Our entry into Kenya was through the post-apocalyptic border town of Moyale, which provided nothing more than a list of compelling reasons to depart as swiftly as possible. Since beginning this trip we had debated the feasibility of the notorious northern Kenya stretch, as it presented perhaps the most pressing security concerns of anywhere we were planning to ride. We had taken advice from several sources as we neared the border, and after much deliberation we decided not to play our part in that unappealing game of Kidnap & Ransom, and instead, take a bus from Moyale to Isiolo. Given the information we received and the considerable military presence we observed en route, there is either a very tangible threat in this region, or a very paranoid Kenyan State. In the end it was an easy decision.
Upon reflection however, it may have indeed been preferable to take our chances with the bandits and negotiate our own ransom, given the moderately terrifying experience delivered by our Kenyan bus driver. At the beginning of the journey our biggest concern was whether our bikes would survive the bumpy ride in one piece. Upon arrival in Isiolo though, we were simply pleased to be stepping off at our intended destination. If you ever find yourself needing to make this journey, there is almost certainly a more desirable alternative than the lunatic drivers that operate this route.
Once back on the bikes and making our way up the foothills of the beautiful Mount Kenya, it was easy to see why this place was the former jewel of British colonisation efforts in Africa. It also felt as though we had finally left behind Northern Africa and crossed a frontier into a very different part of the continent; with conveniences and language no longer such a challenge, and where we were relieved to be generating far less attention as we rolled through each village.
However, things didn’t improve much on the road. Within the first forty Kenyan kilometres, a particularly impatient and incompetent driver decided that my panniers would look better on the roadside, and my front wheel would work better shaped like a pretzel. After knocking half the peloton onto the verge, he fled the scene immediately (like the gracious gentleman he surely was), leaving behind a shaken rider, an unrideable bike, and equipment in need of some considerable duct tape attention. This was a low point.
In the aftermath of the incident however, as irritated as we were by the clown behind the wheel (of the black Probox, registration KBR115M), we were equally overwhelmed by the kindness of Kenyan locals who represented the antithesis of the moronic driver. Most notably, was the outrageously efficient Victor Mbuthia, who took it upon himself to collect the fractured wheel rim from us and return it as-good-as-new within a couple of hours – and this, in a town where the technical section of the bike shop stocked only baskets and bells. What’s more, Victor then took us on a cycle tour of the Mount Kenya Game Ranch to showcase the region’s highlights; Africa’s second highest peak and its abundant wildlife. Should you ever visit this region, Victor runs bicycle safaris around Mount Kenya, and if our experience with him is anything to go by, they’ll be a well-oiled and worthwhile outing.
We made our way from Mount Kenya to the chaotic sprawl of Nairobi – a city in that would test even the most hardened urban cyclist – where we were fortunate enough to spend Christmas with our friends Jon & Jude, who provided a much needed recuperation for our bodies and bikes; which seemed to be broken in equal measure.