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.