My eyes opened at around 3am today and I drifted in and out of sleep for the next few hours constantly turning and rolling in an attempt to find a comfortable position. This magical grass was proving to be much less commodious than it had looked on the previous evening and all in all I would rate the sleepability level at -15 and the feeling of being rested and rejuvenated at -74, I just hope at very least my hair has grown during the night?!
It was another overcast day today and rather chilly so I donned a jumper as I packed up my tent and I can’t seem to find my thermal snood that I bought in Seoul on my last trip and have a worrying suspicion that I may have left it in the hotel in Nairobi…😵
The boys were up of course and already preparing my breakfast and I waved at a third slightly older Masai who had been watching over the grounds during the night. He was a man of few words but waved back at me and smiled.
I enjoyed a simple breakfast provided by my over attentive hosts of eggs, toast, tea, and as Jackson told me that they didn’t have any jam for the toast he had concocted some sort of tomatoey (actual tomato not just tomato sauce) mustard spread that was a bit oily and a bit salty but I have to say it still went down rather well. Being a bonus breakfast I was grateful that I had anything at all and after a profuse thanking session from all parties and a couple of selfies I was led back onto the road by Jackson, and my bike in the meantime was being ridden by Isaac who seemed to love it which made me smile. Our final farewell and of course some more thanking on both sides followed shortly after and even more last minute handshakes were enjoyed before I was finally released from Masai custody and off I went into the frigid morning on the hunt for a new country and a large mountain! I was happy for the experience but feeling a little over hospitalityized by the whole thing and it was nice to feel the gentle breeze on my face and the feeling of freedom once again.
I was headed for the large town of Oloitoktok which was still 75km away and then on to the border town of Tarekea an additional 15km on top of that but although that is still a good ride ahead I expected to see the mighty Kilamanjaro sometime along the way and assumed if the sky wasn’t so cloudy I would have seen the great mountain already?
My cold like symptoms were back again today and the annoying yet perpetual bit of gunk at the back of my throat was ruining my morning zen and to be extra aggravating the southerly wind I had come to know and love during my ride so far was back and right in my face, making what would have been a nice mornings ride to the border something much more troublesome. The progress was slow and constantly needing to clear the back of my throat was getting on my nerves a little but I plodded on making a snails amount of progress as the hours ticked by at their usual and seemingly unfair speed.
I caught a glimpse of kilamanjaro’s tallest peak Kibo sometime in the late morning, well just the line of snow that sits on its summit really that for a long while I thought was a cloud but after realising it was the only one that wasn’t moving I squinted my eys and peered harder and realised it was the mountain. That first sighting lifted my spirits a little although it was hard to make out even with my glasses on (my polarised glasses seem to make everything more visible) but it was nice to know it was there and I attempted to put a bit more effort into each pedal hoping that once I was closer more of the beautiful mountain would be revealed.
I stopped a couple of times for tea and peanut butter sandwiches hoping to muster some more energy and regularly thought back to yesterday’s mile munching speed and how different things had become today. Frank Sinatra’s ‘What a difference a day makes’ selected itself randomly from my iPods playlist just as a huge gust almost brought me to a complete halt and I laughed at the irony for a moment before flicking it on in a hope to find a more motivational tune but next up on my suddenly comical music device was Dean Martin’s ‘Let it snow’ so I pulled the earphones from my lug holes and rode on in silence for a while (I know what your thinking and yes I do listen to Christmas songs all year round, I like them, so what? deal with it!).
When I eventually approached Oloitoktok (named Loitoktok on my map) I began to climb the increasingly steep foothills of the mountain and it was a good 10 miles of uphill before I arrived at the town centre and the much needed rest spot. On my way up and before this actually I had noted the cheeky looks in the eyes of all of the children I passed, something I had not seen since leaving Ethiopia, and while I was creeping up the mountainside on my way to Oloitoktok they ran alongside looking more at my panniers and what was on show than at me and I began to wonder if perhaps the children of Tanzania were going to be akin to those little water and food stealing blighters I had encountered during the days from Addis Ababa to the border town Moyale?
Once I hit the town the road levelled off and sure that I wouldn’t be ascending much more today a feeling of elation filled my bones. I was amazed at how almost instantly I shrugged off the pain that I had felt only moments earlier and as if I had cycling amnesia my mood swung from dark to buoyant in a matter of seconds.
I found myself a nice local eatery, well it looked like a dark dinge hole really but the food was good and it was busy which is always an important sign when selecting a place to eat as at least you know that the food is moving regularly and was bound to be fresh…ish. I ordered a much deserved plate of rice and beans by pointing at the plate of the man opposite me and of course some lovely chay to wash it down. It was wonderful and just what I needed and I sat for a while after finishing chatting with the various patrons of the place and considered my options for the remainder of the afternoon.
Seeing as I had come out of my way to see the mountain and had as yet hardly had a glimpse of it, it didn’t take me long to decide that I would cut my ride short today, which of course I was more than happy to do, stopping in the border town Tarekea tonight (the Eastern face of Kikamanjaro) and again tomorrow cover less distance than I had intended to by stopping in Moshi (Southern face of mountain) and perhaps even stay there for a day in a hope that the mountain might reveal herself from behind the thick veil of cloud that encompassed it. On top of that I would have a chance to catch up on some writing that I was beginning to fall behind with and seeing as I am a lazy writer anyway I knew that if I didn’t catch up soon it may prove to be fatal to its continuation.
I gathered myself up for the final push to the border happy with my freshly bodged plan and off I went!
The road was kind to me from here on out and although the wind was still present I really had reached the highest point of the day and I easily pedalled my way the remaining 15km to the border, there were of course small ups and downs but nothing to worry my tiring legs.
I arrived at the Kenyan immigration about an hour later and had an easy checkout. The officer on duty was a large smiley man wearing a smart blue suit and although he was dealing with a girl from Macau who they seemed to be having trouble with as the passport was different to those of mainland China he called me over to take my finger prints and stamp me out of the country, all done in no more than a minute, easy! I had a brief conversation with the girl from China and she warned me about going to Johannesburg in South Africa, as have a few others funnily enough including my friend and colleague Graham who is from there, hmmmmm I’m sure it will be fine… I told the chinese girl about how much I had enjoyed Kenya and that she was going to love it, I then wished her good luck with her current predicament, waved goodbye, and headed out towards the Tanzanian immigration office. It was only 100 metres or so further on and here it was that I sadly passed out of Kenyan territory; the country I had entered and been unsure about the whole adventure and where I was leaving feeling fully acclimatised and happy to face any of the challenges that lay ahead. What a transformation!
I was asked to show my Yellow Fever certificate for the first time ever during my long career of travelling and was led into a small tent to part with a few credentials before being certified as safe and able to proceed to the immigration desk. The Tanzanian office held me up for 15 minutes or so before I was released into its interior and I was faced with my final steep incline into the town of Tarekea where I would take rest for the night, unfortunately there was still no sign of the mountain but it’s fine, I’ll see it tomorrow I’m sure?! I stopped at the first ATM I could see that charged me 11,800 Tanzanian shillings for the privilege (about £5) and I went in search for a hotel. It wasn’t long before I found something suitable and checked in happy to have ended today’s gruelling ride, the shower was hot, I had a tv with the national geographic channel in English, and the room smelt of roasted goat as only 15 feet from my bedroom window in an internal roofed courtyard was a man cooking away and wafting his meaty stench right in my direction. It was actually quite a nice smell and he was obviously a master of his trade and before long it made me feel hungry so I wandered over to sample some of his produce. I had a good plate of barbecued goat for 4000 shillings (£1.30) and it was fabulous, tasty and filling but there were a couple of bits of kidney mixed in that I wasn’t so keen on and I’m not sure what I ingested right at the end as my mouth filled with what looked and felt like I had bitten into a piece of lard and my mouth became clogged almost instantly. Fortunately my room and more importantly my toothbrush was only a few feet away but it still took two vigorous brushing sessions and a lot of toothpaste to liberate my mouth and gums from the covering of fat and I decided that perhaps I would give the goat a miss for my next few meals or at least be a bit more picky with what I was putting into my hungry gob.
I showered and got into bed early watching the lions eat Wilde beast on the tv and thinking that I was there only a few days ago, “ahhhhhh lovely” I thought to myself and fell into a happy peaceful sleep full of animals undergoing all of the usual trials and tribulations of the savan…zzzzzzzzz 😴