Saturday, 26 February 2011

Life fits into place
Surprises me at best of times
Such drama adventure suddenly becomes routine
Nothing to be phased by
Differences to be done by
The shocks don’t rock the boat
Just usual come and go
Or stay on the road
Few loops generally south
Few months still to pass
Then suddenly back at home at last
Will take our time
Lengthen the loops enough fruit
To go round, enough lime
To stand out
Sour taste in the mouth
All to give you strength change small ways
Stay independent never stop questioning every day
Ideas swing back at you as your thoughts step around
Through your travels experiences out and about
What a life

Monday, 21 February 2011

Around Kenya in 26 Days!!!

Some may know him as James Coneran; others as Jimmy; I know him as the boyfriend. The most understanding amazing boyfriend; Jimmy wanted to come out and experience my adventures. Nairobi was a perfect time to meet as Steve had taken the Lake Turkana route adamant to stay on his bicycle and I hurried through the bumpy unpaved bandit area by bus. Jimmy had his hard tail bike fitted with panniers specifically for the trip. We were also very lucky to find our mates, Glen and Jen from Ascot in Nairobi we knew they moved to Africa but it was a sheer coincidence they were based in the centre of the circle we were just about to explore. They lived in Karen, Nairobi; a stunning area full of flowers and colourful hedges pruned daily. I saw rounded horses with glossy coats being walked along the streets; this was a wealthy beautiful area. Our friends’ house had a long paved driveway and a washing machine and even a swimming pool! I couldn’t contain my excitement; I felt overwhelmed and very lucky my bicycle tan lines were ghastly. I now had a chance for my upper legs to finally reach out for the sun in a private place with a bikini on and not feel embarrassed. I had often tried and failed to eradicate my tan lines many times sitting in an open courtyard. The native people say hello and ask “Why are you sunbathing? It is too hot to sunbathe” in their amazing Kenyan English accent as they glide past in the appropriate dress wear covered up in colourful long robes. The local people do not sunbathe and would therefore never understand my need to bronze myself with the aim of having one colour skin allover.

So we caught up with Glen and Jen over the weekend as they both attend full working lives during the week. We hopped in their car and visited Mogady National Park, South of Nairobi on the way to Tanzania. We had a barbeque and camped enjoying the desolate scenic salt lakes and the extremely hot hot spring. As the maasai tribal guy directed us to the salt lakes I looked down at these dribbles of water. I was in two minds as to whether this was a big tourist con. I had moved miles from Ethiopia it was time to learn and not instantly judge at the first hurdle. Kenya for me has definately revived the power and faith of the tourist industry. It has so many natural wonders; crater lakes, geothermal activity on the earths plates, wildlife, national parks. Every area has been conserved and managed with an extortionate tourist entrance price. No tourists are ripped off; you pay for what you get.

As we drove through I saw giraffes trotting in slow motion and wildebeest. This was my first encounter of huge mammal wildlife just roaming around the flat plains and I soon realised this was going to be a regular event. Keep your eyes peeled at all times I was now on one big wildlife tour through the country of Kenya.
After the weekend we hit the road from Nairobi to Mombasa; Jimmie, I and our bikes. Jimmy who loves the speedy downhill cycling compared to the heavy strapped long distance luggage cycling stated it was like taking away his wings!!! This road was renowned for being the most dangerous road for speedy traffic in Kenya. I soon realised people don’t drive with their head screwed on. There was no common sense being used – if there is a car coming towards you, you should not speed up and overtake quickly! People often did and instead there were car stickers loving and thanking the Lord. It was their only hope of survival!! In Sudan people toot their horns to wave and say hello, in Kenya it is to get out of the road NOW.
It was a beautiful trip; I left industrial Nairobi and headed into the wilderness. This is how I imagined Kenya. A land of rolling golden plains dotted with acacia trees backed by dramatic hills and magnificent escarpment.

Every night was different giving Jimmy a good intake into my world!
On our first night we planned to wild camp and sat admiring some good spots as a local lady stopped and asked if we were ok. She directed us to an orphanage down the road which was perfect to ensure ourselves and all of our items were safe. We climbed a massive rock escarpment to get the full view and shadows of the savannah as the orange melted into dusk; a stunning sundown.

Second night we camped in Hunters Lodge by a lake full of exotic birds and cheeky monkeys that stole our breakfast mango. You can pretend you have a catapult in your hand and monkeys know the actions and run. Jimmy thought it was best to buy a really well made hand crafted catapult from a guy flogging them on the street.

This will no doubt be very handy for the rest of my trip if I come across some sticky wildlife situations.

Third night we stayed in self accommodation guest house and used our stove to cook dinner in the concrete courtyard rather than a fire. The rooms were filled with locals, lorry / bus drivers traveling to Mombasa.

The next day we had to cycle through a National Park and saw more wildlife. We cooked noodles to attract some of the more ferocious wildlife from the bush but there were none to be seen! As Jimmy was on his holiday we had an early start and had cycled 100km by 2 pm so had a half day and splashed out spending our fourth night at Leopard Lodge; a stunning area full of trees for shade to camp and a swimming pool. The heat was noticeably increasing going down to the coast so we thought it was quite appropriate!

Jimmy noticed the amount of attention you get on the roads; the friendly people, how everyone approached us. We often see locals cycling past and have conversations with them intrigued about their life and destination.
As I have often wild camped which is a completely different experience altogether I urged Jimmy to stop at a local village for our fifth, last night before Mombasa. The people of the village were waving frantically from the main road so Jimmy decided to investigate. The villagers were so interested in our lives and vice versa. As the second language in Kenya is English it was really great to be able to communicate sufficiently. This was quite hard in the last 3 countries I came from. We locked our bikes and joined the people on a mass firewood collection activity. We tasted and compared each others food and told stories and made comparisons by the fire until my eyelids could no longer open.

Arriving in Mombasa was fantastic; it always is when you spend that many hours cycling a day to reach your destination. We stayed there for 3 days relaxing on white sandy beaches and swimming in the warm Indian Ocean. I was used to the heat and thought temperatures were perfect.

Jimmy had come from one of the coldest English winters so he had another opinion! Maybe it was the heat slowing down our thoughts and making us lazy as we booked 2 tickets for the coach back to Nairobi to the cooler climate Jimmy dreamt of the mountains. We had 2 weeks left in total together in Kenya so every action from now on was decided knowing there was a strict time schedule. We agreed that it was impossible to complete all of our requirements including a downhill cross country race in North Mount Kenya on the 13th Feb to be back at Nairobi airport on the 14th Feb so we hired a car!!! For all the people who joked about me going on a massive holiday I admit I fully accomplished this in the last 2 weeks and have loved and appreciated every minute of it.

At least it was a circle of Kenya so I have not taken out any distance in kilometres between Cairo to Cape Town and this is the country Steve and I have decided to start doing some loops so if anything I will be adding on kilometres.

We drove through the Rift Valley ...

Up to Naivasha Lake where we left all items in the car and took off on our empty skeleton frame bikes and made our own cycle safari around the Lakes. We accidently cycled into private property which was stunning, peaceful and full of wildlife. We saw flamingos, warthogs, zebras, giraffes, hippos and gazelle and cycled straight past the guards at the entrance without any charge.

When I thought the day couldn’t get any better; we decided to follow the gospel church music and sat with locals playing drafts on a painted board with bottle caps, all kids flocked in to watch.

We kept cycling through ragged plains and finally visited Elsamere Foundation. If it was not for the buffet lunch sign we would never have entered and learnt about the interesting lives of George and Joy Adamson two British wildlife conservationists and authors – what an inspiration. Just another 3 books to add to my reading list; Born Free, Living Free and Forever Free.

That night not knowing it was unsafe to drive in the dark we headed to Mount Kenya. There was only one guy lying flat face down in the middle of the road at 12 at night. This was so you would stop while his team of friends jumped out of the bushes and high jacked your car. To put our mind at rest the rental company said the car was insured and if you were high jacked to just give them the car; no problem!!! We didn’t stop.

It was a long drive as there is a lack of road signs and that night we slept in the car. This was the start of the cold. I was not used to these temperatures my body had adapted to the warmth. We paid the extortionate price to enter Mount Kenya National Park for 3 days (this was the cheapest option - 150 dollars / 100 english pounds) and headed up the mountain.

For me this was a break from my bike, a walk in the park. I soon realised we were ill equipped and I thought it would be much easier than it was. Nevertheless it was the most beautiful trek from forests to moorland, to stone paths and scree. You are supposed to climb 500m a day to let your body adjust to the altitude but we didn’t know this and being eager beavers climbed from 2500m to 4985m in 2 days including a night climb to the top of the peak for sunrise!
We both went through ups and downs and took in turns helping eachother and feeling ill. There are no words to describe the sun; the rays of heat, the warmth and retainment of your hands after trekking in the cold dark for so many hours… and then the spectacular view.

The most horrific best challenge - Mount Kenya

Taken so quickly
Your mind can’t help but think negatively
Why so unfit when I have cycled so far
Not realising the altitude the effects so hard
Struggling to the peak
Behind an o.a.p.
Whats going on, why did I agree
Didn’t even think; a walk in the park
Stunning views; not cold and dark
2am have I gone mad
Then reaching the top, the sky so glad
Stunning levels of frost,
Layers thickening, dawn
Out of the warm
On top of the world
A walk
A fright
A memory held tight

Our last few days together were spent camping in Borana National Park. Jimmy loves his downhill bike riding and managed to find an International Downhill bike competition in Kenya!! The atmosphere was outstanding, hundreds of people took part raising money for the conservation of Mount Kenya. There were professional cyclists from that region who trained and often cycled 170km a day around the Mountain!!!
We took this opportunity to test out the rented Rav 4, 4X4 and went out on day and night safaris between the scenic vegetation and never-ending hills.
The land was very rich full of farmland, I saw another side of wealth to Kenya.

My circle of Kenya has been filled with more natural wonders and unforgettable experiences (pressing my foot on the pedal of a car and the power of forward movement will be unforgettable).
...Filled with momentus occassions; I cycled past the equator. The heat does effect the skin. I smother myself in Vaseline all the time and still my skin is dry.
O yes and I shaved my head for easy maintanence. Ladies all have shaved heads in Africa!

...Filled with people; The constant interaction with people is definately my favourite part. Some crazy drunk man will run alongside your bike ranting about Kenyan politics and corruption. The cute kids (hardly ever ask for money) run frantically up to the road to make a line waving and repeatedly shouting "How are you, How are you, How are you?" The teenage boys behave like opportunists, they like to call themselves hustlers as they try their luck asking for a soda or some money. The guys hang out on the main road in town, seems they have nothing else to do. The women on the other hand will be making items, carrying them on their heads or selling them at the local market. Some even work in the fields.

The country has been such a pleasure to travel through. There are many signs of comfort. English words are used in bright bold advertisement on shops, I could buy sliced bread in any shop and the local tea was served with milk!!!! All relics of Kenya’s colonial past.

All of the mountains, planes and wildlife have been protected and conserved into stunning National Parks. I do hope the money is spread around the people and not all kept within the officials. I have heard many stories of corruption. The remote villages are very sociable. There are fields of crops that work with dry huge barrels of stone rivers to prepare for the rain. This is better preparation then I will ever manage there is only one thing I can do; pray!!

So Jimmie left and Steve and I finally met up for the next stage of adventures. Getting back into strict routine and pushing myself to complete our standard 120km a day was a shock to the system. Nice to be back on target though instead of going in circles! I won’t forget the man who was startled and explained "I have never seen anything like this" as I cycled fully loaded through his village to the next country; Uganda. I am pleased I make people smile!