Paxtu Lodge

Taking the back roads meant we could visit Paxtu lodge, the home of Olive and Baden Powell, the founders of the Scout and Girl Guide movements. A special place to visit for us, and a fascinating little snapshot into their lives.

Cycling in the clouds

As we headed south from Nanyuki we no longer had the roads to ourselves, and quickly learnt that Kenyan drivers are the worst we’ve experienced so far. It was time to get ourselves off the main road and into the tea growing hills. This meant some extremely short sharp climbs down into and back out of the clouds!

If it’s only going to rain once…it would be at the equator!

At 6.30am on Sunday, we made it to the equator. This momentous occasion was marked with us celebrating alongside bus loads of teenagers having an equatorial party – clearly it was still Saturday night for them. We thought everyone would be at church on a Sunday morning!

Having sweated our way from the UK, cursing the heavy waterproofs at the bottom of our panniers which have only seen daylight once in Germany, they finally resurfaced – at the equator of all places! The 15 minute light shower was certainly not worth the faff of putting them on, but we were determined to feel as though it had been worth carrying them all this way.

Samburu riding school

People often ask for a ride on our bikes, and we have a bank of excuses as to why that wouldn’t be such a good idea (too big, too heavy, too hilly…). However when a couple of guys from the Samburu tribe quietly and politely asked if they could have a go, we couldn’t refuse. Hoisting themselves onto the bike as if it were a horse (nearside pedal first) was a sight to be seen – they certainly don’t have anything under their skirts.

Locusts hitching a ride on the bike

Never would I have said that I was scared of creepy crawlies, but this was certainly the worst hour spent on the bike so far – I would happily have taken a battering of stones from the Ethiopian children.

Riding along in the desert we hit a swarm of locusts. There wasn’t anything in the sky, but instead they created a carpet on the road. First just one, then two….before we knew it there were thousands. As we rode along they had to jump out of the way, bouncing into our ears and making themselves comfortable on the toes of our shoes 😖!! Several days later we were puzzled to see bright yellow trees in the distance. We assume it must be some sort of blossom. As we drew closer a big cloud covered the sky….a a spectacle of locusts. Luckily they kept themselves to themselves this time.

As much as these creatures made me squirm, and provided James with excellent entertainment, on a more serious note they are causing havoc across east Africa. We saw many farmers attempting to spray their crops, but talking to them they are very worried about the destruction that is being caused.

Many people are pointing the finger at government corruption leading to ineffective spraying of crops, however it’s clear that climate change has had a major impact on this unprecedented invasion.

Record speed

We love Kenya, but the north is certainly not easy. One morning we were excited about our short ride of just 35km up to Marsabit and then enjoying a restful afternoon. Instead, that day we broke our slowest speed record, averaging a whopping 5mph 🐌. The wind was so strong that we could barely keep the bikes upright as we gained 900m of altitude up into the National Park.

We at least had some pretty cool volcanic scenery to keep us entertained, including a ginormous crater.

No one told us there would be another desert!

Pwah! What a place. We’d focused so much energy on cycling through Ethiopia that we hadn’t taken a moment to think about what was coming ahead in Kenya, we just assumed it would be much easier.

A desert in Kenya? No one ever warned us about that. We thought we’d left the camels behind in Sudan. Not only did we face hundreds of kilometres of desert ahead, but the heat was immense, and barely dropped even in the evenings, leaving us to sweat away in our tent.

We quickly had to get back into the habit of planning how much water we needed, not always sure when the next settlement would be. Flagging down a car for help wasn’t really a good option either as we seemed to be the only ones on the road. We drank 14 litres of water between us on one day – and went for a pee just once!! We’d been warned about the Somali bandits on this stretch, but the only people we came across there the magnificently beaded Samburu and Borano tribes.

Goodbye Ethiopia

Goodbye Ethiopia – it’s been one hell of an experience! We will certainly miss the lush mountains and long smooth empty roads.

…we won’t miss this quite so much though. The sour, soggy, fermented pancake, eaten three times a day, every day by locals.

Youyouyouyou

Here are the faces of two extremely sweaty, exhausted cyclists, overjoyed to be catching a rare moment of peace on the Ethiopian roads.

This country has undoubtably given us some of the most beautiful and fun cycling of the trip, but it’s been tough, both physically and mentally.

We’ve cycled through the country to the broken record of ‘youyouyou’, ‘moneymoneymoney’, and ‘ChinaChinaChina’. When we’re not being mistaken as Chinese (who have a heavy presence in the country building infrastructure), our identity is diminished to that of ‘farangie’ (white person). We can see how Ethiopia has produced some of the world’s top athletes, given the speed and stamina of the children chasing after us with their cow whips, rocks, and most impressively – attempting to javelin a stick through our back wheels.

Up to Addis, we thought we’d smashed it. Always smiling, waving and joking with the little monsters. But as we moved south our patience wore thin. Every morning felt like we were jeering ourselves up for the battlefield ahead.

We thought we were relatively gentle and polite people – but clearly not. Never have we screamed and sweared so much and so many people!

In all truth, it’s been nowhere near as bad as we expected. We only hitchhiked once towards the end of a day after James went utterly ballistic at a whole village who stood and watched him get whipped by a child with a banana branch whilst he was whizzing down a hill and being overtaken by a bus 😂. It was time to call it a day.

But Kenya is now on the horizon 🥳!

Stuck in the mud

We are still incredibly grateful for having had only one day of rain whilst cycling since we left the UK, however for the first time in months we had some rain overnight. This causes no problems for us until we hit several kms of dirt road which had turned into a mud river. With no other option we jumped off the bikes and dragged them along the road. An hour later and back on tarmac our bikes needed a full wash down to be able to cycle anywhere. Three kind men spotted we needed help, and helped us get to work with buckets of soapy water and sponges…this of course couldn’t be done without the usual Ethiopian audience.