(53) From Turkish delights to bandits that fright
Tuesday 2nd April
We woke to our first foggy morning at our Japanese host’s house. It felt chilly which was strange being only 2 degrees from the Equator and only 1,360 metres high. We re-joined the mud track with our muddy bikes back to the main mud track which led back to the muddy town and picked up some snacks.
Leaving in the morning
This baby was just 10 weeks old and probably had never seen a camera or a white person before!
We were treated to a short descent, then a climb but it soon turned into another descent. It was good going but we had to be careful as there were large stones sticking up. We stopped to have a break after a of couple hours when we met a few local Massi teenagers who were in traditional dress. They seemed nice and Yang asked if he could take a picture to which they replied ok. As we said goodbye, they started to ask for money and we politely declined. As we rode off Hanae was behind and turned as the young guy started to hit her with his stick. He then pulled a knife and tried to cut the straps on her bike. By this time she had enough speed to get away and said it all happened so quickly she didn’t have time to react. She caught Sharon up who was waiting a few hundred metres away but hadn’t seen what had happened. We decided we would ride on to the next village and report it to the police. The police were about as useful as a chocolate teapot. They had no vehicle and no radio and told us the boy would be long gone by now. We resorted to speaking to the villagers and we showed them the picture of the boy. They all looked shocked and said they knew him and would speak to him. Riding on, we wondered how the situation would be dealt with.
We continued along the track to be greeted by a Volkswagen Beetle ‘Herbie style’ towing a caravan. We thought at first we were hallucinating but no! This Austrian couple were driving it around the world and had been travelling since 2009 and were on their way home. It looked wicked but we wondered how they were going to get through all the mud. We wished them luck!
A young guy from a Massi tribe holding a lamb
A victim of the bad road
We smiled as the road continued to drop gradually and with stunning views of an ocean flat valley floor with the odd small mountain poking out, the scenery was great.
The road ‘aka’ the track
We arrived in the village of Logo Logo with the sound of thunder behind us and stopped for a coke. They kept bottled drinks cool by having a 10 gallon drum in the ground filled with water. We rode the few hundred metres to the Turkish camp where we had arranged to stay and were greeted by the Manager Oguz and his Chief engineer Lokman. We had spoken to Oguz the evening before in Marsabit and he had kindly said we could camp there. We were made to feel instantly welcome and as we pitched our tents Oguz warned us to watch out for scorpions. We had a shower before being treated to soup, lamb pieces with chips, chopped tomato and onion in olive oil and Heinz tomato ketchup! We also had a Turkish speciality which was cold pumpkin covered in coconut flakes (it’s delicious – try it!) washed down with a beer. Amazing! We joined them in their office where we could use the wifi and we spent time catching up on emails and enjoying more beer.
Our amazing hosts – the Turkish chief, Lokman, Yang, Hanae, Tim and Oguz
Tim popped back to the tent to get a torch; after retrieving it he looked out of the tent to check for bugs only to see he had missed kneeling on a six inch white scorpion which was ready to sting him. With a quick flick of Sharon’s shoe it was a bit flat. Tim carried it back in a coke bottle to show everyone (we weren’t sure at first if it was still alive) – the reaction of horror was telling,we were told if it had stung Tim, he would have had an hour to get to hospital. We all went a bit quiet for a moment. Later that evening we carefully got into the tent, hoping the scorpion’s mate wasn’t waiting for a revenge attack….
Wednesday 3rd April
We both found it hard to sleep as the humidity was getting unbearable plus we had a variety of bugs sharing our tent with us (but fortunately no more scorpions). We woke to what we thought would be a wet day to find it another nice day. We left the tent with caution still thinking about the size of the scorpion the night before and went and had breakfast. It was fried eggs, bread and ketchup. Nice. We were made to feel so welcome and were grateful for the safe space and great food and company!
We chatted about the safety of the road ahead – they were concerned that we didn’t have a security vehicle with us as all foreign workers have to have an armed guard when travelling that stretch of road. We had been told by various people that this next stretch to Merrile River ‘should be ok during the day’ so we decided to cycle to there and then get more advice. We were told not to stop (which is difficult when riding by bicycle) but agreed if one of us felt unsafe we would all get in a truck to Isiolo where the risk of bandit attacks diminishes. Yang had received an email offering us a lift in a vehicle that was travelling from the first Chinese camp to Nairobi so we would look out for it in case we wanted a lift.
The road remained good, although corrugated and the scenery was great. We saw our first herd of Gazelles away in the distance which brightened our mood, before the road started to steadily climb.
Africa is full of stunning trees!
The riding was good although the road was corrugated
A stunning butterfly
As we had been told not to stop we had lunch out of sight of the road. We tried to suppress giggles as Yang wrote our names on his knees – he still had trouble remembering them as they were difficult for him to pronounce. Yang is in fact his family name as we can’t pronounce his first name either despite many attempts!
Yang – trying to pronounce our names!
We rode on and arrived in the town of Lisamis around 3pm which had a nice feel to it and we found a hotel for 400 Kenyan Shillings around £3.50 for a room.
Outside the hotel
We wondered into town to pick up supplies and have dinner – a delicious goat stew. We chatted to a local guy about the road ahead and he said he had never heard of an attack on cyclists and they usually happened during the evening/night. We relaxed a bit and decided to ride all the way to Isiolo unless we were given new contradicting information. We treated ourselves to a portion of chips and a beer on the way home! It was so nice to relax but Tim got stuck talking to the former chief of the town who kept asking for money and his family wanted jobs in England. We headed back to our hotel, staring at an amazing clear sky with lightning flashes on the horizon. It had been a good day and we were almost at the beginning of the Tarmac!
Thursday 4th April
Thinking we wouldn’t sleep well with the humidity we were surprised when we woke at 6.30am having had a good night’s sleep. Hanae didn’t sleep well due to the bed bugs that had shared her bed for the night. We cooked fried eggs and got on the road.
A chicken making herself at home in Sharon’s bed….
Although it looked flat it was very corrugated which made the going tough and slow. After 15 miles of feeling like we were on slow spin in a washing machine, we finally reached Merrille River and had a cold coke to celebrate surviving the 300 miles of bad track.
Shaz fighting her way through rush hour
The locals at Merrille River
We rode on another 500 metres to the new road where the Tarmac was awaiting us. It was bliss and felt effortless.
We picked up water at a pump that was like a step machine and worked really well. The sky was black behind us so we rode on and found a tree to sit under for lunch. Just as we put the kettle on, a police vehicle pulled up and asked if we had a spanner as their engine was playing up. Tim lent them a spanner and they found dirt in the fuel line. This was all done with the police officers and the prisoners they were carrying carousing around the engine with interest as if was just a normal day.
Tim helping the police
The police told us to have our lunch quickly and get going as there were a lot of bandits with guns in the area. We kept getting different reports which was frustrating but took their advice, packed up and got on the road with the lightning flashes getting closer. It took about 45 minutes for the heavy rain to hit us and we assumed no bandit would be hanging out in this weather so it was actually fun and refreshing as we rode without rain coats enjoying a cool soaking.
Riding in low cloud
We arrived in the town of Sere Olupi and stopped for a cup of tea. We were greeted by 2 guys who were nice to chat to and lived in the village. When we were ready to leave they asked us to read a letter which was basically asking for money. Hanae said she couldn’t read English so they handed the letter to Tim who said he didn’t have his glasses, so they handed the letter to Sharon who said ‘no.’ We made our way to the police station to see if we could camp there. It wasn’t much more than a few tin sheds but they were friendly and were happy for us to camp. We pitched the tents before cooking dinner.
Camping amongst police vehicles
Friday 5th April
After a good night’s sleep we got up at 7am with the sun rising over the police compound. It was a nice day so we quickly packed up and started loading the bikes only to find Tim had a puncture. This was strange as he had only changed the tyre the previous evening. Once it was fixed we got on the road still appreciating the good surface.
We had 60 miles to cover on what we were told by a police officer was one of the most dangerous sections from Moyale to Isiolo. We had been told so many different reports – we guessed no-one really knew as the spates of attacks were so sporadic. We stopped 10 miles before the town of Archers Post to have a drink at a nice restaurant and were allowed to cook our dinner around the back away from the road as they didn’t do food without pre-ordering.
The scenery was stunning with large mountains rising out of the Acacia filled planes. We saw signs to warn us that elephants might be crossing but only saw baboons.
Shaz keeping an eye out for elephants
Tim enjoying a descent
A heavy river from all the rain
We passed through Archers Post only stopping for some bananas. We rode on for another 10 miles and were surprised to pass a Chinese camp. Yang went in to see if we could stay – we really hoped we could as we were tired and were happy to stop early. He returned to say we could and we soon had the tent up in the car park. Tim had been having trouble with his rear wheel locking up when he braked so he unloaded everything removed the tyre and rim tape only to find the rim was cracked on the inside. This was a concern but at least we were off the road. The next problem would be to source a new rim. We joined the others inside to enjoy one of the best Chinese meals we had had on our journey through Kenya! During dinner conversation, it transpired that the Chinese vehicle heading to Nairobi that could give us a lift, had actually gone missing. It turned out that the Kenyan driver who was employed by the Chinese company had fake ID and it was unlikely they would ever see the vehicle again. It made us feel relieved that we didn’t get a lift.
Saturday 6th April
An impressive bug hanging out on our ground sheet!
We had one of the most humid and hot nights so far of our trip – this was probably due to pitching our tent on gravel in the car park of the Chinese camp which was like pitching it on a hot plate. As we were packing up we found another but much smaller scorpion under our water bag. We went in to find breakfast which was a full spread.
It was going to be an easy day as it was only 19 miles to the safety of Isiolo where we would have a rest day along with a few beers to celebrate not getting mugged or shot at! We had a head wind and the road gradually climbed and we had our first view of Mount Kenya standing at 5,100 metres tall rising up in front of us. We were so excited and were sure we could see snow on the top.
Boys taking a break from swimming to wave to us
We reached a check point and turned left towards a Hotel on the edge of town which was marked on our GPS. On our way there a small kid tried to pull Sharon off her bike until Tim went back which resulted in him legging it. We arrived at a lovely hotel with beautiful gardens and no-one there except a nice Danish lady who was looking after the place. It turned out a bit dearer then we had expected but after a couple of beers and a bit of negotiating we were set up around the back in our tents, looking forward to a rest day the following day. We decided to treat ourselves to an evening meal of chicken and chips and went to bed happy.
Yang relaxing after a beer
A very tired cycle tourist
A Red Headed Agama Lizard who was hanging out near our tent
Enjoying a well-earned beer
Sunday 7th April
After the rain in the night the temperature dropped and we slept really well. Although it was our rest day with the sun rising we couldn’t stay in bed as the temperature in the tent was slowly driving us out into the cool of the shade. We were thrilled to see Mount Kenya and it was snow on top!
Mount Kenya in the distance
The storm came in later…
We spent the day relaxing only exerting ourselves by popping into town to buy a tray of eggs and a couple loaves of bread. We spotted another cycle tourist heading into town but couldn’t stop as we were being driven by a hotel staff member who seemed to be in a hurry so we could only wave. We spent the afternoon eating, watching movies, drinking beer and watching a heavy rain storm lash against the tent whilst filling our water bowl. It was nice to take time out and as with any rest stop we would have loved to have stayed for a week but wanted to move on before we spent a year’s budget on beer…
We were looking forward to enjoying the tarmac road ahead towards Nanyuki and the Equator but had enjoyed our adventure on the dirt road and in a strange way we would be miss it.
Thanks so much for reading!