17 October 2010

Just missed seeing elephants (or Riding through Oldeani)

This weekend I was riding along in coffee plantations and forests on the edge of Ngorongoro Crater forest and suddenly I slam on the brakes and lay down the bike to avoid an crashing over this huge elephant dump.

Yeah right.

Apologies for the poor picture quality, as I forgot my camera and used my cell phone.

Nashesha had a week off from school this week and we did absolutely nothing about getting away. More importantly my wife Bernice deserves something special putting up with me so I called around and got a booking at Crater Forest Tented Lodge for Saturday night. I would cost us $50 per person full board and $60 fuel.

We left after lunch and making sure Babu was ok.

I decided to go all out so I borrowed the office's brand new Ford Ranger. It has air con and a CD player and goes fast. Why do it feel guilty for borrowing the office car for the weekend?

After 150km on tarred road we found the turnoff and arrived the tented camp by 5:15pm. It took 10 minutes to settle in and put on a jersey. I ran out of the parking lot and pulled the mountain bike out of the back.

An elephant trumpeted out in the forest in the direction I am riding, I had not noticed the elephant droppings driving up but on the bike I was driving over them every 15 feet. Cool. The guards warn me to be watchfull for tembo.
I coasted down the track and into Kirin Coffee plantation, branching on a road to Oldeani. I had to go up and down several ravines and my turn around time passed. At 615 pm I turned around and and was back at the lodge before dark. I figured everyone was a bit nervous with me out in the wilds.

We had a lovely 4 course meal and retired to read in bed.

The next morning I waited for the 7 am breakfast and take off to explore Oldeani and the road to Mang'ola.

In between two coffee farms I met a 10 year old kid running up the road. He was chasing a landrover for a ride. He grilled me for 5 minutes about everything. He even asked if I was part of the road bike group from Arusha that they see sometimes!

I expected Oldeani to be a couple hundred square meters of shops and houses. Oldeani stretched on for a couple of kilometers on a ridge. Including court house, 3 big churches, shops . It was dusty town.

I noticed the motto for the local school included "Environmental Conservation". I wonder what that means to kids there?

After Oldeani town I am in a different eco zone and avoiding dust becomes a job. Mostly wheat fields and scrub brush and rocks. In the picture above the road is to the left in the trees and i am on a path on side of a big wheat field.

I stop at the top of this rise as there are four houses/shops all close together. The cluster is split with half supporting the CCM party and the other half Chadema. Each has a stick and a flag high up. I wonder why they are not all CHADEMA here, as the Chadema candidate ,Dr. Wilbod Slaa, is from this tribe and constituency. Maybe if you blow up you can see the flags.

I might as well talk to the two men at the CCM supporter's shop, and order a coke as long as i am off the bike. We talk for awhile how the last crop was, the elections, life in town and in the bush. From watch i decide to turn around now.

Riding back i now find even more tracks off the road. I try to follow the bike tracks whenever they leave the road.

This picture gives you an idea of the road conditions.

After the town of Oldeani I am back into coffee plantations and patches of brush and forest. And more sign of elephant. I realize I sort of want to run into an elephant and i also breathe a sigh of relief to have passed through without getting trampled.

I meet three boys who beat me by crossing the canyons straight instead of following the road way up an aruond. Eventually we go along together and talk about stuff. They want to know if i know english an what all the stuff on my bike is. At the top of one downhill we have a race and although there is another steep shortcut i have put them far behind.

I have only gone 40 km today but it took 4 hours. My legs are slightly sore from the climbing.

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