24 August 2011

Babati tour

I needed another people tour, so I went went to find people to ride with, like this guy.

Bernice and Nashesha were going to Nairobi to get Bernice a visa for Thailand. I decided it was a good time for a short tour. Again I announced a trip on email but only got regrets for responses.

I could not figure out where to go until the last day when I decided to go on road bike to Babati Town and check out the new road from Minjingu to Babati. New in that it is now tarred.

On Sunday morning I leisurely packed, went shopping, checked email and did nothing much, so I was not able to leave until 3pm. I carried light camping stuff, hammock, sleep bag , sleep pad, wood stove, teapot, and breakfast for the two days and one dinner. I carried a change of clothes for town, some tools and spares, novel, snacks, lights etc.


Right away I noticed the load was strange and had to retie the back bags in one km. Then on the road I noticed there was a dramatic shimmy when riding no hands or even one handed. I thought briefly about turning back and changing bikes, but I decided to live with it.

As the day was on the tail end I needed to keep moving as fast as prudent. As I rode I got motivated more and more, not to ride fast but enjoying the ride. The shimmy just meant no riding without hands.

The wind was at my back but it was only at Mti Moja, 45 km out, that I started to really fly and between there and Makyuni my average speed increased from 25 to 29 kmph. The rolling hills passed quickly and at 5:15 I rolled into Makyuni for a meal. Little did I know that would be the same type meal every meal every day. I was surprised how early it was as I was fixated on watching the average speed slowly go up. I added some water and snacks and pushed on by 6pm looking for a road into the bush to stealth camp.
Here is my loaded bike outside the restaurant.

I found a track and rode off the road for 2km and then saw a small ravine with trees and rode carefully to there.

There was a breached dam and elephant crap all over but none recent. It is too dry now for elephants. This picture shows my tracks around some elephant spore.

It was blowing still and the hammock needed the side rope. I finished diluted coke and biscuits and read for an hour into the dark.

I noticed a smell of rancid fat, like you smell in a masai boma. I must of got it on my jacket because it is still there.


I was awake more than a few times and wide awake at 530. I got out at 545 and made a fire in my cook stove and made tea while I ate granola. I packed up and was walking out of my camp by 7am. On the way to the highway I passed a young giraffe.

It was cool but not cold like Arusha and I enjoyed the tailwind through Minjingu village and cruised on.

Just before Vilima vitatu I came up behind a cycle tourist. Rode up next to him and we chatted away.

Andy is cycling from England to SA for charity of some sort. www.kop2kop.blogspot.com

The wind changed to head wind and we stopped for a cup of I had a donut. Andy can talk! We had allot to talk about also.
I was not pushing it but not going slow either and he was staying right up with his heavy loads.

Before Magugu someone called my name and it was Lucas. He lives around here and saw me go by. He used to race bikes and come to Arusha. He rode with us most of the way to Babati.

Andy got on well with Lucas and gave him $2 for some new spokes and respoking as his back wheel was all over the place.

I did not think too much about that until later when i learned on what a tight budget Andy is on.

Babati is up in some hills, so we had some climbs and it became less desolate. We rolled into Babati mid day and took the first guest house. 8000shs for Erik for self contained and 6000 for a shared bath for Andy.

The manageress went and got two beers and two plates next door for us and we kept on chatting.
We were joined by another boarder, and we talked with them also.

After showers we took a walk of the town. On the first day of this trip I realized I could do some work while in Babati by checking out the town for possibilities of us doing business here. Babati is now a regional Headquarters for a new Region and Habari Node Ltd staff are thinking it would be strategic to start operations here.

I noticed this sign, with the habari.co.tz domain!
That made me feel important.
Not alot of big businesses although it is a big sprawling town.

Mostly friendly town, not many yelling kids.

The sun came out and I got slightly affected by the sun. by 4pm we were suddenly back at the bar / restaurant next to our lodge so we sipped beer and chatted away. Several guys came by that i knew and one bought a round.

We had same meal for dinner that we had for lunch and called it a night. I watched some news in the common room and then read in bed.


I woke fewer time than in my hammock but less comfortable, as I am not comfortable on sheets I do not know about and there was some noise.

Andy made me some tea to go with my granola at first light. I gifted him all my left over food supplies but snacks. We said good byes to manager and Andy and was on the road by 7am. Andy was still packing. Now I realized Babati is considerable up in the slopes of a mountain. So I had some fast downhill runs and I had to add a light pullover. The shimmy was a bit better but still can not ride no hands. I still don't know if it was front or back causing it..

When the build the road they need enormous quantities of fill and so dig mountain sides and sometimes big holes like this one that fill up with water. They were also burning bricks with rice husks on the other side of the pond.

The wind stayed the same so I was able to stay 30-35 kph on the flats. By 9am I noticed Lucas on the side of the road at his village and he flagged me down.

We went for tea at his house and he prepared to ride with me to Arusha. He has 6 kids!

Sitting in his living room drinking tea and looking at his old racing pictures I noticed some small shoes behind the door, then I notice there were feet in the shoes. His laughing dad took him from his hiding place crying. He eventually got used to me and smiled and laughed.

They grow "Ufuta" for cooking oil, a programme of Farm Africa. He is going to ride with me to Arusha, about 100km, take his bike to mechanic, then sleep somewhere and return the next day. He tied a spare tyre below his seat. No water bottle, no extra clothes, maybe some tools but no pump!
Compare with my bike and it's load.

Now I was going 35 to 40 in Lucas draft! I gave up taking a turn in front. After 30 km I had to tell him to slow down as I worried I would tire.

Makyuni by 11 am and the same meal as everywhere. rice, meat sauce, bean sauce, spinach, cabbage, fruit. We both had milk tea and I had a coke at the end to perk me up. Usually I start with the coke as the sugar helps my appetite.

We stopped maybe 45 minutes and then did several long climbs 2-3km each and then through the rollers. Had some soreness on my hands and neck. I was wish the seat was my mtn seat, which is softer, wider and broken in.

Lucas lead less. After Mti moja the pain in my toe flared and I managed to deal with that while riding. We made the last hill quickly up to Monduli corner in the big chain ring! We stopped at Meserani for another coke and more water.

Speaking of water, check the amount of water this guy carries on the way back after he drops the extra person.

We are home at 330. 170km in 8 1/2 hours, which includes two big stops of 1:45 and one short one!

Need to figure out the shimmy and get another seat.

happy trails!

16 August 2011

Spotted on the side of the road.

A few weeks ago I stopped to take a leak and here was the cool rock house.

Is bicycle commuting dangerous in Arusha?

I think not.

However at a small dinner gathering of 7 adults 3 were very vocal that it was dangerous, and only two of us thought no more than driving.

But it is interesting that none of them had actually tried bicycle commuting in Arusha.

The other rider did admit that he has slowed down in the heavy traffic, and i must admit i have also.