07 December 2009

Sunday Rides

One week ago Sunday my buddies Wes Krause and Thomas Holden showed up before 6am. We rode a 40 km loop on the slopes of Mnt Meru.

Perfect conditions prevailed as it has rained, but not during the previous day so the trails and roads are hard packed but not so wet and slippery.

We had some chai midway up .

The single track on the way down was the best ever. One can't help but smile riding these sections. This is Wes. True to form, we got separated from Wes on the way down, he went straight and we went right and we arrived about the same time. No big deal.

Yesterday was Julie Cabanne's day to baptise her just purchased second hand bike. I invited a bunch of people , only Laura Tarimo, Bent and Gishan, and my daughter Nashesha showed up. Bernice started but then called it quits in town but is now excited to get back into bicycling. We rode to Erik Zweig's place and had some breakfast. Gishan, pictured, is 6 and ended up trading off on the tandem with Nashesha. My god, dont enlarge this picture! I have a belly and Dishon is drinking redbull!

In town we split up. Julie, Nashesha, and I got dumped on by rain in town. It was torrential for 15 minutes. We stopped a few minutes at Julie's house to wait for it to stop and had some chocolate and tea.

27 November 2009

Fixing flats in the rain

November to January (or thereabouts) is Northern Tanzania's "short rains". Sometimes the short rains happen and sometimes they don't. This year the weather people have been warning of "El nino" type rains. Although it is not to that proportion we are having a good short rainy season so far.

For last week's Wednesday morning ride I awoke to the end of long night rain. I figured the sky was rained out for a few hours. I suited up and headed out the door trying to stay out of sticky mud on the paths to the highway.

I choose to cut across Burka Coffee Estate on foot paths and dirt tracks. Just before the small gate my rear tyre went low. As I have been having more punctures recently with these old 700x28c tyres, I should of patched the tube instead of just replacing,but I figure when I am with the group there will be other tubes. I walked through the narrow gate and changed the tube as a light rain fell. No problem as I have a rain jacket on.

As I continue to ride through Burka it starts raining heavily. I am only a bit behind time when I hit the club rendezvous point. The side of the road is deserted. Anyone would be crazy to be standing there waiting. So either they are under the school guard house eaves (they aren't) , or they have taken off. I push on. I guess the third option is all 40 odd club riders took one look outside and went back to bed.

I can't manage 30kph even. From the waist down I am soaked but warm enough. In its own way the ride is fun. Maybe fun is not the right word. I enjoy it, just like when you are riding hard and hurting but one enjoys it. Maybe it is the oxygen.

After 15km it is still dumping and I ride straight past the Monduli turn off.

I ride down into a river valley. The normally dry river is 5 feet of chocolate colored boiling water. It is pretty cool to watch, but I keep thinking of the erosion implications. I make a U -turn and start riding back up hill out of the valley.

I notice my tyre is flat again.

I also note:
-it is raining hard
-I have used my spare tube without patching the previous tube.
- you cannot put a patch on when the tube is wet and it is raining.


I have brief moments of panic. Traffic is sparse today, especially buses, but I have no money for a bus anyway. I should be on time to the office today. I am 25km from home. I am 1/2 wet and slightly cold after stopping. The panic is fear of a major inconvenience, it might take me hours to get home.

Taking stock I consider carrying the bicycle to a hut I see 1/2km off the road. I am on a major highway and every 10 minutes or so there are cars, but even if I get a free lift to town I have to get home on the other side of town. The next building is 3km up the road.

Ahh, there is bridge over the swollen river! Under the bridge it will be dry. I walk through ankle deep mud to get under the bridge and find a place where the mud is hard.

It takes a half hour but I manage to dry the two tubes and patch them both, with only one repeat. I get back on the road and within five minutes the rains have cleaned the mud off my shoes and ankles.

It isn't pouring now but it is still raining. I contentedly cycle on.

I am not sure what was really going on. I kept having tyres go flat. It didn't help that potholes were covered with water, so it was hard to tell whether standing water in the road was just a thin puddle or a "pinch flatting" pothole. I also have been experimenting with slightly lower air pressures. I had another flat, replaced the tube and rode another 10km and it went flat again. It was going down slowly so I pumped and road again looking for shelter to patch the two tubes. Just before the meeting point I pulled into a outdoor bar and fixed a tube .
I made it home OK.

Later I learned that the other guys were calling back and forth asking about if they were going and they all went back to bed.

02 November 2009


Life is sometimes lived in circles. We evolve and change and end up the same. We go for bicycle rides in circles. My bicycle dress and what I eat on long rides has gone in a circle.

When I started to ride a bicycle in the mid 90's:
-I sneered at the Lycra clothes , that was for racers and wannabe racers, and wore normal shorts.
-I ate whole and natural foods on rides and granola for breakfast.

Then I got into racing and more riding :
-I bought $80 Lycra shorts, and hi tech wicking jerseys, gloves.
- I bought hi tech energy drinks, and gave up sugar. I used honey instead of GU.

I rode some more:
-now I gave up on the Lycra shorts and wear whatever shorts are in the drawer and some thick underwear that Bernice bought. That combo works as good as the Lycra and now I have pockets to put little stuff in. But the main reason to change is I was tired of looking like a dork when I got off the bike.
- Dr. Jim Bingham said processed sugar is the same as honey, so when I can afford I take snickers on bike rides, tang juice instead of honey juice. Junk food looks pretty good.

22 October 2009

A skill my parents didn't teach me

My parents were good parents, possibly exceptionally good parents. I am thankful for what they did for me.

However, they did not teach me to greet people, including to greet themselves. When we woke in the morning my family would get ready for the day (school, work, chores) but I don't ever recall saying hello to my parents or siblings. When someone returned home greetings were not exchanged. My parents didn't normally ask me how my day at school was. I thought that was normal. I don't recall seeing them greeting neighbors or strangers on a casual basis. They would talk to them, but not give short greetings. It wasn't that they didn't like them, or we were stuck up, it is more that relationships are too important to ask meaningless greetings.

(Yes, this does have something to do with bicycling, let me ramble first.)

When I went off to college I had a hard time for a few years whenever someone said (I interpreted as asked) " How are you?" I took it literally and was taken a back that someone wanted to know my situation. I would fidget and hem and haw, trying to think of something to say, and then later be a bit offended that they just passed on and didn't wait to hear how I was.

Yes it is kind of hard to believe but true. When I think about it I want to laugh, but it was frustrating for me at the time.

More than just at home I would never say hello to a stranger on the street, or when i met my friends we just started talking, there were no greetings.

So what does this have to do with bicycling?

Recently I discovered a trick while riding the bicycle (although it probably applies to life). I try to initiate a hello to people on the road or trail. If I say hello first then I have set the tone.
Expatriates in Arusha tend to get called "mzungu,mzungu" by kids and sometimes by adults when they are moving around Arusha. Mzungu means person of European descent. Being called that can drive you crazy. Whether it is intended to be derogatory or not gets forgotten, but a "Mzungu" tends to see it as negative, obnoxious, even insulting.

My theory is if I see a group of kids up ahead, and if I yell a greeting first, then maybe they wont call me mzungu, or ask for a pen. I have set the tone, I have shown respect, I have made them answer something besides "hey white man".

I often assume my fellow bicyclists don't want to have anything to do with me. If i say a meaningless greeting it can change the scene. Instead of brooding when a kid hammers past me and then cuts me off too soon, seems better all around if I yell "changamka" or "boya!" meaning "go man go".

I used to dread riding past teenage boys along major roads. You know that group loitering by the car wash place? Just maybe if I yell "Vipi vijana? Mambo?" (Hey kids, How's things?) It is alot harder for them to start yelling "mzungu mzungu, give me my pen."

Maybe just maybe this whole thing of people yelling "mzungu,mzungu" comes about because Europeans tend to pass by without greeting people.

21 October 2009

Commuting thoughts

I am not 100% car free (yet) but I bicycle commute to work and to clients 98% of the time. I do use the car with the family in the evenings or weekends to go to a social gathering.

The reaction from non bicycle riders who I meet while on my bicycle is either:
-" oh that is good exercise."
-"Isn't it dangerous riding on these roads in Arusha"

My reaction when I see someone I knowwhile on the bicycle is to try to avoid them or cover up that I ride a bicycle. It isn't a case of being ashamed but that I am unable to get them to understand why I ride a bicycle to work.

Here is my bicycle in the parking lot.

And here is the normal vehicle there.

I haven't convinced myself whether the main reason I bike commute is because it is faster and easier, or because it uses less fossil fuels than a motor vehicle. So it is both. For the past 6 month there is another reason and has it to do with feelings. (note: from a Norwegian protestant background feelings should not be talked about.) I just plain feel good commuting, being on a bicycle, being in a different crowd than the SUV crowd. And it isn't about oxygen high because of exercise, as when I go TO work I ride slow enough to not breath hard or sweat.

So my commuting has nothing to do with exercise. I probably get some exercise but it is minor now compared to a 75km Wednesday morning club ride.

Is it dangerous? It is funny that often i am riding along on the side of the road and I look at the vehicle traffic in the road and I say to myself " Wow that looks pretty scary". It probably has some risks but I try to be aware of everything going on and don't take chances. Someone wants to come out into the road, make sure i make eye contact, check behind me if i have to swerve into road, or stop. I use the bell allot for pedestrians and cars.

I don't know about you but this looks pretty scary out there in a car.

13 September 2009

What the GPS shows

Thomas and I agreed on a long one. I got started about 5am and was at his house around 530am.

Thomas immediately had a tyre go flat twice. The spare tube went down and he rode back to get more tubes and i tried to stay warm on the side of the road.

We originally were going to Lolkisale but Thomas saw some mountains SE and liked the look of them so we ended up riding to Custom village. On the way out we were on ridges so the tracks sometimes didn't go very straight. Thomas showed me the gps map sometimes and it didn't look like we knew where we were going. When asking directions we were told the same thing several times.

I wasn't in the mood of pictures, or maybe the parched, end of dry season, landscape was uninspiring.

We only road 110km but i was tired enough to be happy with the day. Stopped in several places for food and carried lots of food. At custom my friend Ngowi gave us two cokes and a big bottle of water free. At Moita Bwawani we had tasty half cakes and black tea with plenty of sugar.

Masai evictions in Ngorongoro District

This article explains a situation going on in the area around Loliondo in Ngorongoro district.

My parents lived in the village of Arash near here.

We have been hearing disturbing things about this private hunting ground for something like ten years. I gets worse and worse every year.

I have had personal dealings with Liz Mckee, and was not favorably impressed. But then maybe I am biased as she choose a business competitor over me. (Full disclosure and all that). I bumped into Rick Thomson 2 days ago, who is temporarily running Thomson office here as Liz gave notice. I wonder if her responses have something to do with this.

23 August 2009

In search of the perfect energy food during rides.

In looking for the perfect energy food for long rides I have tried a number of foods.

(I was going to take a picture of all the different energy foods I have tried but our home is out of stock of most items, either because of pilferage from snack-ers or the item is perishable.

I started out as a casual mountain biker and took whatever was in the house. I didn't need that quick pick me up kick from food. Then as I got into road racing I needed something so I tried the commercial gu and energy bars . They work pretty well but are expensive and not available here. I use them but only when left behind from some first world-ers visiting.

As a substitute I got into honey. I put it in the water bottles or take a shot out of the gu dispensing tube. It works well but sometimes is not appealing taste wise and there is no roughage. It does work as well as energy gu. The good stuff doesn't last as long as one would expect as it is seen as medicinal in our house.

Bananas are about as good as a energy food as one can use but they need care in carrying, they go bad from bruising and heat, and often in early morning they are out of stock in our house. You can't buy for a whole week.

I have used snickers bars. They are delicious and full of energy but a pricey (about a dollar in Arusha). They also don't keep well at home as they get raided by chocolate addicts. A bigger problem is they don't do well in high temperatures on rides.

I sometimes make a trail mix of some (or all) of the following: raisins, sultans, dried fruit, almonds, cashews, peanuts, sunflower seeds. It is pretty good tasting and as energy. Pilferage is a factor both at home and on rides. Highly popular among mountain bikers I ride with. Other downside is it doesn't have a quick sugar fix as much as some other stuff.

I really like milk, and recovers me well after rides. Biggest drawback is it can clog up the respiratory system if you are riding slightly hard.

I was never a big date eater. One day about two years ago I bought some of these date cakes. The seeds are removed and they are pressed in a dense cake and come in packages like the one above. After a few weeks I began to like them.

There are no calorie values on this package but dates are intense calories, natural sugar, and keep forever. That means if i buy 4 packages I am likely to always find them available in our house as I get ready at 5am. I might even find them still in the bag. Dates are less likely to be pilfered at home, although it does happen. They don't melt during a ride.

On the downside they are a somewhat messy to eat but I can deal with that. It is not readily available out side big towns meaning I can not buy as I go.

This package is 500grams (+/-20) and costs $1.40e shop.

It is great to live in a country who trades and deal with everyone. So the fact it is a product of Iran is a non issue for us. This brand happens to be from there but they come from all over the middle east.

19 August 2009

Hiatus, minor operation the reason

I don't always get to do this activity. That is my long legged tandem partner enjoying a sandwich in some brush on Burka coffee estate.

Shortly after my last post I decided to have one of my pinky fingers straightened. I forget what the orthopedic surgeon Dr Morilla called it, but it is a type of contracture that just happens to some people. The fibres between the skin and tendons in the palm of my hand snapped and caused my pinky to not straighten over some years. I had these hard callus like bumps on my palm.

That Friday I commuted by car for first time in several months. It was a good thing. I couldn't even drive the car afterwards.

Bernice left for a week trip to Philippines and I was scheduled for surgery on Friday. i figured it would be over by noon and i would go to work.

Man was I wrong.

This is what it looked like after they took off the bandages and stitches.

Because of the operation and recovery period I could not ride very hard. Rough surfaces were bothersome. I continued to commute by bicycle, even the next day I commuted by bicycle to work as normal, but I stopped Wednesday road rides and weekend bush trips. I did manage some shorter weekends rides. By mid July I was almost normal, but I was out of habit blogging.

Interesting about the operation. It was done at Arusha Lutheran Medical Center, a new hospital. The operating theatre seemed state of the art. I was really impressed.

They didn't have the particular local anesthesia, so it was a general one.

What a trip coming out of it. The first thing I was moving , like screaming fast, down the conduit pipes in the ceiling above me. Just like in the movies like "Matrix". I think it had something to do with the light fixture above my head. Then I started to have some groggy blurred vision and in and out consciousness.

Patients were wheeled next to me for recovery and then later to their rooms, so I got to "see" what else was going on that day.

As I began to focus a bit more I notice the other surgeon Dr. Kisanga at the desk area. I somehow managed to mumble hello and he came over. I told him about my trip and he asked if it was good or bad.

A bit later both surgeons and 3 interns were at the central desk. Dr Kisanga was checking his email on his phone, Dr Morilla was on the Internet, and the interns were singing and dancing to various songs the surgeons asked if they knew. It was like being in a MASH movie, or that movie about hotshot surgeon who gets cancer. Everything was so matter of fact to them, whereas a moment earlier and later they were performing miracles of science. Dr kisanga's head gear was psychedelic, not a plain dull one.

Then a scrub nurse came by saying they were ready and they left to operate on other people.

A few hours later I stumbled to where my clothes were and then sat in a silent "family room" as i was not able to walk right. another half hour and someone walked over to office to drive me home.

Now my finger is straight and cane bend 90%. There is still some scar tissue.

08 August 2009

Iraqwi Tour

I have been wanting to tour the Mbulu Highlands for a year. Somehow the Iraqw tribe and area are called (wa)Mbulu, but they call themselves Iraqwi. And as they gave us such a good time we will call it Iraqwi highlands tour.

My reasons for wanting to tour this area were:
-It is on top of the rift and above 1500m and more temperate. They do live down the rift into the area around Babati and Magugu well under 1000m.
-The Iraqwi are Cushitic people and so culturally different than my neighbors.
-I wanted to do a tour around people and services.
-Lastly I felt being off the main tourist areas would me a satisfying people /cultural experience. I didnt want the "white man, give me my pen"

I have been discussing this with Erik Zweig aka Erik Mdogo for months and finally late last week I said lets go on Monday, and being a bum he agreed.

We set off with vague plans of a route and hoped to pass through the whole Iraqwi area to Singida region if we could.

The suspects before starting out.

I made the mistake of leaving my phone on and checking the network while waiting for Erik and packing so by the time Erik showed up I was dealing with work issues. We finally manage to leave at noon. We had food for evening meals and breakfast and snacks.

The 80km to Makyuni went fast with a tailwind.

We stopped once and had a weird exchange with 20 masai school kids on their way home. They definitely have interactions with tourists and other travelers on this big road. It was not a bad situation but unsettling.
Couldn't take a picture of the 20 kids standing in a line, scattering if we made a sudden movement.

My God, see that bag of trail mix. We pretty much killed it during the 5 days.

A rural mosque in masai land. No one used to live along the road 20 years ago, now at Nanja there is a small village and this mosque.

At 80km we came to Makyuni and stopped at a big bar/restaurant and had a plate of rice and beans, coke and water. It is used by travelers, tourists, and local masai. Below is a group of masai that stood around a devouring big pot of meat.

The TV was blaring with rap music and one waitress was surly and the other a sweetie.

km.I started mellowing out after awhile and I ordered a beer and we changed our destination to 20km away instead of 50 There didn't seem enough time to make it to the top of the escarpment and find a place to camp.

While eating an older man came by that has a house near me and also has a boma in this area. He used to be the village chairman here 20 years go. I haven't seen him in some years and we talked for an hour, I drank two beers and he had some brandy.

We rode another 20km on the new road and where a ridge of Losimongori Mountain hits the road veered off on a
very faint track up the ridge. We met some women and children on their way home and had a good time chatting with them for 10 minutes. They didn't seem concerned or worried for us sleeping out. A different encounter than the school kids previously. The kids checked out stuff on the bikes and the women talked about weather and drought.

The track wound right next to "bomas" making following tracks difficult because of all the cattle and goat traffic. We lost the track and ended up pushing the bikes for the rest of the way on rocks like this. It didn't help that my back tyre went flat twice and i ended up just lifting the back up some and pushing.

We found the exact place we family camped several years ago. It was completely grazed down and I realized "our campsite" had actually been cleared by someone. While looking around we were treated a sunset over Lake manyara. As we had just eaten we opted to not cook. I was too tired to go to my hammock after laying around for a couple of hours and slept by the fire. Erik slept in a hammock that flapped most of the night. I have no idea how he slept with that noise.

We woke at light and took 2 1/2 hours to wake up, cook porridge, and pack up and walk down to the road. It was mostly too rough to ride. While making tea the wood stove wasn't working well. I discovered one of the pots had a 3mm hole in the bottom and had leaked out half the pot of precious water, and was dampening the fire.

See how good the road up to the campsite was when we followed it down the next morning.

The road was glass smooth and downhill to Mto wa Mbu town and Lake Manyara.

We are both Erik's and we couldn't resist this sign.

We cruised into Mto wa mbu and bought some bananas and a cooking pot to replace the one with a hole. We climbed the escarpment looking out over the Lake manyara national park.

I haven't done this on a mountain bike and even with the heavy load it was much easier than on the racing bike with its high gears. At the top we descended into the next valley to Kilmamoja village.

At Kilimamoja we turned off the tarred road to begin the trip. Up until now we were only in transport mode to get to the start. We were now in Iraqw country!

We were discussing where to get some food while standing in the middle of the dusty road and right in front of us was a row to tin shacks and they were all small "hoteli". For no reason we chose this one, mama Neema's.

Here is mama Neema herself discussing life while feeding us.

While eating we learned a few more words in Iraqw. The stopped turned into fried eggs, chapatis, and tea. It cost about $2 for both of us. We got directions and headed down the hard dirt road.

One of her kids.

We had a fairly good map but we relied upon asking often and at every crossroads. The road was seldom flat. We would climb one ridge or pass and descent to see another one. There were other bikes on the road and seldom did we meet a vehicle in this 50km stretch.

At a crossroads we would wait a minute and someone would come along walking or riding.

We met more and more people the closer we got to Endabash. If they had heavy loads the bicycle was pushed on any uphill.

As we approached Endabash we were actually confused with the different paths. We lost the road somewhere a nice guy who took us into town.

Endabash was a big sprawling town and didn't seem friendly. We had a coke and some water sitting outside a shop. A guy asked us to move our bicycles as they were leaning against a wall of a shop and it could scratch the paint! If it would of been more friendly we might of had a meal, instead we moved on.

We found the main road to be graded gravel and mostly hard but at times washboard.

We had a plan of getting up to Kilimapunda where the forest touches the road at around 2000 meters according to the map. We hoped we could get into some forests. We met lots of helpful people and we eventually hooked up with one guy who was going to show us where to get water. We assumed BEFORE the pass. We climbed and climbed, descended and repeated that over and over.

A typical valley we rode through with the road meandering down and up the other side.

Then it was a long climb up to 2000m to the pass. our guide had been pushing his bicycle but we never waited long for him. the views were fun.

The camera view from the pass doesn't show how steep it descends from here. The climb was gradual.

At the pass it was windy and cold. We decided not to sleep despite the view being good. We descended some and were surprised we were in and out of forests. With our guide we checked water in one place and descended some more where we were in a thick forest and there was a small trickle of water running. We crossed the river and pushed the bikes into forest and made camp.

We cooked and lay our bags out on the grass and dried elephant dung. During the night hyenas and monkeys made some noise. It was cold night but we were warm in our bags and clothes.

In the morning we filtered water for drinking from the trickle and washed a few clothes and hung on the bikes where they didn't dry much as it was overcast and cool.

Interesting rock where we collected water.

It was down mostly to Mbulu Town, but we climbed through several valleys on the way. Mbulu is a fair sized District town. At the market we bought some cooking oil and bananas , tomatoes. We asked some guys standing around the best place for food and were directed to another hole in the wall with a awning outside and some plastic tables and chairs. We chatted to the woman running the place and had chapatis, fried eggs, samosa, and of course tea.

At this point we were doing 90 km per day on dirt roads and stopping frequently. Singida region was out of the question. We decided to head for Dongobesh and then follow a dotted line circling back to Mbulu tomorrow. We climbed again to 2000m and then did the rollers and valley thing until afternoon. It was desert like most of the way.

In the afternoon we caught a glimpse of Mnt Hanang and the sun came out hot for awhile. The road was rough half the time.

Some time way back someone started a tile making project in this area. I believe it was the catholics. So even most of the mud houses are roofed with clay tiles!

There was only a few vehicles, mostly buses who would blare their horns wanting us to go off into the ditch.

Dongobesh town is a big valley with running water in this high plateau. Well the running water is pretty slow and murky.

We had rice and meat, filtered some dirty water as we were not sure what was ahead. We asked about this road with unpronouceable village names and got conflicting reports. One guy was very sure the road went to Kweremth and that was it. The other extreme was it went all the way to Babti. We headed northeast and into a strong wind. It was discouraging. The bicycles going our way were all pushing and the ones in the other direction were flying, even up hills.

Most people said yes there was a road all the way, and then we found out we could find a road to drop down off the rift wall to the kiru or Magugu area. If this was true we wouldn't have to go back to Mbulu.

We rode through a valley with lots of green fields on one side and were told it was garlic. Each valley seemed to become more fertile and more water. The wind eased up and we would around, up and down. For awhile i had some giggling school girls pushing me up a particularly steep hill. One ran next to me for a km. Filbert Bayi comes from this area.

We met a school teacher who caught on to where and what we were trying to do and we slowed for him to show us some forks. Eventually he came to a place the road took a hard left but he said we should go straight on a small track, almost a path.

The farms were pleasant looking. As we rode higher it was getting colder and darker . The track became a path and we could see ahead that we were heading into a rain forest.

We made the rainforest and rode and pushed on this track for a km, then pushed the bikes 100m into the bush and made a camp. I was amazed how intact and pristine the forest is.

Poor erik had to cook for several hours, rice and lentils, at one point with three stoves going.

We were snoring in
our hammocks by 9 pm. The clouds covered the moon most of the night. I slept with long pants, two shirts and a sweater and was pleasantly warm. In hind sight we must of been at 2300m.

It was a completely unexpected situation.

In the morning we ate left over rice and lentils with tea, packed up and pushed out to the track. It was thick forest but we were able to ride now as it was flatter and less roots exposed on the trail.

The clouds and fog rolled in. Some trees catch the moisture and it is raining beneath them, other places it was dry. It became colder and windier and more open with glades and heather like plants.

We came upon fresh elephant dung and pee, still in a puddle. I am excited but cautious. Visibility dropped to 30m. I tell Erik keep track of big trees to climb.

The trail seemed to follow a ridge, gently with open glades. We came to a road of sorts but seldomed used and followed it down.

Sometimes very steep and rocky.

We began meeting people coming up and were reassured we were on the right way. After an hour we left the forest and were in a mixture of forest and farm land. Farms and people seemed well off.

The road forked and we were told the left went to kweremth, the village on the map and where the road goes to Mbulu or over the escarpment to Babati. The first person said go left to Kweremth. A man came out of a house and said that was true but where are we eventually heading. He was a retired military man and knew some English. After talking some it turned out the right one would take some time off and take us over to the escarpment. Sometimes it pays to stop and talk.

We rolled up and down snaking our way, crossing several rivers. At one we filtered water into water bottles. The filter began to not work so well.

The traditional house all have one style, oval with thatch.

We came into planted forests and then we were on the edge of the escarpment looking down 1000m . It was a road but steep and rough and washed out in places. I had to walk several sections.

The views were great. I pitied those coming up the track. None of them were talking.

Eventually the road got bigger and less steep and we could cruise. Came to a big river and filled the water bottles, washed some. We were still too cold to think about swimming.

Talked with guys maintaining the road. Next we rode through forests and then into the large sugar plantations.

then back into scrubland with farms here and there. We took a shortcut that started as a track and became a path. It seemed to go on and on but at least it was mostly flat.

We crossed the river again on two logs and needed to help each other. Just after we crossed a 8 year old kid fell in and started floating away before someone yelled and his brother yanked him out.

The "suburbs of " magugu seemed to stretch forever and ever as we rode on as dusty side street that parralleled the gravel highway, for like 5 km. Finally we reached Magugu. I don't know why i wanted to reach Magugu as it was hot , dusty, dirty, crowded, lazy kind of place. A truck stop. We had more rice and beans, coke, and water. I had a beer.

The road is now a dusty , mostly washboarded road. They are upgrading to tarmac but are in the clearing stage. so now there is a wide swath almost 100m wide. I am riding on what i think is the temporary road and to the left is what is being built up. Seems they are on the putting in the culvert stage.

We ride until 6pm and turn off the road and ride 1km into the dry scrub and find a place with enough trees for hammocks. We sleep 50m apart. I fall asleep several times while
Erik cooks for another couple of hours.

Hyhenas make noise. Luckily there is cloud cover so the moon doesn't shine in our face and I sleep long stretches.

More left over rice in the morning and we pack up and head out to the dusty highway again. In 20km we are at the tar road and we stop and buy water and he suggests some biscuits so we take them also. It is actually a hardware store and we ask the price of shovels just for fun. At makyuni in another 22km and we have rice and beans again. cokes. We are on tourist route and in a shop I buy snickers and chocolate biscuits again. The day is cool and I drink very little while riding.

We have a stretch of messing with Erik's tyre going flat. Eventually we change to the last tube and add slime, but not before the frustration level has gone up.

From Makyuni are several long gradual climbs to take us to rolling hills.
The scar in the scrub is the road up ahead.

Erik goes on ahead and I don't see him for several hours. I am not tired I just can't go as fast as him. There is a strong wind blowing and hills are almost easier as they block the wind. I like riding alone but after two hours I wonder if i passed him at a duka.

A masai woman comes to the road with a rock! It angers me. Kind of odd situation. She is laughing. I haven't had a masai women ever threaten me. Well we are on a major tourist and trucking road. Seems to bring out the worst in people.

Eventually i find him lying down on the side of road waiting for me. I then draft him for an hour and we make good time into arusha and split up.

I think I had too much stuff. Like the spare tyre. Maybe the reading book. Sandals. But maybe my bike, rack, frame bag, and panniers is just too heavy.

08 June 2009

Karibu Tanzania Fair Tour 2009

Every year our bike club, Arusha Cycling Club, puts on a race during the Karibu Tanzania Fair . In the past two years it is a multistage race and this year despite our doubts we managed to pull it off again.

I say that as getting the 3,500,000 shillings ($3,000) to pull it off is not easy. The club can not get the big sponsorships from the companies like breweries, soda companies, or the cell phone companies. We need prize money, vehicles, race officials, regional permission, police support, first aid, lodging, and so on. In the end the money comes from club members with companies and firends of club members.

The exception is DSI, who make bicycle tyres in Sri Lanka and distribute here. Our big thanks to them. The provided $420 cash, two tyres and T shirt for each participant.

Two days before the race I was thinking it wasn't worth the hassles, but as we lined up for the start of the first day it was worth it. Towards the end of the first day slogging up to the Ngorongoro gate i was having doubts again, but then i got to turn around and speed into Karatu for a finish. The first day was 162 km. The first 70 we controlled as the road is bad in places, we rode at 35kph average as a big group. From there the speed jumped up to crazy speed on slight rollers. My highest speed for the 3 days was at this time, 69kph. I was managing to hold on with Thad Peterson for about 10 km when i went over a stone and knew immediately it would go down and a minute later i was flat, and that was the end of my free ride to Mto wa Mbu.

The rest of my team picked me up. Mike Peterson, Henri Van Der Land, and Rajabu Hussein. Rajabu is 16 and the rest of us over 50. We comprised team "C" of our club. We were joined by a team from Dodoma, Kenya, and Mwanza.

We got the flat fixed but the peloton was long gone. Thad stayed with them to the escarpment above Manyara national park. The rest of us rode together up to the escarpment and up. Afterwards I left the others and eventually caught Thad between Karatu and Loodare gate of NCAA. He was pretty knackered and we shared a GU packet and rode on to the finish.

We all camped at Sunset campsite in Karatu. It was much more relaxed than the previous year, less bickering.

The next day we were joined by Wesley Krause on team C. We had only 10km until the big hill up to Rotia where team c fell off to fend on our own. We screamed down the manyara escarpment and rode in echelon on the flats to Makyuni. We started to get tired but rode on to Arusha in 5hrs 49 minutes, only 130km

The last day was a team time trial of 38km. That was fun and like racing. The other days were just long slogs for team C.

Arusha cycling took most of the prizes except 3rd place team.

I guess I will ride again next year. It would be nice to be in better shape and stay up with the peleton a bit longer.

Team time trial was a nice way to end the tour as it is fast and short and i felt like I was RACING.

04 June 2009


Is being responsible a good or a bad thing? Or is it neither but our reaction to it what is important? I am talking about responsible as a adjective meaning accountable and not necessarily reliable.

My responsible dilemma: sometimes it is perceived that I was the one who got Arusha Cycling Club going ten years ago. Even though I am not a office bearer some of the decisions come to me, my financial support is depended upon, and I am sometimes the link between the old rich guys in the club and the young racers who are developing into middle class.

In short, I am partly responsible for the club. It won't fall apart without me, but my leaving would do some damage. Similarly I have hard time when it is known to me that the young guys need help with a new chain or cassette and I have the spare or I have the ability to buy it and that troubles my soul.

And now, just before the big Mwanza Race we have tensions between the hot shots. It probably started with a money issue, but the fact that in the Mwanza Race first prize is $1000 is an issue. So two distinct teams are going to this race from our club. I feel responsible for mending the break.

I want to run away from it all. I want to get on my mtn bike and ride all day and not have to worry about my fellow cyclists' bicycle maintenance.

On the other hand it is a fantastic feeling to ride with a club as a group. Recently I just about stayed up with the front pack up a hill. Hamisi, a hotshot rider, dropped back, waited for me, and then effortlessly "pulled" me up to the pack. That is a great feeling.

02 June 2009

Monthly totals

I am not that into numbers but for the record this year so for i have been averaging 900Km per month.
to date 2582 on mtn/commute bike and 1980 on road bike. I can't remember what other years were.

27 May 2009

Warming up on the commute

Our hot (or warmer) season is December to March/April, depending upon when he rains start. Then it cools off gradually until July. Yesterday was the first day that I wore something additional to stay warm on the commute. I prefer that as I don't have to worry about sweat on the way to work. I sleep better also during this season. Has something to do with sleeping in the basement growing up, where it never got warm even during hot summers.

Today was early morning club ride and the talk before the ride is it is cold today. That means next week i start using arm warmers during the ride.

Keep em rolling.

24 May 2009

Two different rides

This weekend I managed to ride each day, both rides were 5 hours riding time but different rides. I enjoyed them both but the Saturday ride will remain in my mind.


Friday my buddy Erik Zweig slept at our house and we schemed that evening for a 3 hour easy ride. We got up early enough but repairing two broken spokes turned into cleaning his drive train. Then he worked on his brakes and then it was 8am and everyone else was having pancakes so we had pancakes and messed around and left after 10 am.

We did the familiar route up into the Meru Forest, and then headed east on the main forest road. We then rolled up and down ravines high up on the mountain. We talked to a few people and greeted almost everyone.

At the highest point we stopped for some fruit and water and started the descent. Immediately after leaving the forest we stopped by a large group of kids and bought two big avocados. We were still hungry and it was 1pm so we asked for a "hoteli" and were directed to a shack. We shared a bowl of cooked bananas with a few pieces of beef and a bottle of Banana Wine. We shared a table with two guys and struck up a conversation.

We wanted to pass but Fred's house above Sanksi. Fred is some guy Erik met and wanted to visit. They said if we follow the road then we have to climb back up, which is what i expected. Rather they could show us a trail through the big ravine and then a road that would eventually take us to the Sanksi road.

We paid for the meal, a bit under $2, and were guided to the trail. We traveled at the same speed as our guides as the trail was steep and rocky. We carried and pushed and shortly the trail became a track that we were told would carry us down. We stopped frequently for directions and greeted a ton of people.

Ever since the entering the forest the road was slick. We both went slow. I noticed my average speed was only 10 kph.

We came to a big Lutheran church and gazed around like two lost boys. A pastor came along who knew Fred, but by his Meru name. He enlisted a kid to show us the way. We rode up and down on slick small tracks through small farms . I was starting to think this "detour" to see Fred, a guy I don't know might be a waste of time. After 30 minutes our guide points to a house on a wide hill.

As we ride up the hill the trees gave away and we had views in all directions. My lower jaw fell down to the handle bars. It was incredible view. At the house the view was spectacular. Mnt Meru, Kilimanjaro, south Masai steppe, Arusha town. We were high enough we could see the water of Lake Duluti that is in a small crater!

Fred is the son of a Meru and Canadian. He grew up in Canada, but they had strong ties to this area. A few years ago his wife and their small child decided to try to live in this area. He is a lawyer but made some money in "multimedia", whatever that is. He worked for a local lawyer and bit and now the UN ICTR.

We ended up drinking a beer and talking a mile a minute. They wanted to know what i knew about the submarine fiber optical cable coming to our country, and when it would come to Arusha. Then the kids, Erik, and Fred played catch with a baseball. They have about 5 acres of grass around the house.

At 5pm we took our leave and coasted the 10km to the main highway at Duluti. Then Erik and i split up and i slogged up to Arusha and home. I only went 50 kms and was riding 5 hours but gone 8 1/2 hours. Talked with a ton of people.

Sunday morning I got out of bed at 5:15 an stumbled around making coffee and tea and looking for something to take to eat. I mixed some raisins, almonds, peanuts in a bag, grabbed 2 apples, a tangerine, and then wanted to make a sandwich but that seemed like work and i remembered that Bibi (grandma) had made some banana cake to i cut a piece. there are some energy gu right next to where the raisins are kept so i grabbed one of those. I took 4 litres water and a thermos of tea.

I was 20 minutes late to meet Wes, Thomas, Reiner, and Franco in Olasiti. i started riding 615am. The pace was fast and no slowing down in the rocky sections as we headed south, riding on single track mostly. We came to the big caldera from the south side which was new for me. My rear tyre went down , then i changed the tube and it went down three times so i used a tube from Wes. We ate some food at the caldera and discussed para gliding. The banana cake tasted pretty good with tea.

We descended off the rim of the caldera and i popped into a boma I had visited once cut my friend wasn't there. We split with Franco and Reiner heading straight back on the dirt road and we other three decided to ride around Moita hill. Eventually we found a track and cruised up on a ridge where the we came upon a kilometer of rocky ground. on the other side it was fast and we cruised back to the road arguing about which hill was which, as we look at them from the other side. I lagged a bit , feeling tired and Thomas pushes fast and Wes follows. We cruised up to the tarmac highway and home. Today was 80+km and ridden at 16kph, 5hours riding in 7 1/2 hours. Not much visiting but a good ride.

07 May 2009

Riding with twins

Nyika and Zaka Friberg are family friends. Our families go way back. Before I was born our parents and some grandparents new each other in Bumbuli in the 1940's.

The twins are adventurous, so when they come around I have no problem getting them to roll the bikes around.

Nyika and Zaka live in the bush so when we rode by some big trees in a coffee plantation they wanted to climb. Click on the picture and you can see one of them on the lowest branch above the road. I am the only one in the family who can't tell them apart, so ask Nashesha who is up in the tree.