21 December 2011

I wear stuff out

Bike gear wears out in my use.

Mostly it was planned to wear out by the manufacturer. Not true of the lock on my father -n law's house. I bet this lock is from before I was born and still in use daily! Now that I think of it I wonder how old it is.)

I return from last trip and my rain coat is in taters, one pannier the waterproofing is gone, brake pads are worn out, pump hardly works, and it bums me out.

And we wont even mention the drive train of the bikes and tyres and tubes. Especially tubes and chains.

Is it just the Norwegian protestant in me of does this bug the average consumer?

But hey don't get me wrong here. I AM THE LUCKIEST BICYCLIST IN THE WORLD. I am only pointing out that I am fine tuning my kit. Because of the best family in the world I am going to get closer to perfection on my bikes. It might not be light and sexy or flashy, but i think it might last longer than i need it.

I have to get some of the stuff from literally half way around the world, so it is a big deal and a hassle. It almost seems like I spend more on maintenance of my bikes than on our car.

This brings me to the idea to simplify the bike thing even more. The reason I don't want a "modern bike"is gear wears out fast. I want stuff to last and feel good. I want panniers made of cotton duck and not nylon with sprayed on waterproofing.

The last trip I wore tyre sandals and platform pedals. You know how much bike shoes cost? You know how long they last on bush trips?

20 December 2011

Trip stopper: MUD!

We made it across the mud flooded "graveled" road and spent 30 minutes washing the bikes in a brown flow of water. It had just poured on us for an hour, and there was water everywhere. One of those rains " that is the biggest down pour ever". On the other side of the low lying valley the road was adobe hard and sandy and we rode into Murongoine village. We were happy to not be suspicious and leery of the road ahead of us.

We are nowhere near where we wanted to be at the end of the day. I ask a shop keeper with a bicycle how to get to Losinyai. It turns out both to the north and south the river is flooding the road and the big sand trucks cant get through. As more people eavesdropped our conversation, they wondered how we had even got to this village, locked between two rivers. " Well , where did you come from then?"

This is how we got there.

Henry and I decided to do a short trip Saturday to Tuesday, but we both needed Saturday to get stuff together for the trip.

It has been raining a fair amount, and I was looking at options where there would be no mud, we need sandy or hard tracks.

Certain mud sticks to the tyres, then more mud sticks to that mud, then it gets caught on the frame and the brake arms and then the tyre wont turn and the bike weighs twice as much. It can be a show stopper. Getting closer to the day it seems it hasn't been raining so much and Henri says south of his house it is dry.

We plan to ride to Lolkisale , then along Tarangire National Park and then East to the big Kiteto road and back home.

I meet up with Henri at 7am. Riding south it is good and dry for about an hour. Suddenly we have some mud but it doesnt build up on my bike. Henri has fatter tyres and his clog up and he is stuck. A show stopper. No smiling on his face at that moment. You find a stick, you scrap in hard to get at places while your partner stands around being impatient. Then you turn around and find another way, and then smile.
We turn around and decide to check the road further west that has some gravel on it, or go up and over monduli mtn and a completely different trip. We will decide when we get there.

An hour later we are in Kisongo on the highway and asking several people and they say. "No problem , this road is okay all the way to Lolkisale, no rain out there, they put gravel". We trust them and cruise out the road. Life is good, we are finally on our way away from town.

The road is good for an hour and then we come to this seasonal river. The water and rocks aren't an issue but the mud on both sides is. We both carry one bike at a time. The water is to our thighs. Zoom in on Henri's front tyre. 3o more seconds in that mud and it would be caked up to the brake arms and locked.

We cruise further away from town on our way to Lolkisale and sandy roads. The soils around Mnt meru it is clay soil, a bit lower patches of black cotton soil.

We cruise on and hit a few mud spots in low lying areas where rains have covered the road and left thick soupy clay . Henri has worse time than me.

This mud was just shy of covering the road.
Spoke too soon and before we realize it we have ridden halfway into a hopeless frustrating quagmire. It takes awhile for it to buildup, then it is glue. No happy campers. The masai walking by ask what we were thinking riding out here today. They say we are in the middle of this bad section, we might as well continue as the road is okay further on.

Pictured below is after making it through and cleaning the bikes for 1/2 hour. No pictures of the before as I am too hassled to think about a pic, and my hands were all muddy. We eventually hired people to carry bags and bikes to get to this point. Several times I felt it was completely hopeless, seeing mud in all directions and my tyres locked up.

This was a nice group of boys. The little one enjoyed looking at the bicycles and asking questions. He wasn't' so helpful as he was more into playing with the bicycle.

It is now clear we cant get through to Lolkisale mtn, the road is worse after Moita we are told. So at Moita we will head over to a major gravel road heading towards Terat and Naberera. Then we might swing over to Lolkisale. Everyone pretty much agrees that we took the wrong road, yep.

We stop for lunch under a shady tree. Half way through my p&b roll a guy on a bike rolls up from same direction we came. I am amazed that he has made it through. Seems he is amazed also. He stops under the tree to commiserate with us. We compare notes about how hard it was. He also is glad to be through the mud. I wonder if the bald narrow tyres help, or the fact he has no loads. We share our food, and then set off together.

He moves fast! We talk while riding, He is going same way as us after Moita. We stop in Moita to buy water and have a coke. The road is mostly good now, occasionally we freak out when we see dampness on the road and monitor how much mud sticks to the tyres, ready to stop. Our fellow traveler is surprised people in Kisongo told us road was okay.

From Moita he says we should take short cut, that it is okay, trust him. There is rain coming from the east and we are riding SE. I realise that i was on this track with Thomas once.

All goes well and on the level ground but it is hard keeping up with our guide. We are going south on the edge of a rocky escarpment, eventually we will drop down the escarpment and across a valley to the graveled road.

We lose our guide on the long rocky down sections. Then it started to rain. I mean pouring rain. There was water running everywhere. Click on the picture. The track Henri is on has 5cm /1inch of rain, and then we come upon streams running across the stream we are riding in.

We finish the steep slope and it is still pouring. Stupidly we start riding on the flat valley and get bogged down. We turn around and the rain washes bike free immediately. Rain is good and bad.

What to do? Set up a rain fly? stand in the rain? go knock on a door of a hut? We do the later. In the boma we find all the doors closed and locked from outside (we think) . So we stand under an eave on the leeward side of a house for a few minutes. I look at the door again and notice it is just closed, not locked so i knock and yell "hodi". A young women opens and then slams the door! Eventually she nervously agrees to let two white, wet, freaks into her place and we drip water on her mud floor. She knows little kiswahili. We sit on plastic buckets and ponder where to camp. I take this picture when it starts to decrease.
Again download picture check out the 3cm of water running through their compound.

The rain lets up and people stir from other huts glancing nervously at us. I talk to a woman my age and she says we turned down the escarpment too early , that the improved road across the valley is further along. I insist we get escorted to that road and she sends her daughter in law, the young woman who let us weather the rain in her house. She carries her young child on her back in the light rain.

She shows us a track on top of the ridge, but the neighbors all argue with her and then she changes her mind and shows us another track, realizing her mistake.

We ride that track and come to a wide improved gravel road running east west. I vaguely recollect this the longer we ponder which way to go. To the west we can hear a torrent of water in a valley, to the east we can see the road going through the valley and it looks muddy. Back the way we came will now be impassable. There is a boma off to the side and they say the torrent is impassable and then mud all over. The valley has a "short" section of mud. Maybe half a km we can see. We discuss with them a place to camp, they can't see that, and we can't see sleeping in one of their 3 huts, together with the crowd of people that is probably only half who stay there as they are all women. They say the mud is short sections.

We ride down to check the valley and true to their word it is only short sections flooded with mud. We cautiously go through. Henri locks up twice but we are across and on hard sandy improved road. We thoroughly clean the bikes now as related in the first paragraph and ride into Murongoine Village, to be told we are now stuck between a river and another river.

We don't fancy staying in this squalid truck stop, so ride north out of town towards the intersection with main road going south. It is 6pm and we need to find a place. I unwisely tell Henri to go check along the roaring river if we can camp there while i fix my loose crank arm. He gets bogged down and comes back to the road. We start talking to a guy, who starts with. "why did you ride out into that mud" I unabashedly ask where his boma is and he points back a few hundred meters. He says no problem we can put up our "tents" as his place.

Tents in this situation are easier to place. Trees are few and far between or in the fence line, making hammocks hard to place. We manage. Henri ends up outside the fence.

Once the tents are up we move into his small hut and sit and heat up our sauce. All of the children spend the evening outside the door watching us. By the end they are all crowded in the doorway. Laizer joins us for some coffee. We have a pleasant time sipping whiskey and talking with him.

We have not gone far today. I doubt 60km but basically we were on the move from 7am until 6pm. I sleep really well until 2am. then I am awake and it seems like the music from the village is really loud. I turn on my phone and it shows even the trees my hammock is attached to. then i read some news and try to sleep again. At 4am the music stops and I fall asleep until 6am.

We have some coffee and granola and pack up. That is Laizer our new friend and his children in the bright morning sun.

I advise aborting the trip. We ride home in about 3 hours on a big gravel road.

Note the pannier on front of my bike. That worked really well to put loads on the front of the bike. much better than on the back only.

The way home.