Dated: 17 APR 18
I’m sweating, a pain grips my side, the traffic which rumbles past is just a distant sound as it rattles on the road, this is possibly the biggest mountain I have attempted to scaled so far and its testing me to breaking point. This morning I left Nairobi and headed north towards Mt Kenya. Leaving the capital was no picnic either, cycling along a motorway with four lanes of interchanging traffic which at times expanded to eight lanes on either side was like a high stakes game of dodgems.
Eight days off and I feel like an old bag of bones, my knees are aching almost as much as my bike is struggling. The chain is so over stretched that it has worn the chain ring into jagged teeth with the occasional one missing and the over bight means that it occasionally lurches as the chain slips with a metallic grind; which makes me grit my teeth. With just ten days riding left in Africa I pray that it holds out.
I need to take a break, a five minute breather to catch my breath before I consume this mountain. I put down my cutlery, mop my brow with my napkin and sit back cradling my over bloated sized stomach. Mary pops her head round the corner, smiling I sit back and attempt to look relaxed. Why didn’t I tell her that I had already eaten dinner? At this point I also regret my afternoon beans and rice which seems somewhat gluttonous now.
I just couldn’t pass up eating some more of the generous African hospitality. In front of me still sits a mound of nshima, almost two fried eggs (perfectly crispy around the edges), tomatoes, veggies and yet more nshima. It is enough to feed two and normally I would tackle it with no problem but as I’ve already said I’ve already eaten, twice. But I must grit my teeth and get it down me for I would not want to cause offence. At least there is no milk to wash it down with.
I have very few stresses in life, break downs being the most frequent. But on long days finding a good campsite is the source of my woes. Out in the bush it isn’t a problem but It is particularly problematic in overly populated areas where there isn’t a good bush in sight. I don’t relish the though of cycling at night in search of a good patch of grass.
Mary is a sweet old lady, when I arrived at her door step she was sat in a rocking chair on her veranda over looking the valley below. She is short with a slight curve in her back so she is for ever leaning forward, slick white hair pulled tight pulls her forehead taught. She welcomes me saying, “one night or a week, make your self at home. This is your home now.” What a gem.
After dinner there is no small talk, she sends me off to bed but not before she has examined my tent. Clutching her chest she tells me that as a mother and a grandmother she cant bare the thought of one of her children sleeping in that small thing, and that I am her child for the night. She and her husband own a large dairy farm with plenty of rooms but I insist that I can easy fit in the confines of my tent albeit that I cant fully stretch out. So I politely pass up the offer of a bed but I do agree to a cuppa in the morning; I am actually quite looking forward to a night in the tent. Its my space.
Though on unzipping the fly sheet I regret my refusal as it has turned into a insectarium; more precisely a spiders nest. They say that in your sleep you eat eight spiders in a life time, I really don’t want my fill on an already stretched stomach in a single night. They are only small, just the size of a little finger nail, black with white spots on their pulsation abdomens, oh and of course eight hairy legs. I did not relish the task of ejecting them using a plastic bag as a glove.
After a spider free sleep I sit down for a coffee, ready for the day I’m hoping to catch my first glimpse of Mt Kenya. Considering that I am just 20 miles from the summit I am annoyed that I haven’t sighted it already but it was overcast and raining cats and dogs yesterday. Anthony son of Mary tells me over breakfast that the mountain isn’t as beautiful as it used to be, they can rarely see snow on the peak anymore but I their childhood it was snow capped all year round.
As I pack up my belongings and evict one last spider a steady stream of people pause to watch me as they walk down the track to Mary’s dairy farm; they are carrying plastic bottles or even old fashion steel milk churns to collect their daily dosage of milk. The farm seems to be a focal point of the community where people congregate, chat, gossip and mingle and at its centre is Mary.