30 May 2008

Two commuting interactions

Today on the commute to work and Meat delivery truck cut in front of me and I had to brake hard. The passenger in the truck then had the gall to give me the thumbs up sign. I thought of going back and yelling at the driver but I rode on thinking of the injustices of humanity towards poor bicyclists.

I got to the gate and someone was yelling " Erik, Erik". I was feeling persecuted but looked anyway. One of the security guards says. "Erik come and park your bike inside the inner car park." It made me reverse my view of humanity.

28 May 2008


Today I had a bike crash, the first in maybe 4 years. I fall all the time on the mountain bike, but soft landing stuff mostly just falling over in slow motion. I might get a scratch or a sore hip.

Today is our weekly Wednesday road ride to Monduli town. Before the turn around at Monduli town hospital is a 3 km hill with two corners and a short flat space in the middle of the hill. I had picked up speed coming to the second corner and was not thinking that it had just started drizzling.

For Americans my age, remember what they told us in drivers ed about the first drizzle? Well I forgot that it is supposed to be the time when the road is the slickest. I took the corner at about 25kph and I was shocked as the bike just went out from under me and I sprawled on my right and slid some meters. I have two raspberry's on the knee, one big one raspberry on my right hip, and one on shoulder, and a small puncture in the hand. I also probably sprained my hand. I got up and carried on up the hill, within 5 minutes there was little pain.

The bike clothing saved me from more abrasions. The scrape on my hip is through the shorts but at least it was clean. Another rider , one of the younger kids also fell sometime after me and he hit his head on the helmet and has some abrasions on his face. I guess those ahead of me slowed down on the corner. I hope I remember my Driver's Ed lessons next time.

26 May 2008

Komolo Loop

This is a ride in the making, I need to ride it again to find a better loop. Saturday it was a 105 km loop mostly on good dirt roads like this one. Actually really good dirt roads. Only a few times did I need the fat mtn bike tyres in sand and rough roads.

I tend to prefer footpaths in the bush but I wanted to see what has happened to this area in the past fifteen years.
I started riding about 7:15 am. I rode around Arusha Town and through Kijenge heading east on the old highway. It was hard packed dirt, must of been maintained recently, as it was smooth, no potholes. After the flower farm of the member of Parliament Mrema, it was not as good but still good. From Kijenge it is mostly downhill and that is what the next few hours were.

Turn right at the Tanganyika Packers, military sign. The road was maintained since I came back up this way from the Themi river ride a month ago. The picture above shows a straight road going down hill forever. I still had on my rain coat because of the morning chill. Although I was riding through farmland and not bush it was thoroughly enjoyable. It is wonderful to be out of Arusha and the effects of mass tourism and in rural Tanzania. People wave and greet and no one wants anything. one particular guy on his bike gives a hearty greeting.

it was 8:27 probably 1,15 riding time.

Before you know it you are at the crossing of the Themi River. Now it is swim-able. I was amazed how much water was flowing . This river is beautiful despite the trash that is carried down the river from Arusha. Note the trash caught in the roots of the tree.

I remember this crossing used to be a rocky crawl through the river. Now there is this huge bridge.

The new bridge is pretty much done. During the big rains the water was still going over the top. I chatted with some young boys about the bridge. On the other side of the bridge you see the last bridge that got destroyed when there was a big rain and trees probably plugged the culverts.

The boys showed me a crack. The idea of arches is good but seems they need more space above the arch to spread the load over a bigger area.

I had not seen any cars since turning off onto this road. After the bridge the road veers west to go to Losinyai (Customs) instead of south.
I passed the cattle market that now has some permanent structures like these. Note how dry it is here compared to the next picture. Or is it overgrazing becuase of the large cattle market here? I thought this market looked kind of cool.

On this section the road is still being worked on and sometimes rough. Soon I was looking for trails on the side.

Now that I am a road builder (another story to tell) I take more interest in how the road is being built. In this wash I think i would not put a culvert. Sometime in the next years there will be a big enough rain to carry a tree down and it will plug up the culvert and was around it and then carry the whole structure down streeam. Notice how dry it is here.

Then within fifteen minutes I was in a section of waist high green grass. I wonder why? Maybe this is a flood plain.

At Losinyai village I stopped to do something and a crowd of kids hung around politely. Then I met a young man named Njau (typical chagga name) but a masai. He had a shop and we exchanged phone numbers. He gave me the lay of the land and estimated times back to Arusha and on towards Komolo. Here is where will take the road going north back to Arusha on my return. I decide to ride towards Komolo and see what i see. It is 40km from arusha it was 9:40 now.

I checked out the impressive bridge here. 30 years ago I used to pass this way alot and it was driving steeply down into the sand river and up the other side. Trucks could get stuck in the sand. Where the young woman is standing they had made a drift but decided for this huge structure. The girl tried to get money off me but I biked south now. I guess this is progress.

I climb out of the river and cruise south hoping i can make it to komolo before running out of time. Way off I see the escarpment of the South Masai Steppe. Below it i notice a body of water I have never seen before. Komolo is at the bottom of this escarpment.

The road was defintiely maintained these days. Finally I have traffic, a couple cars and motorcycles passed in the next two hours. I made it close to Komolo and stopped for breakfast off the road.

One of my sandwhiches was mush so I ate it like Njera or ugali. It was a wonderful meal at 10:30am. I spent about 15 minutes on breakfast.

The triangle bag in the middle of the bike also serves as a seat when it stop. I have a thermos of milk tea and my mush.

I passed two small humble churches but only managed a picture of this one, as there was a lorry off loading building materials at the other one. Someone from outside this village must be investing in the church. This used to be low bush country but now it is hardly any bush.

For awhile I followed a path along the road and it was fun. I could ride fast enough that the curves were like downhill skiing. I almost spilled a few times.

Back at Losinyai I turned after the river and rode north towards Mnt Meru on the road to connect to the road used by the sand trucks. The first section to where the trucks go was about 10km and rough and not very fun. I also had to pump the rear tyre here.

As soon as I joined the "Oljoro" road it was mostly smooth but now there were trucks every few minutes spewing dust. It is slightly uphill but I was mostly keeping speed at 20+kmph. This is not the most enjoyable road but interesting for me to see what has become of this area. The road used to be abismal and now it is wide and maintained. There was a crew working on more drainage even today.

I had to pump the tyre 5 times, I even took the tube out. There were alot of thorns through the tyre and slime all over. I noticed the tyre was pretty wore out. Suprised as the tyre didn't seem to last long.

I resorted to pumping every twenty minutes.

I passed the ngaremtoni river and climbed up the longest hill staying ahead of a sand truck and into Mbauda area and soon a tarred road and civilization. Dirty congested civilization.

It was a little after 2pm and I was home.

It was 105 km, 3 hours to Komolo and 3 1/2 home but 7 hours gone.

By 4pm i was building with the kids the brick bench on the front porch.
By 630 i had the space between the arches filled and my back aching