10 December 2007

When I don't ride on Sunday what do I do?

Sometimes I just can't get on the bike and pedal all day.

At 4am the alarm beeped and I debated for 2 minutes and decided to sleep. The rest of the day I made excuses, procrastinated, dreamed, and schemed.

I lean towards being lazy. It is the Norwegian American protestant work ethic that makes me do anything.

I researched rocket stoves.

I researched brick kilns. Mostly vertical brick kilns.

Then the morning was gone.

I started to make another rocket stove, so I looked around the store for materials. Then I felt I needed organize my big store. Then I decided I needed more buildings. I schemed on building a brick wall with mesh openings in the old farm garage. All afternoon I wandered around the property planning.

In the end I took all the bikes out of the walled in store and hung them up in a row and restrung the clothes line. I only wheeled bikes around today.

03 December 2007

Hold that plane

Last week I had a tzNIC (no website although it controls all dot TZ names) board meeting in Dar on Tuesday afternoon. I had to stay overnight so I missed the Wednesday club ride. Bummer. But I did get to hold up a scheduled airline.

Getting the ticket this time was a bit of a mess, culminating on finding out 75 minutes before take off that the flight was from KIA airport, 50km away and not Arusha airport 10km away.

I had missed the bus shuttle.
Take off was 11am.
Last check in is 10:30.
It is 50 minutes normal drive.

I gave up but Esther in Customer support says, "You can make it". So I jumped in a taxi at the office 55 minutes before take off.

While in the taxi to the airport the operations manager of Precision Air calls me and asks where I am and when I will get there. (Esther had got on the phone to Precision Air. ) I say hopefully 1045. (For 11am take off). "hurry". I walk briskly to the check in and realize they are all waiting. The ops manager calls me again while I am checking in.

Everyone says hurry. When I walk out of the building the women on the apron says "can you run", so I run to the plane. As soon as I am in the door slams shut and the engines start roaring and we are away.

Jeez, am I a big shot or something. I held up the damn plane for a few minutes. And this is the guy who rides a bicycle to work and walks the stairs instead of the elevator. Hmmm they must of had the wrong guy in mind.

Dar is about 650 km by road. While flying I kept mulling over trying to ride my bike there in 1 1/2 days, rest 1 day and do the meeting. (Now I can keep this post in this blog).

LATER: I was telling Bernice about this and she told me of about 4 times she has held up the plane. Her brother is an air traffic controller and held an International flight once so she could catch it. I guess I am insignificant as I thought.

01 December 2007

Monduli Mountains and Plateau

During a Wednesday club ride Mike Peterson asked if I was still doing long rides on the weekends starting in the dark. He said he would join and before you know it we have a crowd. I think we were around 15. It was only 120km what I rode but it was about 7 hours of fairly hard riding and twice we climbed 2500', a numerous other rolling hills. Below is us heading toward Monduli mountain.










We agree to meet at 530 AM on Saturday on the road to Likamba. Everyone is late and it is getting a bit light when we all finally are together. We get treated to sunrise splendor.







We move up through dry farmland and through a valley after valley, ridge after ridge. You can see the riders at the bottom of this valley. The time it took me to stop, whip out my camera, turn it on and point my buddies were at the bottom.






Where is the picture of Wes riding out of this canyon?




I was thinking we would ride straight across to Monduli Town, but we took a right heading up a ridge and ended up going through Mondul Coffee estate. They have some of the best coffee grown in Tanzania. It was so green at this elevation and the farm is protected from cows and goats. Contrast this to the previous previous picture.




Right there we came across this xxxx chameleon. way cool.









View to the south from the rain forest.








From here on the riding got really cool and everyone was excited about riding down single track into Monduli town. There was one rocky section that some of us walked but most of it was screaming fast, teeth showing, fun downhill.


A view of the trail from above. I couldn't get the camera out quick enough to catch someone in the picture.







In Monduli town we stopped in a roadside hoteli to drink chai and eat whatever people had in their pockets. Some decided to head home from here and some decided to ride up to Monduli Juu and over the 7 corners, where the road drops down into the Engaruka basin at Mfereji. The young guys left us quickly on the climb and eventually Wes turned around too and i was on my own. The road is really good, could almost do this on a road bike.

Just a few kilometers before the steep drop into the basin i met Thomas under a tree and we waited for the rest who came by shortly.













We had a soda in Monduli after 30 minutes of coasting down and took the old road across to Kisongo. It is completely gone. You can see where the culverts and bridges were in places but the road is mostly erased. enlarge the picture and the red shows the big erosion in this area.




People started peeling off for trails to their homes and then it was Paulo and Richard and myself. 12 km only and then Paulo had flat troubles and we got to fix some flats on the side of the highway in the full sun.

That evening i was sick for awhile, think i had sunstroke slightly.

19 November 2007

Biking the Pare Mountains

I didn't ride to this ride.

Every few months the whole family (all 3 of us) goes my wife Bernice's home village to see Bibi and Babu (grandparents). Once we rode our bikes up from the main highway. I wrote about it here.

We drive to the village as it is 220km one way and we usually only spend a night or two. I could ride but a bit much for the family. Sometimes I ride for awhile on the highway and Bernice drives. I wanted to ride but we borrowed a Landrover and Bernice didn't feel like driving it. So I put the mountain bike in the back hoping I would take a good ride on Sunday.




This particular trip we were going to give our "pole" (condolences) to Chungkicha, Bernice's great uncle. His wife died a few weeks ago after being invalid for 15 years. Chungkicha is on my list for a blog story. He is 93 and has it all together upstairs and has some good stories. Definitely one of my heros. In the picture above he is telling me about the time between the Germans leaving the village and the British taking over after WWI. The local Pare leadership took the opportunity to move the survey markers for the big local church mission, decreasing the mission area by half. I love this story. My father in law's plot where they retired was once in the mission compound. The house has no cement and the wall behind bibi is the worst shape, most are perfect after 60 years.

After breakfast Sunday I started out in low clouds to head "over the mountains". It was gently rolling for awhile and before I started a long steep climb. An indication is that when the trip was over I had only averaged around 10kmph, including the downhills!! I was doing 5kmph plenty of times.

Like many parts of Tanzania, and especially the traditional areas they are suffering from over population. Sifuni who is my age and works with me says this river I rode over was big enough when he was a kid to frighten him. Now it is a mere trickle in the dry season.







Here I am riding steadily up this good road.











See that big building on the ridge (exact middle of the picture), the road goes right by there. Lovely road going in and out of the ravines and valleys. Way cool.
There was not much climbing mostly contoruing to get up to the ridge



Lots of friendly people and lots of views.

This is the view from the "pass". Kind of like a "Sound of music" meadow. I locked my bike in some bushes on the track and then climbed through a small forest to get to this meadow. I met a few herd boys at the top.









I saw some really nice rock masonry. This church had really good masonry out of rocks. click on this picutre and see good masonry work.

Why plaster work like this, why build with burnt bricks when you can build a wall like this.






Riding back I am going slower and notice some pinneapples growning on side of road and a tradional pare house.







Most of the houses are roofe with corrugated iron sheets (bati) but there are a few traditional houses, round with some sort of grass roof.









In only about and hour and I crested the mtns and swooped down in to Bwambo and stopped in a small hoteli for some chai. They only had black coffee, so I had that for the experience and two "half cakes". That is on my breakfast on the table.
The mother was outside washing clothes and the daughter was ironing clothes she had sewn on an ancient treddle sewing machine on the porch. That is a poster of our current President on the wall, J. Kikwete. It was a campaign poster from the election.



I can look down to the plains and at one view point I can see Gavau where by brother in law comes from. That village on top of the ridge is where he comes from. I guess that is how Wapare peoples protected themselves from Maasai a century ago, living in the tops of the mountains.
The only time I have been stung by a scorpion was near that big building. I must of picked it up on the plains.



18 November 2007

Duh!

Today I rode with my friend Thomas Holden 40 km hard from his place on jeep tracks and single track, and another 20km to get to and from his house.

We went south and around a couple of small hills that have something to do with the volcano Mnt Meru. The last hill Thomas took me on a small trail the almost completely circumnavigated the hill half way up. Really cool, in and out of ravines, smooth, and views all over. I was kicking myself for not bringing a camera.

We ended at Thomas's house so he could give me a couple bottles of slime tube sealant and some road and mountain tubes. Remember that as I continue with my story.

Thomas's mother was there with her husband and right away I was thinking she does not have an American accent. I eventually asked if she was British and she said yes. She even still has a British passport. Then I found out that even Thomas has a British passport!! He has been one of my riding buddies for several years and I never knew that. He lived most of his life in the good ol USA.

After the best omelet in my life at their house I started riding home. I got about a kilometre and the back tire went flat. There was a big thorn sticking out and I managed to pull that out and was pretty sure the slime in the tyres would do the job, so I pumped it up and spun the tyre and rode on. I made it about 400 metres before it was flat. I debated to take the tube out and check but pumped and rode on. That is how it works sometimes. You pump and ride 1-5 times and then eventually the tube stays up. If it is more than 4 times you better check it out. And today was one of those rare days. So I pulled the tube out and checked the tyre and tube and found some thorns but nothing major. I pumped the tyre up again and it seemed better and rode another 500 metres only before I had to stop again. Damn.

Whenever you pull an old tube with slime it might not seal the holes the first time, so I pumped and rode a couple of times and started to get frustrated and wondering if I should patch.

After about 12 times I was glad I was riding alone as there I was with no less than 4 extra tubes and two bottles of slime, including the spare tube with slime I started out with in the morning. I put in a new tube and squirted in some slime , pumped it up and road home.

Please keep this to yourself.

17 November 2007

Vaulted roofs for housing

If you look on the right at my profile and links you will note I am interested in building, which has been the case all my life. Recently I am interested in vaulted roofs, like the roof above.

I designed and built the A-Frame house we live in now, pictured below. I didn't do most of the brick work or the cement floors but I did all the wood work structure, floors, wood walls, windows and doors. It has taken 20 years of off and on building and there still remains some ceilings to finish. This is a picture of the front of the house,

From the inside:

The biggest reason for building with an A frame plan was to save money. The walls can be any material as they are not load bearing saving money. There is no expensive steel/concrete ring beam, instead the horizontal wood of the A and the floor joists act like a ring beam. The space above the ground floor ceiling is use able so I got an extra floor for little extra cost.

But this house is still plenty expensive, especially as burnt bricks are expensive.

As my company AFAM sells fired clay bricks and have been building underground water tanks with brick domes for years, I tried a few years ago building small buildings with domes for roofs. I was concerned they would develop cracks because of earth tremors. They have faired very well and are waterproof, but they have an echo/reverberation phenomenom.

I need to build another house to live in (long storey).

From a local architect , Thomas Caspary, I learned about brick vaults, and started reading.

Auroville in India and this article were my biggest inspiration. Also the buildings of Gaudi in Spain and Hassan Fathy of Egypt. What Gaudi did with catenary arches and vaults and columns in churches and large homes makes my spirit soar. Fathy was more down to earth and wanted to build cheaply for the masses.

Originally I was going to have domed roofs on this new house until i began researching vaults. Now I want vaulted roofs.

To prepare for building on the new house we just now built a store for the overflow junk from the town office. Once the roof was finished it was obvious it was too "maridadi" for a store and it is almost ready for Diana, our trusted home manager to use as her two room apartment.

This is the finished building with some cardboard on top so it stays wet. As you can see there is some landscaping work to be done. First we build a kitchen waste biogas tank in her front yard, then the pile of rubble goes around that.


This is the inside of the vaulted room.
The door became a bit ostenacious but kind of cool.
In the picture is Fundi Robson, the brick mason.

This is how the vault started. It took several attempts to get to this stage. We tore it all down several times and it fell partially several times. Robson finally figured it out. Experimenting how much he could build in a day, the consistency of the mud mortar, and issues like that. Initially I had him leaning and stepping the bricks.





Once Robson had some experience he did less stepping and more one line at a time. Also the leaning doesn't seem to be necessary. Next building he will not lean the bricks and try to build whole arches at a time.



The arched doors and windows was also a learning experience as they need to interlock with the roof arch, they depend upon each other for support, and they tended to become a big huge.


I can afford to plaster the roof with cement and waterproof cement, but i want to figure a way to do it cheaper and with less cement. Or at least know the options. It appears it will involve a layer of plastic, then layers of mud and cow dung.

05 November 2007

Karibu Trade Fair Race 2006

I found this in my email, written 1 1/2 years ago. The pics are from KTF2007 Race, a whole nother story but not told.

KTF2006 is our club's annual race. Around the first of June every year the tourism industry has a trade fair called Karibu Trade Fair. It is mostly about promoting tourism but it is also is a fair for anyone who might be a supplier to tour operators, and it is a big party for Arusha.

For the past few years we are allowed to stage our race during the fair. The only advantage is that after the race those of us who are middle class can go buy barbecue chicken and beer inside the fair and our families can hang out there while waiting for us to return.

For the first time we turned the race organization over to the younger guys in the club and they pulled it off very well. We even had some cash left over that was used to buy more second hand bikes for new riders.

This year the race is shorter, only 130 km instead of 180. I thought that would be too short for me but I think it was better. This way the second half of the race is still a race and not survival to keep going. But I am a survivor.

Prep for the race.
I commuted on bike two days the week of the race , and on the Wednesday club ride took it at 75% normal speed and Friday night only drank too glasses of wine and half a chicken and some roasted plantains. You see, I am 50 now and I am not going to break the top ten anyway. Just in our club there are probably 10-15 guys faster than me.

I got up around 6am and fill up 3 containers with 20 litres water, get my bike out, my cycling clothes, street clothes for after the race, eat a peanut butter sandwich, a banana and drink water.

This race I am going to have honey and salt in my water, eat more bananas, and a shot of honey every hour. Other times I go for almost 2 hours before starting to eat and I pay for it.

We actually start on time. We have 10 riders from Kenya, and another 20 from other cities in Tanzania, and 30-40 from our club. I recognize people from other parts of Tanzania now. We do the first 10 km into Arusha town and to the edge at a controlled pace. You can't race even with police and other cars trying to clear the road. Just too many cars. It is a fun stroll through town riding in the middle of the road with 70 other bicyclists. At the edge of town immediately the pace becomes 45kph on the flats. The next 20km we are averaging 44kph. I stay in the middle trying to stay out of trouble. There are now about 35 in our pack and 5 of them are weaving as they are inexperienced. We yell at them to stay in the back but they are wannabes.

The "over 50" group try to keep tabs on one another and say we will try to stay together unless someone can stay with the lead group longer. Henry has never managed to stay this long , usually he gets dropped on a spurt or hill, but this time he is staying right near the front so he can be more aware when the spurts happen. All of a sudden the group will up the pace to 55kph on the flat for 30 seconds and then settle back to 40. You just need to hang on and hope it slows down quickly.

There a a couple of significant downhills on the way to the plains and the pack hits 70kph. On one someone decides to go all out on the downhill and the pack struggles to maintain contact. I need one more gear. I was wildly spinning and in the end just tucked and hoped the lesser wind resistance would keep me in contact. Luckily they only did that for 30 seconds and it was back to soft pedaling in the back. Now we were down to the plains and gently rolling for the next 20kms. The pack would slow way down to almost 30km as no one wanted to be out in front. So several times the "wazee" would go up front as a team and pick the pace back up for 5 minutes. One time we had a really good round going. Was impressed myself. We stopped before getting too tired and assimilated back into the pack. Still alot of people in the group. Abdallah and Hendrick, and Cheusi are hanging in the back. Moses does alot of work in front together with a Kenyan.

We pass the airport turn off and the pace mostly lags. we all are eating and drinking by now. I have eaten a couple bananas and a shot of honey, I don't feel the need for it but know later I will have hard time eating when I get tired later on. The wazee do a turn up front but get back well before the turn around point. We know at the turn around it is very likely the group will sprint for awhile. There are no downhills after we turn around either flat, slightly uphill, or really uphill. Take that back there are a few short downhills here and there.

Sure enough at the turn around there is a sprint and I am kind of in the middle. You have to be careful that the person you are following is maintaining contact. If they drop back you have to move around quickly and up to the pack. All the wazee manage to stay on and we have dropped 10 people. The pace slows again as we move back across the flat plain. It will be hard for them to drop us now until a long hill before King'ori town. Wazee congratulate each other and warn each other to get ready for the hill.

Sure enough, at the next long hill, not steep but sustained the pack moves off. People are struggling and drifting back and we move around them. My companions just cant hold it and we group into a second pack 100 meters back from a group of 15 leaders. A day later I tell myself I could of bridged and stayed with them. But at the time I was glad when verbally and by action they all said "can't do it". I wasn't maxed out but pretty scared at the sustained tempo and how I was feeling and there are still 50km or more to go and two long sections of hills.

We have lost Thomas and Henry and have a young high school student club rider with us, Samueli, the guy from Zanzibar, and I can't remember who else. It becomes apparent pretty quickly that I have more energy than Wes, Mike, or Thad and do most of the work up to Kikatiti hill. The Zanzibari, the student ,and Samueli leave us on some slight hills, we catch up on the flats and then they move ahead on the hills. Kikatiti hill is about 1-2 km at max vehicle grade and then another 1km at lesser grade. My buddies are holding me back here but i know they will help me on the flats, even if only 25% of time in front they will help me go faster over all. We make the top of the steep part and pick it up a bit and start catching the small group in front on the gradual grade. We catch and pass them on the short downhill into Maji ya chai town and then my bike feels funny steering. The front tyre is good but steering is funny. I start asking my "team" and Mike says you got a flat in back. Damn! I have to stop. I tell them go ahead but they stop as I expected and we quickly change the tube and pump it up. Those we passed and another six or so pass us. I thought it was 3 only but others say alot have passed us. Now we roll slightly up, flat, slight up for some 10 km. We pass some of those back but can't catch Samueli, zanzibar, and the student, we don't see them again. We pass Tengeru and i am doing 75% of the work. I had a few minutes feeling tired around Tengeru but most of the time I feel strong. After Tengeru we have slight ups and downs and then the big short hill at Kampi ya chupa. We slow way way down, we now are passing and being passed by a Kenyan we have reeled in. After the hill he just stays on our back as we pick up speed into town. The police don't see us coming and the intersections we have to slow up on the first 2, the third is a left corner for us and we scream through the intersection.

Ngarenaro is fast and we are being slowed by cars. We yell to police at the last corner and they hold up traffic and we only have to slow to 20 kph. We maneuver around traffic in a congested area of Mbauda. I am doing less work now. It is too hard to really push this section. At majengo the traffic thins and I move up in front again. With a couple of kilometers to go Wes can't hold us anymore . We briefly discuss and decide to let him go alone the last few kms. Later he tells us he got cramps. I don't want the kenyan to beat our group so i tell Mike and Thad to keep the pace up and rest up for the sprint.

They do their job and with 200 meters to go I take off and lead the Kenyan by 30 meters by the finish. There is a huge crowd almost blocking the road.

We would of love to have seen the finish of the lead group. It was hotly contested among our team. Seems John, Hamisi, and Moses broke away from the group and then we had Hendrik, Cheusi, spread out behind them followed by the Kenyans and Musisi from Dodoma.


I was tired but not totally like the previous year. It felt like it was a race.


After finishing then there was the long wait for the main sponsor Breweries to show up with the race money.




Paradoxes of wealth

I changed my weekend schedule as there were a number of people who wanted to ride on Sunday mornings, or so it seemed there were many until this Sunday.

Stephane was the only one who showed up, or more precisely the only one who SMSed "OK" . We head towards Ngaremtomi on the high road before following the Selian river down to the highway. The path and roads along the river are slightly down hill and slightly wooded making wonderful riding.

We cross the highway and pedal out the TPRI road and into the dust of Likamba, then up the hills of Lakilaki to taking a break on top, enjoying the breeze and some dates.

Four Waarusha boys out herding cows wander over to inspect us and our bikes. They have a few questions, and of course one has to beg for something, but the older one agrees with me that that is stupid, so the mood is not spoilt.

I appreciate the wisdom of this kid and stop trying to brush him off, instead I start asking him some questions. As we are sitting on the ruins of an old farm, I ask what he knows about it. Then wise kid asks don't we see it as a big waste and a shame that this white guy built up this farm and then left and it was all slowly carted away? I do not explain. Instead I think about this boy's confidence and freedom to tell me what he thinks.

We scream down the track into the Papadapoulis farm, across a flood plain, through a new housing area, find a track through the abandoned coffee trees, across the Ngaremtoni river and into Endurance farm. We pass huge new homes set on 5 acres each and we pass neat farm workers housing from colonial times, rows and rows of whitewashed 2 room houses.

It was mellow and I say "I wish we could stop at a coffee shop and have coffee and pie." Like that would happen in Arusha and this far out of town! But as we moved through the huge farms of Selian, Burka there was the buildings of Friedkin/TGT complex ahead and the idea that we could get some cake and coffee at the restaurant there.

We hit a big maintained dirt road circling around their Rhodes grass fields and decide on left. Pretty soon there was a new fence on our left. Those 2 meter high electrified fences. I wondered if we were on the inside or outside of the fence. Soon we were alongside the Rugby fields of the sports complex and I knew that we had somehow come into the Friedkin Complex from the back door. Cool.

Friedken is a family that made their big money with Toyota Franchise's in Southwestern USA. Follow the link or trust me this guy has serious money, or just pass the cursor over his name and think what Forbes (as in fortune 400) means. So what is a Texas millionaire doing with a big sports complex and Photographic and Hunting company offices in the middle of what used to be coffee farms west of Arusha? And rumor has it they don't make a profit.

Hunting. Now this is pure speculation but I speculate he originally started coming to Tanzania to hunt as a client. So he is using a company called Kerr & Downey and every year he sits around the fire and one day they talk about buying the hunting company for fun. It changed its name as some point to TGT (Tanzania Game Trackers) and broadened activities. It includes a charter airline, Northern Air, photographic safari, a NGO called Friedkin Conservation Fund, and so on. We used to sell them an Internet connection until they got to big and bought their own dish.
Along the way the General manager in Tanzania became South African and now most of the whites working there are South African, and there are "a ton" of whites working there. ALOT.

About 3 years ago they decided to build new offices, and while they were busy building anyway they built a sports complex, workshop, and lodging for hunters. As long as they were building the business they decided to build a houses for Thomas Friedkin and the son's family. So when they come for their 2 weeks per year they have a house , each, each fully staffed year round. The sports complex has two restaurants and a bar, 3 rugby/football fields, one field with lights, swimming pool, squash and tennis courts, etc. All set in a coffee plantation on one side and about 1000 acres of grass for horses.

How do I know all this? Some speculation and some I know as we did the data cabling for the new and old place. Fibre optic and cat6 cable all over everywhere. CCTV and digital phones and la di da. So I spent some time there when it was being built and have visited a couple of times afterwards.

ANYWAY so we pedal in dusty and sweaty through the paved car park , past white people playing tennis, and past the manicured lawns. Everything is quiet and proper. We ask a woman in waitress uniform if we can get a coffee and she says try the bar. I follow Stephane around the building and he keeps pushing his bike in front going around the front of the fancy restaurant / club with tables on the perfect lawn. shit. I follow sheepishly. I mean picture two hobo's riding their bike on the member's only country club lawn while breakfast is served if you please.
There is a group eating brunch at a long table with white table cloth.

We actually know most everyone at the only occupied table and say hello. Louise Hill a member of our bike club is there with her husband and his parents, the Schmidts. Yap Schmidt helped me back when i was farming as paying me partly in advance to grow flower seeds.

Brunch is 15,000shs a plate thank you, and actually looks worth it. We only have 17,000 shs between us and ask what we can get for that much. The waiter is cool and says just split a "all you can eat" plate. Hmmm. The food is incredibly delicious, food like these soft cheese balls, miniature quiches, bacon. The coffee is okay but not great.

We agree about how nice the place is but also how it is creepy or weird or somehow out of place. It is a bit too colonial or white south African feeling. The sprinklers are going around on the fields and a crew is moving some of them. The waiters are extremely competent. Everything is perfect and we look across playing fields and pastures . Way off in the distance you can see the parched fields of Kisongo.

Actually I have been thinking about applying to join the sports club here. I am told it is relatively cheap compared to other places. One part of me wishes they would not accept me, so I could bad mouth the place more than I do.

Before we fall asleep at the table we hop on the bikes and ride out the newly paved road to the main gate. The main gates guard house is about as big as my house. I have a slight fear they will ask for the ticket given to you when you arrive, but they just smile and open the gate as we are white and we say hello and ride on into the next coffee estate. on the other side we ride through urban sprawl and blight on dusty, rough, unmaintained roads, past houses worth $100,000 - 500,000 . Strange . And then in between you come to an old cluster of humbler buildings, kind of a village, with some shops, bars and houses tightly packed together, lots of people and noise. And then soon you some to more big fancy houses.

We part on the Silent Inn road, Stephane to roller coaster to Ilboru and me to mostly coast down home.

Where were the rest of you?

03 November 2007

Today I drank a coke

All week I had a compelling need to ride a long one, not necessarily an interesting ride, just long. It was a 148 km mountain bike ride, unfortunately half on the road, ridden in 7.5 hours. But as I said previously, one should ride to the ride. (I debated for awhile whether to call 148km a long ride or not.)

I must of done something wrong as I needed a coke with 10km to home. I NEVER drink soda pop. I was the heat or I got lazy about eating.

I managed to get out of bed at 4am and was ready to go just before 5am. Why does it take an hour to eat, process some food, dress, and get a few things together? I think it is old age.

Our early start was foiled when Paulo and I couldn't find the headlamp bracket for his bike. We wasted half an hour before just strapping a headlamp on his bike and rode out to the sounds of prayers at the mosques.

Today I didn't try to remember thoughts, but I do remember thinking it seemed like fewer people were ringing their bells at me, maybe because we were two bikers. It sprinkled a bit and we kept our jackets on until we were about 30 km east and it was full light.

We were on the main highway until Kilimanjaro International Airport junction. Paulo was lagging behind and decided to turn around at this point. (Later he confessed he was wasted also and had to rest to get home.) I gave him a sandwich and we parted company. I planned to followed the route of two weekends ago but today I would make it to the Kikoletwa springs.

DIRECTIONS

I have said it before. Asking directions can be hit and miss in terms of success. Today was no exception. Bicyclists tend to be better at given meaningful directions.

I asked the first bicyclist and he gave misleading information. He did mention names that were right but he said bear right more than left and that was totally wrong I learned on the way back.

The road kept heading southerly to the south Masai escarpment. When I was close to the escarpment I started asking directions again. Now I was on small paths and sometimes just riding across the grass. I rode out of the open grassland into a forest with hard pan all over. I came to a track and upon a Masai guy on bike who gave me more directions. "Stay on this road until an irrigation ditch and then bear right." I rode over several dry ditches and then left the road for a small path.

I came to a row of houses, built like the ones built for road or rail camps. I stopped to ask a family directions.
"Good morning?"
Mom and Dad: "Its good."
"Is tea ready"
Mom:"yes it is, you are most welcome"
"Thanks"
"I beg to ask directions."
"Welcome"
"How do I get to Chemka village?"
Turns out I am standing in the village , but we agree I want to go to the Chemka spring.
Dad animated "Just stay on this path and over there it turns to a track and that will take you "
"Is it far?"
"No, just in those trees"

I cycle off thinking it is still miles and miles and within 10 minutes things look familiar.

Kikoletwa Springs

If I didn't know where the big spring was I would of rode by it. The track follows some trees and then crosses a small river. Before the river you leave the dirt track and ride into a grove of trees and there is this huge spring flowing out of the ground in a grove of wild fig trees. See my movie here.

A guy follows me in on a single speed bicycle, and he turns out to be one of the caretakers, or so he said. He was anxious to inform me the fee had gone up from 2 to 3000 shs. So much for thinking I would get away with sneaking in.

I striped off my clothes and dove in and washed off the sweat and dust and had breakfast will chatting with Adam about the area. The water is extremely clear and slightly saline. I got chilled after getting out. I rode about 3.5 hours to swim and only swam for 3 minutes. The water is warmer than the air. Some people call Kikoletwa "hot" springs.

I wanted to see the old electrical power plant and the rivers below so I continued east and in 15 minutes was at the derelict power plant. There are huge wooden gates in the dam in the feeding ditches. I checked out the gorge and walked over the suspension bridge, keeping hold of the cables as the boards were ancient, rotten , missing , replaced sometimes with bamboo.

I was again amazed at the amount of water. It is a big river for Tanzania. I should of spent more time but the bike was a problem, and to look around I needed to walk.

Adam said that the quickest way back was to sort of follow the electrical power lines, so i did that. In Chemka village I found a guy repairing his bike and he gave good directions. I made good time although the track was like a path of a snake. Eventually it became a car track and then died again at a school. Now I was in Masai area again. More directions and I was on small trails weaving between Masai compounds. Sometimes I had to ask where the path went as I took trails that lead into some one's yard. No one seemed to mind.

I came upon 5 Masai men and we talked for 10 minutes about my trip, their life there, where they get water, farming, what I ate. They said this trail lead right up to the KIA corner, and it did.

I have drawn a map so I can find this track again as it seems to be about 3km shorter. Maybe not quite as interesting as the longer one.

Soon I was on the main highway. It was noon. Just struck me I should of had another meal then. It was hot. I left a container of dates open now that i was on smooth road. I drank some water I had put honey in 3 days ago. Despite being in the refrigerator it was wine. I gave up on stopping at Erik Mdogo's and spun the 50 km home.

It got hotter, I was sweating, and starting to feel wasted. I took a couple shots of honey and washed it down with honey wine. By the time I made it to Usa River with 25 km to go I was feeling waaaasteddddd. I vowed to stop and drink a coke by the side of the road but I was feeling to bad to stop, or was being stubborn. I made it up the last hills(
Kikoletwa is probably 2500' and I live at 4300') and stopped finally for a coke with only 10km to go.

I feel slightly sick as I ask for a coke.

Not sure why. Tired, dehydrated, low sugar or what? I drank the coke standing by my bike at a gas station and wondered what was wrong. After the coke I felt better, not great and after riding a minute better still but still not great . From here the road slopes slightly down going my
way and I manage 35km again and the breeze feels good. Now it only remains the dirt road to my house. Hmm the last km of my road is the worst road I have been on today.


I recovered after a shower, juice with salt, milk tea, and being still. It took me a couple hours before I felt like food.

All in all it was great ride. No regrets.

29 October 2007

Social call

I was to leave before dawn but I just couldn't. I enjoyed home, wife, and daughter who was having friends over for sleepover.

Mid morning I called my friend Pete and rode out to his place. There is plenty of written and documentaries about Felix "Pete" O'neal so I don't have to write much here about him. In the late 70's we would nod to each other on the street of Arusha and in the early 80's one of us ran out of gas on the road and the other helped out with a litre of fuel. (Both of us at that time never filled gas tanks, we just added enough for the day.) From then on we started having gab fests. It got more frequent when I learned he had a video player and lots of recent movies, and Pete learned I knew about computers in the days of DOS. Of late it is mostly me riding out to his place on my bike, and we talk big and small and have a good time. Are biggest joke is about suing each other for infractions.
Pete was given a Saxophone recently and he is blowing on it trying to learn. He is one of those guys when we are sitting there I will say, " Hey man I am hungry what you got to eat back there?"

On the way I met his guy in town and snapped a shot. This is a common sight. And I am not sure why I even noticed it today.


I had a couple thoughts riding to Pete's.

Wide seat.

Thanks to Chuck Schaefer or brother Don for leaving a wide bike seat behind. He brought it out to use for themselves and it sat for years and years with my tools. I snubbed it because of its width and sponge. I put it on as there was nothing else and the seat that came with the bike was hurting this last year. I think the sponge don't work but the width has me thinking i need a wider seat

On a bike discussion list they have been discussing seats. Sometimes you don't know something is wrong until someone tells you. The Brooks seat on my road bike has always felt great but now I am thinking it is not wide enough. Only after hearing other people saying they feel the rivets, now I feel the rivets. On last Wednesday ride I noticed them.



Ride to the ride

It means if there is a club ride or a bike trip starting out in the bush, if you ride to the ride you are more pure biker, and why not ride to the ride anyway.

Often my bike buddies will take a vehicle and put the bikes in the car for the first 50-100km
The excuse is so we get to more interesting places quicker. I think it partially defeats the idea of the trip.

The ride is the same to the ride, whether we drive in a pickup or on the bike the ride is the same. It differs in the time it takes.

We make too much money.
But we wont change when the cost of us driving to the ride is affordable. No one is going to conserve unless it costs us not to.

At Pete's we shot the bull and watched a a documentary on Eldridge Cleaver , an old one. I wonder who in my family got dad's copy of "Soul on Ice".
We talk more about getting old than we used to.

The ride today was about transport today. It was incidental that I got some good exercise coming home and liked the process too. All but 5 km of the 40km to Pete's house is tarmac, but those 5 are pretty rough. So i rode the mountain bike.


28 October 2007

Everyone should commute by bicycle. (at least sometimes)

There I have gone and said it.

Everyone should decrease the frequency of their commutes by personal vehicles. Statistics in the USA show that 40% of car trips are under 3.2km. That is walkable and ride able. I am sure it is the same in my home town of Arusha. Lots of people in my area, Sakina, work in town and it is 3-5km into town. It is ride able.

Kent Petersen ( kentsbike ) says it maybe better, but I want to give a personal touch to anyone who might read this from Arusha.

Is it realistic?

Bikes are okay to use.
First we have to change our mindset in Arusha and think of bicycles differently. They are not only for lower income people. They are just the same as a car, a means of getting from here to there. We shouldn't feel embarrassed to ride bicycles to work, errands, and school. Everything is relative. Everyone can just change the way they look at bikes. It is okay for rich and middle class people to commute by bicycle.

Maybe that is my role. Slowly try to make it okay to use a bike to get around some of the time.


Safety.
It is not as dangerous as you think. How do you know it is dangerous when you have not tried it.
It is dangerous when bicyclists do stupid actions and don't ride defensively. I have ridden to work over ten years probably 1-200 times per year to work and had one accident and I was not being attentive and some pedestrians passed in front and I locked up the brakes and slid and crashed bruising my ego. Wear a helmet. Be aware. Don't trust anyone. Assume they are trying to knock you down. Don't assume anyone sees you. Pedestrians are actually worse. Look for paths and lightly traveled roads. Have fun. Ring your bell alot. Use lights day and night.

Smile

Smile when you commute. Have personal interactions with people and arrive at work happy. Well I can't smile but at least i can smirk.


Start slow
Be realistic and start slow. Two days a week. Ride slow to work and make it exercise on the way home.

What to do when you get to work.
Shower at home before you leave. Don't use a backpack or pads in the helmet. change clothes at work. Maybe a wash cloth bath. Cool down the last 5 minutes before getting to work.



I still use a car.

See ya, Just now I am going to see my friend Pete's a bit past Usa River, by bike. I could drive but I will go by bike. It would probably take me 60 minutes to drive and it will take me like 90 by bike. Just trying to do my part.

Another time I will tell you how biking to work cured my bad back.

25 October 2007

Memory

Inevitably in the middle of every bicycle ride I think of great topics to write about. I swear some thoughts I generate are absolute genius, probably would make the rest of the world ride bikes, conserve , pollute less , love one another , and so on. Kweli, haki, the honest truth. I can't wait to get home to blog.

Inevitably I get home and those thoughts I had rehearsed and worked out in my mind are unrecoverable from my brain. Damn. So on Sunday's ride I decided to use memory tricks to come back with my thoughts.

We were having an afternoon party for Nashesha's 9th birthday, which means by noon I should start setting up tables, chairs, shade, buy drinks, fill cooler, ..... So I plan to go alone at an early hour and be back by 10 am.

Aero tuck.

The first thought I have that I wanted to wow the world with happened on the other side of town heading east just before light. There were a fair number of Phoenix one speed bikes, guys transporting stuff around before sunrise. One guy laden down with cargo came screaming down a hill in a perfect bicycle aero tuck. Hands close to the stem, elbows way down, head behind the hands, back flat. I wondered how he had learned that and why most guys in my club haven't caught on. On steep hills don't pedal but get aero.

I wanted to remember and for once I had no faith in my memory ( or I remembered to remember my memory is non existent). So I decided I would choose one word to jar my memory later. And so my mantra became the 9 words or short phrases.

So this is the mantra I kept repeating (until breakfast when I SMSed it to myself).
"Aero tuck.
Bells kusalimia.
Standing good.
Smiles safi.
Buses 615-645.
Flic.
Realistic Exercise.
Breakfast. "

Now let me elaborate, I have done the first one.

Bells kusalimia.

I have a bell on my bike, used to warn pedestrians not to cross the road as I am coming and when I come up behind a pedestrians walking abreast across the road and want them to give me a space.

Today I learned to use the bell to say hello to the other bicyclists. I was part of them. Mostly they would ring their bell and look at me, no smile , no wave , no nod. But I knew the ringing of the bell was saying " Hey, see ya man, keep pedaling, have a good day". I no longer felt like a rich white man on a $800 bicycle but one of a group of people using bicycles for transport.

Standing good.

There are a couple of small rises in a section of downhills, and instead of shifting down I stood up to power over the rises at speed. the bells were making me happy and that standing was also good. Life is good.



Smiles safi.

After the series of downs I was moving at a pace where I could see what was going on around me, and it was now day light. I noticed a 2 year old child strapped on the back of her mother. What I noticed was this beautiful smile. All I could think of was this child was happy. So i looked at the mother and she had the same happy smile. I wondered what exchange they had had that they were both so happy.




Buses 615-645.

Daylight is around 6am. At 6:15 the first 80 seat long distance bus whooshed by me. That went on until around 6:45. Some gave me plenty of room , some beeped, some gave me a couple feet. They travel at 120-140 kmph. I only got unnerved a couple times, but made a note that maybe I should start earlier and have breakfast when the first bus passes.



Flic.
Buses passing close made me think of safety and wearing a helmet and being visible. I used a biker friend Flic to remind me. She was riding through Africa and got hit from behind by a Truck in Rwanda. (She looks to be recovering completely).






Realistic Exercise.

Am I realistic to expect others to do what I do on a bike, or commute to work. I think nothing of riding my bike the 6km to the office. It is not exercise or much of a work out. But then I have always enjoyed physical exercise. As a kid I had friends that lived miles away, and thought it nothing to run/walk/ride to their houses.

Would the average person ever get to the point of being able to ride to work and think nothing of it. Or would they think of it as a painful experience every day.

I ride about 50 km on the highway and turn off near a railroad line and ride another 15km or so into a huge flat plain. There is a tree here and there and some clusters of houses, some short dry grass and ploughed up fields. Not bush but I enjoyed it. I see 3 hacked up trees with a bit of shade and a horizontal branch/tree to sit on and I stop for breakfast at 8:35. (Ha! I know the time because I SMS myself the list)



Breakfast.


And then I had a wonderful breakfast out in the plain. <>
I had a sandwich of peanut butter and jelly and a smoothie I had made at home. I could watch some planes taking off from KIA airport 10 km away and remember the times it was me in the plane looking down on this dry plane and thinking how could anyone live there.


So back to memory. I used the mantra, adding a word for each one. That got me to breakfast, when i resorted to technology and sms my mantra to myself. Good thing because it is now Thursday morning and I am finally getting this down.

However I was just able to repeat all the list just now.

And reading through my thoughts they aren't that earth shattering. They were better during the moment. I no longer regret having forgotten those fantastic ideas on my bike rides. I was enough to enjoy the thoughts at the time.

09 October 2007

Times are a changing

Around the turn of the year my weekend rides tended to be:
-wake up and stumble around before dawn trying to get ready.
-ride out in the dark for awhile
-turn off the highway on a dirt road
-try to ride somewhere where I would either see animals, or be alone, or lost, or drink tea in a boma, or scratched up, or all of the above.
-sit on the side of the trail and have a cup of tea and sandwich
-delay the turn around point (10 am) because it was NOW getting good country.
-slog home in the heat on the highway.

These rides tended to be 6-10 hours, which meant that the only person who was (1) always available and (2) could ride that far, was Paulo Rukoine. There are a number of people who can ride that far but they either have young babies, kids home from boarding school, lonely wives/girlfriends, or no headlight.

Paulo is a great riding partner except this, his employer (me) pays him a pittance and he can't afford or won't afford to maintain his bike. So if I wanna ride with him I have to maintain his bike, buy him tubes and replace cables etc. He does however have a better thermos than me and speaks masai.

(jeez, all that and I haven't gotten to the topic)

So my weekend rides were solo rides in the bush. Then in mid year I started meeting up with riders and we did shorter mtn bike rides, hard and fast but we never got into the bush.

This Sunday I told a slew of "sometime cyclists" to meet at my house and we would head up the slopes of Mt Meru. I gave Paulo a new tube so he could help showing the way, Erik Mdogo showed up with Laura Tarimo and her nephew Louis ( read teenager), Andrew came without the lonely girlfriend (and he did a ride to the ride), Vincent Shirima and Patrick show up in a brand new landcrusier transforming my dump of a compound into a high end parking lot. To round off the crew I hooked up the alley cat for my daughter Nashesha (she had to change clothes twice to get the right outfit after a discussion with her buddy Mariamu), and Dina Masudi our 12 year old neighbor.

Right away I realized this is a different sort of ride. I spent an hour pre ride fixing bikes. One bike we threw in the store and took mine instead, as it was beyond repair. We were spread all over the road and with the 27 turns it is amazing we ever met up with the different groups. The tail group got off course and somehow we got ahead of Vincent who caught up.

The tail group was about 6 people and we stayed 30 minutes at the small river near Sambasha mtn and then coasted down in the dust to home.

Dina is 12 and rode the whole way on a 24inch single speed piece of junk bike. AMAZING.

It was a smash of a ride and people started talking about doing this each week.

It is a totally different type of riding for me. I spend more energy worrying about people being lost and fixing flats than serious riding. However as I had Nashesha on the alley cat it was a fair amount of work.

17 September 2007

Mnt Meru Machetes

The very first ride on a mountain bike was from my house up to the forest road on the slopes of Mount Meru (15,000'). I had bought my son Seth a mtn bike to go back and forth to school. He used it also on weekends too to get around to see his friends. One weekend in mayber 1995 it was sitting there and I took it up to the forest. I had to push it quite a bit the last couple kms and rested for 1/2 hour at the top. It was probably a 5 hour ride for me and I went home and vegetated on the couch the rest of the day. I now do that ride in under 2 hours.

Sunday I rode that route and continued to the end of the forest road.

Times change and the forest is not what it used to be. I used to have no fear and talked to the farmers up there. Now days they are growing marijuana somewhere and there are some young men walking around carrying menacing looking machetes.

I moved up at normal pace and past the ring road I stopped at 10 years ago through Sambasha. They have clear cut some more areas and the nicest part was now clear cut. then through the ravine and across the small river.

This is where I met the first person who unsettled me by asking where I was going.

As usual I walked the last part down into the river and up the other side. The other side is usual so lush and through native forest. a fair amount of the big native trees have been taken out.

The forest is supposed to be closed to logging right now! I wish that were true . I saw lots of sign of logging during the past few days.

the ride out of the ravine and up onto a plateua is usually very technical and some very steep slick sections. It by passed the impossibly steep section this time and it was not slick so i could ride the whole thing, but i was gettting wobbly at the end. picture>

I stopped at the top for some dates and two young men came along. All the young men carry machetes. A bit unnerving. That first guy i had met in the ravine had one with a very sharp point. These two seemed more benign and we chatted a minute.

I left the single track and now was on one of the maintained roads switchbacking up the mtn. Unfortunately they did some maintenance and the road had alot of dust. Before long i was at the the next small plateau that used to be the jumping off place for climbing Meru for me. A lot more clear cutting up here, but some fields that were farmed are now 10-20 year old trees and a dense forest. I had more dates and water and took some pictures. I had gone 16km and averaged only 10kph!

Because of the deep dust in the road or maybe my age I didn't fly down the mountain like i remembered. Maybe it is a memory thing. I took the short cut and there was no dust but the trail was moved around a bit. and then some of the best parts were logged!

I made it home pretty fresh after the hour of coasting down hill.

I had had this long interesting thought to share with the world but i cant even remember what it was about. Commuting, consuming? beats me.

18 July 2007

Making butter and freezing cold near the equator

That's right, I made butter on my Sunday ride. There is the "finger lickin" delicious butter on my finger. I will explain later how that came about, first lets talk about cold in Africa.


After the rains end in late May our "cold" season starts and lasts into August and then slowly gets warmer. It is all relative but in Arusha the mornings can get as low as 10C/50F. It is always under 14C in the mornings.

I got out of bed early enough ( 4:15am) but move in slow motion trying to eat and get ready. Take that back, I move fast enough it is just that I don't accomplish much. I spent 15 minutes looking for my reading glasses and it was 530 before I rolled out with two headlamps. I decided to head towards Lolkisale area, SW of Arusha. I turn off the highway after full light ( 615 am ) and stopped to remove helmet and wind jacket at the tree below. After a few moments it was too cold to not have the windbreaker on. I pondered the implications of being near the equator in Africa and freezing.

I felt good cruising south. There was a light sprinkle earlier and it made the black cotton soil cling slightly to my tyres and get thrown off. It made a racket hitting my frame.

I stopped at a dam at Moita village for a few moments and looked at the water and gathered some seeds from an acacia tree. (months later they still sit in our kitchen). I don't feel like swimming today. At 9am I stop for breakfast, milk tea I had put in a water bottle. Upon opening the lid it looked as if the milk had curdled. I thought that a bit odd as it was fresh milk and boiled. I tasted it and it was sweet. Hmmm. I think about that and realize the cream in the milk had turned to butter on the vibrations and washboard of the track. I relished the taste of the butter and drank the tea.

It was now perfect temperature and together with a tailwind I cruised into some hills and had another break and a sandwich and stretch off in the bushes. I figured it would be nicer to ride back on the same track instead of the old Lolkisale road,so I started back on the same track.

I recall that Saning'o Meliari lives around here and after some asking, back tracking, and asking found his boma. He lives in a big rambling house that looks like a farmers place. Machinery and sheds. Kind of like our house. He gave me a soda and we had a good talk, trying to catch up with each other. We taught school together and lived in the same house about 100 years ago, well 30 years maybe. We also ran around together when in town even after he went on to become a priest. Later he left the priesthood.

Saning'o now spends half the year in California being a counselor. I asked him if psychological problems are same for Tanzanians as Americans. He said no. He says there are some pretty f***ed up people in America but basically their problem is they have no one to talk to, so have to pay someone to talk to them. That is his take of what he does in America, makes sense to me from my experience.
Saning'o tells me of a shorter track and after he dropped some cement off at a school, swung me by the start of the track. He shows me this 2 meter Egyptian cobra he had seen dead yesterday. I am quickly in a vast treeless plain with no houses and no domestic livestock.

In the middle of this plain I happened upon a pickup full of hunters! Turned out to be Joe Mfinanga and some friends and his boys. I am heading home and I will pass right by his house at the main highway. Joe and I have a discussion if I am heading the right direction! We both think the other is completely crazy. I left them driving around in circles and took the straight track up to Meserani. At Meserani the track turns 90 degrees and parallel to the highway, but and a small path went directly to the highway through the shops. Kumbe there is a big korongo behind the shops, no wonder the road makes a turn.

Up until this point I had been feeling great. Perfect temperature, little wind, no dust, mostly hard firm surface. Now on the highway I start to feel slightly the 90km I had done so far. I was only an hour home I pushed on and was home at 230pm.

Can't remember but must of been 120km
Good ride.

Some where in the middle of the ride there is this grove of trees.
On the previous trip this way it was full of weaver nests.

07 July 2007

Major repairs on a short tour

During this short 3 day trip I started thinking I should change from a derailleur system on the mountain bike to an internal geared hub. I have often wondered what is the "weak" part on the bike that could stop a trip. On my trips through thick brush and grass rear derailleurs are sitting out there exposed, asking to get bent and broken. On this ride Wes's derailleur almost forced him to ride without gears. It did cause us to spend 5 precious hours on repairs.

My bike buddy Wes is back from the USA for a couple of months. He has to run his company while the other partner takes some time off. Thus Wes is busy catching up, meaning he works Saturdays too. A few weeks ago we leave mid day Saturday after work and plan to come back mid day on Monday so Wes can work the afternoon.
Wes and I choose to look for elephants in the Sinya area pictured above. Sinya is an area south of Amboseli Nat park in Kenya, but we are on the Tanzanian side. During the rainy season (April to May) wildlife migrate out of the park and into the plains between Mnt Kilimanjaro and the smaller mountains to the west. They stay until water and/or grass become an scarce. Above you can see Kilimanjaro in the clouds and some thompson gazelles if you enlarge the photo above.

I believe and prefer in "ride to the ride", but Wes is pressed for time so we get a ride in a pickup past Longido Mountain and stop to ask directions at a shop along the road.

Asking directions from maasai, non bikers, pastorialists, or anyone for that matter can be hit and miss. I can only explain it that Maasai tend to give directions in a different way than I do or understand. We are told that right over there is a track that will take us through the foothills of Longido and out and onto the plains, and they stress that there will be "alot of deep grass" before the plains. Yeah right I think.
As we set off we make sure I have my panniers doubled tied so I dont lose a pannier with the whiskey onethis trip. They are right the track leads in the right direction and we are escorted a kilometer or so by a masai on a single speed.
This nice track winds through the trees and hills on the north side of Longido Mtn. The road branches several times and eventually our choice becomes a path that lead us out of the hills. The masai were right. The grass got deep.
The thick grass was over the knees as you can see above. The grass nicely hid the holes and whoever was riding in front would fall into a hole every 5 minutes. The leader would then yell, "hole there" and try to not fall over. Below is what my derailleur looked like after riding through the grass for awhile. cleans the chain pretty well too.


About this time Wes's derailleur decided to do a 180. It got caught in the spokes, and was twisted around pointing upwards.
We looked at each other, like, "wow how did that happen?" "Is that fixable?" "Are we going to have to use one gear from now on?" We completely forgot about taking a picture and started working on straightening stuff out. We were 20km along. We spent a good hour getting it working again. The hangar was bent back some and the stop was broken off.

There are a couple of hours left of daylight. We keep going through the deep grass without a trail, heading for a hill out in the middle of the plains.

Just about camping time Wes's derailleur goes upside down again. This time it is more serious with 2 more broken spokes, but worse is the derailleur arms are bent sideways and one arm is broken. The stop is bent and broken and other shit. Again we are too preoccupied in thought and don't take a picture. It is definitely time to make camp. Below is Wes pondering what to do after breakfast in our first camp.

Later we deduce that Wes had weakened the spokes the previous week getting the chain caught between the cogs and spokes. He freed the chain but did not notice that the spokes had huge nicks in them. Then on this trip the repeated smashing into holes in the deep grass broke a spoke and caught the derailleur, both times.
We sit around the camp fire that night and in the cold morning looking at the derailleur and discussing whether we can repair the derailleur or to fix to two gears. The derailleur arms are bent sideways and one is broken at a hole where the top pulley sits. It looks hopeless. I start seeing the advantage of internal geared rear hubs.

After a good breakfast we break the chain, remove the cogs, remove the derailleur. replace some spokes, and true the wheel. It is now we notice the damage done to the spokes earlier in the week. We decide if we can get a longer bolt for the derailleur pulley, bend the arms straight, zip tie the two arms for more support we might be able to ride. We find that the bolt for my rear reflector is the right size. (Kind of strange as I have not had a reflector on the bike for years, and only recently I put on a reflector for night commuting.)

It takes us the better part of the morning. The arms are a bit hard to straighten. The longer bolt barely holds the broken arm, so we add some zip ties, something new for us. The cable sheath is destroyed at the end a bit so we have to shorten the sheath. The hangar takes much work to get straight. The stopper needs bending .The derailleur below looks pretty normal now and we get the shifting right and Wes rides around a bit to see if it will work. I have my doubts the bolt and zip ties will hold the arms together but it does.


We are good to go before noon. In another hour we are out of the deep grass as you see below. It can be soil type but more likely we are now within 10 km of water, and marks the areas masai can graze their cattle.
We notice a pile of dirt out in the distance and check it out. A lot of work to make this small dam. It is long dry.
The speed picks up and we head off for some old Meerschaum mines. The Tanzanian government mined Meerschaum in the 1970's and then stopped in the 1980's. They used it to make pipes. All the white stuff is meerschaum and salts. We ride along and around "islands" of yellow fever forests.


Somehow I didn't take a picture of the piles of meerschaum or the holes left from the mines. The holes made coming this way attractive to elephants. We were able to swim in a deep one, it felt like swimming in soapy water. Later I read about meerschaum that it can be used as a replacement for soap. After a swim we split up to search around for better drinking water and found another hole that had good water and topped up our bags and bottles. Masai had scratched out a small hole off to the side of the pond and it filtered the water through the sand, so the water had very little suspension in it.

We turned towards home and wandered around looking in all the forest patches for elephants but we only saw zebra, wildebeest, gazelles , giraffes.


We stopped early, about 530pm. It gets dark at 7 and we usually stop around 630pm. I was feeling unmotivated for cranking hard. Today it was fairly warm in the afternoon, and somehow I started feeling lethargic. We found a nice forest and camped on the edge. While the sun went down we did 1/2 hour of yoga out on the sand and then roasted some more fillet on the fire. I slept on the ground next to the fire.


In the morning we picked up the road to the village of Sinya in the seven sister hills. In hindsight I should of taken a picture. It is a desolate sandy town without a blade of grass to be seen. This is typical of what happens around permanent water as herds of sheep, cows, and goats hang around waiting for their turn for water or their owner to take them out to pasture. We dumped out the pond water and added a bit from the bore hole just in case. We lucked out on the water, as a safari camp driver was filling his water bowser using a generator he had along. He actually remembered me from several years ago when we passed through here.

Now we would be on a definite road all the way to the highway.


I noted today that my pannier had actually jumped off the hooks and was held on by the straps. I really need a better suspension system for panniers.

The first part was mostly hard packed but there were pockets of sand. Here the road looks so well traveled but other places it becomes a simple track of thick sand.

At Ngareyeni village there is a river and for several km there was extensive sand. We had to walk long sections. We are told of a small path that had no sand and would take us directly up to Engikaret village on the main highway. After asking several people we met a old man who gave us stellar directions and the sand petered out and we were on a good trail skirting some hills. Fantastic trail.
On this small trail we find a cool den dug into a termite mound.


Before the highway we ran into another kilometer of soft sand in a dry river delta. We were at the highway and Wes's driver showed up.

This last section was really a great path and needs to be remembered. From Engikaret you head off and keep some low hills to your left. It might be hard to pick it up but definitely worth it.