Western Kenya (Yes, I’m running out of ideas for titles!)

I set off from Sekenani, initially backtracking along the road I’d ridden on the way here. I’ll be heading back north (well, northwest) for a few days now as I make my way towards Uganda.

I stopped for a plate of chips at a cafe I’d seen the first time I rode through here. Then it was back to riding, into a headwind. After about 50km, I finished backtracking and turned off onto a dirt track. The change in direction meant the headwind became a tailwind!

These dirt tracks through pastureland were surprisingly smooth and I rolled along quickly. There was very little traffic – in the first hour I saw perhaps two motorbikes, and a few farmers walking. The “road” typically followed a fence, or was sandwiched between two fences – at times too narrow for anything bigger than a motorbike.

At one point the tracks split into two directions, neither of which really matched what was on my map. Instead I followed some faint tracks through the grass.

After a while this track ended. I decided to just keep riding west across the savannah, figuring that if I did so I’d eventually meet up with a road. It was reminiscent of riding in Mongolia, and some of the most fun riding I’ve had in ages.

I soon did reach the road again. There was a fence in the way, but it was barely a metre high so I hopped over and continued along. I passed a dead zebra – well, first a zebra leg, then a little while later the rest of it. The head was completely intact while the rest had been picked clean, to the bone. I wondered if it might have been killed by lions.

After a couple hours I reached a junction. There was a small shop which sold water – even after halving their initial ridiculous price it was a bit overpriced – but I’d rather overpay than underhydrate, and there was no alternative around, so I bought some.

From here the road saw much more use, and in many places had been worn down to the rock, making for a bumpy ride. There was only about 10km of this, though, before I reached the tarmac.

I crossed a county line, into Bomet county, and suddenly there were no more rumble strips. The speed bumps were a bit bigger, but they are nowhere near as bad as the rumble strips, and at least serve a useful purpose.

It began to drizzle, then got a little heavier. In the distance, thunder boomed. Some men beckoned me to join them under shelter, and I did so just before the rain turned torrential.

The building they were standing by was called a hotel, but as is often the case that doesn’t really mean hotel – in this case it was a teahouse. The owner bought me a cup of tea. I didn’t really want any tea but I figured I’d pay for it anyway in return for the shelter. However, when I went to pay he wouldn’t accept any money as I hadn’t drunk it.

I rode along for a couple more hours, to the town of Bomet. It was still quite early, with about two hours daylight left. I wasn’t sure if I’d reach another town with hotels, so I decided to stop early. As I approached a hotel, I saw a much grottier place on the other side of the road which looked like it’d be more the sort of price I was looking for. Indeed it was, at 400 KSH (£2.50). Another torrential downpour soon followed, and I was glad I’d decided to stop early.

Leaving Bomet in the morning, I rode along for a couple hours, along rolling hills. I decided to pick up the pace a bit and rode out of the saddle during most of the climbs.

I turned off onto a smaller road which I expected to be unpaved. In fact it was smooth tarmac and remarkably pleasant. The population density was a lot lower, as I rode past tea plantations and forests.

When I rejoined the highway, a long descent began. I dropped down about 600m before riding along flat plains, past fields of rice.

I rode through the city of Kisimu, getting a very brief glimpse of nearby Lake Victoria. Kisimu seemed to be quite a diverse city – I saw a Hindu cemetery and an Ismaili graveyard (and an Aga Khan hospital).

There was a bike path through the city but it was so crowded I just rode in the road. It continued a little bit past the city, and there it was quiet enough to use.

There was a 400m climb, then a series of rolling hills. The road here was less maintained, and the shoulder often missing. The traffic wasn’t reduced, or any less reckless, so I had to ride off the road a few times. I didn’t realise it until later, but I crossed the equator again – back to the northern hemisphere for a short time.

Riding past a roadside market

Just after hitting 200 km for the day I reached the town of Ugunja and checked into a motel. There was no running water but they gave me a bucket of water to wash myself and my clothes. Having not done so for the last 5 days, the water was very dirty by the time I was done!

I packed up and set off to ride the last 40km to the Ugandan border. The queue there was probably the longest I’ve seen – a row of parked trucks stretching 7 kilometres away from the border.

Thankfully that was just the queue for trucks so I rode past them. It was a bit slow going as all the remaining traffic had to use the one lane not filled with trucks.

At the border, I went to the health center. Officially I think Uganda requires a PCR test but they were happy to just stamp my vaccine certificate. Then on to the one stop border post where I was stamped out of Kenya and into Uganda. For some reason, Irish citizens are the only European citizens that don’t have to pay for a visa.

I rode through the border town and then off onto a dirt road. I’d expected to receive more attention in Uganda – shouts and so on. To my surprise and relief, the opposite was true.

The dirt only lasted 20 kilometres before I returned to tarmac. I stopped in the town of Tororo, where I stopped to buy a sim card.

This area was mostly flat, so the hill really stood out

I continued along the main road heading northwest. There was a thunderstorm, and I took shelter in a covered alleyway between some buildings.

I rode along for the rest of the day, with just one more brief rain shower. The road was a lot quieter than those in Kenya had been so it was an enjoyable cycle in to Kumi, where I stopped and checked into a guesthouse for 15,000 shillings (£3).

Included in the room where a pile of condoms – government issued ones. HIV rates are sadly high in this region – shortly before crossing the border, I saw my first shop specifically dedicated to HIV self-tests.

Nov 18: 128 km

Nov 19: 203 km

Nov 20: 168 km

3 thoughts on “Western Kenya (Yes, I’m running out of ideas for titles!)

  1. Joey told me about your blog Sam. I am loving it. It transports me from this small locked down world we are living in and its fascinating hearing about the border/covid controls.
    I need to catch up since you’ve navigated most of the world already!
    Lynda

    Like

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