Stage 40: Nairobi to Namanga
A little chaotic this morning at camp; breakfast in the Hotel restaurant which may not have been used to 40 odd riders all storming in at the same time. But it seemed to work out in the end, and in small groups or individually, we all got away eventually.
The first ~21 kilometres or so wasn’t very nice at all; Monday morning traffic flooding into Nairobi, some narrow, twisting roads (little or no shoulders) coupled with a series of ups and downs made this first hour particularly challenging. I did feel compassion for the new sectional riders, being thrown into this maelstrom right out of the gate, as it were. But all made it through and out safely, without incident.
Photo courtesy Charl van Wyngaarden
Once we’d made that turn to the south at the 21 km mark, we’re on a much quieter country road for the next hour or so, and the tension lifts almost immediately. We’re cycling through rolling hills, the Masai Steppes, I believe. Wide open country, much greener and more lush than I’d anticipated. This is to be the longest day yet in term of kilometres; we’re fortunate to have pretty good cloud cover most of the day, which keep the temperatures well down from the expected hot. Alice, Michiel and I are even more fortunate in that we luck out by missing the heavy downpour later in the afternoon!
With the help of some downhill runs, and just ticking along, Alice and I make very good time and reach the lunch spot in just over 3 hours. A bit of a change today: the regular Mercedes van is out of commission since the Saturday run into Nairobi from Sagana with mechanical issues (transmission and/or clutch) so it’s the Hilux today, along with 1-2 rental combis. The lunch is as good as always, though. We don’t spend more than about 30 minutes or so at the break, and push off again. Still more than half the distance to cover.
A little while later, we catch Michiel on a hill. He’s always faster than me on the flats or downhill sections, but sometimes I can reel him back if the uphill is long enough. Today is such a day. We three then end up riding the remainder of the stage together, which makes for a pleasant change. We spy this bicycle at the second coke stop of the afternoon; the photo doesn’t show it well, but it’s truly a solid machine; we’re impressed by the floor pump strapped to the top tube, as well as the rear rack and wooden struts enabling I suspect some heavy loads to be transported.
Photo courtesy Alice Goulding
We push on and our luck holds: we’d been seeing a massive rainstorm move across our southward path, moving from east to west. The rain seems to be sheeting down up ahead. But although we do encounter some puddles and wet roads, we escape the deluge and reach Namanga in (for me at least), record time. And it’s Alice’s first-ever ride of this distance, so that’s another bonus.
We’re camped in the grounds of a somewhat dodgy hotel right before the border crossing into a Tanzania. It’s spitting a few drops of rain at this point; when Jim tells me that he’s scored a room for me, I don’t hesitate. After reading the house rules, I’m using my own sleeping bag and pillow, though.
Oh well; tomorrow we’ll cross over into Tanzania straight after breakfast. Our fifth country!