Having fun on epic Kenyan roads and human-like baby elephants

Last two weeks we were cycling a lot. This was the longest stretch of cycling without having a day off.
After we have reached Kisumu we found a nice mini apartment where lovely hosts “tricked” us into staying there for 6 days. They were so nice by showing us around and the area was so tranquil that we kept extending our stay at Kisumu.

Our survival kit.

After lots off lazying around and eating many kilograms of sweets we felt that we had enough and it’s time to hit the road again. We also walked around and did some very cool kayaking in Victoria lake. Saw happy hipos and kingfishers. I think our first zebra was spotted also near this lake. But like with many comfortable and lazy things it is good to shake it up once in a while.

Our next destination was Nakuru. After we left Kisumu we hit some ~50 km plains. It was truly flat streatch and I think the longest and the flatest we had in Kenya so far. These were a very fast kilometers 🙂 The interesting thing is that cycling in Ethiopia also in Kenya is always hilly and mountainous. Up and down, up and down. Forget about having a flat and boring bike ride in thsese countries. If anything boring can be so these never ending hils! Or just the fact that it’s so hilly and you not getting a lot of terrain variation makes it frustrating sometimes. The good thing – no 50 kilometers are the same in East Africa. If the terrain is challenging then you get to enjoy the people or the nature around you or even the quality of the road surface brings you a new excitement!

In Nakuru we got our first Couchsurfing experience. We have stayed with lovely ladies and the kids. Had lovely conversations, shared local foods and lots of laughter.

Cracking rim, cracking earth

That day our first spoke just broke. The rear wheel slowly started failing. After closer inspection we have noticed that Velocity Dually rim started cracking. First by the spoke holes and later rim side walls started showing the splitting gaps. So I have replaced broken spoke with the hope that the wheel will last until we reach Nairobi. Almost two weeks to pedal and another 750 km to go until this happens.

Next day we decided to cycle around lake Elmenteita. The road goes in between Lake Nakuru National Park and concervancies surrounding Lake Elmenteita. We were hoping that being so close to protected wilderness areas will allow us to spot some wildlife. We were not disappointed – that day we saw our first buffalo, more zebras, various gazelles and antilopes. Giraffe was spotted too as well as bunch of strangest birds. This gave us more confidence that not all the wildlife is poached in Kenya. Also when choosing our future route we could seek roads less traveled that traverse numerous concervancies around Mt Kenya or Samburu lands.

By the Lake Elmenteita we stopped at Eagles Point and camped at the most gorgeous campsite, on the cliff overlooking the lake and surrounded by Nakuru hills and low hanging clouds. There were a small number of Lesser Flamingos keeping our company in the distance and we were wandering are they really that pink? The sun was setting and we got another adventure – torrential rain. It was pouring cats and dogs almost all night. In the morning we were happy that rain stopped as our tent was hesitantly but surely starting to welcome some raindrops inside.

We have crossed equator three times while in Kenya!

Our final destination was probably the highlight of everything that we saw in Kenya. Reteti Elephant Sanctuary located in Samburu lands is the most fascinated elephant rescue project that is run by local Samburu community. It is unique and it’s mission is to reunite orphan elephant calves with their mothers or to return them back to their native lands, was enough to motivate us to bike these 800 km.

Do we really need to ride this?!

We continued north via Nyahururu and at the village of Gwakungu we took a little shortcut towards Nanyuki. Shortcut is called road C76. This so called road is another dirt track that sometimes is so beat up that you wander why it’s even called a road. OK, out of 78 km some stretches are not very bad but some are just mud puddles or pothole on top of the pothole and this can last for many kilometers 🙂 Now I just smile remembering this MOAB (mountain bike meka in USA) worthy challenge. Riding it was so much fun most of the time sometimes with a good dose of pain after you are furiously bouncing on top of the bike for a half an hour or more. Worth mentioning that first half of this streatch is generally downhill so that helps you get more motivated to pick this road.

Another strong motivator for exploring off the beaten track is that by doing so, you have a slightly better chance of sporting some wildlife. We can confirm that for example road between Nakuru and Elmenteita or road C76 that leads into Nanyuki cuts through conservancies and there are some wild animals around. Zebras, buffalo, giraffe, various antilopes and warthog is quite easy to see even from the side of the road.

Traveling further North, via Isiolo we rode into Samburu lands. It gets less populated and the place is reminiscent of a milder version of Turkana. Maybe due to seasonal factors savanah looked green. The nearby mountains were like a rain cloud factory and the area was enjoying some precipitation. Concervancies in this area are known for the elephants and this is the main attraction for the safari goers. Samburu people are considered as fierce warriors although in modern times their ferocity gets to manifest itself less and in a different ways. They are beautifully dressed with various bold colors and patterns decorating their capes and other pieces of clothing. Ears are heavily pierced with many earrings and the number of beaded necklaces is just astounding. The more jewelry Samburu women wears the greater her social status is.

The purpose of our visit to Samburu lands was to see Reteti Elephant Sanctuary which is located within remote Matthew’s range at Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy. Reteti is a new elephant conservation initiative established in 2016. It was designed to rescue and release orphaned and abandoned elephant calves whilst employing local staff from surrounding communities. Apportunities crieted manifests itself very forcefully through local Samburu women working as equals hand in hand with their male counterparts. For a women to have a professional job outside her household goes counter the long established traditions. Little did Samburu men know that “what men can do, a women can do better”. These were the words of women working at Reteti.

But the main benefit receivers and it’s star attraction are about dozen baby elephants. They were resqued and brought to Reteti to recover, get stronger and learn some new survival skills before they are being reliesed back into the wild.

We had an apportunity to observe their feeding and play time activities. These little clumsy quties were rushing towards their human – mothers as fast as they could. Mothers were ready with giant milk bottles, which baby elephants hugged eagerly with their everything-capable trunks. They were sucking the milk with such delight that even you can hear them oinking and champing like it was delivered straight from the elephant’s paradise.
After yummy lunch it is a PLAY Time!!!! One by one our clumsy friends rolled into their mud hole and started covering themselfs with multiple layers of clay like mud. And the best way to do this? – Well, while crashing into your playmate and trying to push them (and yourself) down into the mud. Or you can try to roll yourself on top of others who are already trunk deep inside the mud!

After this delightful performance, unvillingly, me and Igna packed ourselves and took off back to civilization. I have to mention if you will try to get to Reteti, just be aware that the last 18 km that goes off the hihgway into the bush does not have any signage. Locals barely speak any English so how to find the place is your own challenge. We had mapped the “Reteti road” and I will try to attach a KMZ file sometime later but if you in a rush, just email me and might be able share it with you.

Road to Reteti

It was another 4 days until we have finally reached Nairobi. We had some lovely bush camping and later cycled via Meru until Nairobi. That highway is full of challenging rolling hills. Although they were not the highest mountains on our trip but the steepness of the terrain was very challenging and made us push the bike quite a bit. It was something we got used to by now 🙂 The trafic was intensive at times so be ready although nothing too dramatic.
We were looking forward to be back on the highway as this comes with small pleasures like Mandazi, Coke and beans and rice.

Sometimes we get up to 15 thorns in one tire (!). You can see how tire sealant is doing its magic here.

Our hard working rear tire started to fail completely and we noticed the bump that popped up on that tire some 40 km left to go. The bump was getting bigger with each passing kilometer so we decided to hitch hike for the truck to get us to Nairobi. We successfully stopped one but maybe due to miscommunication or to plain greed from both sides we could not agree on the final price for the service. We and our bike were on the truck already (as I clearly confirmed the expected paiment before boarding it) but soon our driver started to ask for more money and we just plainly refused. After failed negotiations he just let us go and we had to bite the bullet and to cycle remaining 30 km through poorest parts of Nairobi. Crossing the whole city was fascinating experience as we navigatet through some tight traffic jams, sometimes using even the sidewalks and drivers were very friendly to us, giving enough safe distance accompanied with wide smiles and encouraging greetings. I do not want to chinksit but the so called to be “worst” parts of our cycling trip turned out to be just as nice or even better than predictable highlights. I am talking here about “Ethiopian kids”, “crazy road trafic”, “challenging terrain”, “ethnical/gang violence” etc. I understand and very much appreciate the pure luck factor with having it relatively easy but regardless of all scaremongaring I think the “dangers” are exaggerated and with proper coution and common sense you most likely will have an amazing time on the bicycle here.
Next for us is to get some rest in Nairobi while visiting our Kenyan family and exploring the city itself.

As always you are welcome for more pictures on Flickr.

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