“What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life.”
Since reading that it was possible to cycle around Kilimanjaro last year while following Peter Gostelow I’d been keen to cycle the same route around the mountain to Kenya.
I spent almost a week in the bustling and over run with tourists and touts Moshi. The small rainy season is in full flow now and I spent many days wondering if it was going to be possible to cycle this dirt road. In the end resorting to checking out weather forecasts to see if there might be a dry spell when the road would dry a little and be passable.
It is impossible to walk the streets of Moshi without hearing the call of “My friend do you want…..” Or people trying to make friends with you in the hope of leading you to their shop or tour agency. Luckily the tone is generally friendly and not too hard core. Whilst in Moshi I briefly had the company of a French cyclist and later a couple of cyclists from Korea. The chance to swap stories and tips over a few beers is always a unique pleasure when on the road.
With a little confusion as to which route around the mountain was the dirt road and a little confusion riding back and forth to Himo I finally headed back via Moshi to cycle the road to the West of Kilimanjaro.
Whilst on my way I was passed by several Land rover’s filled with 4-6 locals and 1 or 2 Mzungu tourists off to climb Kilimanjaro. I found myself wondering why 2 people need so much support? 1. guide, 2. Cook, 3-4 Porters 5. Shoe fastener ? 6. Bum wiper?
Once the tar road stopped at Sanya juu what followed were two of the best days cycling since Namibia. Stunning views of the Savanna below, tough cycling over gravel and mud and lunch with friendly Massai people.
With of course the occasional hour hiding from the thunder storms in disused buildings.
Because of the cooler climate of the higher altitude and the rainy season parts of the route felt as though I was cycling through the Yorkshire dales. Green grass, blossom filled trees and white houses. The cool air a constant reminder that the rains would start at any time.
It was a pleasure to see the Massai on there own land being Massai rather than the ones I’d seen in town being a tourist attraction.
Thanks to the occasional thick forest I was able to have a peaceful night sleep in the bush.
I arrived at the border town of Rongai just before lunch. Though not an official border crossing it does have an immigration office. After one hour of waiting, asking around and sending out search parties it was obvious the immigration officer was sleeping off a hangover somewhere and wasn’t planning on coming to work for one exit stamp.
A little worried I headed down the mountain on a small forest track to Loitokitok and found the immigration/police station just before leaving town. It didn’t take the sober Kenyan immigration officer long to point out I didn’t have an exit stamp from Tanzania.
I explained the situation and he was sympathetic but insisted I go to the main border crossing at Hassit to get an exit stamp. After the hard cycling of the previous days I was in no mood to cycle the 11km back to Tanzania and come back again. The immigration guy then suggested I just get a taxi there and back and he would watch over my bike, he then went to the trouble of calling me a taxi and arranging a fixed price.
Two hours later after two taxi rides, a motor cycle taxi ride, some border hopping, money troubles, illegally going back into Tanzania once I had my exit stamp, and a big argument with a taxi driver about how much I had to pay him for waiting for me at the border I was back at Loitokitok. I had my exit stamp, Kenyan visa ($50) and some Kenyan shillings. All’s well that ends well.
I then cruised the 15km down hill to the next town where I found a €5 hotel room and some cold beer.
The next day I rode the 85km to Emali, a small smelly truck stop town on the main Mombasa-Nairobi highway. The ride was almost as spectacular as the previous days though much easier.
Kilimanjaro to my rear, Savanna and dozens of Giraffe’s left and right, dozens of different beautifully coloured birds flying over head and a quiet tar road to my front. If the wind had been a little more friendly it would have been the perfect day cycling.
At one point I was within 10m of two Giraffes, sadly they didn’t hang around long enough for a photo.
And that was four very tough but very rewarding days of cycling around Kilimanjaro from Moshi to Emali. Now for a week cycling dirt roads to Naivasha then its all over…….