21 November 2010

I could not ride down another trail

On Saturday Cheusi showed up at 530 am and we agreed on a 3-4 hour ride instead of all day. We chose seeing what the rains have done to the tracks and trails up on Mnt Meru. As you see it was better than good.

This picture is taken on the new track we found. That is Monduli peaking out of the clouds. Note the native forest in the near distance and the planted forest i am standing in.
No dust, no mud. It was perfect conditions. We went to the end of the switch backs but went straight up foot paths. We continued on the road. I knew it dead ended 500 meters further but it doesn't end there anymore. We rode a small track contouring around to the west. I started to believe it would go somewhere. Instead it turned and headed down a sloping plateau and then ended above a steep path. We had committed so we walked the bikes down. It was slippery and needed brakes. 20 feet down and as I was slipping and sliding and wondering about out choice. I learned to chose where i put my foot more carefully. At the bottom we had fantastic single track down to our normal single track routes.

I missed taking a picture of the steep path and Cheusi.

18 November 2010

Traffic light socializing

Kent Peterson posted this video of Barb Chamerlain from Spokane , USA "Bikes will Save the World". Barb's talk got me thinking about how it doesn't bother me so much to have to stop at a traffic light while biking as it does as driving a car. (although we only have two traffic lights in Arusha, and both are on my commute.)

Then what struck me most is how pleasant it is to strike up a conversation with another bicyclists at the stop light. Any of you drivers regularly do that at the stop lights?

And what do bicyclists talk about at stoplights? Mostly about how much faster it is to bicycle in heavy traffic, and how vehicle drivers drive crazy.

15 November 2010

Same old boring ride (yawn).

I couldn't ride this trail down the great rift! I had to walk and even carry the bike down the 200m elevation drop .

Below is just past the worst part when I put the bike down. Before that it was all I could do to keep the bike on my back, thus no picture. It was not the hardest thing I have ever done, but it was hard.

I have carried up a similar trail near this one and it was one of the hardest hours of my life. But that was another story.

I met a Masai man at the top. Midway down we were friends . He apologized profusely for leaving me behind after that but he was trying to keep up with a donkey. I caught up with him below as the rocks decreased and we greeted each other "bukishu!" (friend). At the water tank it was my time to apologize for leaving him behind but I was 50km into a 100km ride. He declined a soda in the village shop, as his donkey wouldn't wait for him. I was glad anyway as it was a 1 km out of my way.

I haven't done a "up at 4am, riding at 5am , ride into the afternoon" ride for awhile. I told Paulo we would fix his bike when I came home Friday evening. I got home around 8pm and was too tired (or lazy) to fix his bike.

I set the alarm for 4am , reset it to 5am ( i thought) and got up just before 5am. It is amazing it can take an hour getting ready and breakfast consumed but there you go. At 6am i then spent an hour fixing his bike and a broken spoke on my bike.

Not a new ride, this is one of my classic rides done every year or so. Today was special as rumors were it has rained out that way and I was looking forward to some green grass instead of the parched land around Arusha, which you will see towards the end of this trip.

Besides a classic ride in search of green grass, I wanted to check the progress of the tarring the Great North road.
It has reached about 10km from my house but some parts are off limits to cars but we weaved in between the stones to avoid the rough dusty temporary detour.While on this "under construction " road you don't see much as about 100 meters are ripped up, graded , messed up, and then ten meters are paved. It is about as attractive as being in a burnt out war zone. When I turn off the highway there is my green grass. Paulo says he is tired and he turns around for home. I wisely ride down a cattle trail westerly. Cattle trails get bigger and bigger and move over ever few years when the heavy rains make the trails into ravines.

The inevitable obnoxious herd boys start yelling and hassling me. I guess this is what riding through Ethiopia is like. I think this area needs more psychologists.

I ride through an eroded section and take a video. I HAVE to get a helmet cam camera.

I get off the Lengijave plains and coast and coast down a rough jeep track. I meet a battered land cruiser with some wazungu passengers and we both wonder what in the hell are they doing here.
In hind sight I should of gone down the track to where it levels out some and then head southerly and take that plain closer to Monduli mountain. Appears to me like I would by pass the steep escarpment but would have to do some canyons. Next time!

It is really nice out here, wide open spaces, I see some gazelles and bustards and herds of goats and cows but only meet up with a handful of herd boys and one adult. The adult wanted to show me the way and tried to run with me, which lasted a few minutes.
Looking the other direction.

Then I come to the dreaded escarpment. Right from the beginning it is unrideable for me.

I talked about this part in the beginning of this post.

At the bottom I stopped briefly at the water tank, finished my juice and washed my head and filled that bottle for doing the same later. Not much rain down here. Some civilizied looking guys says I should go down to the shops and then take the road. The donkey herder had said follow him so i followed the donkey and then left them behind.

Now i climb again, up to the Monduli juu plateau. I gradually climb from 1220m to 1500m and then steeply up to 1980m or so.

Looking back in the steep part.

On one of the "7 corner" switchbacks . The road is excellent, very smooth and hard, even so I cant beat a man and herd of goats who are going straight up.
On top I take my first serious food break and try to eat a whole sandwich. I can't finish a pb sandwich but I drink a thermos of milk tea and eat a banana.
The coast down to Monduli town is great as always. 9 miles of 40-60kph smooth dirt. I don't see any elephants but I am moving too fast anyway. It has only been an hour or so but i stop for a coke and water in a restraunt in Monduli town. I put another coke and water in my water bottle.

I debate with myself to take the tarred road back to the airport or see if going straight to Ngaremtoni is shorter. It is 31km instead of 37km and takes two hours. Not sure which is best . I have to pass through a dozen narrow steep washouts. this was one of the easier ones. This is one of the most eroded areas in Arusha region.

I am following a very old road that is only evident by filled up culverts and cut banks and this building. I wonder what its history is.

Sometimes I have no idea if I am on this old road until is see something like this culvert showing that once the road went across this valley and there was just a couple of culverts, where now there is a 30 foot wash out.
I make it home after 8 hours riding 105 km in 9.5 hours.

No great adventure but a fun ride.