Ernest Hemingway, from all his wanders around the globe, noticed that “it is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.” And he couldn’t be more accurate in his observation, particularly where sweating is concerned! Oh and the hills and the scenery that somewhat willingly display their grandeur and great beauty more to the guy on a bicycle than anybody else :).
So, I’m writing this just two days after returning from one of the craziest, longest, adventurous, interesting…and…did I say craziest bicycle ride yet? I call it The Capital To The Coast; a 600km solo ride from the Kenyan Capital City – Nairobi – to the white sandy beaches of Mombasa City. Why did I do it? Sorry, I mean why would anyone POSSIBLY want to do something like that? The only answer I could think of whenever I was asked these questions was “because I can”. But in reality it’s more than that…
It started a few weeks before Christmas when I came across an inspiring song, “I Lived” by One Republic (check out the video version) and the adventurer in me came to life. A part of me that had slept and sort of forgotten its purpose re-awoke and screamed “Do Something Crazy for Christmas…Live A Little More”. Somehow, some of my cycling buddies had already named me their Santa, which was a good thing, but I had no idea what kind of presents to get these grown ladies and gentlemen. If they were toddlers, well, let’s just say I would have happily sang “Ho Ho Ho..” and distributed candy from my pockets.
Meaning, I still had to look for something…something extraordinary…something different, daring, unique and life-changing to do. Maybe I could inspire these folks…I thought.
Then I realized how cycling makes me feel alive, and how I love traveling and wandering beyond the horizon and getting lost and finding myself among the many gems this world has to offer. There is just something undeniably special about being out there…cruising or cycling or whatever, but just in motion..and all you have is time to kill, sights to see, people to meet and places to reach. Do you feel me??
So a cycling-touring-Santa was born! The only difference was, this Santa would wear a black helmet instead of the red and white hat; shorts and reflective T-shirts (not the screaming red suit); and instead of carrying a sack of candy over my shoulder, I had a pannier and small bags carrying MY own goodies :D! I still had to sing…and talk to myself, lest I lose my sanity along the way.
Day One: Nairobi – Kitui
The plan was simple, leave Nairobi at 7.30 am, cycle approximately 10 hours to Kitui (150km away) and call it the first of the four stages. I did all the packing the night before, or at least I thought I did. Went to bed as early as I could, which is often at midnight, promising to wake up very early too. My excitement for the ride spilled right into my dreams that night…and I could see myself already on the road; one stage after another, gliding with ease like something I do everyday. By the time I was waking up, I knew I had already reached Mombasa only to realize I was still at 0 km!!
Then the drama begun…first I hadn’t packed all the necessary tools I needed, so some more rushing up and down graced my morning. And secondly, I wasn’t too sure if I had carried enough food and drinks for the road. At first, I was like, “you can get that along the way”, then I remembered I was headed into Ukambani, where water and gold seem to share one characteristic – scarcity!
All the above sorted, now I couldn’t find my newly acquired Specialized cycling shoes; you know the kind that have a ‘special metal’ at the bottom to make you cycle “faster”?? Yeah, those ones…they were missing! On a day when I actually needed their “magic” (any pro-cyclist here back me up!!).
After thorough, police-like investigations I realized that I had left them outside my apartment to dry…and because my neighborhood is not the very friendly kind, someone felt it necessary to have my shoes for Christmas!! If only the nyumba kumi initiative (vigilante system) was fully operational….we wouldn’t have a barefoot Santa on a bike to Mombasa!
Nonetheless, “the suspect has been arrested but is still at large” as Ole Lenku would have put it :).