A Travellerspoint blog


Dirty Harry and Other Business

sunny 28 °C

It was so great to see Rob's Mum and Dad and Kenyan family friends – Liz and Ruli, especially as they had come to pick us up in a truck into which we chucked the bikes – in anticipation of a week of R&R.

Arriving at Ruli and Liz's house we were greeted by their lovely staff – Lucas, Mohammed, Zachinah, Violet and Osman. Mohammed commenting how he remembered last time I visited – 20yrs ago!


After sunset stroll by the flamingo lake that the house overlooks we crashed into the comfort of crisp white sheets – no more sleeping in the tent for a whole week! :)


Following morning Mum and Dad's goodie bags were unpacked.. Christmas 10 months early! They had done a sterling job at getting a whole load of very specific bike bits – new chains, sprockets, chain whip etc etc plus suncream, travel books and energy bars.

The suncream and energy bars were set aside and Rob and Mick set to work replacing the rear sprocket of both the bikes.

For those of us who don't know much about bikes – ours are pretty special – the gears are all inside the rear wheel hub, so there is only one chain ring (sprocket) on the rear wheel (unlike most other bikes which will have 5 to 8 rings). Consequently the chain always runs on this chainring which had completely worn out – and as a result the chain was beginning to slip with a horrible crunch now and then.


As you might imagine - a chainring that has had 8000km of peddling to tighten it into position – is not very easy to remove.

Dad and I tried our hardest but couldn't do it – so set off to the flower farm workshop.
“Do you think they will be able to do it” I asked.
“Of course – they maintain the Geothermal Power Unit – they'll be able to fix your push bike” came Ruli's reply... unsure of how geothermal machinery relates to bikes we set off.

Sure enough, within 5 minutes the chainring was off Polly's bike. But while heaving on rob's chainring the tool ripped apart... doh.

“Do you have a tool to remove sprockets” I asked the beefy mechanic -
“No” he said – “in Africa we use this” gesturing to a rather heavy looking home made metal hammer.

With visions of him smashing the chainring off the incredibly expensive German gear hub, I told him to hang on while I went to get another tool.

On my return the sprocket was removed – and the hub still intact – the African way worked fine!



The following morning the new parts were put to the test on a bike ride from the house. Within 1km we spotted flamingoes, hippos, giraffe, waterbuck, jackels, warthogs, various gazelle, zebra and multiple different colourful birds all living in seeming harmony with the local people. It was better than any of the rather expensive game walks undertaken while we lived in South Africa.



Unfortunately we didn't see hyenas... but we heard them howling at night and saw their tracks at the lake.

Whilst Ruli could watched Man U vs Arseneal without interruption he had organised a trip to the game sanctuary owned by the flower farm.



The rhinos and zebra were beautiful but what stole the show was 'Dirty Harry': an ostrich who has the hots for tourists... or just anyone who will show him some attention!

At first I felt a little awkward as I thought someone had dressed up in an Orstrich suit and was dancing for us... how odd.

My awkwardness then turned to worry (as I realised that he is a real, very horney, ostrich). The worry was mainly for Beth – who he seemed to be performing for.

Worry turned to relief as we found he was in fact performing for his favorite yellow tub.

As we watched him strut off into the distance he came across an unfortunate warthog – who he started performing for – the warty – having seen it all before – ignored the strange giant bird's dancing and carried on nibbling the grass – so a rather perturbed Harry stopped his dance and headed off into the sunset.



We on the other hand all needed a glass of wine by the campfire to calm our nerves!

Next on the agenda was a trip to Nairobi to get a visa for Ethiopia and essential supplies for the next leg of the trip: the hot “it can touch 50”, sandy “my brother lost his landrover there”, inhospitable “watch out for thee scorpions – they are everywhere” road of Lake Turkana – the largest dessert lake in the world.

The most important items on the shopping list were fishing hooks and line and citric/ascorbic acid based fruit juice powder to make the warm, volcanic slightly brackish and very alkaline water of the lake drinkable – unsure how much to buy as our advise had been “Just keep adding it until the water stops fizzing” “you will probably drink 10 litres each per day.” - we bought all of the supermarket's stock!


The following day - As an antedote to the traffic jams and hustle of Nairobi a morning ride to Hells Gate National Park was prescribed.

For the afternoon's entertainment Liz had organised trip to a little jewelry making place that also buys baskets from Turkana – Minalyn was struck with horror as we told her our plan to cycle to Ethiopia via Turkana.

“But it's not safe” she objected.
“They all have guns – even the children – my driver got shot in the leg last month... it's too hot and windy - you'll die of heat and dehydration”

It was too late to cover Mum's ears – our relaxing trip to the Jewelry shop – added a few grey hairs to all of us!

After a sad Goodbye to Pol's sister – Beth. Mum and Dad kindly gave us a lift in the general direction of Lake Turkana.

Having spoken to multiple Kenyans about the road ahead - We were as prepared for the challenge as we ever would be. Bikes fixed and tested. Extra water carrying capacity – now 29 litres. Energy bars, sun cream, dried mango, fishing stuff and water neutralising ingredients.

We couldn't help some trepidation creeping into our hearts after all the hype – but not as much – I fear - as poor old Mum and Dad who did look rather worried as they headed away in the car.

Posted by robandpol 03:51 Archived in Kenya Tagged bicycle Comments (1)

Kruising through Kenya

Eight become three


There was a touch of sadness saying our goodbyes to the others, after such fun times in Uganda, also a little envy of their plans for a relaxed picnic at the source of the Nile in contrast to our days cycle of 120km to get us to the border, but the call of Kenya was too strong to delay any longer.

bye bye bamboo

bye bye bamboo

Beth was excited but also a little apprehensive, as now it was time to see if she could keep up! The last few weeks had worked out well, getting used to the hot sun and loaded panniers, as well as breaking Pol and Rob gently back in, after their rest in Rwanda, taking it leisurely through Uganda, the pearl of Africa, mixing up cycling and fun times with friends. Up until now, Beth has been loving it, but the question in her mind was 'would this continue now she was alone with the hardened cyclists Pol and Rob?'.



Prepared for hectic roads leaving Jinjya, we were pleasantly surprised with the initial dual carriageway, then later, the presence of a hard-shoulder. This provided some room for us, when crazy out of control buses, or huge lorries were overtaking, with little acknowledgment of our presence. At times like this we were very grateful of our wing mirrors, on which we had become quite reliant... a bargain buy, being the equivalent of about 50p and an extremely useful bit of kit! Our days pedalling took us through fields of sugar cane, little towns providing us with snacks of bananas and mangoes, and eventually to a little guest house in the border town of Busia. Happily washing off the days sweat in a cold shower, Beth was pleased to have completed 118 km and survived the afternoon's temperature highs of 39 °C, just an average day for Pol and Rob.

big dead snake

big dead snake

Cycling through Busia, in the pre-dawn darkness, the town was already bustling, a man starting to cook chapattis by candle light, and a multitude of pink shirted men cycling bikes providing a taxi service to those sitting behind them on the pannier racks. We reached the border with the first light.

border at dawn

border at dawn

No border seems to be the same, nothing is standard. There are many unwritten rules: 1) No photographs allowed that might threaten security. 2) One should have exactly the right amount of US dollars in order to pay for your visa, because it is apparently unreasonable to expect that they might have change for you! 3) No cycling across the border, you must push your bike; whilst obediently pushing our bikes across the border, as everyone was doing, a man told us we could now cycle, we subsequently got on our bikes and started pedalling our way into Kenya, only to be stopped by a large man in uniform telling us to get off our bikes. We explained that someone had said we could cycle, the officer asked who, as we turned to show him, our man was no longer in sight, and given that the officer had a very big gun, once again we climbed off our bikes, to push for the final few metres!

breakfast chef

breakfast chef

Now we were in Kenya, Pol and Rob's tenth country on their journey home. We'd heard reports of Kenya being less friendly and hospitable towards foreigners and more particularly independent travellers. For this reason, we planned our daily destinations to be cities where we could find guesthouses, rather than deserted places in which to wild camp. Unlike the reports we'd heard, we were extremely welcomed by the Kenyans who instead of shouting 'umzungu!' (white person) or 'Give me money!', as we passed, they would say 'Karibu' (welcome) and 'Safe journey'. Likewise when we stopped for a drink or some lunch, instead of the large group of children and adults who'd stand breaching our personal space and unashamedly staring, the Kenyans would greet us and continue on their way.
Initially there didn't seem much difference in the landscapes of Uganda and Kenya, but gradually the expanse of the Kenyan plains spread out before us, giving a larger grander feel to the country we were now in, which matched with the sense of greater wealth and development we were getting.

road to kericho

road to kericho

For the second time in just a couple of weeks we crossed the equator...it would seem the GPS has got a little confused and is taking us West to East instead of South to North.

across the equator again!

across the equator again!

Not long after crossing the equator, we caught our first glimpse of Lake Victoria, excited not only to see it, but also Kisumo on its edge, Kenya's third largest city, the place where our days cycling would end....and it was at the bottom of a very long awaited and long-lasting down hill!
After checking out a few places to stay in Kisumo, including the Imperial Hotel, a tad out of our league, we took a ride in a little rickshaw, to give Beth's aching bum a rest, and watch the most fantastic sunset over Lake Victoria.

victorious sunset!

victorious sunset!

Once out of the long flat plains, it would seem that Kenya also has some pretty big hills and mountains. Unlike Uganda's hills which although frequent are not too big, Kenya's seemed to go on forever. It is hills like these that we are appreciative of big lorries that also go slowly and accommodate us grabbing on behind and getting a tow! It was on the way up one such hill that we saw a huge cloud of black smoke, and wondered what it was coming from. On reaching the top, and passing all the long queue of lorries that had passed us on the way up, we came to an overturned diesel carrying lorry, that had collided with another car, and subsequently ignited, not only itself, but also the adjacent field. Thankfully no fatalities.

Unfortunate Lorry

Unfortunate Lorry

We did some rubbernecking, cycled through the excitable crowd, and continued on our way, past the very long queue of stationary traffic, that had spread across onto both sides of the road obstructing our pathway which we naively thought would be clear!

Leaving with the first light in order to cover the long distance before the unbearable afternoon heat, results in enjoying the best part of the day. Morning cycling is fantastic, the air is cool and fresh, the light gentle, as the rising sun shines upon the mist that still rests across the plains and valleys.


Leaving our 'campsite' in the grounds of the Tea hotel, Kericho, we first cycled through the fragrant tea plantations, scattered with people busily picking. This was the final of a few long days, and although being slightly shorter at 92km, seemed to be a never-ending series of up hills, accompanied by a strong head wind. The scenery was beautiful, through the hills, and thankfully being higher again, at 2500 metres meant the temperature was more manageable.



The end of the week brought us together with Rob's parent's Mick and Dorte, and our friend Liz at her home in Naivasha. What a perfect way to end the week, G&T's on the edge of the steely blue lake, reflecting the hills, whilst the sky hailed a bright full moon, and pink clouds which were mirrored by the pink rim of the lake, created by the myriad of flamingoes.



Posted by robandpol 10:15 Archived in Kenya Comments (3)

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