Cycling through Africa with TDA is brutal. We average around 120km a day and while more and more of Africa is getting paved we still do a fair bit of off road too. Camp becomes a regular routine – soup, drinks, pitch, “shower”, dinner and bed. I don’t need to set an alarm anymore and have not yet overslept for 645am breakfast.
The section through Kenya is known as “Meltdown Madness”. It is renowned as one of the most difficult sections of the tour. Unfortuantaly we rode only a total of three days in Kenya.The first day was off road,elections then led to a bus transfer to Nankuki from which we rode, passing the equator. Our final ride day took us over the border with Tanzania.
While we were then due to have three rest days in Arusha, predominently to allow for brief safari trips, the Kenyan election meant that we would spend an additional four days resting first in Nanyuki. We were shipped in to arrive the day before election day just in case tensions rose to the same levels as in 2007.
Passing through the vast open areas surrounded by lava rock with no shade and intense heat I have to say there was some sense of relief that I was not on my bike. However, as the landscape changed and became more agricultural there was a sense of disappointment on my face as I gazed from the bus window. As it was there was little we could change. John and I had booked to ride Africa with TDA to be sure of our safety. Bus transfers were not our choice but we were happy that others were looking at the situation and based on contacts and information making decisions with safety as key. As it happens the group looked tired and a rest was probably what we all needed, whether we would admit that or not. So, with four days in Nanuki we needed to fill our time.
Some folk went off from the hotel – this seemed to go against advice to me so we stayed put. Instead we set about our mission to relax. The campground at the hotel was great -flat, green grass so unlike many of our other pitches – though we opted for a room. The hotel had a pool, beauty parlour and wi-fi so we were happy. In addition, Nanyuki has a large British Army base and as well as giving a safety net during the election period it all means a well stocked supermarket with Western treats and good coffee shops. We wanted cake.
Carrot cake, shortbread and chocolate cake pretty much covered our time here. Well, alongside a full body massage (I think I deserved one by now), manicure and pedicure. Given we were at the equator we also had an equator party which was great fun and a chance for us all to let our hair down. Fancy dress, a bit of dancing and a cheeky sambucca or two probably sums that up.
The election passed, all seemd calm and so we started riding. By now we were definately ready to get back on the bikes. We managed a day and were expecting to ride 50km towards Nairobi with a 50km bus transer to the centre. Unfortunately we woke to find out we were waiting for bus to take us all the way. The tourist police were not letting us ride at all.The result was now expected at 11am that monring. So we bused to our next day off — ate more cake, visted a great shopping mall and yet again took it easy.
With all the indulgence we were now at a point where we needed to ride! Our bodies were used to so many calories on ride days and appetites didn’t seem to subside on resting. I wanted exercise. It would however be just two days biking till our three days scheduled stop in Arusha. The holiday contined and it was now safari time.
Most people had arranged trips before we arrived. We waited till Masai camp and with John still being unwell and riding on the truck by the time I arrived in on two wheels our trip was also sorted. John, Gus, Irin, myself and new rider Rob were heading away for two days. We left the next morning for Tarangire National Park - a two hour drive from Arusha we had a comfy jeep and great driver vand tour guide in Wilson. Tarangire holds one of the largest concentrations of wildlife of any Tanzanian Park and we would not be disapointed.
Not long into park we spotted mother and baby giraffe… such amazing creatures and not the only ones displaying young. We rode on to see lots of elephants including babies with one elephant just a metre or so away from our vehicle. You never know what you will see on safari. My expectations had been low yet as we then continued to see a pride of lions we left the park truely elated. What an amazing day. That night we would head to the Bougainvillia – the best hotel of our trip so far and share tales of our day with other riders.
For our second day we would head to the Ngorongoro Crater. Twenty kilometres wide and one of the most visted attractions in East Africa. It was cloudy as we rode up to the rim, we passed the viewpoint until our way out though as the sky cleared it became apparent just why Ngorangoro is held in such high acclaim. Blue skies and fluffy clouds looked over the misty water in the centre of this huge crater – created by volcano activity many years past. Packed with hundreds of zebra, wildebeast, ostriches, flamingos, warthogs etc we we also fortunate to see hippo, black rhino, a number of lion prides and the highlight – a honeymoon couple. As Wilson explained the lion and lioness on coming together take time out from the pack. They both walked next to and infront of our jeep. It was amazing to see such beasts of the jungle so close up but again our expectations were way suppassed as we went on to see the lioness hunt down the zebra and wildebeast out grazing. What a phenomenal sight of nature.
We left Ngorongoro with big smiles and a final rest day before leaving Arusha – the half way point. Our” holiday” had been fantatsic but was now well and truely at an end. We would leave Arusha for an 8 day stretch on our bikes with almost 1000km to cover to Mbeya – including 5 days off road. Oh well…here goes. This is what we signed up for after all.