Waking up on the fifth day (in Mombasa) since I took off from Nairobi on my bicycle, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I was in a big dream. Four days on the road, one puncture en route and 600 solid kilometers covered on two wheels, it was a first for me! In fact, it felt so unbelievable, I didn’t even want to wake up at first lest “the dream” fade away.
As I sat on the edge of my bed in the hotel I had randomly chosen the night before, I started recollecting the events and experiences bit by bit. I remembered as far as Mutomo where after a lovely lunch at Cafe Colorbash, I had found myself crashing into the dust not too far from the town itself.
Being a dirt road, with loose sand, I had handled my bike with care before reaching Mutomo, and all had been well. But now a well-fed version of myself threw caution to the wind and went down on Jembe (hard gear) mode. The result – a knee-bruising, dirt-biting crash to the amazement of the on-looking kids. Blame it on the stupid cow that crossed my path as I sprinted down the hill. Stupid cow! They should be taught to look left, then right and then left again before crossing the road. Stupid cow!
Anyway, this led me to the caring hands of Nurse Chihi at Ikutha Dispensary. I totally apologize for ruining her “Christmas” by my totally untimely wound because she had to put down a soda she was sharing with some of the patients to attend to my knee. A wonderful lady, she turned out to be, with a Taita name meaning “chair”. And as her story goes, maybe she was conceived on a chair! I will leave that at that…
Yatta Plateau was the next sight I spotted. The long stretch of table-like hill partly blocked the fading sun rays. I pedaled harder, with over 30km to the next destination; Kibwezi. By the time I was crossing the border between Kitui County and Makueni County, it was a few minutes past 6.00 pm. Poor me, I had to ride in the dark for like 20km aided only by the moonlight because I couldn’t find my damn lights (which apparently were in my back pockets, as I later realized).
Two ditch-dives literally lit up my dark night, with minor bruises, a dust bath and the stinging feel of exhaustion. The moment before each dive was so amazing and mystical that in the end I couldn’t help but laugh them off. Imagine yourself cycling, on a technically straight and soberly manner. Then the bike’s front wheel somewhat magically “disappears” underground, and before you can ask “yo, wheel, where you going?” you’re tumbling after it, head first!! Get the picture?
Kibwezi by Moonlight
Kibwezi at last! At 8.30 pm, on Christmas eve, a strange, dusty and tired but daring cyclist finds his way into a rather shy town. First Hotel, despite seeing my state of “touring affair”, declined my offer to pay for accommodation by M-pesa. If only I was old enough, I would have spelled a strong curse on that place! Guess I gotta wait till my hair turns grey to be able to utter such dreadful spell-binding curses, like our forefathers dis.
So I half-crawled (on my bike) to the next hotel, paid for the night; took too long taking a bath and nursing my wounds so when I stepped out to have dinner the restaurant had already closed! This day, the eve of Christmas, seemed doomed for me.
The Christmas Day itself, as I remember, was much kinder to me. I left Kibwezi after a heavy breakfast, perhaps fattening myself for the man-eater lions of Tsavo. One hundred and thirty eight kilometers lay between Kibwezi and Voi and I was determined to make it past Tsavo National Park uneaten!
Sure I did, with no animal attacks en route. In fact, I did not see a single wild animal, not even a zebra or antelope or the dik diks. But a crazy bird hovered over my head for a long while, crying out in nasty bird-voices. With every cry it let out, I felt like it was inching closer to my neck, like it wanted to bite me or suck my blood or…I don’t know, swallow me.
I have never been scared of a bird like that ever before, but having the thought of possibly being attacked by lions had only heightened my fears. So I raced harder, pedaled faster, till for some reason it flew off and left me back on my adventure. Phew!! Certainly, there is more to fear along this road than just the man-eater lions. And did I tell you about the truck drivers? I don’t know if I could consider them wild animals too, or just wild humans!
Christmas in Voi
Voi town, set strategically at the foot of Taita Hills, was a refreshing welcome from the chaotic day. At 5.30 pm I checked into Maghonyi Hotel, a magnificent hotel overlooking the hills. And by total coincidence, I met Andrew – a cycling enthusiast, who had just bought his bicycle a few weeks prior but hadn’t had the chance to test it. Because he had been following my ride on Facebook, and now that he had met me, he vowed to get on his bike officially and enjoy the ride. I’m happy to report that we have already cycled together a couple of times so far.
Then there is Patrick Sooma, who on this Christmas Day, cordially invited me to dinner with his family at the Voi Wildlife Lodge. So Christmas was awesome in the end…a bottle of wine downed by the poolside, then back to my hotel room. I think it was just what I needed to power me through my last stretch ;).
Mombasa At Last
Last day of cycling, Boxing Day, saw me waking up to my first and only puncture of the whole ride. Being as adventurous as I was, I had all the necessary tools to patch up the tube and hit the road, albeit late. A guard who heard that I was heading to Mombasa, 158km away, reassuringly told me I could do it in 3 hours! That’s like cycling at an average speed of 50kph! A speed that I could only hit going all downhill, maybe. But if he could believe in me and my Trek that much, who was I to disappoint him? I would die trying…
So three hours turned into eight hours of riding but I eventually got to Mombasa. The scenery on the last stretch wasn’t much, save for the vast sisal plantations. To the head wind, cross wind and all other winds that couldn’t let me wind my way down to Mombasa in peace; Shindwe!! And who puts small bumps on the shoulders of the roads where cyclists and pedestrians walk? Who does that? Don’t they know someone can trip on them and fall? Or worse, a cyclist like myself, (tired, weary and lost in creative thoughts) would be constantly irritated by the discomfort of hitting the mini-bumps?
Luckily all that was behind me…and as I stood up to stretch and yawn, I had only two things in mind: go to the beach and write my name on the sand then find a Children’s Home to share my story and spend time with some orphans.