Monday, May 25, 2009


There's something so wonderful about riding alone. It's also quite nice to have a fellow rider. Even a few riders can be fun. Riding in a convoy is a new form of hell.

Riding into Nairobi was both wonderful and heinous. We started the day with nothing but hills, glorious hills - did I mention how much I love how my bike takes hills? I'm now comfortable with 85km/hr downhill, and at that speed, it brings you right up the other side. Lloyd followed me for some time - he was having a bit of a hard time and asked if he could use my cadence. It was nice to be able to help him, even in the most passive way. Lloyd is a bit of a hero in his ability to fix or solve anything. When you greet him with a "Hey Lloyd, how's it going?", he turns to you every day and says "FABulous! Can't complain!" Great guy.

We all met up at a hotel, and then rode an extra 20km to where the convoy would actually start. Once there we sat around and waited, again. And then it started. The worst convoy in the world. We rode anywhere between 6-12km/hr. It was horrible. A root canal would have been more pleasurable. It took over 2 hours to go 20km. When we got in we were all tired, hungry and DESPERATE for toilets.

That night I was trying to get ahold of my friend Bart who lives in Tanzania but is often in Kenya. I had to decide whether or not I wanted to go and visit him - this was resolved over the next few frustrating email encounters where I just couldn't get in touch with him. The problem with travelling in Africa after having travelled anywhere else is that you get used to phones and internet just being available and working quite efficiently. Even in the middle of nowhere Siberia you could find decent internet or a phone line that they didn't charge three dollars a minute for. Here in Africa, it's often an impossibility.

The other important event that happened that evening was that we were all saying goodbye to Jansie, Wimpie and Ronelle, our drivers and crew. It's both sad and hard. It's funny how regimented we've all become, and part of that is that we've gotten used to following the routines of our crew. Unsettling that is ... unsettling. And while we see everyone everyday, they are the people we talk to, guaranteed, every single day.

The next morning I woke to the sounds of retching. Another element of rest days is that on the first night people generally drink too much. It was Eric, our Communications fellow - kind of funny, given all the "toughen up" lectures he gives everyone. So with all of that going on, I decided to run away with Martin and Alasdair. We took a Metatu into the city. These are micro buses that are super-cheap, run constantly, and are usually filled to the gunnels with people, baggage and livestock, though there's less livestock in the cities. We were on a hunt for Indian food. In the Lonely Planet it describes a restaurant which can be found in "Little India", which was the direction we gave the money-taker. He was confused, and didn't really know the street we were looking for either. The woman beside us asked us if we were looking for material. I got where she was going and said "yes" - Little Indias are always filled with material. She gave the fellow directions and said to him - "I think they are calling it Little India because the shops are all owned by Indians.” It's funny how much we take our own colloquialisms for granted.

We went to the first place, but it was closed down and had been for four years. Martin, being the managing editor at LP, was a little concerned - there's a two-year turn over on the guides. He started to check to see who he was going to have a word with, and then looked at us and said, "Oh, well I guess I'll let that one go." The author had passed away the year before. The food was amazing, and afterwards we walked around town for a while, taking in the surroundings and people watching. The streets of Nairobi are busy, and though it's a capital city, like most African cities it pretty much has a "large town" feel.

Back in camp we had the official turn over, as our old crew disappeared and our new crew started taking up their duties.

We woke up to a 165km day. Lone rejoined us and it turned out that her ankle was broken. What will happen with her has yet to be decided, but she'll be going ahead to Arusha and at least doing the safari with us. Something to be noted is that she rode for two days on some insane roads with that broken ankle. I really like Lone - she's unbelievably athletic and has a great sense of humour. She also manages to come up with the craziest expressions. It's like if she feels as though there should be an idiom for something when there is not she will go ahead and invent one. At one point Graham asked her to pick up a dead snake so that he could take a picture, to which she responded "I wouldn't pet a lobster." Apparently this meant - why would she do something weird like that. I love language.

The day was filled with rolling hills. We skirted around Kilimanjaro in the morning, but at such a distance that it was merely an outline in the haze. Mt. Kenya was clear and close. It was so incredibly beautiful. Kenya is a place for climbers. Everywhere I look I think about how I would like to go up this or that peak. Maybe someday, when I'm not attached to my bicycle.

I rode with Martin and Alasdair all day. Martin and I are perfectly matched on the pavement. Similar bikes and identical tires, and we both trained by being commuter bikers. He's great to ride with. As is Alasdair, but he was having a bit more of a hard time on the pavement with his mountain bike. We rode into Namanga, and on to another goodbye. Randy, our tour director, was headed back to Canada to deal with his burnt-down house and to move on to heading the TDA South America tour. Funny, I complain about how hard it is to communicate through most of Africa, while Randy had been spending over a month trying to sort out the insurance and everything else involved with having lost his house from here - and barely letting us know what was happening to him. He was also a wonderful fellow. Shanny, our new director, has some big cleats to fill.

No comments: