that it doesn’t take a lot to get us drunk these days we staggered out of the bar boozed and into the heat to continue cycling the last 7 very long km’s to camp. We can conclusively state that alcohol affects physical ability cause those 7 km’s were easily the toughest of the day despite the tarred surface.
4 March, Day 48
71km Isiola to Nanyuki
Highlight: Ice-cold beer by the POOL!
Looking back it’s not hard to see that we’ve had some great challenges since entering Ethiopia over a month ago. Crap campsites on the side of the road, monster hills, stone-throwing kids and the rigours of riding the Great ‘Shitty’ Northern Kenyan Highway. But ALL of that disappears on a day like today. A day where a tailwind blew us up a beautiful mountain climb. A day where the snow-capped peaks of Mount Kenya kept us company for the whole day. And a day where we got to swim and drink ice-cold beer by the pool.
Welcome to the awesome town of Nanyuki, 2km north of the equator! We have banks here that work. We have supermarkets that have ice-cream and we have a campsite which has a pool, sauna, bar and toilets that actually smell like lavender. The last two weeks were particularly tough and really just focused on riding and staying healthy. Today it feels like we’re back in touring mode, and it feels awesome! Perhaps there’s a mean monsoon waiting for us in Tanzania, but right now, we are living it up!
5 March, Day 48
110kmkm Nanyuki to Sagana (White Water Adventures Camp)
Highlight: The campsite – simply awesome!
I woke up cold this morning, last night was the first time in a long time that I needed not only my sleeping bag liner, but also my sleeping bag itself. For weeks now it has simply been too hot, but now that we’re at the equator it has gotten cold… crazy weather.
Today’s ride started with photos at the equator about 2km’s from camp. This was also the start of the race. We’d been told previously that there was to be no racing for yesterday and today, but last night it was announced that I was 23 mins ahead of Alan Benn in the Meltdown Madness section. Given that 23 mins is quite close, it was felt that there should be one last race stage. This morning there was a short discussion at the race start and it was decided that the Meltdown Madness section was about the tough southern Ethiopian and Northern Kenyan dirt roads and not the tarred rolling hills of today’s race.
The groups decision was that I’d be looked after during the race and would end the winner of the section. I felt uncomfortable about this decision as I believe in competition and racing not prearranged of gentleman’s agreements, but at the same time felt a little aggrieved that after such a long and arduous section it would come down to a tarred road with me on a mountain bike and nobbly tyres against a rider on a road bike and thin slick tyres. I was always going to struggle.
I went with the group’s decision and rode as hard as I could to keep up with the peleton. The pace was extremely fast, but I was looked after by the other racers, particularly the very gentlemanly Mr Benn. I was able to stick with the pace till the end, crossing the line in the second batch of racers about 200m from the winners. This means I’ve won the Meltdown Madness section, most surprising to me, but showing that consistency is the key to success. I never tore the road apart, instead I just road well within myself ensuring that I’d wake up feeling okay for the next day’s ride.
Camp today is unreal. It’s located on the banks of the Tana River and it’s the home base of the local white water rafting crew. There is a pool, beer, lawn and even a few family pooches running around. Dinner was a braai and I got stuck into 2 T-bone steaks before a group of us hit the water for some moonlight white water rafting. Although the guides say the river is at it’s lowest level in a decade, and the rafting is a little tame, we decided a moonlit raft wasn’t to be missed. It was great fun, it was a half moon and a clear, cloudless night. We had a few good rapids, big enough to tip one of the boats, and were able to go behind a smallish waterfall. It was great fun and well worth the effort. Tomorrow we’re going to Nairobi where we’re going to meet up with friends and hopefully paint the town red… looking forward to the rest day!
6 March, Day 49
105km to Nairobi
Highlight: Family Surprise
Fifty kilometres outside of Nairobi stood these two South African flag-waving Mzungus (white people). As I flew past them only then did I realise it was my parents – big smiles stretched across their face. I hit anchors, coming to a screeching halt, bewilderment stretched across MY face as the surprise sunk in. The Gane parental unit was only meant to be meeting us in Tanzania in a few day’s time, so it was one helluva a surprise to see them today!
Entering big cities means the dreaded convoy ride. Dreaded because they are generally very slow affairs as the police escort us in through crazy traffic. It’s quite something to watch 50-odd cyclists and the big two support trucks weave their way through the busy and jam-packed streets of Nairobi. And while the 30km convoy ride today was made extra slow by the rolling hills in and around Nairobi, the sense of achievement when entering these big cities always outweighs the drawn out time in the saddle. I mean, we’ve come all the way from Cairo to Nairobi under the power of just our own two legs!
We’re staying at the Ndaba Campsite in the suburb of Karen, about 10km from the modern city centre of Nairobi. Quick showers were had, and then we headed to a nearby restaurant where we were treated to a fantastic meal by my parents. Good times indeed!
- Cycling from Cairo to Cape Town, why?
- Cycling from Cairo to Cape Town for charity – Days 33 to 36
- Cycling from Cairo to Cape Town for charity – Days 38 – 44 (cracked ribs and all!)
- Cycling from Cairo to Cape Town for charity – Days 29 – 32
- Cycle2Learn – Cairo to Cape Town (Botswana leg)
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