Day Two: Kitui – Kibwezi (153km)
Woke up on the eve of Christmas to the annoying crowing-cock-alarm on my phone at 6.00 am. Where am I? This doesn’t look anything like my bedroom, is it? The questions buzzed through my mind like a swarm of wild bees. So I took my time to take in the surrounding…
I was lying on this simple bed, the only real furniture in the room aside from a funny looking table. And my helmet, panniers and other paraphernalia were lying around me. Bits and pieces started falling into place…I was in Kitui, en route to the Coast on my bike! I mean how could I forget?? It’s not like I spent the previous night downstairs at the bar making merry for it was Ladies’ Night. I think I must have been too pre-occupied with other things…or was I?
A stretch and a yawn later, my mind was fully awake…and so was the soreness on my butt. My phone’s battery seemed way lower than I had hoped for and it only reminded me of last night’s ordeal…fighting blood thirsty mosquitoes as I waited for the same damn phone to charge in the restaurant area.
You see, I had stopped at the Riverside Motel (the first accommodation joint I saw) and besides it’s location being nowhere near a river, nor having running water, the rooms didn’t have sockets. But I couldn’t have noticed that at first…nooo…my mind was simply singing “bed! bed!” as I paid for my room….very cheap indeed!
Mwisho wa Lami (End of Tarmac)
A cold bath (bend-over style), a hot breakfast and I was ready to leave Kitui at 8.30 am. Another 153km lay between me and my next bed and, as much as I still couldn’t believe it, I was more energetic than the day before. So many songs played in my head and echoed through my mouth as I hit the road to Kibwezi.
To my surprise, about 5km out of Kitui town the tarmac ended..abruptly, without warning or signage! I think it wouldn’t hurt the Kitui governor to put a sign reading “End of Tarmac 100m ahead” for the benefit of travelers like myself!
So I looked down at the small Cane Creek shocks on my Trek 7500 and prayed that it takes me across safely. At that moment I was convinced it will be an all-dirt road to the end, though I secretly entertained the idea of some tarmac ahead. Nonetheless, I wasn’t scared of getting dusty or absorbing some color from the brown soil.
Off to a good start, the dirt road is smooth, the morning wind is still a bit chilly and the clouds seem to darken signalling a potential down pour. I wasn’t worried about the rain splattering on me, because I had a raincoat, but I didn’t want a muddy ride…at least not on the eve of Christmas! A muddy cycling Santa? Not the kind of a red-coated-look any Santa would wish for.
Luckily, the skies cleared up soon enough, as if in response to my wishes, and once again my surrounding was lit bright. I rode past rocks so huge, you would think they were hills…past little boys on their morning errands…past women on their way to the market or wherever…and past gagged donkeys denied the “freedom of speech” (translated as: free will to eat anyhow). But more often I found myself cycling in lonesomeness…only the swaying trees and the chirping birds signalling to a waking village. I cycled past quiet town centers with old grey concrete-walled buildings and crossed bridges over drying riverbeds.
There seemed to be little of interest on this day until I stopped at a point near Kisasi. The road inclined down towards a river then climbed up on the other side on a rugged patch. I decided to take a photo there and as I got off my bike, I could hear some women, two women to be precise, chatting a few meters down the road. They were seated on a rock under a tree probably sharing the latest gossip. One of them had an umbrella, as I later noticed…but I hadn’t paid much attention at the time.
With all the professionalism a photographer like I could master (believe me it’s very limited), I took a posture, aimed my camera and shot! What happened next left me puzzled, standing there wondering whether to run or not. I almost took to my heels when I heard the two women scampering for ‘safety’ in the nearby bushes, shouting and yelling (well, that may be exaggerated 🙂 but you get the picture). If there is one thing that living in Nairobi has taught me, is if you see a group of people running helter skelter, run too and ask questions later!
But at that moment sanity prevailed and I took a second to analyze the situation. Turns out, my “professional” photographer posture had scared these ladies. It may have seemed like I was taking a photo of them or maybe casting a spell on them…I still have no idea, but that’s Ukambani. Either way, they ran, leaving their umbrella by the roadside…and I couldn’t help laughing! It was the best start to a new day.
Dusty Foot Philosopher
Cycling further on the endless stretch of brown dirt road, concentration was key. A simple miscalculation…or a straying glance at a passing beautiful lass could have led to my crash. Most part of the road had loose sand which made maneuvering really tough. Though it was a downhill, I could only cycle at 15kph for safety reasons.
I passed through Kisasi and Ikanga towns to the surprised expressions of the locals. “Aii…” or “Asii..” exclamations is all I heard on my way to Mutomo. I could see women clad in multicolored lesos all through the town centers and I thought to myself, Kambaland must be leso-land. And with the rainbow colors worn there, no wonder it is alleged that there are no chameleons in this part of Kenya. The poor creatures would die of color confusion, not knowing what color to change into :).
Making my way into Mutomo, like a dusty foot philosopher, I was greeted by this hill of rocks perched on each other, in a unique and attractive order. Rocks beaten by weather elements but still standing, strong, stable and unbowed… And for a moment I wanted to be just like the rocks, to stand up for my inner fears and surrender not to difficulties…but there was the lingering thought of the man-eater lions!
Mutomo town is not a very big town or any special, at least from what I could see. But it was busy, quite busy actually…several shops, vendors, clothes stalls and an open market, despite the scorching heat. My arrival here was very precise, at exactly 2.00 pm…my lunch time. And having an adventurous tongue, I walked into Color-bash Cafe!
As I ate my lunch on the terrace of this colorful cafe, I spotted the first “wild” animal of Tsavo West National Park.Tucked calmly under the sign post pointing to the entrance to the park, this “aggressive” mammal seemed out of place…or maybe that was a facade considering it had “strayed” 2km from its natural habitat. Nonetheless, I ruled that if these were the “man-eaters” of Tsavo that I was to face ahead, then I had nothing to worry about :).