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Mount Meru

Stage 41: Namanga to Arusha

Everyone eager it seems to get an early start this morning, with a line-up for coffee and then breakfast before the nominated time. Cool morning, overcast but as yet no rain at least. The border crossing is a breeze; it’s literally a ‘one-stop’ border crossing with a shared building and services between Kenya and Tanzania.

Alice and I are through in less than 20 minutes, I think; we set off once again only this morning, I’m flat as a pancake. I guess yesterday took more out of me than I’d realized. At least the tarmac is very good quality, and the traffic almost non-existent for the first couple of hours, so I can slowly get the legs spinning again (sort of). Of course the big scenic attraction is Kilimanjaro ... where is it?! It’s in fact directly east or 90° left of our southward track and maybe 100 kilometres distant. Nevertheless, it’s there and looms hugely into the clouds, it’s upper slopes and top obscured by the weather, unfortunately.

More immediate and certainly of greater concern as we’ll have to surmount its western flank, is Mount Meru, standing between us and Arusha. The climb will be in the afternoon, once it’s nicely warmed up.

The countryside is really green, lush. The ephemeral drainages are wet if not exactly flowing although we do cross over one muddy river which is very active. We’ve definitely come into the rainy season! We’re fortunate enough to spy giraffe, too, only a hundred metres or so from the road. Our first real game spotting:

Lunch couldn’t come soon enough for me; I was running low on about everything it seemed, and was keen on a refuel.

Chasing after Ingrid and Milan, approaching western slopes of Mount Meru.

Once again, we’ve a climb directly after the lunch stop; about 450 m today and although not very steep, essentially continuous. Alice encouragingly notes, as she disappears up the hill ahead of me, the reward is that getting over, it’s more or less all downhill for the last +30 km into Arusha and our camp. Although the final 10-15 km through town and traffic seems a bit drawn out, eventually I get there. I can’t be the only one tired from yesterday, it turns out, as most riders still to arrive.

Our base for the next three days is the ‘Masai Camp’ in Arusha; I’d previously elected to stay at its sister ‘Karama Lodge,’ up a rather steep hill on a dirt track as it turns out. The Lodge sends a combi to transfer my two bags, but I still need to cycle that 2 kilometres up the hill, a final note to the afternoon.

Correction: there’s a donation ceremony scheduled for 4:00 pm back at Masai Camp, so I head back down after checking into the Lodge and a quick shower. This year, the TDA Foundation is providing 5 bikes to One Bike Tanzania, a community-based social enterprise of bicycle enthusiasts located in the vicinity of Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania: Goodluck and Hillary, co-founders of One Bike, are there, as are 3 identified recipients of these bikes. It’s a nice ceremony, and an opportunity to see firsthand a little of what a bicycle can mean to people in more remote areas.

Background: Every year TDA Global Cycling, through its Foundation, donates 1 bicycle per full tour rider to a variety of individuals and organizations in Africa. The TDA Foundation has always been an integral part of TDA Global Cycling’s vision; the Foundation was set up at the same time as the original Tour d’Afrique bicycle expedition in 2003. The Foundation was created with two main goals: To give something back to the people and the communities of the areas that we pass through on our cycling tours and to raise consciousness about bicycles as an alternative and, in many ways, better and more beneficial means of transport.

To fulfill these objectives the Foundation focused on three areas: donating bikes to individuals and organizations in Africa, supporting bicycle advocacy and promoting projects that protect the environment. All told, the TDA Foundation has now donated more than 2300 bicycles to more than 70 grassroots organizations and communities in 8 African countries and India.

After the ceremony, I hang around for a bit talking with the One Bike folks; it’d be nice to participate some day in one of their activities, but who knows if I’ll ever get back this way. Then I head back up my hill once again. And that’s definitely me done for the day.

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1 Comment

David Williamson
David Williamson
Mar 12, 2020

That sounds like the real Africa - impressed by the bike charity. Sorry if I’m not too sympathetic about your tiredness considering it sounds like you beat a whole bunch of people home - have seen you get stronger as rides went on first hand

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