Friday, 5 March 2010


Today Gerald spent two hour sending these photos to us, the connection was very slow, so he just went and joined his rider friends for a beer...
                                      Before entering the lava rock desert, we crossed 100 km
                                      of thick bushland filled with camel herds
                                  Camp in the Kenyan bush 85 km south of the Ethiopian border,
                                  tomorrow we will enter the infamous lava rock desert and riders
                                  are nervous at camp tonight.

The camp made the joy of the local village kids and teenagers who browsed around our tents. They were much better behaved than Ethiopian kids. No need for a rope and armed guards here....
                                         Rider resting his wrists after 30 km of lava rock road

At the border post in Moyale, when I told the very friendly officer that we were going to cross the lava rock desert by bicycle, he laughed and his comment was clear "You can't" he simply said... Well, maybe most people can't, but some TDA riders can! Crossing the lava rock desert is like a race within the race at TDA. Riders on cyclocross and road bikes are suffering heavily and mountain bikers shine. Today we just did what is considered to be one of the 3 hardest day of the TDA, an 85 km stretch of pure lava rock desert road mostly made of big lava rocks, lose sand patches and corrugated surface. Nothing nice, add to this a temperature that hits well above the 40 degrees celsius by 10 h00 AM, some heavy headwinds, a 20 km climb and you have our day... About half of the riders did not finish, as a matter of fact many did not even start and got so frighten by the 35 km bit we already did yesterday of that lava rock area. They decided to get on the trucks from camp. The road was so bad that they actually made it to camp after the front riders as the trucks struggled even more than the bikes on these horrible roads.

We have now been riding about 250 km on dirt roads over the last 3 days since we crossed into Kenya. The first 130 km were fine, almost fun, the next 120 were a very different story. We first crossed a thick savanna region mostly populated by nomadic camel and goat farmers with a rich red clay soil and lush bush. Then suddenly we descended into what looked like a giant pan, completely naked of any vegetation and filled with black lava rocks. Only the odd acacia tree would brake the monotony every now and then, but nothing, absolutely nothing grows here. Amazing! The temperature suddenly soars to well above 40 and you feel very small as you drive further into this very hard looking environment. The only birds you see are Vultures and they give you the feeling that YOU are the hunted. They certainly took great interest in evaluating their chances at us, given the snail pace we crossed this desert at...

Our target was the small town of Marsabit situated at the heart of the Volcano national park in the middle of a very beautiful volcano chain. These volcanoes must be very young as they are still perfectly shaped. So today day was aManda day", one of those super hard days which gives extra bonus time to the winner. When you hear "Mando day", you know already, that you are in for a tough one, but the combination of lava rock roads and mando day, was on everybody's mind last night at camp.

Well, hard it was but I still put the Dinder national park ride in Southern Sudan as the hardest day of the tour so far. This would be second. I know that some riders will disagree with me on that one, but remember, I am a mountain biker and that is the kind of terrain I enjoy. And what an incredible experience than to cross this desert on a bicycle! Wao! So Mr officer at the border post, we can and we did!

Volcano crater just before arriving in Marsabit, a small city surrounded by many volcanos in the middle of the lava rock desert where we will spend our rest day.To get here we also had to climb 800 m. It is incredible how within a few kilometers we went from pure lava rock desert to this green lush surroundings.

                                    Gabriele (who is riding Ted's bike today) passing a road kill

                                   Vultures next to the road, not very scared about my presence...
                                   Some even followed me.... I must have been looking weak...
                                                                   Volcanos everywhere

                                            Houps... Luckuly our cycling shoes have thick soles
                                                     I definitely need a shower in Marsabit..
                                  At kilometer 42 we were told that there would be a small village
                                  with a coke stop, hard to believe, but true, there it was and the
                                  owner had a generator which meant COLD cokes! On the picture,
                                  Ruben and Simon
                                      I saw white spots from far away in this lava rock landscape.
                                     As we got closer, it turned out to be white goats...
                       Not much traffic on this 450 km stretch of lava rock road, but the few trucks
                       that pass are very dangerous as they expect us to get off their way and have
                       very bad brakes whilst beeing often overloaded... Pim, here came close to
                       beeing hit a few seconds after I took this photo.
                        Camp in the middle of the lava rock desert with big storms on the horizon
                             Not easy to find a descent spot where to pitch your tent in this desert
                                My Camel Pack with an extra tyre for this section of desert roads
                                and my lucky Lion hanging there with me every day. It was given
                                to me by my wife as a good luck item..
                         Today the choice was simple, if it was not lava rock, it was correguated dirt...
                                            The lava rock desert road is not just a legend....
                                            It is hell and it is on the menu for the next four days....

                                     There are very few trees in this desert and the temperature
                                     is 42 celcius, so we stop at every tree and recover under
                                     the small shade.
                                                                   Lava rock everywhere
                                   The road is made of deep grooves and we often have to switch
                                   between them into the most rideble path, many riders had bad
                                   falls while switching over the lose rocks between the grooves.
                              Kenyan woman at a coke stop (yes there was one bar in this desert!)


Claudia and Rainer said...

Day by day it's worth to wait for EFBEG (each fabulous blog-entry of Gerald).
We hope your lucky Lion always protects you on the remaining 7.200 kilometers to Cape Town.
Thanks again for sharing your pictures and thoughts with us.
Claudia and Rainer from -3° C cold Munich.

Anonymous said...

Nous sommes avec Jaana Gerald ¡ Elle nous a explique tout et....... je continue a croire que tu est legerement ..... fou ¡¡¡¡

Notre profonde admiration quand meme¡

bon courage de part de Lu et Joan

black lava rock said...

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