Thanks to Matt T-C for my latest sponsorship!
Please share this on your social networks to raise awareness for Macmillan!
Thanks to those who have been sending me sweet messages of ‘get well soon’ and such, and thanks to the doctor at the London Hospital For Tropical Diseases yesterday who reached into his pocket and pulled out a £1 coin towards my sponsorship yesterday while poking and prodding me. More on that later…
Day 6: 82km (82km of tarmac) – THIS WAS A LIE!
I woke up, feeling drained from being up half the night, and felt my lips dry and a lot larger than they should be. Mirrors aren’t too easy to find in the Kenyan bush so I took this photo to see why my face felt tight. It’s not a nice sight, folks, but I said this blog would be brutally honest so here I am with a swollen face (look at those eyelids!):
URGH. Sorry about that. After calming down, I ventured out of the tent after moisturising within an inch of my life, and after breakfast I hunted down Doc John for antibiotics ‘to get rid of any African e-coli you might have lurking’. Wonderstuff. I felt effing grotty but on the bike it was to be, it was now second-nature.
Leaving camp, we retraced our route for the first kilometre or so, back to the main tarmac road…including a giant sandpit where a river probably once ran.
The morning was cool and overcast, which was a great advantage to me, and on we went. I was spurred on knowing that the faster I went, the more of a breeze I would head into.
But as the morning wore on, the tarmac road became even more long, and hot. But Kilimanjaro was slowly appearing before my eyes in the distance as the clouds gently parted.
WOAH. By the side of the road, most of the group stopped to photograph giraffes but I didn’t have my contact lenses in and couldn’t see them! Gutted. So I continued to the most picturesque water stop of the journey so far…
I rehydrated, and was feeling a bit better than I had overnight but something wasn’t right. Midday was approaching so I pedalled on, keen to make more distance before I was to be confined to the jeep away from the direct sun. Yet after lunch, that’s where I was headed but I wasn’t to be alone. Stan wasn’t feeling super either so we rode backseat jeep together in the shade, saving our energy for later.
I was feeling super guilty about this. It was logical to not overdo it, to save myself for the coming days, but I felt like a cop-out. I had really wanted to cycle over the border crossing, to get from Kenya to Tanzania all by myself, but it was not to be. After lunch, Stan and I were ferried up some strange backstreets and ‘gnarly’ rock roads to the border point at Loitokitok.
The customs office was more tin shack on sandbank driveway than a reinforced border welcome. I was expecting something more I guess, especially as we had a few hours to kill.
Yeah, wontcha look at that queue. We hung around and played peekaboo with local kids, and took up some people-watching.
Oh and there was time to get touristy.
From Loitokitok, it was straight uphill into the Rongai forest. Lush vegetation was everywhere, it could have been Scotland but wasn’t half as chilly. It was beautiful, and from the jeep I wished I felt well enough to get back on the bike and enjoy the cool breeze on my face…so different from the arid few days we’d just had.
Nice, huh? From the jeep, the road looked so smooth as it sidewinded up the side of the start of Kilimanjaro. As I got lost in the scenery, there seemed some noise coming up on the radio and it transpired that there was some confusion about the location of tonight’s camp. Some of the cyclists had headed to the other side of Kamwanga, where they were waiting with some guides and a growing number of curious children.
After some radio contact several ways, camp was located and unfortunately these cyclists had to backtrack a few miles to our beds for the night. However, this gave us a taster for what was to come in the morning – I was excited!
Upon arrival at camp, I dragged my luggage over to the tent and changed, and the group slowly started trickling in as I clapped them into the field. Camp tonight was a school field, and the outer perimeter was already filling up with an audience for the evening, who remained long after it was dark. We were on a slight slope and at the upside we could see the start of Kilimanjaro – we were on the side of it, but it was mostly shrouded by cloud.
On the lower end, we had a spectacular view of the foothills, and further on, Kenya. It was an amazing place to camp – and wrap up, it was cool. The only cool place we encountered on the whole trip apart from when I was freezing in the jeep.
The jeeps slowly rocked up to camp too – I was waiting for the one that contained my daypack and as I went over to the first one I noticed Sally (someone I’d barely spoken to so far) wrapped in a tartan blanket accompanied by some other ladies in the group. They looked as white as sheets, so decided to give them a bit of space, after offering to help, as it looked like someone was injured.
A few of us went to locate Sally’s luggage while she was made comfortable in her tent, and word began to spread about what happened. It transpired that she’d been hit from behind on a motorcycle – some say that the driver was drunk – but the fact remains that the bike was completely written-off. At this point, nobody knew how serious this was but later on we discovered she’d had a lucky escape – simply bruised and grazed, and a bit shocked.
Jeez, we were all shocked for her, and very thankful she was okay.
Sally’s accident gave us all a reality check, I think. There we were in the boiling heat of the day, our lives reduced to the simple acts of cycling, drinking, eating and sleeping – and occasionally turning our phones on for messages from loved ones. For me at least: I didn’t think about my job, I didn’t worry about money, life wasn’t complicated. We lived in a bubble of 52 others and our world had become very small. And then the accident made me realise what we were doing was a little bit dangerous. I associate dangerous with dancing on a rooftop, with playing chicken on a motorway – not the moderately-challenging activity of cycling through equatorial Africa where you don’t see a living thing for miles.
The evening cooled down and I wore long sleeves for all the right reasons. A campfire was erected too and we huddled around it, getting ever closer to its flying ash, as the night drew in after dinner.
We chatted – about the accident, about the trip so far, and about our lives back home. I tried a beer but after a few sips I really regretted it. Dammit. It was Kilimanjaro instead of Tusker – a new beer I was too ill to enjoy.
At about 9pm I retired to bed.
Sally’s spirit shone through her debacle, after one day in the jeep resting she was a bit stiff but raring to go and got back on the bike. Amazing lady!
More soon x