(54) Everyone needs a Saint Bernard!
Monday 8th April
We woke in our tent in the beautiful gardens at the hotel in Isiolo. It had been a dry cool night and we had a good night’s rest. We cooked fried eggsandwiches for breakfast, packed our things and made our way to the reception to pay. It sounds like we did this very fast but 3 hours wasn’t the quickest morning pack up we had done.
We rode into town to pick up more bread and cake but refrained from buying any heavy stuff until we had climbed the pass ahead of us. We started the steady climb with everyone’s legs feeling tired and after an hour Hanae said her gears didn’t work so after ½ an hour of stripping down the shifter, tightening the bolt and setting up the gears again we were ready to go. Yang and Sharon were waiting ahead in a café where Sharon had told the ladies there that she had left Tim behind to find a younger man as he was too old and slow, to which they burst into fits of laughter. When Tim arrived he said sorry he was late but he was looking for a prettier younger woman; naturally more laughter followed.
Tree outside the cafe
Re-joining the road we continued to climb being over shadowed by an ever darkening sky. We pulled over after spotting a small wooden church on the left that had a porch which made the perfect lunch spot.
It was great timing as the rain started to bounce off the tin roof and as we grabbed a few snacks, a couple approached us as the rain started to get heavier and took shelter with us. The lady greeted us and produced a flask of teawhich she passed aroundand it was welcomed by big smiles. She asked if we had tried Ugali, which plays a big part in Kenyan cuisine. We gratefully accepted and enjoyed it with stewed cabbage with biscuits for pudding. .We continued to climb and as we got nearer the top, the road got steeper. We looked behind to see one of the most incredible storms coming down through the valley and up the mountain towards us.
On the climb
By the time we reached what we thought was the top, we spotted a chip shop and notwanting to miss an opportunity we called in to make an order. The chips were amazing and very well timed although we were concerned that the light was starting to fade. We descended only to climb again but thankfully not too much and reachedthe top at 2,540 metres. We freewheeled down a short hill followed by a flat then another downhill. This continued pretty much all of the way into the town of Nakuru. By the time we had arrived it was dark. We found the British Army basewhich was situated there and asked if they knew somewhere we could camp. They directed us to a camp site up the road but they wanted £15 per tent and warned us of the security dogs.It was an easy decision not to stay there.
We rode into town and with it being very busy we decided to ask at the police station. Sharon went to ask the Chief who said they were more than happy to have us and showed us a hall where we could sleep. We were introduced to Charlie a police officerwho was put in charge of looking after us and he soon decided that the hall wasn’t good enough for us and so invited us back to his house to sleep. We met Stella his wife and their 2 beautiful children; they were so welcoming. By the time we had cooked it was 11.30 and we were all shattered. We fell asleep grateful for such wonderful hospitality.
Tuesday 9th April
We finally got to sleep and woke at 6.30 but were still very tired. While we were in town we wanted to get Tim’s bike fixed as his rear wheel was getting worse (it had a crack in it) so we had time to wait before a contact would ring who might be able to help us. We decided to ride the 2km out of town to the Equator line while we had time to pass. We packed our things, which was a challenge in itself with kids running around with spare tyres and water bottles but they were fun to be with.
Stella and family
Tim never misses a chance for a water fight!!
With everything in the right place we said thanks to Stella and waved goodbye as Charlie was going to ride with us to the Equator. It felt great to be at the Equator having ridden from 71 degrees north from Nordkapp in northern Norway. We took some pictures and said goodbye to Yang who was heading south to see a friend in Nairobi. We hoped to meet up with him again in Uganda. He had been great fun to ride with and it would feel strange without him. We watched as he rode off not paying any attention to the traffic and nearly getting hit by a car. We hoped he’d be ok!
We had a quick look in the tourist shops only to see all the things we would love to buy but couldn’t and rode back into town and found a Nakomatt supermarket that was like a supermarket at home. Our eyes lit up as we walked up and down the aisles. It was so expensive – Tim stood and just stared at a small box of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes which was priced at £7.50. A tin of Heinz baked beans was £2.50, a Dairy-milk chocolate bar was £1.75 and so it went on. We gave in when we got to the ice-cream section –a 1 litre tub of ice-cream was half the price of 2 small ice-creams in the café next door so we didn’t leave empty handed.
We rang our contact about getting Tim’s wheel fixed only to find he wasn’t back until late the following day. We decided to leave the town and risk it as we couldn’t wait too long – it clearly wasn’t going to happen very fast. We started riding out of town and spotted a fuel station so stopped to top up our fuel bottle. A guy pulled up in a Land cruiser and was curious about us. We told him where we had ridden from and explained Tim’s wheel needed fixing. He knew our contact and immediately said ‘you don’t need him you need Bernard’ and promptly made a call. 10 minutes later we met up with Bernard and it turned out he was the captain for the NationalKenyan cycling team. He had won many races in Kenya and was in the top ten in the tour of Rwanda on a number of occasions – his highest position was third. He took us to his workshop behind somered steel gates. His workshop contained about 30 bikes of all shapes and sizes; Tim and Bernard were soon searching for a good replacement rim.
Bernard and his trophy for winning the Mount Kenyan cycle race (not for the first time) – Tim was clearly missing his trophies…
Tim and Bernard working hard
Tim’s cracked rim
After 2 hours a rim was found and it was changed with Sharon’s strong front rim that was then used for Tim’s rear wheel. Once done we headed into town with Bernard and Steve another Kenyan who worked at the British army camp to see if Tim could find some trainers as his cycling shoes were also falling apart. £20 later and a new pair of trainers in hand we went back to cook dinner. On the way back a young boy asked Tim for money to buy food.
Tim replied “where’s your mum?”
“At home” came the reply.
“Is she cooking?” Tim asked.
“Yes” the young boy said.
“Then you should go home for tea if you’re hungry” was Tim’s reply.
As it was late, Bernard said we could sleep in his workshopwhich he cleared out and mopped the floor for us making a very cosy sleeping area.
Making ourselves at home
Wednesday 10th April
After a day off and a good night’s sleep we woke late as we were so comfy. It was a great den and a cool place to be. Bernard arrived and we sat and ate breakfast in the sun. We loaded the bikes and rode down the dirt lane to the main road. Bernard was going to ride with us for the day and show us a short cut to the town of Nyahururu. We rode on to the Equator line once again to take a couple pictures with our Okehampton Cycle Club tops on.
Crossing the Equator
Bernard joined us after 10 minutes as he had picked up some glue for us for mending punctures. He let Tim have an old inner tube to cut up for rubber bands and we counted 29 patches on it; there clearly wasn’t much room for anymore.
We rode on to the next town where we would turn off down the short cut. Bernard and Tim swopped bikes for a while –Bernard’s was a carbon Planet X so Tim was happy flying up the road. All Bernard kept doing was laughing and saying whilst riding Tim’s bike was “you’re riding this for 3 years?!” It was funny to see him on it. He is so slim, the road bike suited his physic much better.
Along for the ride
Tim enjoying riding a road bike
We reached the junction and by this time Bernard’s friend Michael arrived to ride with us. We brought a drink and joined the dirt road that would save us about 30 miles. We could see a huge rain cloud behind us as we descended gently along the track. The next thing we heard was Bernard shouting ‘zebra.’We were riding alongside a game park and we spotted aGiraffe,Water Buffalo, Rhino and Impala – it was incredible. This was all in the space of less than 1 mile.
We stopped a few times to watch them but with the storm rumbling behind us we needed to get going before the track turned into a marsh. We rode on passing more zebra and vervet monkeys and started a steep climb towards the town of Mweiga. As we reached the top we passed more Zebra outside a small wooden church and this time in the wild. We went on climbing up to a great lunch-spot that looked back to one of the best views of Mount Kenya we had had. It felt quite strange to think we had ridden here. Each day we cover a few miles and so it’s hard to imagine what we have done but here we were.
Bernard and Michael weren’t sure if they would continue with us as the next storm was heading in and they didn’t have rain coats. We said goodbye and arranged to meet up either later or tomorrow and rode out of town. We stopped for a coke and started one of the many short climbs ahead of us. Hanae was starting to get tired and kept falling off but would always pick herself up and would carry on with a “I’m ok thank-you” along with a smile.Impressed with her drive we decided to look for somewhere to camp.
A local school we passed
Bernard and Michael caught us up but with the light now fading they went to the next town to find a hotel to sleep as they had decided to continue with us. We picked up water from a kind man and spotted an old wooden church and tucked ourselves away behind it. A man sat with us while we cooked and packed up in the dark and when we said we were going to bed, he said “ok you will be safe here, I will go now and will check you tomorrow”. We were at first suspicious of him but all he wanted to do was make sure we were ok.
Thursday 11th April
Although we were only 15 miles from the Equator it was a cold night mainly due to the height we were at. We woke at 6.30 and loaded the bikes. As we did the man returned from the night before and we shared our coffee with him.
We got a call from Bernard who had ridden on another 30miles to Nyahururu. They had spent the night there and were going to ride back to meet us. We said goodbye to our watch-man and descended the short hill and climbed the next revealing a clear and amazing view of Mount Kenya. The road was good with a few short sharp climbs. Bernard and Michael were soon with us again and we all rode in to Nyahururu stopping to pick up a thick pancake called a ‘mandazie’ on the way.
It wasn’t long after meeting up that we crossed the Equator again but this time heading north. This was the second time and looking at the map we would cross it many more times before heading south to Rwanda.
Crossing the Equator again
We stopped later for bananas but they wanted to charge us 20 shillings for one. Bernard thought this was hilarious as you can normally get 4 bananas for the same price. We nominated him chief shopper as he could get a local price and armed with a bunch we rode on.
We arrived in Nyahururu and went to the post office to post some postcards. Bernard asked usdid we want to go to his friend’s house for lunch? Sounding like a great idea we rode out of town passing a bike knife sharpener on the way and arrived at Joyce’s house.
Bike knife sharpener – genius!
Joyce was a runner and a very nice lady who could run a marathon in 2 hours and 40 minutes. She cooked us dinner and invited us to stay the night as there was a storm coming in. We only had about 50 miles to cover the following day as we had been invited to stay at Michael’s Auntie’s house in the next town. It wasn’t a difficult decision to make as we were comfortable playing cards and drinking tea whilst listening to the rain bounce off the roof and so we relaxed for the rest of the day.
Friday 12th April
Joyce woke us at 6.30 and we loaded the bikes. It wasn’t going to be just us today; we had Bernard and Michael on bikes along with Joyce and 4 other runners. All but one were long distance runners and would be great fun to have them for company. We made our way along the track feeling nervous as we normally ride with full panniers at about 10 miles per hour. These runners average 11-13 mph. They were all a really nice bunch and it was our job to hand them water every 3 miles but we had a suspicion that they may need to hand us water every 3 miles.
What a team!
Trying to keep up
We covered the first 10 miles and arrived at the Great Rift Valley. It was amazing but not as deep as we thought it might be. We waited at the top for the runners to pass and to take pictures of them as they descended along the road below us.
The Rift Valley
We set off down the great decent and were surprised at how far they had got. We soon hit the climb the other side and with it the runners disappeared off ahead and over the top. We caught Joyce up only just in time to stop her at the 40 km mark at just over 3 hours and still looking quite fresh. The others had gone on for a few km’s to the next town and arrived back just intime to for us to make them all a cup of tea on our stove. The looks from the kids was of surprise with 3 white people, 2 Kenyans in Lycra and 5 in running gear sat round a camp stove drinking tea from a variety of vestibules including cups, bowls and saucepans.
Time for tea
We said goodbye to Joyce and the runners as they were getting a lift back to Nyahururu. We had really enjoyed their company. Joyce’s ambition was to run the London Marathon but without a sponsor it was just too expensive. Unfortunately despite trying she has still not found one.
We rode on towards Michael’s Auntie’s place and arrived in a small town topick up 1 kg of goat meat along with various vegetables– Sharon was going to make her first goat stew! We found the long earth track to the small farm and Sharon momentarily forgot how to ride a bike and of-course the first thing Tim did was get his camera out!
We arrived at the gates and were met by Elizabeth who was lovely and very excited to see us all. We pitched the tent and as there was a storm threatening we put up the tarpaulin. One hour later sure enough it started to rain and with all our washing out and the stew on the go it was a quick scramble to get everything under cover. The washing, the stew and us remained under the tarp as it rained and rained. The goat meat was really tough and hard to cut but after a couple of hours it was ready. We gratefully went indoors to share our meal and enjoyed eating it in the warm. Sharon became obsessed with a ginger kitten that clearly liked Tim more than her and Bernard tried teaching us a Kenyan song which was fun. We returned to our tent in the increasing rain and stayed there till morning having enjoyed a great day.
Saturday 13th April
The rain continued throughout the night and we were thinking it would never stop. It wasn’t until 8.30 before we heard the sound of rain disappear leaving the last few drops to come from the tree. It was now time for the big clear up. There was stuff everywhere and mostly wet stuff, along with a puncture in Sharon’s back wheel. With the kettle on and the sun starting to poke out through the clouds our spirits started to lift.
Elizabeth’s lovely home
Sharon, Elizabeth and her friend
Michael and Bernard appeared ready to leaveas they had to get to Nairobi by that evening. We said our goodbyes and would really miss their company. They were only meant to be with us for a couple hours and ended up being 4 days over which we formed a good friendship. Tim fixed Sharon’s puncture the African way which involves putting 2 layers of glue on the inner tube and 2 on the patch and then waiting for 3 minutes for each coat to dry. The glue here is like water and was the reason why we couldn’t get any to stick on previous punctures. We said good bye to Elizabeth and rode along the earth track back to the highway.
We rode about 10 miles before spotting some chips being made. They were 50 shillingsa portion (about 50 pence) which seemed to be the going rate in Kenya so we ordered some and three mugs of tea. We were soon sat relaxing and enjoying chatting to a local guy at the stall. When we came to pay the lady told us the tea was 50 shillings each, 2 and ½ times more than we normally pay. We discreetly asked the man we were drinking with how much he paid to which he replied 20 shillings so we demanded our change. She clearly wasn’t happy had a go at the man but handed over the rest of the money. We normally get charged a bit more and expect to as we’re tourists but not over twice the price.
We rode on into town and found a Nakomatt so Sharon and Hanae went in to see if they could find any bargains while Tim guarded the bikes. We treated ourselves to burger and more chips at the café before starting the climb out of the town. Bernard had said there wasn’t any more big hills left before the Ugandan border but after climbing for ten miles we thought he must havebeen thinking of somewhere else. We stopped for a coke and descended slightly along a long straight bit of road before it started to climb again this time it seemed to go on for ever. There was not much civilisation and either side was forested which gave plenty of camping options but we still needed water.
We reached a town at dusk and a guy asked where we were staying. We replied in the forest to which he looked a bit surprised. We continued to climb thinking we would soon reach the top but we turned the corner to see it continue to climb. A man walking on the side of the road told us there was a garage ahead, so we could get water there and then find a camp spot. We rode on and after a short while we reached the garage. We asked if there was anywhere we could sleep but with loads of drunk people around we felt uneasy until a man appeared in a clear English voice and said we could sleep on the grass in front of the police station. This was perfect. With the light gone we cooked our dinner under a street light up out of the way and were in bed by 9.30 just as the first few spots of rain started to hit the tent.
Sunday 14th April
We slept well although had to keep moving back up the tent as we were on quite a slope. The rain continued to fall and didn’t ease until 7.30. We looked outside to a foggy, gloomy day with trucks struggling up the hill. We tried drying the tent but in the mist it ended up getting wetter. We packed the panniers and started up the climb waving goodbye to the ever increasing crowd of children whose families lived in the buildings that made up the police station.
Some of the children who lived at the police station – this was their kitchen area
Waking up at another police station
We still had about 6 miles to climb and Hanae had seemed to have found her climbing legs. We reached the top and bought a bunch of 10 carrots for 20 shillings and rode on to the junction passing a funny sign.
We turned off the highway onto a worn out road to Kericho. We climbed a short climb then descended to see another steep climb ahead of us.
Another road ‘under construction’
As we got near the top a storm came in suddenly so spotting a large parked digger we climbed underneath to take shelter. Tim spent the whole time building mini dams and little rivers reminiscent of his childhood. Sharon and Hanae hadn’t heard him this quiet for weeks.
Sitting out the rain
After about half an hour the rain had eased and we continued to climb before descending past loads of vegetable sellers. Seeing an opportunity to pick up vegetables for our rest day in Kericho, we brought some onions and asked how much a kilo of potatoes were. She said she only sold them by the bucket load. Not being deterred, the sack was soon full with around 15 -20kg of potatoes and Tim loaded it on to the back of Dolly much to the amusement of Sharon,Hanae and the lady at the stall. We rode on worrying about the new back wheel
Heading into a town
We arrived in a town and as it was midday we picked up some cooking oil and found a nice spot on a grassy area and made chips. With the sun out it gave us a chance to dry our tent and any wet clothes and slowly accumulate a small crowd of polite kids and a few adults ‘under the influence of booze’. They were ok and were kept under control by the kids.
Chips, glorious chips
We rode on and enjoyed a long and well-earned descent. We passed many tea plantations that looked as well looked after as a bowling green and all with small neat villages for the workers.
We arrived in the town of Kericho and saw a hotel in beautiful gardens. As we rode up the drive we soon realised it was out of our price range but thought we’d take a look just in case. At 90 US dollars a night we made a swift exit followed by a worker saying we could have it for half price. We thanked him but explained it was still too expensive for us so we looked on and after a couple more we found a perfect place that was new and had 2 rooms for £1.80 per person per night. It was run by a lovely guy who clearly went out of his way to make sure we had everything we needed. We had a shower so we could see who was who then another so we could be allowed out into the town. After a couple of beers in the local bar, we felt sleepy and headed back. We decided to stay for a few days to catch up with ourselves and fell asleep relaxed knowing there was a lie in awaiting us the next day!!
Thanks so much for reading!