Thursday, May 14, 2009

Kenya tell me how you really feel?

The aftermath of the Northern Kenyan desert rain was intense. I walked around in my sandals that were so thickly caked in mud it was like wearing foam mattresses on my feet. We jammed our muddy tents into their stuff sacks and then threw them into our lockers. It would be a disaster in the evening, but the following day was a rest day, so it didn't seem that important.

And then the ride. The red mud kicked up, splashing us entirely, but the roads dried up as we went on. I had such a late start that I wound up riding with Mark, the bike mechanic, who was on sweep that day. He was such a great riding partner. We laughed and joked the whole day, which was all you could do on a day like that. The truck was like a vacuum cleaner that day, picking up dirty, weakened cyclists along the way. The most frustrating thing was how impossible it was to find a line. Looking at the other side of the road, you might think that there was a line over there, but when you get there it turns out to be corrugated. And then everything disappeared and it became deep sand with corrugations. I was amazed I could still see straight after a day of riding those vibrations.

***WARNING - do not read the following paragraph if you are easily offended***

Mark and I caught up with Ernest. We figured we had about a kilometer or two to go until lunch (the wire on my odometer had snapped the previous day), but then we learned that we actually had 16km left. We were so disheartened. When we saw a surprise coke stop, our day became brighter. We stopped for a drink, and then a second one, and then a chapati. Evelyn had been there for an hour already - it was clear that no one wanted to go on. But we did. And when I got into lunch I informed the group of what we had renamed the section, normally called "Meltdown Madness". It seemed far more appropriate to call it "Anal Sex on a Hot, Sandy Beach Without Lube.", and when Evelyn came in shortly after me saying that she felt like she had just been anally raped, everyone cracked up. Shortly after that, Mark came in saying he felt like he had just visited a gay prison, and we were in hysterics. We all decided we were done for the day.

***Resume reading below, sensibilities intact***

Every once in a while the truck would pass a tree, and under it would always be 20-40 goats, all crammed in the little bit of shade, some even standing on the backs of others. I had to wonder why we were choosing to be in that heat, and not only that, but also exerting ourselves heavily.

As we drove up the side of the volcano, things got more lush and tropical. We entered our camp at Marsabit, and it was a lush, tropical jungle filled with baboons. They were so much fun to watch until one dropped on Ronelle's tent. Most of us then moved from under the trees. When Claire woke up the next morning to a tent covered in monkey excrement, the rest decided to move.

That evening I went into town and had dinner with Frankie and Swend. The ATM didn't quite work for me. It made the sounds of doling out cash, but nothing came. Thoughts of unaccounted debits filled my mind, but there was nothing I could do until morning, so I borrowed some cash and joined the boys in a dining experience of nsima (white polenta used to scoop your food), mboga (stew), and camel milk tea. African cooking, excluding Ethiopia, has been boring thus far. It seems that food here is merely comfort food. No spice or excitement. It sounds like we can't expect that to change much as we progress southwards, either.

At 5:30 in the morning on a rest day people were already up and starting their laundry. Some of these folks are nuts. I couldn't get back to sleep so I sat alone amongst the tall trees and watched the baboons play and fight, greeting the dawn. I then hung out in my tent for quite some time, just reading. We were scheduled to have a brie - pronounced bry - that night, and so I had to get into town to pick up some meat and ingredients. That gave me a new appreciation for James' job. trying to buy meat from a butcher who doesn't speak your language is impossible. I went to a butchery, which essentially looks like a wooden lemonade stand with dead carcasses hanging from it, and asked for a small piece of lamb. what I walked away with was a half kilo of beef tendons. Fortunately buying salad ingredients was pretty straightforward, and I wound up with a mango, avocado, tomato and cilantro salad, with red onions mixed in for good measure. The market was filled with tribal women wearing huge stacks of beaded necklaces. Their headdresses were a combination of bead and button-work, and were attached to their heads by their earrings. I ran through the tons of chores I had to do that day, and then enjoyed the evening, right into the big campfire we shared. It was a great rest for all of us.

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