Ever cycled at night? Yes? Ok. Ever cycled in the rain? Yes again? Alright, you’re a cool cyclist I must say because it takes full passion to not chicken out and duck under a tree or whatever may have a roof nearby once the first rain drops fall. Pat yourself on the back too for having braved the darkness to pedal home or to a bar or wherever it is your two wheels took you after the sun had set. Team night-riding all the way!
Now….have you ever cycled at night (I mean in pitch darkness), in crazy torrents of rain as you try to find your way through unknown territories back home? No? Maybe? Ok, this right here is the definition of “bad-assness” in cycling adventures – at least as far as I have experienced.
This story started just like any other, sunny and warm with all things looking flowery and pretty. Ok, that’s a lie, there were no flowers or prettiness, just two adventurous (read “bad-ass”) cyclists on their bikes finding their way to Nairobi from Naivasha. Sean was on his last day of a 4-day cycling adventure that took him from Naro Moru to Nyahururu to Nakuru and eventually Naivasha. And as our agreement stood, I would join him on his last stretch from Naivasha back to Nairobi.
I arrived at Camp Oloiden at around 8.00 pm on Monday to find Sean already settled in enjoying his beer, a perfect end to an interesting day as he later confessed. Apparently, having been delayed by the rain in Nakuru for over two hours, this fella found himself riding in the dark for three miles. Of course he had head and tail lights so road visibility was no issue. But he did not anticipate or ever imagine the possibility of an encounter with a wild animal. Relax, it wasn’t one of the Big Five…but it was big nonetheless – a giraffe!
What do you do when you meet a giraffe on your cycling path? Step one: stop the bike and stay as calm as possible (animals are peaceful creatures unlike humans). Step two: look around for help, possibly a passing vehicle you can flag down (at least that’s what Sean did, and it worked!). Fortunately, the vehicle belonged to the Kenya police, so his security and safety just got a boost. And he made it to the campsite incredibly happy and with a story to tell.
Then it was my turn to narrate how interestingly I had traveled with my bike from Nairobi to Naivasha. Getting to Naivasha town, with my bike tied on the roof rack of the bus, was all smooth and drama free. However, the drive from Naivasha town to Camp Oloiden was more interesting than I had expected. From having my bike dangling at the rear of the Matatu to being forced to sit on my bike’s frame while on a boda boda motorbike for the last stretch of my journey, I sure did have a share of my adventure too.
Anyway, all that behind us, we woke up on Tuesday morning in high spirits ready to hit the road. The initial plan was to take the highway to Nairobi but that would have meant so many vehicles and pretty little to see. So being the Baiskeli Adventures guy, I suggested a more adventurous route. Sean did not object because all he wanted was “to get home”, regardless of the distance.
So the ride begun…first through the hellish climbs in Hell’s Gate National Park to Suswa town. Beautiful countryside, amazing tracks and some sweet downhills that had Sean displaying his mountain biking skills on a touring bike! Bunny hop after bunny hop, he was having a ball…despite his bag repeatedly falling off.
As we neared Suswa, the downhills gave way to vast savanna land stretching out to Mt. Longonot on one side, Mt. Suswa right ahead of us and several other hills on the floor of the Great Rift Valley. We could see a heavy downpour on and around Mt. Suswa and at that time we were so happy not to be caught up in it.
Several kilometers later, we were traversing the wet paths on our way to Ewaso Kedong for lunch and the final attack on Ngong Hills. Lunch took longer than we expected and as we hit the road again, it was less than two hours to six o’clock with another 50km to go and a 5km stretch of steady climbing. This is where the whole adventure started taking shape, or maybe this is where it started losing it.
The road got rockier the further we climbed. Half cycling, half walking, I could tell Sean wasn’t all thrilled that his bike couldn’t handle the road. On the far south side (Magadi area I presume), the sky darkened and the heavens rumbled and flashed furiously. So far, our side was dry and we were grateful that not even a single rain dot had dropped on us. But as fate had it, our joy was short-lived.
With 15km to Ngong, the sky grew darker, the rumbles increased, the flashes became more frequent and we kept pedaling. If my childhood understanding that lightning flashes were a sign of God taking pictures of us is true, then I believe on Tuesday He got a whole album full of our photos :). But that was before the skies opened up and we received an anointing by the purest, coldest and heavy rains I have ever experienced in my cycling life!
For three solid hours we cycled through the dark rainy night. Puddles turned into mini-lakes of muddy water and we “rowed” our bikes from shore to shore. Where the path seemed hidden or lost, we followed the currents. We were all wet to the skin, the handles became slippery and I took my first tumble landing on my butt. No bruises, no broken bones, just a grazed palm and a sore butt….the ride continued.
Nearing Ngong town, it was a huge relief to exchange the muddy off-road terrain for a smoother, albeit wet, tarmac stretch. It was still dark, we were still cold but the rain hadn’t ceased even as the two muddy cyclists rode into Ngong town at a few minutes past nine o’clock. All we wanted was a long hot shower, some food and a bed…and we found that at Kianjoh Guest House.
Half an hour later, the hot water indeed washed off our dirt and warmed our numb limbs but the memories of the craziest cycling adventure stuck. I don’t know about Sean, but I would do that ride again under the same circumstances because it is only in the toughest of situations that one really gets to appreciate and understand their full strength and determination. Besides, what’s a sore butt compared to a jubilant heart?
*Check out a short video of the ride here.