(52) From Moyale to China
Tuesday 26th March
The humidity continued to climb and so it became uncomfortable in the tent. We really wanted it to rain even just to cool us down a bit. The temperature didn’t drop enough to give us a good night’s sleep but at least the hyena’s calls were getting fainter. We slept until 7am and woke with the sound of rain hitting the tent pleased to finally be in Kenya. Tim rigged up the tarp to collect more rain water and to shelter us so we could stay dry while eating breakfast. He fixed Sharon’s puncture but the tyre was soon flat again. The glue was like water and the patches were like cardboard. It took until 10am to get everything dry and the tyre fixed. Everything felt like hard work.
We were however looking forward to seeing Yang and Hana again, 2 cycle tourists we met the previous day. They had stayed in Moyale but were leaving early that morning to catch us up. Yang was from China and had ridden around South-East Asia, the Middle East and now Africa and was heading to Cape Town. Hana had flown from Japan to Cairo, bought a bike – having not ridden one since her childhood – and was planning to cycle to Cape Town on her own. She met Yang outside a hotel in Cairo and they had ridden a similar route to us from Egypt to Kenya.
We joined the road to find it was deeply corrugated with massive pot holes. Tim had the bright idea of trying a path that ran parallel to the road that was used by cattle and camel herders. We had a good 8 miles and made good progress although we had to occasionally get off and push our bikes.
The going was tough at times
The track finally disappeared and we were forced to continue on the road. The going was tough with corrugations up to 6 inches deep making us feel like we were in a washing machine on slow spin. We tried to find a good line but it was tiring mentally and physically. We had over 200 more miles of this road before returning to tarmac.
The tortoise Tim rescued from the path of a truck – the race was on!!!
Tim picked up another puncture so we stopped for lunch. After an hour of messing about with the near useless glue and patches the heavens opened. Fortunately the tarp was already up as we had spotted the storm on its way. We had 10 litres of water after about 20 minutes! It was 2 hours before we were on the move again and the road had become sticky and the ruts were now flooded. We headed to the side track once again but we were soon jammed up with mud to the point we couldn’t move. After nearly half an hour of de-clogging our bikes, we dragged them back to the road.
The sun was out and it was drying the road quicker than we would have expected making the going a little easier. We spotted a small tea shack next to the road so pulled off in search of a fizzy drink. As we were enjoying a break, Hana and Yang caught us up. They had made great progress from Moyale that morning. We continued on the road together but it was hard to chat as we had to concentrate on the road. At one point we spotted a family of baboons crossing in front of us – we counted about 30 of them.
A family of baboons crossing the road
We rode on until 5.30pm and found a good spot to camp. We set up our tents and ate dinner together. It was great to share cycling adventures.
Setting up camp and cooking dinner
Wednesday 27th March
It didn’t rain much in the night so we only had a dribble of water in the bowl meaning we needed to find water before lunch. While we were eating breakfast a vehicle went past and stopped suddenly, reversing back to where we were sitting. We glanced at each other nervous about the threat of bandits. Fortunately these guys were just curious and stayed level with us for just enough time to wave and smile. Relieved we got on the road and continued to bump our way along it.
We rode for a couple of hours with patches of the road in pretty good shape only to find a seriously muddy patch where we would need to get off our bikes and push; even the vehicles would struggle.
Yang and Tim
The road was tough for vehicles as well as cyclists
The road was shared by all
Enjoying the scenery and a good stretch of road
We were starting to get worried about water as there weren’t many clouds in the sky, when we came across a small village. Gratefully we piled into the small wooden shop and bought biscuits and coke. We asked for water and they led Tim and Yang to a water tank.
Relieved to find a local shop to top up our biscuit supplies
A young mother and her baby
After another hour or so, we pulled over at a pretty spot feeling hungry. Sharon was keen to call home as her sister Natalie was having a baby! Tim put the kettle on whilst she called and she was able to speak to Natalie 20 minutes after she came out of the hospital theatre. Sharon welled up as Natalie told her all was well and that the little girl they were expecting turned out to be a boy! Brody Pitts-Chander was their third child. It was hard not being at home, all we wanted to do was get on a plane home to give them a big hug.
Lunch break just before calling Natalie
We continued along the road and started to look out for a Chinese camp where we were hoping to spend the night. Yang had told us about these camps which are scattered along the road and house Chinese workers building the road. We arrived and were told we had our own room and they had wifi connection! We were told dinner was at 7pm so we did some washing and drank tea grateful for somewhere warm and dry to spend the night. We had trouble connecting to the internet but Sharon was able to email home.
Dinner was an extravaganza of incredible Chinese food and cold beer! We drank to the heath of Brody and pretty much everyone in the room and enjoyed amazing Chinese hospitality. We headed to bed as Yang’s eyes were starting to glaze over.
Enjoying amazing Chinese hospitality!
Thursday 28th March
We could hear the rain beating down on the window glad for once we weren’t in the tent. We got up and had breakfast with it still raining and said goodbye to our incredible hosts.
We rode about ½ mile before the thick mud stuck to our tyres like glue and it wasn’t long before we were all stuck. We tried to free it but it soon became clear that we couldn’t continue like this and it took 15 minutes to go the 200 metres back to a concrete bridge that we’d crossed. We proceeded to take our mud guards off so that we could continue and after about an hour we started off again.
Morning rush hour
Pushing Hana’s bike out of the mud
The mud effect
Without the mud guards we made slow but better progress for a few kms along a road used as a diversion. Then the surface turned into uncompressed stones which made it almost impossible to move. We made our way back to the road to be met by the most sticky clay mud which covered us and our panniers. The going remained slow and we would have to stop every so often to clear the mud off the bikes. It was like riding through a wet ploughed field which sucked our energy.
We passed a small village and got chatting to the Elder. He told us they were a community of about 80 with a school and church. They lived off the land and had a small herd of goats and cattle. They sold cow’s milk to bring in an income and stored hay for the dry season. It sounded a simple but wonderful lifestyle but no doubt tough. We continued on feeling tired and stopped for lunch of Chinese noodles and tea.
Stopping for lunch
Mud, glorious mud
Beetle power – we saw many of these beetles pushing all types of poo…
By 4.30pm we had ridden/pushed our bikes just 15 miles. We stopped for a drink and snack at the village of Turbi but just as we were leaving Yang had a puncture that took a long time to fix and the light was starting to fade.
The village of Turbi
Stopping for yet another puncture
We knew there was another Chinese camp 19 miles from Turbi and we really wanted to reach it. We knew it would mean riding in the dark which was not advised due to the risk of bandits but there was nowhere suitable to camp as everything was so muddy and water logged. The road ahead looked flat which was encouraging and we set off feeling determined. The road did improve so we made better progress but as the light faded the condition of the road deteriorated once again and everyone’s energy levels were getting low. We stopped for a few biscuit breaks to keep our spirits up.
We were covered in mud and for about 2 miles it got really bad. There was no way of riding our bikes and we had to push them in ankle deep mud. At one point Tim was up to his knees and his right shoe had broken, revealing his socked feet! We had to stop regularly to scrape the mud off just to be able to move forward.
We were so grateful to see the lights of the camp up ahead. It had taken 11 hours to cover 34 miles. They must have wondered who or what we were arriving covered in the mud in the dark! Riding in a group of 4 had certainly helped us keep our spirits up and we arrived with smiles on our faces glad to be in the safety of the camp. The guards helped us clean our bikes and we had a hot shower before cooking some food after what was probably the hardest day of our trip so far.
Cleaning the bikes with a lot of help from the guards
Friday 29th March
We all wanted a lay in but got up at 7am for breakfast of rice and Chinese bread (which we added peanut butter to!) The sun was out and the ground looked a little drier. We said our goodbyes so grateful for their generosity – they handed us a large box of packs of noodles to keep us going.
Saying goodbye the next morning
Ready for another day in the mud
It was like riding on a totally different road as it had a hard surface so it made a nice change from dragging our bikes through thick mud. The sky was mottled with small clouds and fortunately no sign of a storm. We made good progress and enjoyed being on a diverted road as it was much better than the normal one – although was still corrugated. Yang was constantly being plagued by punctures which we blamed on him using Chinese tyres and tubes!
We heard a vehicle coming along the track behind us to see it was a British Land Rover owned by a lovely couple from Bristol – they were diving from Bristol to Cape Town. Harry and Aneka were great to chat to and we would love to have spent more time with them. They donated some moisturiser and delicious dried cranberries.
We said goodbye and after a while we spotted a Chinese camp where we planned to have lunch. About ½ mile before the camp, Yang suddenly had a blow-out so we decided to have lunch on the road as the day was passing by.
With 17 miles to go to the next camp where we were planning on staying, we spotted a rain storm ahead. It was off in the distance and we wanted to try and cover the miles to avoid another bad day in the mud. In places the road was still flooded and we came across 3 trucks that had got stuck and had been there for 4 days and were slowly digging their way out.
Stuck in the mud
They were low on supplies and relied on donations from passers-by so we handed them some of our noodles. We rode on passing fields of volcanic rock. The road started to get muddy – it must have rained earlier in the day, so it slowed our progress once again. As the light started to fade the clouds built behind us and as the sun set they were stunning against the moon like landscape.
When will this mud end???
We’ve had enough now
We arrived at the camp just after dark and were instantly welcomed. The guys at these camps never knew in advance that we were coming but never hesitated to welcome us. We were showed a room and fed a delicious Chinese meal. After eating enough and trying Chinese whiskey at 56 % – enough to power our stove – they informed us they had a hot pool! It was outdoors and refilled everyday with hot thermal spring water. It was amazing and just what we needed after a few days ride on the rough road. We went to bed tired but refreshed and looking forward to having a rest day the following day.
We were welcomed with Chinese whiskey served in something that looked like a dog bowl!
Enjoying a hot soak
Saturday 30th March
The sky was clear and something told us instead of a rest day we needed to keep going while the road was dry but with the bikes covered, our brakes jammed with mud and Hana’s handmade front rack falling apart, we decided to stay. The rack looked more like a bunch of coat hangers so Tim and Yang set about fixing it in the yard while Hana and Sharon did a mammoth amount of washing.
Working on Hana’s bike in the workshop
We washed the bikes and found Dolly was still orange and Daisy was still black and they gleamed – it had been a while. It. It was a good feeling cleaning the kit and sorting out our things for the next day but we did wonder how long they would stay clean. The small shop next to the camp sold Guinness and Tusken (a local beer) so we brought a couple bottles to relax for the rest of the day before dinner.
The 4 musketeers
The Chinese had been so friendly to us and seemed so happy for us to be there – they told us they love having visitors as they are literally stuck in the middle of nowhere for months on end. We listened to some music which was a treat as we didn’t want to use our IPods before for fear of them being stolen. The guys informed us the pool was full so Tim and Yang spent the next hour enjoying the heat of the water before heading to bed.
Cooking Chinese style!
Sunset over the yard
Sunday 31st March
We didn’t sleep well and woke to the sound of rain then a huge crack of thunder and a few gasps from the Chinese guys who were outside. It wasn’t good news as we wanted to get going but feared the road ahead would be filthy. After a brief discussion we decided to stay another day. We regretted not heading off the day before as it had been a clear sunny day but maybe it was a good thing we had been forced to rest. We had breakfast whilst watching the rain lashing again the window and the seasonal river break its banks and start washing up against the camp.
The rain continued until 3pm when it finally eased and warmed up. Hana trimmed Sharon’s fringe which was starting to look more level! They stood in the yard much to the amusement of the workers. It remained cloudy whilst we drank beer and watched films. All we could think about was what the state of the road would be ahead.
Hair dressing at its best!
Monday 1st April
The sky was clear and the sun was shining with a warm breeze – things were looking up. We had breakfast and loaded the bikes. The Chinese had been great and so giving. Nothing was too much trouble and it was very humbling. We did comment that we’d met more Chinese people than Kenyans and had been in the country nearly a week!
Ready to leave
After a while we discovered a new tarmac road which we hadn’t expected. It was still closed to the public but we were able to ride on it. It continued for 5 miles then disappeared and turned into a compressed surface which was still much better than the rough track we had been riding on.
Tim and Dolly enjoying the views
During the day the surface changed from compressed rubble to rough road but mostly great riding. It climbed steadily and we stopped under a tree for lunch knowing we were about to pass our 10,000 mile mark.
Struggling along rough ground
A truck load
Enjoying lunch on the new road
We continued on for a bit keeping a close eye on the GPS. Finally the moment arrived! It had felt a long time coming but what a place right next to an old volcano crater.
Passing the crater
We took a picture and continued to climb until the outskirts of the town of Marsabit. We rode past the park entrance to Marsabit National Park but as they wanted £50 each we decided to give it a miss – Tim thought they were having a giraffe (Cockney rhyming slang for a laugh!)
Happy to reach Marsabit
We arrived at the Chinese camp on the edge of town but found they had no room for us. They did tell us of a Japanese NGO that may put us up. We asked for directions in the town and after following a guy for 40 minutes we finally arrived at a house where Fumiaki lived and worked. He was a project leader for a Japanese organisation which worked on drought prevention. He let us cook in the kitchen and handed us a cold beer each. It was nice to have somewhere to relax. We talked about the road we were riding – we gathered information wherever we could – he told us a Japanese colleague had been shot at by bandits 2 weeks ago. His colleague had been driving at 80 MPH along the track and didn’t stop and when he arrived at his destination he found 2 bullet holes in the bottom of the door. He thinks they must have been aiming at the tyres. It worried us to hear such a recent attack particularly as it happened at 7pm. We decided to continue the following day but agreed riding after dark was really not a good idea. It was still 150 miles of what was known as ‘bandit country’ before we reached the town of Isiolo.
Thanks for reading!