Kenya Cycling Tour
During the recce for this Kenya Cycling Tour the actual event scheduled for one year later seemed far off but time flew by fast.
I was for the second time part of the African Horizons Travel & Safari team that supported the Epe Cycle for Water group riding through amazing Kenya regions. It was a different experience from the first Kenya Cycling Camping Safari. Nonetheless both tours were towards the same good cause of getting steady water supply for the Boresha Maisha ya Mtoto Kenya home located in Mai Mahiu, Kenya.
The first camp of the Kenya Cycling Tour was a primary school in Embu county. We got there in the evening; the team having arrived at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at about 2:15 pm.
The second day was for the visitors to acclimatise from the Netherlands to Kenya atmosphere. Bicycles were prepared and tested. The cyclists explored the area – visited the town, met the towners. One thing that was clear from the start was that the Epe Cycle for Water team members were ‘a people’s people,’ never missing a chance to meet and greet.
As the cycling team explored the camping town, I took a drive for about 100 km to what would be the first stage of bicycling. I ought to say that on this tour we went through amazing landscapes. It was different from the Great Rift Valley scenery which I always thought as the best. It was in my opinion way better than back routes we used on the Kenya Cycling and Camping safari. On the previous tour Mt Kilimanjaro beaconed us at some points. On this tour we were for a while on the skirts of Mt Kenya.
Out the 100 km I drove, I noted six clear water rivers within a stretch of 48 km. Men and women picked tea on road side farms. Tea trucks headed here and there. I passed a big tea factory. There was macadamia farming. I visited a macadamia collecting point and got to see how they are sorted out.
Day 1 – Cycling Embu – Chogoria – 80 km
The ‘neighbourliness’ between the residents and riders continued. I will borrow from the Epe Fietst Voor Water page where they wrote that ‘as they received greetings of hello, hi, jambo…they felt like princes Beatrix only without the golden carriage.’
This start of the tour was the scenic leg I had driven to. The road went up, and went down, crossing rivers. The land was green – fertile land shining with bananas, cassavas, arrow roots. It was brilliant picture for those of us riding in the cars but not quite so for the cyclists. The sun peeked from time to time but it was windy, and then it rained. The cyclists did not shelter from the rain. They rode on paved roads and tarmacked roads, and at some places it got slippery. The tea pickers in the farms also continued in spite of the showers.
At a certain highway, the riders rode fast – excitingly fast. They got to the lunch stop having completed 68 km. It continued to be tremendously cloudy through the remaining 12 km. Fortunately all got to camp dry. The camp was a church in Chogoria. A little before sunset we watched thousands of termites burst out of a mound across the road from the camp. Excited children got busy collecting them. The termites are a local delicacy.
Day 2 – Chogoria – Meru 65 km
We were still on the fringe of Mt Kenya. It was a clear morning and unlike the previous foggy day we got to see the mountain peaks. We crossed several rivers again. The residents picked tea still. It was beautiful country still.
The first 10 km were done off road then on paved road. The elevation kept increasing from Chogoria to end at 2400M in Meru. Although it was a different location, the residents beamed on seeing the riders. They waved, they smiled, a motorbike rider gave them a short escort then they exchanged high fives. Children ran around the cyclists. The children we met dressed in sacks and hats made of carton were like that because it was the day that they were supposed to clean the local shopping centres.
It is becoming more and more rare to see indigenous trees in Kenya. Nevertheless, there was an abundance of them on this Kenya Cycling Tour. Tea break happened at a place with stunning country side view.
During the recce we had mapped out all the roads we wanted to use. It was a surprise to find road construction on our path on the way to the overnight camp. We had to get local help to find a different route. The camp was a high school.
Of course, I experienced this day’s journey from the comfort of the car which was unlike what the riders braved. To get their views, I had to keep peeping to see what they journaled. They wrote that ‘it took willpower, commitment, and character to get to the finish line.’
Day 3 – Meru – Nanyuki – 90 km
This is the part of the Kenya Cycling Tour where we went from the green farm country back to the Great Rift Valley sceneries. Small farms turned to big farms and open fields from Kisima to Timau. On that stretch there are wheat farms, flower farms, green houses. The highway was busy.
We began in a forest area where we had seen elephants during the recce. Personally, I saw non on the tour but some team members spotted them and even took pictures. Mount Kenya revealed itself to us, then it was behind us as we drove and rode away from it. The rain had not relented. Clouds hang threateningly over us. The riders who were behind got rained on.
On their page, the Epe Fietst Voor Water described how it was for them. Of a certain point they wrote ‘we climbed with difficulty sighing, panting, preferring to focus on the ground rather than on the way ahead.’ The riders had to deal with quite a number of flat tyres on this day.
The night stop was neither a school nor a church. This time it was wildlife country. In fact, I got pictures of a juvenile harrier hawk indulging in the wild life of trying to plunder other bird’s nests on a whistling thorn tree – although unsuccessfully.
Olpejeta Conservancy Tour Break
The wildlife viewing tour break on this day was a good one. A necessary one even. Olpejeta hurried to show itself to us. We saw herds of buffalos, zebras, grants gazelles, white rhinos, and giraffes very quickly, in actual fact within a few minutes of driving in. Heading to the chimpanzee sanctuary, we saw a lioness disappear into the underbrush a distance away.
We took a break after the morning game drive and then continued after lunch – first visiting the rhino tomb stone and then Baraka the blind rhino. We got to see Fatu, and Najin, the world’s last two remaining northern white rhinos – both female. The day’s Olpejeta memory was also of some male elephants that drank at a water hole. As the sun set a white rhino took its calf home. The park did well.
Our camp site was on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River – a public campsite close to the Serat gate.
Day 4 – Olpejeta – Nyahururu – 100 km
By leaving Olpejeta by way of the Golf five gate route rather than the Serat gate as planned, we cut the day’s 100 km cycling distance by about 20 to 25 km.
The day’s ride started on an all-weather road within the range of the park. There were giraffes on the road side and there was livestock as well. Further on in Laikipia was the typical Rift Valley landscape of open plains with whistling thorns acacia. Towards the higher altitude of Nyandarua was farm land again – maize farms with dairy cattle.
The Epe Cycle for Water team did 32 km before tea break and then 30 km more by 12 pm. Tea break and lunch were always served at the ‘hakuna matata hotels’ – the nickname for our roadside stops. On this 4th day of riding the ‘hakuna matata’ lunch hotel was at the edge of a farm where women were harvesting beans. As might be expected, the cyclists interacted with them and shared lunch with them. Children dropped by and got some lunch too. Before the riders left, ladies dressed in uniform passed by. They were choir members on their way to church for practise. The riders asked to hear a song, joined in dancing a little bit and then they were on their way.
The previous full moon night at Olpejeta rouse to a sunny day but at night at the Thomsons lodge where we camped in Nyahururu, it was an extremely chilly night. On day 3 the riders had a number of flat tyres. On this day they had even more.
Day 5 – Nyahururu – Kipipiri – 85 km
Early morning found the riders setting out to Ndunyu Njeru. From Nyahururu we went on tarmac road then on extremely rough road. It was Sunday. Residents were all dressed up. Small, and not so small buildings here and there had blaring loud speakers outside – they were churches.
At a Rift Valley viewing point, the altitude was 2800 M above sea level. Lake Olbolossat was down there below. The Epe Cycle for Water team had done 32 km by tea time reaching 55 km by lunch break. It was a better road before the stop but after that the cyclists had to tackle a rough uphill riding on the shoulders of the Aberdare Ranges. They reached where they couldn’t cycle but walked instead.
All the way I spotted homesteads with unique pink/red flowered fences. Sun birds were attracted to these hedges. Merino sheep were tethered along the road. Going down through the forest towards the camp got easier for the riders. We had time to watch a roadside soccer match before getting to the Kipipiri camp site.
Day 6 – Kipipiri – Mai Mahiu – 85 Km
500 km was the distance the Epe Cycle for Water group completed on this Kenya Cycling Tour.
The translation on their last day cycle journal said that ‘they rode for water and for the beauty of Kenya.’ Starting at around 7:30 am, we went on a good all-weather road and then asphalt where the team rode terrifically fast.
Apart from the usual daily stops, there were two important stops on this day. The Boresha Maisha ya Mtoto Mkenya water source is located in Kijabe, several kilometres from the home. The borehole was the day’s first important stop.
It was a descending ride to Mai Mahiu where the Boresha Maisha ya Mtoto Mkenya home is located. This was the second and final stop of the day – the culmination of the tour. The cycling team waited for each at a certain junction and rode together to the children’s home. It was a grand moment. The children were excited. I wished to have been on the bicycles and not in the car.
A new borehole and 11 km of piping courtesy of the group got the water from Kijabe to the taps at the children’s home – the Epe Fietst Voor Water mission accomplished.
The cycling group’s journal ended by saying ‘We are Epe Cycling for Water 2019. We cycled 500 km for water. For a new borehole, a water source. And we made it. All of you. Chapeau for us.’
The journal also said ‘We didn’t just ride for water, we cycled for the beautiful country Kenya. The diversity in nature, the diversity in climate. The infinite and priceless beauty of the African country. Chapeau for this country.’
The Epe Cycle for Water tours in aid of the Boresha Maisha ya Mtoto Mkenya have been possible under the lead of Erwin Van Andel
Some of the Epe Fietst Voor Water images are courtesy of the official tour photographer – Martin Hogeboom
Borrowed lines from the Epe Fietst Voor Water page are with permission from their journal writer – Dennis Dekker
I participated in this tour thanks to African Horizons Travel & Safari
Thinking of a cycling tour in Kenya? – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org