I have ridden up and over the West Meru Plateau a few times but always in one day. A few weeks ago some buddies and I wanted a quick overnight so I suggested West Meru Plateau. It would get us out of the heat, into sub alpine trails, and maybe we would see some elephants. And of course we would have hours to spin the cranks on bicycles and enjoy seeing the world. I was not watching closely but am sure it was a S24O (Sub 24hour Overnight ride).
Thomas, Erik, and myself met after lunch and cycled through small farms up to the meru forest. Crossing the Ngaremtoni river canyon on the foot path is a grunt with the loads. I fall far behind. Actually it is a grunt without loads so I am not surprised and an going anaerobic. (Pics follow text.)
After the canyon we are on a relentless climb up to the plateau. At the gate below the plateau we get asked what we are doing, but we are waved on after we lie that we are just passing through to the other side. Someone long ago planted peach trees and sometimes we catch them in season and the gatekeeper always lets us take a few.
The forest administration allows local farmers from below the forest reserve to plant crops after the trees in a plot are harvested and the new seedlings are planted. They use clear cut method. After a few years they stop because the trees are too big. The foresters see this as the way for the trees to get a few years growing without competition from high grass and weeds. Potatoes grow well with little disease at this elevation. There are a few temporary huts up in the forest but most people only come up for the day to work the fields.
Signs of elephant are old, not like the previous time through here. Soon the road is more rolling than relentless and we get some views of the Meru Peak (14900ft). It is getting late in the day and we don't dally too much but stop to take some pictures of the peak. We pull off the main vehicle track onto a path, onto another path , and eventually have a campsite with a view down to the plains.
We barely get setup before dark and the night gets a bit crazy. Firewood is scarce as we are on the edge of some planted fields. We could of done better but after some food we feel better. I even smoke a cigar and drink some whiskey.
Next day we explore the plateau and find a great campsite for next time with some permanent water. It is behind the big hill up on the plateau. There is a narrow path and it descends into some meadows in the heather and there is some seepage there that looks pretty permanent.
We turn the bikes around and enjoy several hours of fast descent into the dust and heat of Arusha in February.