Wednesday, 10 March 2010


At kilometer 480, the ordeal was over. The Chinese are building at lightening speed a magnificent large paved highway and suddenly it felt like being upgraded from cattle class to first class on a BA flight.... Speed picked up to over 30 km per hour... Yes, double digits and no more hammering on our buds or sliding in the mud. Ultimate luxury, we could now even take our eyes off the road and enjoy the scenery... Of course this all sounds great and great it was, but at the speed this road is being built, this legendary section of TDA is bound to become a walk in the park, just like we had in Northern Sudan. We are probably one of the last group to face the full size challenge, actually, we were given a 30 km discount as they have already paved the first 30 km north of Isiolo. Previous tours had that terrible road all the way to Isiolo. Well, we won't complain, we had such floods that it certainly made up for the missing 30 km...

Once on the paved road, things change completely, more traffic, more speed, more stress and you realise how different riding in the dirt is from riding on tarred roads. I had so many occasions to greed the local tribal people and make pictures on that dirt road, but once on the paved road, you fly and at 30 km per hour, you are in a bubble disconnecting somehow from the people who are walking along the road. You become more focused on traffic, a survival rule in Africa and less on the people. That's why I love mountain biking, you are somehow closer to the terrain you are crossing.

Camp was nice, there was a small 10 rooms hotel where the fastest riders got the rooms and we could therefore have access to showers. They also had a small bar serving delicious cold beer. I saw a big barbecue and inquired at the kitchen of the hotel if they could cook us some goat meat for the evening. Of course all is possible in Africa and after some negotiations with the chef, we agreed that he would grill us 10 portions of goat meat accompanied by 10 plates of french fries and some tomato salad and samosas. I organised a small table to be set apart from the group as I noticed that most riders were already seriously intoxicated by the very cheap Kenyan beer and brandy. I was so hungry that I first thought of sharing this with only 3 other riders, eventually there was so much meat that we invited one more at our table. It was our first real big meat dish since we started this tour 2 months ago. It looked like a scene from an Asterix comic book. Shiny bones were littering the table top while the enormous plate of grilled meat was struggling to shrink. I am sure we had almost an entire goat here. And the 10 fries portions were meant for hungry cyclist.As for the samosas there were so many that David and Adam took the left overs as doggy bags. But we ate it all, the 5 of us, every piece of meat, every french fries and probably used 2 liters of ketchup as well...

Having eaten so little meat for so long, my stomach did remind me that night that I had overdone it a bit, but all stayed in and my rebuild body mass plan had now begun. It started again pouring with rain at about 5h00 am, just before any of us would wake up giving the ones in the tents no brake from the rain. It rained so heavily that water started flowing into my tent from underneath. Everything I have in that tent, except for the electronic bag which is well waterproofed was by now wet or soaked or muddy. I tried to start packing in an order of most important first. But the monsoon rain would not stop, so once again this week, I had to pack my tent under torrential downpour. It makes it a bit tricky as the tent poles tend to stick to the canvass and it hard to dismantle. The canvass itself just blows up as it gets wet and getting that into the tent bag is the next challenge. The Red clay mud that stick to the bottom of the tent is then splashed all over the tent top and sides. You already know it is not gonna be a pretty sight tonight when reopening this bag...

I had another bad surprise this morning. My prostate problems are back. I have a prostate inflammation and it is not going away. It is a difficult condition to treat as antibiotics have very low effect on the prostate.The last week of corrugated road and the riding in the water and humid conditions are the perfect factors for a prostatitis. So I need a special antibiotic for this. Luckily, at TDA the riders are full of resources. Gabriel happens to have a doctor friend and his girlfriend is joining us in Nairobi in 2 days. So he immediately sent her a text message and the latest news is that my special antibiotics are now on their way from Switzerland and will be hand delivered to me in Nairobi! Great! That's what I call making a plan....

There has been a considerable improvement in the level of education as we ride further south. From northern Sudan to southern Kenya, things are so different. People are a lot more business minded here. A good example are the coke stops. Here they realise that TDA riders mean money for them if we stop, so the many cold drink shops along the road have one of their guys standing on the road trying to get us to stop at their shop. Unfortunately not all is perfect and even the way the kids are begging along the road is a lot more sophisticated here. One thing that seem to be common across Africa is that the kids see us as ATM machines. The begging along the road is just everywhere. I had a really funny one two days ago. In northern Ethiopia the kids could hardly formulate a sentence in English and would just scream at us "Birr Birr" (the ethiopian currency). Further south, they would say "hey you you give me Birr" but in Kenya I had one kid walking straight at me and he said in the most impressive English "Hei you, give me all your money, right now!" We are not far from Somalia here, I wonder if he went to take some classes there, but it sounds like this young gentlemen is gonna be bad news a few years down the line...

Today we had a beautiful ride, it was pleasant. Despite me not feeling well at all on the saddle with my prostate inflammation, I still enjoyed the ride. We are heading for Nairobi and between Solo and Nairobi is Mount Kenya, the second tallest peak in Africa standing at 5200 meters. This meant that we would have to ride around Mount Kenya and that leads to one word: climbing! We went back from the 600 meter desert altitude to well over 2500 meters today, but this was all rewarded in the early afternoon as the rain clouds opened up and Mount Kenya covered in snow suddenly appeared on the left hand side. Wao, what a beauty! We climbed for exactly 34 kilometers after leaving camp and then we went down for the next 46 kilometers with a nice warm tail wind... The only dangers were the huge pot holes all over the road and a couple of crazy Kenyan taxi drivers, but it was so much fun to free wheel for kilometers and kilometers along Mont Kenya.

3 years ago to the day, I was lying in a Johannesburg hospital having a new ceramic hip fitted.Hip replacement is one of the most common operation in the world with a 95 % success rate. Mine had to be replaced at the age of 42 because of a bone disease when I was a kid. But I am the living proof that you can have a perfectly normal life with a hip protease. After going through the lava rock desert and hammering my hip for hundreds of kilometers, I am amazed at what a good job the South African doctors have done. It changed my life as I was under so much pain before I replaced it and it the best decision, I have ever taken.

So tonight we are sleeping exactly 3 kilometers from the equator still in the northern hemisphere. Tomorrow at exactly 7h45 local time the entire TDA will cross the equator together and there is gonna be celebrations and a million photos taken of course. We have passed the 5000 km mark already and Nairobi will be the half way point time wise. We will do more kilometers in the second half of the tour including some really long days with even over 200 kilometers in one case.

                                    Me at lunch today with Mount Kenya in the clouds behind.
                                   The white plastic green houses are flower farms, roses, proteas,
                                   etc. that make it up to Europe ovenight from Nairobi
                           At one stage the cloud cover opened up and there it was Mount Kenya,
                           the second highest peak in Africa culminating the equator at 5200 meters.

                                Clean toilets!!!! A great Unique Selling Proposition in Africa...

Kenyans are very talented with signage, they paint them on walls,
                                doors, shops, just about everywhere and some of of them are quite
                                      This is taking my relationship with my bike to a new level.
                                      At home in Andorra, it slept with my bike in our bedroom,
                                      but now it  has made to the shower...

                                   Entire sections of road have been washed away by the floods
                                  and this mud is no fun to ride through. It is extremely slippery ans
                                  sticky as well.
                                Daniel at coke stop with the locals quite impressed by our journey
                                Here they know where Cairo is and appreciate what we have gone through.
                                 After a very painful 480 km of Northern Kenyan desert crossing,
                                 we reach the paved road that China is busy laying northwards. It is
                                 an impressive large and well built highway. Of course we are happy,
                                 very happy, suddenly our average speed explodes and our buds can
                                 now rest, but I also feel that once this section is fully paved to the
                                 Ethiopian border, TDA will never be the same again...


Claudia and Rainer said...

Gerald, let me call you with a new name: AMYCARO = A man you can always rely on.
Youre not only a bad weather shaman, you did also manage to make as adicted to your daily blogs.
Please continue writing and posting pictures. And we hope the medicine you will get in Nairobi will help you to stay healthy enough for the second half.
Yours Claudia and Rainer

Anonymous said...

Well. It is clear now : another adult only blog. That´s the eternal problem with internet. Tomorrow Gerald is going to ask us to pay with credit card to visit the blog. Some bike degenerated adults cant be interested in visit it. Not me. Definitely. I´m Joan from Andorra.

Anonymous said...

I had a prostata infection once and my doctor recommended to ejaculate as often as possible to get the infection out. I am not sure if it made a difference since I took antibiotics at the same time - but in your situation it might be worth to try... better than to loose your EFI..
Regards Tom