17 April 2011

How far to bicycle from Arusha to find a non Swahili Speaker?

Two hours.

Two hours is how long I bicycled to find someone who does not speak the national language, Swahili. Before I explain that , let me list the alternative titles for this ride post:

1- I seem to ride alone on weekend rides. I send out on a biking mailing list but no takers. Is it my company? my reputation for going far? everyone busy? or what? I don't mind going alone, and sometimes prefer it , but it would be nice to ride long rides with someone. I am going to stop posting invites myself and ask others to do it.

2- Still more adventures out there. There are some trails/roads within riding distance I haven't found yet that are pretty cool. I was thinking because of leaving mid day that I would not go anywhere interesting or new. Not true. I need to be more innovative in exploring some blank areas, like today. One hour and I was on an interesting track in the bush.

3- I broke my brooks saddle rail. Breaking a seat could of changed the ride dynamics. I was able move the seat forward and it held. Still wondering what to make of it. My beloved Brooks saddle that is conformed to my sit bones. Can I weld it? I fretted over the cost.

So here is how the ride panned out. I was lazy and sat around with the family all morning. It was not until 1pm that I started off . I figured I would not get anywhere interesting as I only had about 5 hours of riding time.

The first hour was a "transport stage" north up the highway to Lengijave. "Transport stages" are sections where I ride the bike purely for transport to get to the "beginning" of a good ride. The road north only has a few km left of gravel as it is being redone. It is interesting scenery except i have seen it a zillion times. I am riding this just to get somewhere else.

Normally I go around the north side of Lengijave mountain and down the open grassland. This time I rode up a valley on the south side. Iit has been ten years since I have used this road, not since family Guzinski lived up here in the 80's and 90's

I ride up the valley and through this small pass.
It is still transport stage.

After the pass, all of a sudden I have this vista.
My camera lens is not smudged, that is a light rain falling. I will ride down on the left.

The road then contours a ridge leading up to Monduli Mountain. The view is spectacular. However I want to see what the plains below are like.

It sprinkles a little while I scrutinize the slopes below for a trail to take down into the plain. I ask an old man the best way down. After convincing him that I don't need a jeep track, he shows me the best track.

I ride the brakes as it is bumpy and loose sand. In a few minutes it is less steep and smoother and I can almost let the brakes go. I am doing 40kmph. There are no houses but herds spread out here and there.

Now in the picture it is still downhill but only slightly, enough i only coast.

I have come down from up there.

I decide to check out the crossing of the korongo before turning back home. I can almost ride the whole way down, but I do one endo in that shady part. I remained standing while the bike did the endo. (what if i broke a leg ?)

The other side has too much soft sand in places so I walk. Half way up the far side I start riding again and I notice my seat feels crooked. I stop and notice the rail is broken on one side!

I panic for about 5 seconds, and am bummed out for longer that I will have to buy a new seat. ($100). I take out my tools, slide the seat forward so the clamp is clamping both sides of the rail and eat some trail mix.

I deliberate for a minute whether to continue going farther away from civilization. As the real ride only started 50 minutes ago I choose to continue. The wide trail suddenly becomes a path, and a small one at that.

I come to another canyon, with 5 foot drop offs on the rim (picture on left). I find a place to climb down (below the cloud) and lift the bike down. I have to walk the bike down and up the other side. I continue on the small trail into a clump of trees.

Here I find the first non Swahili speakers. Two 8 year old herd boys. Swahili is the national language. It is exactly 2 hours riding time, 30km. I try to give them some trail mix but they are afraid to come close to me. I ride on towards the forest I can see a few km ahead. I come to several bomas on the edge of another big korongo. I talk to a teenager about the way across.

I can see the seven cornor road up to Monduli Juu. Maybe an hour away if I can find good tracks. Definitely the fastest way around Monduli mountain. The last time I circumnavigated Monduli I looked back on this route. Now there is just a small blank spot to figure out.

I ride to the edge and check it out but figure I better turn around.

I backtrack through the two canyons. In the second one instead of following the way I came I cut straight across. It is a bit of a scramble and bike carrying. I make a mistake and go through a side canyon also.

Once out of the canyon I cant find any track, so I ride over the grass clumps for a few kms in the direction I know a track exists and find the track going up to Lengijave. This time I take the right fork, where only foot traffic passes and i think it is better.
I can't find the embed tab on you tube.

I ride through the weird cutout.....

and onto the upper Lengijave plains together with 20 separate herds all going home. I swallow their dust as I pass one herd after another. at 6pm I am at the highway and buy two cokes in a jiffy and jump back on the bike. It is mostly downhill home. I had opted not to wear a helmet and now I wish I had as the speed is sometimes too fast and there is traffic.

I am home by 630. Happy I was able to have a couple hours adventure out in the bush.

15 April 2011

Trash cleanup by Arusha Cycling Club

Last month Arusha Cycling Club together with Kilimanjaro Initiatives, Global Bike Team, and students from Arusha Modern, ISM, and Braeburn schools cleaned up some road side trash. Pretty cool. We filled up a 7 ton lorry and The road looked great.

I spent my time with kids from Arusha Modern. Afterwards we had a few words, with the best speech from a student from Arusha Modern, who picked up on the " Make a difference" theme.

Note we used biodegradable reusable woven grass baskets to collect the trash.


Last month we had a mtn bike race that went up and down Monduli and Meru Mtn slopes.

While riding the route the weeks before the race we had a hard time to not stop racing in this section. All of a sudden people would stop and start foraging on wild raspberries. Eventually someone come to their senses and we would ride on for a few minutes before we could not resist another patch.

What non bikers give bikers for christmas.

Let alone that I bicycle, which makes me odd, I am also simply eccentric and crazy, so take this post with a grain of salt.

If you know me, you know I ride a bicycle . Every day. To work, home from a bar, for recreation on the weekend, to clients during the day. One of the reasons I ride a bicycle is it's footprint is small and another reason it helps me to consume less resources. I don't believe in buying stuff unnecessarily and I fix stuff if possible.

So I fail to understand why I got this for Christmas from a relative:

We exchange names in my wife's family, so I get one gift from someone, and this is what I got last Christmas.

It has batteries in the trunk and the legs and back tyres go round and round while playing some "hindi" music. Oh yeah, and a flashing red light.

I prefer another beer mug.

The idea that my life is NOT about consumerism, but is about small footprint just doesn't sink in to people, as this is not what I think money should be spent on. I like bicycling, but I don't have non functional bike paraphernalia on my desk and wall.

As long as I am on a rant, non bicyclists should not attempt to buying any cycle thing for the bicyclist. Nothing.

"What should I get Erik?" "Something for his bicycle" So off they go to a bike shop and find something like a water bottle, the cheapest one, but they know nothing about a water bottle, that cheap ones don't work right so it will go unused, wasted.