Tuesday, 2 April 2013

The amazing country of Kenya...

Upon arrival in Kenya, everyone was excited to see what this magnificent country had to offer. We camped at the border town and began the "Meltdown Madness" section of the TdA tour the following day, which has been known to be the most challenging of the entire trip. The northern parts of Kenya is very rural. There's nothing around for miles, it's hot as hell and the roads are all purely hard corrugation and sharp lava rock edges which make riding extremely uncomfortable and unpleasant.

Leading up to this point, we had several meetings regarding Kenya, the elections and what TdA are going to do with us riders if things became politically unstable. The tour organizers were of a mind that it would be safe to cycle the first few off-road days but then, closer to the Election Day, 4th March 2013, it was advised we bus through the rural villages of the north. During the last elections there were a large amount of political demonstrations and riots that foreigners should not be caught in the middle of. We all agreed that, with safety and security in mind, it was best to skip the isolated parts of Kenya and bus straight to Nanyuki and hide out there for four days until the hype of the Elections has calmed down. I suspect that everyone was secretly relieved and excited to skip the Meltdown Madness off-road section and have a bit of a break from the bike, a few days to make this trip feel a little like a holiday. However, we had been warned that the bus ride to Nanyuki would be long. It sure was. It took two days to reach our destination. It was hot, stuffy and probably the worst bus ride I've ever had. I actually began to think it would probably have been better on the bike, because busing over bumpy corrugated road is very uncomfortable. Luckily, we did plenty of stops and so the days on the bumpy bus was perfectly manageable.

Before the bus experience started, we had one day of cycling off-road just to give us a taste of what we would be missing.

First off road days cycle in Kenya, it was HOT AS HELL
That one day's cycle on hard corrugated off-roads was enough to made me very pleased I didn't t have to cycle on them for six more days. It truly isn't comfortable on one's already exhausted body. Arriving at yet another bush camp, everyone was preparing for the next two days of bus travel; finding comfy clothes, a pillow to sleep on, a good book to read, iPod for music and, of course, lots of snacks to nibble on. Later that evening our 60 seated bus arrived as well as our armed security's which would escort us safely all the way to Nanyuki.

Our 60 seater bus - STILL GOING STRONG!!!!
On the first morning of the bus ride we had breakfast very early at 05h30, because it would be better to do most of the driving while it's cooler. When it begins to get hot, sticky and sweaty on a bus, the mid-afternoon Kenyan sun would make everyone pretty cranky and annoyed, so for our comfort, it was up early birds.

TdA getting ready to pile into the "Still Going Strong" bus
Everyone still looking happy on the bus

My bus buddies, Erin and James - Good company helps let time fly...

As one might imagine, The TdA trucks were fully loaded. 60 bicycles now needed to be transported by vehicle, as well as all the TdA equipment for the 4 month trip, which usually takes up most of the storage space. But somehow and someway the talented and creative TdA crew managed to get it all packed away and ready for transportation.

Our convoy through Northern Kenya - Fully loaded TdA vehicles
I must admit I was super impressed with the quick organization of safe transport for all us riders, and security to make the problem of potential unrest seem effortless to overcome. This made me feel safe and secure during a time when some would be scared or frightened of what may happen. Yes, it was strange and a little uncomfortable having armed security with us on the bus holding massive machine guns and looking very serious whenever we slowly passed through rural villages, but for precautions it was necessary.

Security in front of the bus...
Lunch Stop on route to Marsabit
That evening we arrived safely at our camp for the night, which was a nunnery in Marsabit. As we made our way through the town of Marsabit, we saw the first real presence of political -demonstrations and -rallies with masses of people wearing their supported political parties' T-Shirts, dancing and singing. When two apposing party demonstrations met, one could tell things were on the verge of getting heated. I'm just happy I didn't have to try to cycle through that chaos.

Political Rallies as we enter Marsabit

Due to the buses and TdA trucks getting into Marsabit, the Nunnery prepared us a feast that evening. Once well fed, it was time for an early night. The bus ride had been very long and I actually ended up feeling more exhausted then if I had cycled.

At one of our village stops I found my perfectly suitable workshop "Puncture Repairs"... Where were they when I needed them most in Egypt?
I didn't see much of Marsabit. It was too intimidating to walk into town on the evening we arrived with all the rallies in full swing. The next morning, once again, we packed up early to get on with the second day on the bus which would bring us to our "hideout" destination, Nanyuki. Day two was even longer, but with several stops, including one for lunch, it felt as though we were getting to see some of the North Kenyan countryside, instead of zooming through interesting villages you usually get to briefly enjoy when on the bike.

Landscape was incredible...


Lunch stop on route to Nanyuki...

Making friends with our convoy Security, they turned out to be quit friendly and not so scary after all...
Arriving in Nanyuki was a great relief as everyone was excited to be off the bus and have a few days to do whatever they wanted. Up until this point, we'd had, at most, two rest days, which felt long. Four days definitely felt like a holiday. Many riders went on safari, others booked into nice hotels, and a few even braved climbing Mount Kenya, which I was very keen to do. However, in the end, I decided against it because I felt that I was finally beginning to feel stronger and healthy again. Taking it easy was best to ensure I was back to being fully fit. During this time I was determined to stay away from unhealthy, rich and unusual local foods to get my ill feeling tummy back to normal. This was when Herbalife's delicious Vanilla meal shakes came into great use. I even had other TdA riders with similar tummy issues ask if they could please have some of the shake meals, because it was tasty, healthy and safer than what was being served at the hotel. After two days of healthy shakes, I was feeling good and my tummy issues a distant memory.

Nanyuki, is known as Equator town because, well, the Equator runs through it... and there is a sign to prove it. We stayed at a very nice place called The Sportsman Arms Hotel which offered rooms, a swimming pool, restaurant, bar and a nice camp site. I thought if this was to be a mini holiday, then getting a room to relax, have a warm bath, do my laundry and charge all my electricals was well worthwhile. Nanyuki was the chosen hideout town because there is a British Military base in the area, so if anything were to go wrong, hopefully this would be a safe place to be, as a foreigner. However, during the rest days in Nanyuki there was little evidence of political unrest. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming. During this mini holiday, I wandered into town often, walked amongst the markets, ate at the local restaurants, spent ages on the slowest internet, sat around the pool (trying to get rid of this terrible cycling shorts tan line - totally useless exercise) and did all the much needed bike maintenance. The most fun was the third evening, when the TdA crew organized a fancy dress "Equator party", just to liven things up a little. So, off to the market we went, looking for funny outfits to wear to the party. I was surprised to see how many people made an effort to dress up, and lots of creative costumes made an appearance. The "Equator party" was lots of fun and a great success as I danced the night away wearing my "Cleaning Lady" costume, complete with yellow gloves and toilet brush accessories -- the works.

My buddies, Claire, Phil and Steffen having a good laugh
James the Australian on Safari was by far the Limbo campion of the Equator party...
Myself with Claire and Lizzie dressed up silly
The lovely Erin and I
The next morning everyone was feeling a little poorly. Weeks of cycling with no alcohol consumption for a long period of time meant everyone suffered a bit of a hangover. A day of doing nothing at the pool was the perfect way to recover. However, this laziness was short lived as bike maintenance and tire changes needed to be done, so I pulled myself together and tried being productive as I'd be back on the bike soon.

The tire pile which appears every time the road changes... 

Everyone was relieved and looking forward to getting back on the bike. I had had enough of sitting around eating for entertainment and looking for things to do to keep myself busy. I was ready to hit the road and see more of Kenya. Leaving Nanyuki, we crossed the Equator and I was very excited to be in the Southern Hemisphere. Something about it made me feel closer to home.

Crossing over the the Southern Hemisphere... Whoop Whoop!!!

We had two days of cycling after Nanyuki to get to Nairobi where we would have yet another rest day. At this point I thought we might start getting lazy, seeing as we were off the bike more than on. But the day's cycle out of Nanyuki scrapped this lazy idea very quickly as we covered a distance of 120km with heaps of climbing in humid, hot conditions.
The beautiful, lush, and green scenery of Kenya makes cycling a hard day that much more bearable.
The lovely fresh fruit markets lining the roads.
Midday lunch stop, always a great sight to see in the distance...
Everyone had to work very hard and getting into camp that afternoon was a great relief. We stayed at a River Rafting camp site, right on the rivers edge, so a refreshing swim was a lovely end to what was a hot, humid day in the saddle.

Pool at the camp site is a taste of heaven for TdA riders

River Rafting Camp site

Claire and I enjoying the pool
Cute puppy at the camp site getting some loving from TdA riders...

After a massive feast, we rested up for the following days ride into Nairobi. I was terribly excited to get to Nairobi, because my father, Nick, and family friend, Rudolf, were due to arrive and visit for a couple of days as a moral support booster at the halfway mark of the Cairo to Cape Town cycle tour. 

On the morning of our cycle into Nairobi, everyone was ready to go when TdA organizers called a meeting over breakfast to inform us that we won't be able to cycle into the city, because it was the day the election results would be announced and the potential of protests, riots and various political demonstrations was at a high risk. I was a little disappointed, because we had just gotten back on the bike, but safety and security is our main priority, so I changed into normal clothes and called my dad to let him know the change in our plans. We waited at the camp for two overland truck to come pick us all up and transport bicycles and TdA riders into the capital city, Nairobi, where I had my father waiting for me.

On the over lander making way to Nairobi... Can you tell I'm excited???
Once on the road, I became overwhelmed with the excitement of seeing my dad. It felt like I had ants in my pants because I couldn't sit still. As we approached Nairobi, I called my father to give instructions to meet us at our camp site. Upon arrival I could see Rudolf and my dad waiting in the shade of the bar. All the TdA riders knew of this reunion and so let me off the truck first so I could go ahead a greet my family I had been so excited about seeing for weeks.

Arriving at the camp where my Father and Rudolf had been waiting...

After the expected emotional hello hugs and big smiles, it was immediately time for a cold beer to celebrate seeing my loved ones. Slowly but surely the table grew as TdA riders came over to meet my dad and joined us for a quick drink before the usual routine of setting up camp began. Luckily, it was no tent for me that evening as I set off to the hotel my father had booked.
Yay.... United with my Dad!!!

Immediately time to celebrate....

Showing my Dad around the TdA camp site and daily routines
That evening a large group of us went out for dinner at the famous Carnivore restaurant. It was a fabulous night filled with lots of delicious food, good wine and the very best company, which turned this into the perfect night for introducing my father and Rudolf to the TdA group.

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