18 May 2010

The other Oldonyo Sambu

Life feels better when the expected weekend day ride evolves into a totally different overnite trip.

After the wednesday ride Wes Krause and I chat about a long sunday ride. Pretty soon Thad Peterson, Mike Peterson, and Thomas Holden have joined. It turns into an overnight at a Dorobo Safaris camp at Oldonyo Sambu.

People have jobs back in town, and some have to work at Oldonyo Sambu looking for a new camp, but for me, my aim is to finish the loop I failed to complete the previous weekend and add another few klicks into real bush. As you can see the morning glory was out in full glory , the trails and tracks were hard, but the tetse fly showed up in the end.

I can't sleep well the night before and I easily get out of bed and pack up, check emails, check ISP network, and am off at first light. I had two chances to snap a red sunrise and lucked out on the second.

We did a new variation to Lolkisale, by passing Moita town and damn but passed another dam and hit the road at that dam.
Then thomas's cable housing broke. Here is the heckling section helping Thomas do repairs.

Reminder: carry extra cable housing. My damn tool/spare bag is getting bigger. An replace the cables that thomas used.

In the end they used my duct tape and a shifter cable. Then they made me surrender my pen to make the housing long enough. Yes that is a plastic bic pen in there.

so much for my plan for makking notes as I go along.

We draw a crowd of Masai who end up being experts on cutting shifter cables cleanly.

AT Lolkisale we get on different paths but end up the same place about the same time. I can't remember what time or how far but know we lost an hour fixing the cable. We stopped at a small shop for food.

Next was a canyon and long slog up the other side to the southern steppe and Simanjiro plains. I was feeling heavy and slightly nasuseated, just like last week. (Why cant i learn to drink?) I blamed it on the mixture of food. tea, juice, chapati etc.
Mostly we were able to staf out of deep sand.

We pass through Loibor soit and then Mboret. I think i last passed 20 years ago with Kathy and chuck on motorcycles.

Now we left the track for a faint jeep track that was more of a foot trail. Mostly hard with a bit of deep sand. 10km fofrom mboret you leave this track on a smaller track and deep grass. you can see the vehicle passed but the grass covers the road.

We are now in tetse fly area. The good thing about tetse is people don't like to live in their areas becuase they bite humans and they carry sickness for cows. Some opted for chemical repellant and I faired well in the wake of the others scent. There are a couple of valleys and then we ride up the Oldonyo Sambu mtn and out on a ridge to a kopje where the peterson brothers have a temporary safari camp.

I sleep between these two trees, there is a big group coming in a few days and the camp staff have slashed the grass.

this is the kitchen area. I have a bath with a few litres and feel wonderful.

We are in camp early enough after a bath to go up on some rocks and watch the sun go down while having a drink or two. We look north to Mnt meru 100km away and see no sign of civilization, no farms or roads, just tetse infested bush.

We have a great meal and i sleep well in my hammock.

the next morning only Thomas and I will ride bicycles back. By 8am we are off down the slopes of oldonyo sambu

At the bottom of the valley we watch some giraffe for awhile and climb out of the valley and out of tetse area.

It is pleasant temperature and we cruise on the hard trails. I stop for a snack. When i start out again i shifted under load and break the rear deraileur cable housing, just like thomas the day before. I switch front and back and use a short one from thomas and am as good as new.

I mess up and we miss the turn to the east by 5 km .

Once past Mboret we start to see lots more zebra and wildebeast

While Thomas fixes a flat I watch the wildebeast who are watching us. Sigh it is a tough life, but someone has to do this shit.

We enjoy the plains and drop into terat valley. Now we are on a big road but not in great shape. 10km down the road it is in great shape and we go along the edge of the escarpment for 20 km and then above Komolo the road becomes horrible and we bounce down the escarpment and have food in Komolo. Wonderful small place run by a young woman.

Now i am on the ride i did last week and we find even more trails along the road and are at Custom in an hour . I am feeling low adn we stop for cokes and add water. I concentrate after we start off to drink and drink and feel better.

10 May 2010

Almost side swiped

Sunday afternoon Bernice and I went for a 90 minute ride on the tandem, taking the short cut through burka coffee estate and riding through coffee and fields to laki laki. The northwest corner of Burka estate is wild bush and forest, and we ride through it today to get to where we are going.

and readied for it to crash into the road but wondered why the noise was from head height. Instead an Eagle (In the middle of a thick forest I heard some noise to my left in the brush ,I figured it was a duiker about to crash out of the thicket. What really suprised me that the noise from was head height. I braced for a crash. Instead an eagle (tawney?) came flying out of the brush 2 meters from me nearly hitting me and flew down the road. Wow! that was a close one.

Bernice woke the next morning feeling less achy. I think she sees the advantage of some light exercise. After my long day yesterday it helped loosen up my body.

09 May 2010

Komolo II

The plan was to pass through Komolo, ride up onto the south masai steppe over to Terat, Mboret / loiborsoit , and back home through lolikisale. It would be way over 200 km, which I was hoping I could do.
Unfortunately I forgot a map and when I got up on the escarpment i was feeling tired, a bit sick and was told the loiborsoit plains were muddy.

Despite that it was a good 150km ride mostly on gravel roads, some sections were rough or sandy. In those sections my speed dropped quickly.

It would of been nice to go with someone. I was not so lonely but when you joke about difficulties it makes it easier. But then several times I realized that being with someone can slow one down.

I should of left earlier than 7 am but hey it is the weekend. Getting ready was easier than normal. The sky was clear as it is after rains.

I live on the slopes of a mountain. So it makes sense the first hour and some to the bridge over the Themi river was alot of downhill. (27.5km from home). I was in great spirits. The road has been graded and it was fast. I stopped 5 minutes at the bridge to stowe my helmet and eat a banana.

I made a note to get an inflatable kayak. I could of floated to here in the garbage strewn river.

I looked for the road branching off. Found a guy sitting on a rock beside the road and asked about the road. It exists but it goes through a swamp and is flooded and has many branches. He advised to stay on the fast and good road.
The next section is poor soil and full of rocks and suddenly I was in a parched scrub. in this section the road was good but a bit rough. But now when i look at the picture how can I complain. I had met only two vehicles up until now.

The area was completely devoid of people and huts, just rocks, soil, and scrub trees. slightly down hill and i cranked quickly to the bottom lands and into deep grass and scattered fields of maize.

Custom is another 13 km and i didnt need to stop but I have a friend in the village, Ngowi, who is now the village secretary. I bought a Bavaria non-alcoholic beer, expensive at 3000shs and a big bottle of water.

I asked about the way around and they thought it was possible but that the mboret plains might be muddy and impassable. Ngowi says the road is good ahead, just like the section I have been on.

It wasnt but it will be. They are working on it and it was rough for a bit, then it was good hard old road. I noted that it seems this area is becoming forested again. 30 years ago it was kind of denuded like this seciton . It rolls and then drops to the escarpment.

I was able to get off the road some on a path following the road and that was fast and fun. Note the trees.

I realizied as it warmed up and sun became hot that i forgot my collared cotton shirt.

The esparpment didn't loom ahead of me like the Great Rift but I knew it was going to be a slog. I came to Komolo and passed a village meeting. I have the preconceived negative notion about Komolo village and passed through. After some initial "mzungu, money" banter from kids we started talking as i inched up the road and they were cool.

The road was okay although sometimes solid rough rock. Just when i thought I was done i rounded a cornor and instead of gentle uphill i saw a steep section up ahead.

More traffic now. Every 10 minutes there seeme to be a car. Either a masai landrover bus or an masai nNGO landcruiser with two people, or a government vehicle . The exception was gerard miller. Half way up a new landcruiser stopped coming down and it was Gerard. he farms on the masai steppe and i have known him slightly for 20 years or so. He was pretty suprised what i was doing and asked my age. He has a bicycle to ride around the farm now.

At the top ( 1145) i stopped off in the bushes for lunch. I tried to find a view but too many trees and the escarpment is gentle so i could not find a place to hang my feet off a bank and gaze into the distance. Instead i found a field of grass and flowers. I realizied all day i was seeing lots of flowers but just noticed them lying in the grass eating my lunch

I not sure why but I was feeling tired and a bit nauseated. climbing the hill, 70 km, lack of blood sugar, water? In hind sight i think it was one or both of the last two. I think i have to learn to force myself of drink and eat. the milk chai was most appealing, so i drank that first. I forced myself to eat food and managed a big banana, pbj sandwhich, water, juice. I laid down for a 5 minute snooze but was getting bit/stung by bees. I turned on my phone and got two sms messages. then i checked my email! and deleted all the server messages.

I decided as it was 1230 that half the day was gone and i would have to make the circuit to loiborsoit another time. I road up the road a bit to make it over 75km and read the sign. No date of completion specified.

I recovered coasting down the escarpment. and on the ride into custom village felt strong and it passed quickly. I had gone 110km. I stopped and found a cold coke and another bottle of water. One duka had a small fridge with batteries. I got a bit confused with money and almost paid 4500shs. instead of 1500shs.

I found another trail paralleling the road and had to stop pedaling sometimes as i twisted through the bush.

a guy on a bicycle said the bauda road was graded the whole way so i went that way. The road was perfect. I greeted tons of farmers walking home with the hoes on their shoulder. The bike felt sluggish so i stopped and put some air in the back tyre. the thick tubes are deceptive. I did that three times on the way in but the third time it was full. that helped alot and i was crusing up the slow incline.

When i joined the road to the sand quarry i now had a big truck passing me every 5minutes and had to deal withthe dust and sand they stir up.

I was feelig strong and cranked up the big hill and on home. with only a few km to go i felt weakeer and decided to eat a snickers so that i would be recovered at home and could eat soon.

Had some issues off and on with my toe giving pain. It started couple of years ago. I also have to be careful about numbness in my hands.

it was 147km in8:23 riding time 10hours total.

Is Paul theroux right in the Dark Star Safari? I met progress, happy smiling people once out of arusha. Sure some kids asked for some money (they asked for 10 cents though).

04 May 2010

Single Track?

I am not sure if this is Single track , maybe multi track? Because I can jump from track to track it is not single track, In fact I dont need to stay on a track, the grass is ride able, not as hard as a track but straighter.

Despite my bitching the last post I managed to get off on this ride Sunday.

After two days of long meetings I wake Sunday morning lethargic and to a flooded yard.

I was mentally exhausted so I couched away the morning. Around 10 I started feeling like riding my bicycle. Lengijave plains would be a good bet as it is sandy and I could check out how the road north is progressing with new tarmac. (Editor note: no progress in our direction)

Before I could ride I had tubes to repair. In the workshop I found 4 road tubes and 3 Mt bike tubes in the "to fix" pile that have been neglected . I found one of each beyond repair with broken stems.

It is probably just me but can't they make a repair valve stem? It happens half dozen times per year.

The road tubes were straight forward but when i move on to the Mt tubes my pace slows down. The tube that killed my ride on Thursday at work because the tyre liner made a cut in the tube. The tube is sold by Slime company with slime pre installed, but the tube is cheap and was not fun to repair. I guess the Slime people don't patch slime tubes.
The next mtn bike tube was one of those extra thick tubes with slime. On a recent ride Thomas Holden found it would not hold air and as I loaned him a tube I ended up with the tube.
It had about 143 thorns actually stuck in the tube. In addition on the inside of the tube, a place where the slime tends to not seal very well, was an area peppered with little holes Again this one turned out to need a bunch of patches as well I added slime from the tube with the broken off valve.

Whew. So it was high noon before I rolled out , promising to be back around 4pm in order to visit sick in the hospital, attend a family "kikao" at a bar, and go out to eat with the family , etc.

The road north is worse than the cobbles of Paris Roubaix ("hell of the north") bicycle race. It is also very narrow and cars were honking for me to get the hell off the road, so I spent several km on the side of the road, which is all dug up for widening and fibre trenches. It is a tough life.

Past Ngaremtoni the traffic decreases but the road is all dug up , more fill laid down, packed down, driven on, rained on, and as time passes it is a rough dirt road.

I ride 20 km and turn off on the multi track above, where I can see far out into the northern Masai lands. I ride the gauntlet of the Lengijave pre-teen herd boys. They like to whoop war cries, threaten, chase, and throw a few stones. Once I start into the Oldupesi valley the battle stops and I coast for as long as time allows into the valley.
It is dry now. It looks like they got none of the rains other places are getting. Maybe some drizzle. There is dry dust and sand.

Here is some more multi track. You don't want to ride across it as it is 50 meters of ruts. Every year the vehicles move over onto new grass.

I want pictures of the yellow flowers and the dry grass but My camera fails here .

I ride to the sand river and it looks like nothing has happened in the river for months. I am a bit puzzled and worried for people living here.
I have passed my 2 o'clock turn around time and abut face into a strong wind and an hour of hard climbing.

I do a new variation and ride up a dry stream bed that is hard limestone full of bumps. There is a small track from animals and people worn into the stream bed but not as smooth as a cobble stone road. I figure it was faster. I get to where it is steep and then it is unrideable, on the grass i can ride but get bogged down a few times and walk. I meet two herd boys near the top of the steep part and we talk and walk, then i ride and then walk, then it gets almost level and they jog and I ride into the wind.
In the future I would take the dry stream bed to the steep part, then head right in another stream bed and pick up the jeep track to the top.
I make the "highway" and instead of screaming home downhill. I pedal into a wind and bounce around to home.

The erosion gets worse every year. It it will get worse with the new road as more water will run off of and into this drainage.

02 May 2010

The end of bicycle adventures?

I thought that the years of building a company were over, the long working hours and stress consuming my time and energy. I was enjoying a slide into retirement. A few years back I could take off several mornings a week and ride, I could go out to lunch and disappear, I could read about bicycles at work, I had 5 fellow cyclists working for me, I would do bike tours.

Somehow, somewhere, that changed and I find myself with twice as much to do at work. Work is eating into my bicycle time. It started slowly early last year, and has gained momentum, until yesterday when I opted to drive instead of ride to an all day meeting on Saturday. I didn't choose bike over work.

The previous weekend I spent two nights in Dar for a meeting on Saturday. That meant only getting in a Sunday afternoon ride.

This week I had to miss a club meeting , the Wednesday morning ride, and Friday and Saturday I even had to pass on bicycle commuting as I had a big annual meeting Friday evening followed by cool down afterwards (read late night drinking). Saturday was a board meeting of a new company and additional load of jobs to do. I could of biked to the Saturday meeting but I was so consumed with work ideas, do I have to drive out of town board members around?

So does this mean bicycling activities will only be commuting and one weekend ride?

Stay tuned.