Travel stories to discover

The Great Rift Valley

Headmaster and his desktop

Headmaster and his desktop

The newly built paved road stretches up and down and up and down and all over again for another 40 kilometers from town of Narok. At some point we turn into a narrow unpaved track. We stock up with roasted corn, mangoes and bananas at one of local markets.

Up and down... up and down

Up and down… up and down

A casual visit in a primary school

A casual visit in a primary school

After an hour of cycling thunderstorm takes us by surprise, fortunately settlements are close enough to find a shelter. We wait half an hour and decide to continue a bit despite the rain. We are facing the uphill slope of Mau Escarpment and western bank of the Great Rift Valley. To pass the escarpment we need to ascent to more than 3000 meters above sea level on our bikes.

By early afternoon we are already soaked in rain and it keeps intensifying, to that end, it is getting colder. We decide to pitch a tent nearby seemingly abandoned house. In the evening Ann, a Masai owner of the house, shows up and all three of us seem to be surprised. Initially the owner seems to be panicked and frightened, but after a few minutes of conversation we make friends. It is getting late so Ann invites us to finish our talk in the morning with a cup of coffee in her kitchen.

After breakfast we set off again and here the main uphill part begins. The road is ascending nearly all the time. Every time we get an impression that this is the end and we are about to start riding downhill, but it is never that easy. We climb high, then higher, to the top and a moment later another summit shows up. Then it would become another misleading top and so on. Finally we get to the real summit of Mau Escarpment. Judging by effort, there is a reason to be proud. Now we face a beautiful view and more than 1000 meters vertical downhill drop taking us straight to the Lake Naivasha.

Riding all the way down Mau Escrapment

Riding all the way down Mau Escrapment

1000km behind us

1000km behind us

Signe feeling really proud at our 1000th km

Signe feeling really proud at our 1000th km

The road is tricky

The road is tricky

Beer break at Wendo Bar

Beer break at Wendo Bar

We stay a Fisherman’s Camp. It is an opportunity to regenerate, drink beer (at inflated prices) and have great tilapia fish or crayfish pasta, depending on what local fishermen would catch. We decide to have two days of rest, to be precise only one day, because today we have already cycled over 58 km.

Fisherman's Camp

Fisherman’s Camp

You can rent a canoe at the camp, but the words “Enjoy kayaking and beware of hippos!” is not sufficiently convincing. Especially that when entering the camp, I asked a guard if there had ever been some accidents involving hippos. Instead of evasive answers, he put it quite straightforwardly, “Yes, actually, there have been some, one of the accidents, a fairly recent one, happened when the electrified fence stopped working at night (…) and then the female hippo attacked that unaware tourist”. I think the guard knew that we are going to stay here anyway, so we did, about 30 meters from the hippos behind the fence.

before the shower

“before”, 4 or 5 days with no shower…

..and after shower

..and after shower

After four or five days of hardship we finally take a real shower. During that time, when we leave our tent unattended, some monkeys break into and steal our mangoes and bananas.

Colobus

Colobus

Monkey eating our mango

Monkey eating our mango

The mango is taken by monkey

The mango is taken by monkey

Monkeys came for another booty

Monkeys came for another booty

“Stay away from our mangos”

On the lake Naivasha we see lots of birds feeding on fish, especially big-nosed, noisy marabouts.

At night some giant ants cut through the floor of the tent, but it is in no way disturbing me as long as the hippos stay on the other side of the electric fence.

The first cycling day after a day’s rest we make 40 km without even stopping. We arrive at Mt Longonot National Park and leave our bikes at the gate attempting to climb the crater. The hike takes about an hour and another hour and a half to circumvent the ridge of the crater.

The top of Mt. Longonot crater, 2780m

The top of Mt. Longonot crater, 2780m

Panorama of Mt. Longonot crater

Panorama of Mt. Longonot crater

We spend the night just at the boundary of the reserve and in the morning we head east towards Thika, in order to make a loop and avoid getting into Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. Big cities and big chaos are all what we don’t need on this trip. The first 20 km on gravel road are quite exhausting, then our road links with another, a third category one called C66. Here the Kenyan Route 66 begins.

We start at a height of 2,500 meters and the road cuts through young pine trees and other conifers. We are cycling downhill at full speed along a rarely visited, smooth tarmac road of superior quality. I keep asking myself if we are still in Africa or perhaps somewhere else, maybe in Scandinavia?

Is it Sweden or the road to Thika?

Is it Sweden or the road to Thika?

As we descend, the tea plantations show up again

As we descend, the tea plantations show up again

As we descend, I can literally see how conifers transform into eucalyptus trees. The landscape is only occasionally disturbed by lone buildings. Later on we see a picturesque tea plantations with silhouettes of tea pickers carrying wooden baskets on their backs.

Gakoe Tea Estate

Gakoe Tea Estate

Daily take is ready for transportation
Daily take is ready for transportation

In one of the villages workers are loading trucks with tea. A crowd of people weights, unloads and repacks the content of heavy wicker baskets, which tea-pickers brought here on their backs.

A bit further down some uniformed officers stop us at the road asking if we have“by any chance seen a big elephant on our way, because the animal broke from the herd and now is spreading panic among local people.”

Downhill continues and tea fields are about to become banana and corn plantations. We arrive at Thika. The place is a good chance to buy malaria tablets, this time I get Metakelfin, which are recommended by a pharmacist. Those tablets resembling skittles I bought some weeks ago are already finished, so it is high time to try something new. I am supposed to take 3 pills every 2 weeks (by the way, that is an interesting way of dosing it).

Today we cycle 103 km without having a single flat tire. This is an absolute record for Kenyan conditions. We’re following Garissa Road leading to Somalia, but at some point get off the road and head the 14 Falls.

14 Falls

14 Falls

14 Falls

14 Falls

From that point we follow almost invisible gravel road leading to the village of Tala. We pass a giant pineapple plantations. It looks as if the whole world production calculated in hundreds of millions of pineapples was located right here.

One billion of pineapples

One billion of pineapples

On the road between Kangundo and Kivaani there are some more coffee and tea plantations. We get to Kivaani and stop at Mwaitu Randevouz bar to get some information and directions. It is getting late so we spend the night in a tiny village just before Makutano.

Same same but different

Same same but different

Hen, bike and chicken

Hen, bike and chicken

Morning routines

Morning routines

After 1,300 kilometers of cycling we happen to have some first serious problems with bikes. A loose bottom bracket we manage to fix with a chisel and a hammer. Besides brakes and derailleurs require bigger amounts of grease to function and more frequent adjustments. Increasingly often we have to apply some temporary makeshift solutions to keep going forward.

Hotel - now open!

Hotel – now open!

Refilling energy

Refilling energy

Be free and happy

Be free and happy

Thorns are every now and then slowing down our progress. We keep patching tubes on a regular basis. On the other side, against all odds, sometimes even a third-class road, such as C101 or C99 can be a welcoming surprise, where we enjoy a high quality tarmac. We pass through Kilala, Nziu and we arrive to Emali. Here we cross the main motorway and take C102 leading to Oloitokitok, a Kenyan-Tanzanian border town.

The road is flat, in good shape, very quiet, almost monotonous. At some point, Signe sees something on the horizon and shouts aloud, “Look there!”.

The sight of Kilimanjaro stays with us for a couple of days

None of us has any doubts. This is Kilimanjaro, a mountain emerging from the clouds with its massive snowy peak. This spectacular view will accompany us for a few more days.