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Snows of Kilimanjaro

 Nairobi - Iranga

20-29 March 

967 km

 

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We left Nairobi on 20 March in convoy again, as it was quite tricky getting out of town.  The procedure was the same as when we arrived, with “Sweetness" (the larger truck) followed by the cyclists, then "Betsie" (the smaller truck), and at the back the Land Cruiser (in case someone got a flat or broke down).  We cycled 160 km on a tarred road to the Tanzanian border.  Big clouds moved in, and there was lightning and thunder all around us.  After the lunch stop it started pouring down, and there was also a very strong tail wind (which helped a bit).  We got to camp in the pouring rain, but at least there was a large pot of soup waiting.  Although it rained all night, my tent miraculously stayed dry.  This had been our last day in Kenya, as we would cross the border into Tanzania the following morning.

 

On 21 March we all cycled the 5 km to the border post, and crossed in our own time.  The race started again on the Tanzanian side of the border, and consisted of 130 km of tarred road.  The scenery was excellent, as we cycled around mount Meru and into Arusha.  What a nice day, as the road was good and the scenery was fantastic.  It was still raining on and off, but I was lucky not to have any rain while cycling.  We were now in Masai country, and everywhere you looked there were Masai people in their red blankets, and with their beautiful jewelry.  Everywhere you could hear the familiar sounds of "Jambo", "habarie", and "poly-poly".  As I struggled up the hills the kids shouted "poly-poly mummy".  We also met our new support crew from South Africa, who took over from Arusha to Cape Town.  Henry rejoined us, as Randy would be leaving us for a few days to go and climb Kilimanjaro.  At Arusha we would have 2 rest days, so that people could go on some of the safaris available in the area.  We camped at Masai Camp, which had a restaurant, bar, and internet cafe.

 

After breakfast on 22 March I decided to do the Ngorongoro Crater safari (2 days and a night).  We left about mid-morning on the 180 km drive to the crater, but we got held up at the gate (nothing unusual).  As a result of the hold-up we only got to the camp site after dark, and in the rain.  Everything was wet and muddy, and I was very sorry that I hadn’t booked into the Lodge (which had been an option).

 

We woke up early at the safari camp on 23 March, and after a quick breakfast we drove down into the crater.  The crater was very impressive, very large for a crater, and very green.  Due to all the rain there was a lot of water, and therefore also lots of animals.  It was quite amazing that there could be such a variety of animals in such a limited area.  We finished our drive by lunch time, and went to the Lodge for coffee and cake.  We arrived back at Arusha quite late, and spent the rest of the evening in the restaurant.

 

On 24 March we cycled 107 km on a tarred road.  This day we had no rain, just beautiful scenery all the way.  It was a very nice, enjoyable day.  That evening we camped at the very primitive Lake View camp site (which gave us a very slight view of Lake Manjara).  "Sweetness" (the larger truck) got stuck in the mud, and we had to call a tractor to haul her out.  We all pushed while the tractor pulled, until eventually the truck was free (what a performance!).

 

We covered 110 km of gravel road on 25 March.  The route had some hills, with very dense vegetation (absolutely fantastic).  This felt like real mountain biking country (wet and muddy).  It reminded me of cycling at Knysna, with the forest and gravel roads.  After about 105 km "Sweetness" still hadn’t caught up to us, so we waited at a small village (eating "cipaties" and drinking cooldrink).  The truck had all the food and our red boxes, so when darkness set in we decided to sleep at a nearby school.  Much later that night "Sweetness" arrived (she had been stuck again).  I felt sorry for our new support crew, as they weren’t having an easy start to their trip.

 

On 26 March we cycled 110 km on gravel roads.  The route was undulating, wet, and muddy with fantastic scenery (very enjoyable).  To me this felt like Africa at its best.  I even had my bike washed at one of the villages.  That night we stayed in a bush camp again.  There was no water for washing, so we rinsed the mud off ourselves in a "cow pond".  I thought that the last two days had been the best cycling days thus far (apparently I was the only one with that opinion).

 

We cycled 120 km to Dodoma on 27 March.  It was an exceptionally nice day, cycling on a good road through forests.  I reached our camp just as it started raining.  We camped at a hotel training centre, which had a bar, a restaurant, and rooms.  The rooms were only 13 000 Tanzanian Shillings per night (1 100 Shillings to a US $).  Needless to say, I took a room!  It was nice to have a shower and get rid of the mud.  I hoped that the condition of the road would be fine the following day, as we would try to catch up a day before Iringa.  We were still 3 days behind schedule.

 

On 28 March we cycled 130 km on a gravel road.  The road was not a good road by anyone’s standards (very bumpy with lots of loose gravel).  Later that day we reached our bush camp tired and dirty.  At least it wasn’t raining, but it was very hot and humid.  We were expecting two more cyclists to join us, but it was already quite late and they hadn’t arrived yet.

 

We cycled 130 km on gravel road to Iringa on 29 March.  By this time my backside was quite sore, and I figured that I’d had enough of bumpy gravel roads.  It was still very humid, but the scenery was some of the best we’d had.  The going was slow on those roads, and I only got to Iringa at 16h00.  By that time it had been raining for the last 15 km or so.  We stayed at the Baptist Conference Centre.  I arrived there cold and wet to find that Edie (our nurse) had already booked a room for me.  After changing to dry clothes I had coffee and chips in the restaurant, which made me feel comfortable again.  We then took a taxi into town, to draw money and buy some wine.  I found a bottle of Drostdyhof, but at a price (R60! - but I still bought it).

 

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