Merewet. Lolkinya. Sibanga. Where am I? These road signs speak the actual names of the places I am passing through but none seems to make sense. Take Merewet for instance. In Kalenjin it’s the name of some type of bird that I don’t know, but to me it has this naughty connotation. “I’m Mere Mere Wet right now!” Get it? Oh well, welcome to my Western Kenya Cycling Tour.
From Iten town, the Home of Champions, I begun my journey west towards Kitale and eventually Bungoma. For a long time I had told myself that I really need to be “westernized”. Dip myself in the western Kenyan cultures, taste the Musheveves and dance to Isikuti drums. I’m from the west myself. That city near Lake Victoria is dala for me but that’s just as far west as I had ventured, save for four years of study in Eldoret. So when a friend, Debby, kept nagging me to visit her Obusuma backyard, Bungoma, I took my bicycle with me (in solidarity with the western culture).
It has been a long while since I last went on a multi-day cycling tour and I wasn’t exactly certain my legs could carry me anymore. Last time was over two months ago as we did a recce for Baiskeli Adventures’ Trans-Rift Valley Tour with Bouke. That was just a one-day stint that saw him (Bouke) cursing me on the climb to Eburru as though I was the creator of the hills and valleys. But isorait ma broda. Isokey!
Logically, I then chose to mix my Western Kenya cycling tour with a final recce for the Cycle Tour of Iten planned for later this month. Being the lead adventurer at Baiskeli Adventures simply means riding around, finding new cycling experiences and sharing them with a whole lot of cyclists back in Nairobi and the entire country (plus those oversees). How awesome is that? Very awesome indeed. Though sometimes torturous given the kind of terrain you have to cycle through to find the most adventurous cycling route worth a Baiskeli Adventure. Take the climb to Iten for instance. But I digress.
So I left the home of champions feeling like a champ myself and super-psyched for the ride ahead. I stopped under the sign “Thank You For Visiting The Home of Champions” and like a law-abiding citizen of the social media craze, I took a selfie. Maybe a couple of selfies (is that even a word?), twisting my head this way and that for that million dollar shot. Click click click, done! Let’s head out. It’s 9.00 am Wednesday morning.
It so happened that at the same time the famous Kenyan Riders’ junior team were out training. I saw them assembling not too far from my selfie spot (yes, I own that place now!) in readiness for their routine ride. I’m told today is an easy ride now that they just came back from the Gatamaiyu Forest Classic (where I also participated…as a photographer). Not sure which direction to cycle to, whether down the escarpment to Tambach or the opposite direction to Iten. The “ballots” were cast and it was decided that they “escort” me down towards Eldoret before I branch off towards Chepkoilel and eventually Kitale.
For a second here, let us define “Escort” okay? Good. Grab your Oxford Dictionary and Encyclopedia. Google, Wikipedia and Wikileaks may as well come in handy in figuring this out. In my not so ‘anglo-phoney’ mind, to escort is to ride alongside someone at the same pace. No distance between the escort and the escorted…yaani, side by side. Well, I may have been wrong or we (the Kenyan Riders and I) were not reading from the same source.
For a long time, I was merely chasing after their iconic black jerseys with the Kenyan Coat of Arms bright on their backs. I blame it on the head wind and the heavy bike and the bumps that repeatedly slowed me down and the baggy clothes that I was wearing and the fact that I hadn’t eaten breakfast that morning and many many more ‘proverbs’. But I still couldn’t get them. Whatever Simon Blake and his team are feeding these boys must be working magic!
Anyway, after the boys had had me chasing their tail for about an hour while spitting out all the ‘cold and cough’ that I had brought with me from Nairobi, I could finally sit down for a thorough breakfast at the Chepkoilel Junction. I rarely have cravings but this particular morning, I was craving some porridge. Some smooth, thick brown uji, not too hot but just warm enough. I wanted a whole calabash of this liquid to quench my thirst. Three hotels later and over three hundred meters covered, I finally had me a cupful of Uji with two bananas (a famous combo here). Wiping my lips, I feel ready for the next stretch. It’s almost noon and I have 90km to cover.
…to be continued.