I was up at my regular ungodly time and down for my Weetabix and omelette breakfast before my departure from Nairobi. It had been 5 days since my arrival in the city and it was high time to get back on the bike and get some miles covered, next stop Tanzania!
I was debating whether to take the slightly longer route around Mt Kilamanjaro to the East or alternatively to head directly South to the border town Namanga and into Tanzania? Originally I just wanted to get some southerly miles done and thought to take the latter of my two options but I refrained from making my decision as I knew there was a good 30 miles to ride before the roads split and my fate would be decided, so once I was ready I loaded my bike and headed out of the city.
It was overcast this morning and the streets were already busy and full of traffic but I was feeling good and finding my way to the southern border of Nairobi was easy enough (with the aid of my trusty Garmin Edge 1000 GPS of course) and my pedalling shoes eagerly powered me out of the metropolis and on towards what would be my fourth country of the trip.
The road was fast today and I must have been descending slightly as we were clocking up the miles pretty quickly and although I came across a few inevitable rises I powered my way up them like never before on this trip. Maybe it was the four days off of the bike or perhaps I was just getting fitter? Either way I was smiling, happy, and for the first time felt like the James I remembered from my last adventure. I covered my first 25 miles in under two hours and decided to stop for a coffee in a service station. I sat for only a few minutes drinking my “real” coffee (which is as rare as spotting a Rhinosaur in the Masai Mara) and to warm up a little as the sweat from my t-shirt and scarf had intensified the cool air and I felt the chill about me during my speedy departure from Kenyas capital. As I was leaving a lovely native called Oscar who was certainly one of the wealthiest Kenyans I had met so far started chatting to me and told me how he loved England and had been lucky enough to visit two times and also Scotland twice for work. On enquiry I discovered that he was a chef and obviously a good one as he had worked in both the Ritz and Dorchester hotels which we all know (although most of us probably haven’t ever been lucky enough to eat or stay in one of them) were the swankiest of swank when it come to hotel accommodation. Whooooowie!! He was a great guy and a pleasure to meet and even offered to give me 1000 bob (shillings) which is a large sum for most locals and although I refused his kind offer the gesture was incredible and once we had bid one another farewell I left feeling even happier than the already happy James that had arrived minutes before.
The day was progressing well and seeing as I was making good headway I decided to take the longer route that would lead me into Tanzania via Mt Kilamanjaro (or Kibo as it is referred to locally). Africa’s highest mountain was definitely a highlight of the trip and despite my desire to get further south I think in reality there was only one real option when it came to where I was headed. The undoubtedly beautiful mountain could not be missed! I knew that I didn’t have the funds to climb it as it had become a rather costly pastime on its own but cycling around its foothills I’m sure would provide me with some lovely views and more than sate my appetite for the time being.
I continued to fly along crushing the miles under the speed of my pedalling the only downfall being that the road was busy seeing as it was the main route to Mombasa. I however was feeling so happy that nothing so trivial as a few cars was going to perturb me so I rode on pleased that the good old Jaybo was back!
Eventually and much later in the afternoon I made it to the turn off from what I would say was an A-road – but soon to be a motorway as there was a lot of construction happening – and turned onto the much quieter C102 that turned pretty much directly south and would take me all the way to the border. This road was fairly flat and led me into another one of Kenyas open savanahs with a few peaks on the horizon but Kilamanjaro was still yet to be seen. I passed gazelle, monkeys, and giraffe as I rode into the late afternoon and had been warned by the officers when I first turned off of the Mombasa road to beware of Lions as they were rife in this area and often spotted in the early mornings and yes, you guessed it, in the late afternoon. Yay!
The sun was setting beautifully this evening and come 95 miles and without being sniffed out by a Lion, I cycled past a lone lodge that was rather posh but the only place to sleep for at least another 6-7 miles and I have to admit that fatigue had caught up with me somewhat so I stopped to have a look.
I almost cycled on but the two workers in the lodge were set on having me stay the night but I didn’t have the required 3500 shillings to stay in one of their fine rooms. I mean these were Nairobi prices but it was obviously a safari area and popular with tourists. Well, I say popular the place was empty and by the looks on the two Kenyans faces they were desperate for a bit of business (perhaps lower the price and you may get some guests? Just a thought, but 3500 bob is hardly extortionate although the fact remains that nobody was here and by the look of desperation on both of their faces it seems that they don’t receive an abundance of visitors?).
I wanted to give them some business but the unfortunate truth was that I simply didn’t have the cash and there was no facility to use my card, a predicament indeed but not something that we were unable to resolve I thought. I noticed that they had a lovely patch of grass and quite possibly the nicest I had seen in all of Kenya, they had obviously nurtured it keeping it green and lush and I have to admit in my current state it looked ever so comfy. I posed the bold question: could I use my tent? As long as they didn’t mind me sleeping on their undoubtedly loved patch of showroom grass and their eyes lit up to my suggestion, “Yes yes we would love that” they replied and hence a deal was struck. They had a brief conversation in Swahili or perhaps their local dialect as they were both young Masai and came up with a figure of 1000 shillings. Admittedly I was expecting something less, 10 dollars seems a lot to just pitch my tent behind the safety of your fence, was this beautiful green blanket that covered the earth sacred Masai grass perhaps? Maybe I would receive eternal life or better still would the hair on my head stop falling out and start to grow back in thick clumps once again? Maybe 10 dollars is an absolute steal? I decided to agree before this opportunity was missed!
The two boys named Jackson and Isaac were so attentive and they laid on the hospitality almost to the point where I had to tell them to stop. I didn’t though. But I was glad I had decided to throw them some business, if only very little, and their eyes confirmed their appreciation. Once I had cleaned and oiled my bike (which was long overdue) and set up my tent, to my surprise I was offered a shower in one of the rooms. I was provided with a towel, soap, shampoo, and even some crocs to use when I came out of the shower. This was more than I had hoped for and duly appreciated, thanks boys! Using 50% of the vocabulary I had learned during my safari I said “Ashe” the Masai for thank you and they beamed in contentment, they obviously appreciated my affinity for the local dialects and no doubt my perfect pronunciation and seeing as they now thought I was fluent in their language they chirped something at me to which I confidently replied “supa!” which means hello and they looked puzzled for a moment before roaring with laughter and began talking amongst themselves much to the tune of “oh dear we are housing a buffoon!”.
The shower was amazing and always appreciated after a long days ride and as much as I would have loved to stay up with them to chat (I’m sure they were hoping I was knackered and would leave them alone) so I thanked them for their hospitality and turned towards my tent, “don’t forget breakfast in the morning” Jackson stated as I was wandering off and I turned as he asked “at what time would you like it?” Again I thanked him for the kind offer but my funds were rather low and I said “I will have to leave it as I only really have money for water now” or until I get to the border I thought to myself, there is bound to be a cash machine there or at least that’s what I hope?
“No no breakfast is included” replied Jackson, and Isaac nodded in affirmation. Wow this deal is turning sweeter and sweeter I thought and gave them both a big smile and my very best “Ashe” before turning one final time to my tent and bed.