Southern Kenya

After my rest in Nanyuki, I set off cycling again. I barely made it 3 kilometres out of town before reaching a milestone: the equator!

I continued along, now in the southern hemisphere, riding over rolling hills and through the occasional town.

At one point, while stopped, a man approached me. He told me he was having difficult circumstances and asked me for a visa to Europe – it’s a common misconception that any white person can just give out visas. He complained that black people are uncivilized and he wanted to get away. I pointed out that I have no power to give visas and he left.

A while later, I felt something that seemed like my chain skipping. A few pedal revolutions later, it felt like my chain had come off – but it hadn’t. My cassette was spinning but not engaging with the freehub, and so not turning the wheel.

I was told there was a bike mechanic in the town I’d just left, so I walked a kilometre or so back there. It turned out to be a very basic mechanic – not even a shop, just a guy sitting on the street. All the bikes around here are single speed and he didn’t have the tool to remove a cassette, which is what I wanted. When I showed him a picture, he just kept offering me random tools like Allen keys and spanners. However, my freehub had spontaneously started working again! And so I set off, hoping it would last the remaining 100km or so to Nairobi.

The road started to go uphill shortly after, and there were lots of roadworks as the road was being widened and turned into a dual carriageway. In the meantime this left the road in a poor state and with impatient vehicles passing very close. In places I was able to ride on the partially constructed road which was a pleasant relief.

Late in the day I reached the point where the dual carriageway had been finished, and so cycling was a lot calmer again as I had access to a hard shoulder. I rode on until evening and stopped at a hotel in the town of Juja, about 30 km from Nairobi.

The roads were a lot quieter when I set off the next morning and cycled the remaining distance to Nairobi.

One of the things I wanted to do here was to restock on USD. I’d heard of some ATMs that dispensed dollars and made my way to some. I withdrew $300, the limit, then went to see if I could withdraw more from another ATM nearby. When I got there, I realised I didn’t have my card! I must have left it in the ATM. I felt somewhat silly, and decided I would stay a night in Nairobi and try to recover my card from the bank the next day (they were currently closed, as it was Sunday).

In the meantime, I went to a bike shop. It was located in a mall. Nairobi has a remarkable number of security guards, and I had several tell me that I was going the wrong way for bicycle parking. Even though there’s a bike shop here they still seemed quite surprised by someone taking a bike in!

The bike shop was quite small but to my great surprise they had the headset I needed. Mine has been in poor condition for months, and has recently started making a worrying (and annoying) creaking sound. I was very glad to be able to replace it here. I also got a new chain, swapped out a derailleur cable, had my freehub cleaned and my rear wheel’s hub repacked. After a couple hours, I rode away to a hotel and checked in.

I was at the bank before they opened the next morning. When they opened, I spoke to customer service. The woman there told me their policy is not to return cards from other banks, but I could try talking to the branch manager. I did so, she made a few phone calls and before long I had my card back! It was a big relief.

That done, I set off cycling out of Nairobi. The traffic was much busier now that the weekend was over, but I still made reasonable time. I was surprised to see a herd of cattle crossing the road – not something you often see on a highway on the outskirts of a capital city.

My destination was Karen, a wealthy suburb of Nairobi. My reason for going there was simple: it had a Decathlon. I managed to buy several things – a water bladder, some new shorts, a bike pump, several new inner tubes and a few other things. There was a carrefour supermarket in the same mall so I bought food too. It took a while to pack everything back on to the bike! I then continued my way along the highway out of town.

I turned off onto a smaller road which was much below the usual high standard of Kenya’s roads. It wasn’t particularly potholed, just very uneven. Much of the time there wasn’t a shoulder, but still heavy truck traffic with no interest in moving out of the way for a bike – I had to ride off the road a few times.

On the other hand, I did pass several groups of Baboons and, when the road started to descend into the Rift valley, the scenery was great.

I got stuck behind some slow trucks for a while. When they were going at 25 kph, I was fine with it as they were in effect protecting me from the other dangerous drivers. Once they started going at 10 kph, though, I moved onto the dirt next to the road to overtake them.

I rejoined a more major road which had a consistent shoulder, and the traffic soon lessened as well. I rode along to the town of Suswa, and checked into a hotel.

Another traveller arrived shortly after – Dmitri, a Greek/British guy who’d arrived in Kenya a few days ago, rented a motorbike and would be spending five weeks here. It was nice to meet and chat to another traveller – there haven’t been many in Africa so far.

As usual I was on the road again before dawn. Despite the early hour there were lots of kids on their way to school. Like most of the people yesterday, they were more likely to greet by waving than shouting Mzungu at me, which is a big improvement!

The road soon began to climb, gaining about 500m and bringing me up to 2200 metres. From there there were a series of steep rolling hills trending downwards, to the town of Narok.

Narok was a fairly big town so I stopped to get some food at a supermarket before continuing on. On the way out, there were some police randomly checking vehicles, as is common in Kenya. This was the first time I was stopped, though I think she was just curious – she asked lots of questions about my trip. Kenya is the first country I’ve been to in some time where women make up a significant proportion of the police force.

I then turned off onto a side road, heading for the Maasai Mara nature reserve. There was a lot less traffic here but still lots of those annoying rumble strips that Kenyan road builders are so fond of.

Most of the vehicles passing here were carrying tourists on their way to a safari. The local children are clearly used to it, and so their response to seeing me was to run to the road and hold their hands out expectantly, yelling “Sweets!”

After about 80km along this road I neared the town of Sekenani, one of the entrances to the Maasai Mara reserve. As I approached, various people called out to me to offer their services as guides/drivers. One, Daniel, led me to a cheap hotel. He quoted me a price of $150 for an 8 hour game drive with a guide called Moses (who seemed to work for Daniel). told him I would look around and get back to him.

I went into town and most people seemed to be saying the same price, except one guy who said “$160, but for you my friend a great discount: $150!” There were several around the gate to the park and I negotiated with them down to $120. Moses had followed me up here and agreed to match that price, so I went with him.

Nov 13: 166 km

Nov 14: 39 km

Nov 15: 95 km

Nov 16: 146 km

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