Across the Great Rift

June 6, 2012 (day 385) Kenya

Long time passed since the last time I had used CouchSurfing. Coming to Nairobi I sent a few requests and quickly got positive replies. Two persons offered to host me in the capital.

First was Sharon. At her nice house located in green and quiet western district I relaxed a lot. She spent little time at home, but we cooked a bit and visited her younger sister for a dinner. My cooking skills were verified by a shameful failure of making a tortilla and little more successful attempt at my first dal sauce.

The short trips I made to the city center were aimed at arranging necessary things. Unfortunately, the problem of passport pages running out was not solved. Although the number of visas I intended to get was bigger than the number of blank pages, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided it was not a good reason to issue a second, temporary document. The next Polish embassy is located in South Africa and if the passport gets finished before, the situation may become interesting.

After four nights I packed my things and headed to the airport. Michał, who had initially contacted me over Internet before I left home, was finally coming to join me. Having forgotten to include the horrendous traffic in my schedule, I arrived an hour late, but he spent even more time trying to get his bike back from the cargo and assembling it.

It looks pretty sometimes in Nairobi

It looks pretty sometimes in Nairobi

We headed back to the city, which by the time of afternoon rush hour was completely crammed with cars and filled with dust. Compared to Nairobi even Cairo seems to be safe and clean. The situation got much worse than usual due to a bomb which had blasted a shop in the center, as we would learn three hours later after having finally arrived to our destination.

Tini was the second CouchSurfer whom I had contacted. At her house located in a green, hilly village north from Nairobi she welcomed us with a delicious dinner and cared like mother for the two days we spent there. It was not easy to leave her and that nice place, but finally we managed to start cycling in late afternoon. It was enough to do some forty kilometers over tea bush-covered hills and finish the short day in Limuru.

Survival in Africa

Survival in Africa

Over Nairobi

Over Nairobi

The next day was marked by a long descent to the bottom of the Great Rift Valley. Unfortunately, the hazy air obscured the view from the ridge, which must have been spectacular, judging by the number of gift and snack shops dotting that stretch of the road.

Although I had chosen the secondary route to Naivasha, the traffic was horrendous. Container trucks carrying all the goods between Uganda and Mombasa sped past us, accompanied by matatus and plethora of other vehicles. There was no good alternative to that road and the sound of engines was still there in the background of our first camping.

The site was close to a few small game reserves and from the very beginning animals were visible around. Zebras and Thomson's gazelles grazed in the grass and a single warthog capered around them. None of them, however, allowed us to come closer than about two hundred meters, giving no chance for a good photo.

Company at the camp

Company at the camp

Arriving straight from Europe, Michał got blasted by the African sun. The SPF50+ sunscreen proved to be not enough and he suffered from severe sunburn, probably induced by the antimalarial doxycycline. We stopped in Nakuru for two nights to let him heal up a bit. Then we finally left the busy road, crossed the equator again, and soon started climbing out from the Great Rift.

Coming back to the northern hemisphere

Coming back to the northern hemisphere

The surrounding villages stretched over long distances and most of the land was divided among private plots. The remaining patches of forest offered beautiful camping spots but finding a place where there was no one walking around or watching seemed almost impossible. At the last possible moment, just after the sunset, we luckily found a stripe of grass leading off the road to a beautiful spot where we had the first campfire.

Magic!

Magic!

Around the equator the sun rises and sets quickly. While in Europe one can spend the dusk time on finding a camping site, in Africa it is essential to be prepared before the darkness comes. Day turns into night so quickly like someone turned the light off. The opposite happens in the morning, when the sun jumps over the horizon like fired from a huge cannon and runs the straight line towards the zenith, blasting everything with its' merciless heat. Only the clouds of the rainy season saved us from that unpleasant wakeup.

Hello mzungu!

Hello mzungu!

At school on a mountain top

At school on a mountain top

Village boys

Village boys

A long evening by the fire, even longer sleep and hilly shape of the terrain made us camp again after completing not much more than forty kilometers. This time we had a spectacular view over a deep valley and the weather I had never expected to find in this part of Africa. At 2600m, with temperature down to about 10°C and blowing wind, I had to put on a fleece jacket and was contemplating digging the panniers in search of my winter cap. Fortunately, huge doses of hot tea spiced with masala helped us stay warm.

Pasta gets ready

Pasta gets ready

Tea with a mountain view

Tea with a mountain view

The morning was even more surprising, when a cloud came over and enveloped the surroundings in thick fog. Locals wandered around with tin cans full of milk, to drop the produce on a passing truck. Surprisingly, they were not intrusive and watched us from long distance, which is quite unusual in this part of the world. Having delivered the milk, most of them proceeded to nearby bars and sat over a mug of tea or a bowl of githeri, talking. Life seems to flow slowly there. The mild Kenyan weather does not require people to work too much and many of them just sit by the road or lay in grass for long hours.

That morning surprised us

That morning surprised us

Paddling in the fog

Paddling in the fog

Leaving the Rift's ridge, we rolled down into much hotter lands and eventually merged back into the main, busy road, just before the town of Eldoret. The great number of trucks passing and stopping in the city gave it unpleasant ambience. The noise, enormous crowds on the streets and bazaars, prospering bars and brothels – all the attributes of a transit town – did not make it a nice place to stay in.

We were happy to leave the trunk road on the next day. Despite being the main route to South Sudan, the potholed road to Kitale suffered much less from the traffic. Surrounding villages contained more mud huts than anywhere else in the country and local people often seemed to be astonished by the sight of wazungu.

The afternoon rain cooled down the air and in the mist rising from hot asphalt the green countryside appeared similar to what we had known perfectly from Europe. For a moment we felt like on July holidays somewhere in the north of Poland, after a big storm. The feeling stopped with our arrival to the town of Kitale, the last one before the final cycle to Uganda.

Comments:

mama
mama
7 years, 1 month ago
Wydawałoby się, że mgła i Afryka to niemożliwe połączenie :)
Iwo
Iwo
7 years, 1 month ago
Heh, ostatnio jeździłem po świętokrzyskim i krajobrazy zupełnie jak ze zdjęcia "Nad Nairobi" :) tyle że u nas pszenica a nie herbata :)

A żuczek śliczny :)
Vito
Vito
7 years, 1 month ago
Ależ tam swojsko!:), zwłaszcza w porównaniu z egzotyką całej trasy. Czy przy chłonięciu wszystkimi zmysłami też jest takie wrażenie? Bo ze zdjęć, to niemalże jak Słowacja, tylko dzieci w osadach mają ciemniejszą skórę:)
Miłej jazdy!!!
pacha
pacha
7 years, 1 month ago
Szebardzko :D !! !! !! Trzymcie sie chlopaki
mula53
mula53
7 years, 1 month ago
Prawie każde zdjęcie jest nienajgorsze, ale "czary" jast zaaaaaajebiste. Baardzo się cieszę. Dostarczasz mi zmyslowych przyjemności.
Pozdrowka od Marka M