22 February 2009

A good one

While whizzing down from Monduli town on Wednesday Thomas yells "Lets do a long ride on Saturday". A few moments later I fell. (See the previous post.)

The next day I doubt if I can do a long ride but by Friday I text Thomas "Expect to stay out all day". We enlist some newbies Erik "Mdogo" Zweig and Mika Peterson and Paulo Rukoine my occasional bike buddy. Thomas Holden plays in a nightclub band so he doesn't want to start early. We agree to a 7am start and plan on circumnavigating Monduli Mountain. By 7:05 we are all there.

Monduli mountain lies to the west of Arusha. It is around 9,000 feet and a broad mountain with a large plateau to the west called Monduli Juu. To the north the mountain drops way down to the bottom of the rift valley. Mnt Meru massif and Monduli come together at an area called Lengijave on the east.

The Monduli Mountain loop has 6 distinct parts.
1) A long uphill from Arusha town to Lengijave on a main highway.
2) A teeth baring coast across endless short grass plain down to the top of the rift valley escarpment. Teeth are bared because it is effortless and the view are fantastic and because large sections are over bone jarring rough the grass.
3) The third section is rocky canyon lands as you descend the rift.
4) A long slow slog to the top of Monduli Juu plateau.
5) 30 minutes of screaming fast downhill to Monduli town on a good dirt road.
6) A long slow slog into the wind to Arusha town. Emphasize the WIND part.

Mika in the 2nd section this is before the steep grass section. "Someone has to do this stuff, and I guess it has to be us." It is hard to feel sorry for yourself cruising through here.

We have breakfast on the top of Lengijave plains where the cattle trail has cut deep into the pass.

Life is easy until we started descending into a rocky canyon on section 3. At the bottom of the canyon it is rough and we follow the canyon. Walking, carrying (note Paulo in the back), and occasionally riding 30 feet at a time. Not only are there lots of rocks to dodge or carry your bike over, but in between the rocks are thorn trees hanging in your way. Today this section included being slightly lost and slightly frustrated trying to get in and out and down canyons. Right here is a good section.

We find a cattle trail and Mika breaks a rear derailleur cable. We spend 20 minutes changing it to find that the new cable is way too short! We also notice that the derailleur roller is worn out and its bearing is shot. I make a mistake and decide not to use the derailleur and make it fixed. That doesn't work very well.

At this point we debate whether to go back or forward. We go on.

We stop and put the derailleur back on, add more lengths of chain again, fix the rear gear that give him 3 in front. That is improvement and he is young and strong and rarely complains again.

We drink 1-3 cokes each in the village of Mfereji and start slogging up the road.

We have come down the escarpment in the distance and across the woodlands.

The road is very good but uphill. We soon reach the switchbacks on the hill ahead.

At the top of switch backs we have the some food and water, which is getting short. I am too tired to take pictures from here on.

Thomas, Erik , and Mika leave Paulo and I behind and we meet with them in Monduli town about 4 pm and drink more cokes, and bottles and bottles of water. Some food, and more food and 30 minutes later we are recovered.

We draft well the first section and are feeling good. We turn the last corner and into a 30kmph wind and slog home. Eventually we split into groups, each for their own reason. I arrive home at 630pm. Erik Zweig stops in town to watch a Arsenal football match and rides another 20km home in the dark.

19 February 2009

Another crash

Arusha Cycling Club riders are good riders, experienced, and we seldom have crashes. However we always have new members who are not as experienced and it takes awhile for them to learn to ride in the pack.

Yesterday, on our Wednesday club ride we were on our way back and going down from Monduli town at about 55kph. I was in the back and I notice a dog on the left. I move over to the right as do the guys in the front. Some guys in the middle arent paying attention or not being smart and stay on the left and scare the dog to the right. Two guys in front of me go down and although I have slowed quite a bit I cant avoid when Abdallah's bike is lying on the road. I do an en do into the side of the road and scrape up my face. I have some shock but as soon as they have cleaned me up I start riding home with Laizer. 1/2 way home the shock is worn off. I have little pain or stiffness. The stiffness comes hours later.

Today is the next day and the swelling is worse. I swear there is no pain.

I was supposed to ride alone

I am a loner. But I also enjoy going on bike rides with buddies.

Sunday at midnight I got a response from Thomas to meet at 730 am in Olasiti for a mountain bike ride. I wake up to read the message and figure I will be up long before that. I am slow to get out of bed and get ready and eventually at 715 I SMS Thomas that I will be late 10 minutes.

When I get there no one is there and Thomas doesn't answer his phone. In a few minutes a home security guard informs me "they" left some time ago.

I am bummed, well, yeah, a bit rejected. I try to follow their tracks for awhile but that proves difficult.

I continue on tracks heading for Lolkisale hill. I am not is bush but riding on cool trails and tracks through struggling forests and sparsely populated farmland, and a old ravine with poor farmland.

I have followed other people on this track and somewhat find my way. On the south side I get on wrong tracks and have to stop and ask directions. Soon I realize I am not bummed and glad I am alone. I stop more to chat with people and get good directions to the huge caldera called "Shimo la Mungu". I have a chat with a guy as I arrive there. I ride along the edge and the view down into the crater is great.

At the top I am alone in the wind and can see 50-80 km in all directions. I appreciate being alone doing what I want to do. I sit with my snacks against a rock.

I continue south to connect to a constructed dirt road . I can see the big village of Moita and know generally where the road is but I must of been weaving around in the scrub and a Masai calls me over. Wondering what in the heck I am doing. After the briefest interchange he says come lets have some tea and walks away towards his boma.

It turns out to be one of those wonderful interludes that stretched to an hour. I drink a huge cup of tea from a chipped enameled tin cup while talking about our lives. I get conscripted to help move a dead cow under a tree so it can be slaughtered. I cant stay longer to wait for some meat and head home on the dirt road.

The road is hard and fast I meet no vehicles until the last km. I get to wave and greet lots of Masai and waarusha on their way to church, water, and market.

I get home at 1pm. It was good to ride solo.