That was a pretty decent night’s sleep. No doubt the whiskey did its part. Up and moving, we kitted up and headed for the nearest duka to stock up on water. We know from experience, it’s hot in the Suguta Valley. We left our “house” - the part of our kit that holds off-bike stuff - at the camp so we could be a tad nimbler, but you can’t skimp on water. We each had 4 litres for the day.
Above: The water spot in Nachola. How many kids do you think that village has in it if this is the small sample we managed to amass?
I’ve been in contact with the local Turkana administrator for Baragoi Ward (everyone else in the ward is Samburu, so you can imagine the politics). He’s had it up to his eyeballs with his fellow tribesmen being shot at by Samburu while they make their way to and from Baragoi and Loiyangilani, so he’s taken it upon himself to build a road linking the two trading centres that bypasses Tuum, South Horr and the kali Samburu there. It’s a brilliant move, and one that has just opened a wonderful road down to Lake Logipi, a place I tried (and failed, and nearly died of heat stroke) to reach on another epic ride in 2017. It’s worth a look: HERE’s the link. So we set off on it in the early light and were blown away.
Above: Recently graded, the road is in excellent nick, but it’s a tricky one… they were obviously not building it for high speeds… you can crest a hill and find an off-camber turn waiting for you on the other side! There was so much up and down you almost felt seasick while riding!
Above: But the views were stunning and had a totally primitive feel to them. Legitimately very few people have seen these views considering the place had no access, so we were seeing what only herders on foot see.
Above: As the track progressed, we dipped deeper into the northern end of the Suguta Valley and the heat crawled up the canyons to meet us.
Above: Some acacia were in bloom with brilliant white flowers that gave them the impression of being covered in snow
Above: The road follows a ridge in many places affording amazing views of the valley, not unlike Fish River Canyon in Namibia. Cheap cameras don’t do it justice of course.
Above: Not a shred of garbage to be seen, no homesteads, no burned trees. Not for long. Not now that there’s a road. But it’s very harsh there, so maybe it’ll take some time.
Above: We were jazzed up by the riding and the views. Even though it is a freshly graded track, it’s rough and not without seriously tricky spots. They’d get trickier on the descent to the valley floor.
Above: Beautiful. And the views are nice too.
Above: No thought has been put into what happens when it rains, so I expect this road to be in a rough state soon. All the better for us.
Above: Panic and his bike and way in the distance, cathedral rock in the middle of what looks like a totally dry Lake Logipi.
Above: Holesaw rattles over the rocks
Above: Nearing the end of the descent, the heat is upon us and the dust builds.
Above: Without the road, there’d be no biking in here
Above: Panic making good time in a feshy section
Above: Leaving a nice con-trail as he goes
Above: Wry’s cockpit view. Funky eroded formations, different coloured stone everywhere
Above: Gave me the urge to give it the berries
Eventually we were basically at valley floor level, some 250m or so above sea level. The road works had more or less fizzled out and there were only a couple of 4x4 tracks to follow. I picked one that took us through the deep sand out to the scrubby bush that colonizes the washes and rubble fields uphill of the highly variable lake shore. We stopped for a bit at a rough section of sand and stones, and I declared I’d just see if I could find a way through it. Off I went, and went, and went. It was obvious I’d found my way. I saw the road workers who waved me down (guns on shoulders, smiles on faces) and told me they’re not done with the next section yet, but I could try to ride the lake bed to the old exit track I failed to ride a few years back. That settled it. I bee-lined it for the lake shore to see what I could see.
Above: The end of the track, time to pick a line
Above: Wry on the open sand beds
Above: We stopped at a river inlet full of large stones. I decided to try to find a way through from here.
Above: Panic in Suguta Valley, shores of Lake Logipi
Above: I'll have you know I was legitimately scouting for routes up there… you know, like a meercat
Above: When I left, the other three parked up in the lee side of a massive stone wall in the shade. Apparently, they thought I’d be back soon. I was thinking, since I kept going, that they’d follow me, if only to make sure I wasn’t dead…
Above: As luck would have it, my bee-lining to the lake shore led me directly to a cluster of abandoned flamingo nests. Such an amazing find! Usually, flamingos make their funky little mud nests in ankle-deep, nasty water that deters predators. As the water receded, it left the nests high-and-dry. They looked so alien, as did everything in that place. Totally otherworldly.
Above: I was properly chuffed. I doffed my helmet and waited for the lads, elated!
Above: Meanwhile, the guys were still waiting for me to either come back or be good and dead by the time they went to find me.
Eventually, I retraced my tracks through the scrub (an odd bush that gave off an acrid smell not unlike burning clutch plates or stockpiles of fertilizer in a warehouse…) and found them just on the verge of coming to my rescue. Nevermind, I had found what we were looking for, so allez! Are we riding or are we sitting in the shade?
Above: Holesaw at the shade-up, and them coming onto the plain
Above: Through the acrid smelling bushes and deep sand toward the lake bed proper
Above: Holesaw makes his appearance on the lakebed, aiming for the flamingo nests
Above: Another milestone. Another group shot.
Looking north from the flamingo nests, we had an amazing view of the totally dry lake bed, a jumble of black basalt stones on the right we dubbed the pyramid and Cathedral Rock on the left, backed up by the barrier volcano that has kept Lake Turkana from spilling into Suguta Valley for the last several eons. This was untouched territory. Helicopter tours, a few safaris, maybe a few herders, maybe the really rough 4x4 guys, but I’d wager damn few motorbikes have ridden in there. In any case, we felt like the first (and will probably claim it until proven otherwise). Our plan then was to ride carefully to make sure the lake bed was truly dry, aiming toward the pyramid, then arcing over to Cathedral Rock, the real star of the Logipi pan.
Above: Making our way along the pan, feeling for the tell-tale drag-and-slip of mud just below the surface that can really ruin your day
Above: The pyramid, getting close
Above: Cathedral Rock floating on its own mirage reflection. To the far north (right in the pic) there was some water with flamingos in it, and my previous trip had me guessing if it would be wet, it’d be wet near the Rock
Above: Panic in the pan
Above: Wry taking off with a bit of roost. Between pyramid and Cathedral Rock, we hit two small patches of black, slick mud under the surface. The surface colour changed when it was wet, so we began to navigate around on the lightest-coloured surfaces.
Above: Wry on the other side of what would have been a bike-swallowing section of mud
Above: This is the colour of dry lakebed
Above: Dry or not, the surface tugs at the wheel in places and rockets you forward in others
I was in the lead, bee-lining it for Cathedral Rock. All was going fine until I got a bit too close and then both tyres of the Pig started wandering and the engine began to labour and roar. I was riding into a huge mud field. Only thing to do is be very serious about not stopping or falling down. I kept the revvs up to throw a massive roost and keep my momentum going while I made a very polite and gentile turn back toward the others who wisely waited on dry land for my return. If I’d stopped and gotten stuck out there, I think they’d have left me to die (then Holesaw would have returned to steal my forks).
Above: Returning after my roosty loop in the mud
Above: That black stuff was very sticky indeed. All day long it would break loose and fly around the bike and me
I’d gotten close to the Rock, but not all the way. Wry led us a bit further then made one more valiant but muddy-scrambled effort to reach the not-very-distant beach under the black and gold cliffs, before we decided to give it up. Could you try for it? Yes. Could you also spend all day digging yourself out again? Also yes. We had other things to explore, so we enjoyed the view, got some pics and headed back to the edge of the lake shore. I wanted to go as far North as we could. We were 2km or so from the end of my failed track from 2017.
Above: Holesaw at the Cathedral Rock stopping point
Above: Wry on his aborted mission… As usual the pictures make you second guess the decision. But the pictures fail to show 1) distance 2) remoteness 3) depth and difficulty of that mud and 4) heat… it only takes a few stalled and stuck bikes down there to completely destroy you physically.
Above: A number of times we wished for drones and go-pros on this trip. I ordinarily don’t want to mess with it, but man it was the place to have one. So, I rode with one hand and got these pics instead. Panic on his way back to the Pyramid then up the lakeshore
Above: Wry and Holesaw exiting the gravitational pull of Cathedral Rock
The trek to the North didn’t last very long. In no time we found ourselves cracking through the top layer into black mud below. It looked vaguely possible to rattle along the stones on the shore, but again, cost benefit analysis suggested it wasn’t worth it. We’d already agreed that if there was any reason not to continue, we’d ride back and climb the pyramid. I’m really glad we did.
Above: We got into more mud than it was worth fighting… and we had two kms to go around the corner
Above: Sure, you could maybe ride on the rocks or right at the edge of the track. Maybe next time.
Above: Instead, we climbed that pyramid, a black conglomeration of stone jutting out of the lake bed like an iceberg in a vast dust sea. Good place to escape from sand worms I’d suspect.
Above: And what a view it afforded us
Above: Unlike Suguta’s dune surfing Black Cone, this hike is quite a bit easier and maybe shorter, but still afforded amazing views
Above: The basalt stone was covered in lower reaches with a mineral deposit that looked like adobe or concrete spackle. We assume it’s from eons of the lake level coming up and down, depositing minerals on the stones as it does. For all I know, this will be the last time this century the lake is dry enough to ride on it. Is it wrong of me to hope so?
Above: Wry is chuffed
Above: The bikes look like toys, and our tracks are barely visible on the sand
Above: My father and I enjoying a laugh on the Logipi Pyramid
Amazingly, Wry had a good idea. He suggested three of us hike back down, get on the bikes and do a bit of a loop away from the Pyramid while he took some pics/vids. That’s when we got this amazing shot:
And this one:
And from down below, Wry looked like a little stick figure on the Pyramid… so, like usual… but on a pyramid…
We were stoked with the ride thus far, but it was time to get rolling. We had to get to Maralal before dark, and that meant saying good bye to Logipi for another year. We retraced our steps along the shore, went a bit farther down, cut in and started our climb. As Panic predicted, however, escaping from Lake Logipi would be a lot more challenging than coming in.
Above: Parting shots on the pyramid
Above: Harsh climate… not even all the flamingos make it
Above: We rolled out in the blasting afternoon sun, hoping to climb out of the heat and get to Maralal before dark
Above: The track, though very rideable, is new and consequently very soft. We spun our wheels a lot moving up and out of that place
Above: Holesaw making good time
Finally, one of us screwed the pooch. It was Wry. Instead of taking the obvious line on a deeply rutted, rocky and feshy spot, he picked the doofus line and stalled the bike. I came past him like an enduro legend, and shouted as much as I roared past him, up the hill and around the corner. Looking back, I made two errors of judgement there… for one thing, my witty shouts of “JUST LIKE JARVIS CRUSHING THE MUPPETS, HAHAHA!” fell on deaf ears as Wry was wearing ear plugs and my bike is really, really loud, and also, riding all the way up the hill was a mistake because if I was to then need to help him out, I’d have to walk all the way back down and up again… alas… I was caught in the heat of the moment.
Sure enough, after five minutes, I figured Wry needed help and slowly, painfully walked back to sort him out. What a sight… bike down, man utterly exhausted. I had to get a pic. Of course, he didn’t think that was necessary, but I document these rides warts and all. It’s for posterity. Together, we heaved the bike upright and I waddled her back down the hill to where it was a bit flatter. Just doing that and I was winded. Then, to start her back up from a flood required a few kicks, so that further winded me. I then rode her up to a flat spot as Wry was still pooped from his exertion, and that left me properly knackered.
Which is a reminder: We only get away with riding here because we go in groups of strong riders and we don’t fall down often. It’s not for amateurs. It’s hard work and you can get it wrong and have a serious problem. It was hot, but nothing like it can be, and heat stroke can bite you in the ass in no time.
Above: My shot of Wry letting his bike take a rest from a long day. A gentleman would have offered her a bit of shade…
After that little ordeal, we mostly just roared out of the valley and back to camp. I recovered after a bit and felt 100% again, but it only takes one or two more episodes like that to push you over the edge. Anyway, off we went, higher into cooler air. We stopped at the camp for lunch and just couldn’t stop talking about Logipi. It was amazing. Also, every one of us had polished off our water which means each rider needs 6L to go in and out safely, and double that or more to overnight. So there is no travelling light in there.
Above: Panic on the way back
Above: At the camp for lunch, a short rest and then onward
Because the day was not yet over! We still had a couple hours rip to Maralal from Baragoi. So, without much fanfare, we just twisted it on. The road is a screamer and we let it scream. Instead of taking the road directly to Maralal, we always go to Barsaloi to avoid a known bandit corridor… but this time it almost felt like we’d made the wrong choice. Samburu (again) boys and morani were along the road in several places and all of them had guns. Two smaller boys stopped waving and started shouting and pretending to grab stones to throw at us and one very tall guy was right smack in the middle of the road with his AK in his hand above his head… I didn’t know what that meant, so I throttled on and rode straight at him, standing and raising my fist as well like a salute. Eish… it felt good to leave them in the dust.
Above: That’s a fast section you can be sure. And no, Pigs don’t feel those corrugations.
Above: The track is in great nick and gorgeous
Above: Within view of Barsaloi and the Milgis, and hence our road up to Maralal, I could see ominous clouds forming
Above: I consulted with the funky green spikes and they confirmed it, yep, it’s gonna rain on you boys
Above: Having turned at Barsaloi, we were headed right for it. If you haven’t been in a desert when the rain is coming, make sure to do so. That smell is unforgettable. It made us ride faster toward our certain soaking
Above: Gloomier and gloomier
Above: At last, proper rain. We got soaked, and it was cold, but we were within a stone’s throw of our hotel, so spirits were high. Lucky we were on bikes too because construction crews had made this road impassable by car
Above: Wry in the wrain
Arriving in Maralal, we had to find the Ngari Hills Hotel. Wry kept asking how to spell it and I was getting furious with him because you can never tell if he’s being serious or not.
Him: What’s the name of the lodge? Me: Ngari Hills Him: “Um, is it M like Mombasa? Me: No, it’s N. Him: “Say it Phonetically for me…” Me: N, N, fakking ENNNNNN! you asshole, I already told you! Him: Fine, so is it just hotel N, or is there more to it? Me: Wry, I’m going to strangle you! Screw this, I’m going to town to ask.
Ugh, it was insane. Eventually we grabbed a boda and he showed us the way. The place was high on a hill (there) as promised and afforded nice views down to the quite large Maralal town. We showered up and met at the bar for a true celebration. The ride had been amazing. We’d covered a lot of ground in a short time and seen some new and incredible places. The next day we’d all tarmac it back to Nairobi, so from our point of view, the ride was over and it had been great!
Above: Aw, but I was so looking forward to it!
Above: Holesaw enjoying the view
Above: Lovely place, Ngari Hills… weird, but lovely
Above: Parting shot.
As usual, it was a great ride boys. Lobo, sorry you couldn’t finish it with us, but there will be other rides!
Man, what an epic trip!!!
Thanks so much for sharing, I'm sure there are a bunch of very jealous, and frustrated riders living this vicariously, myself included.
Top Notch, as always, Well done, what an adventure!!!!
Many days since returning from Logipi, I’m still thinking about it. Then a poor unfortunate soul who was unable to join us on the ride sent through the following pic:
Above: Our tracks spotted by a helicopter tour operator. I think this is my failed attempt to reach Cathedral Rock… as soon as the mud got sticky, I started making a very smooth, very ginger turn back the way I came. I guess those guys will have to get used to sharing the Valley a bit more than they’re used to, but it’s not like it’s visited often by bikers, the track will vanish after the next rain and for all we know we’ll have mega rains and the lake will fill up for the foreseeable future.
Anyway, since I was uploading pics, I thought I’d put a few more in there to make the other guys look like doofuses.
Above: Wry is actually part insect. Freakish thing, is our Wry.
Above: First thing Holesaw does when he sees the majestic spectacle of the flamingo nests… pretends to drop a deuce in one
Above: A nice example of how NOT to climb out of a rocky place… legs flailing like a GS rider leaving a gravel parking lot
Above: Panic practicing the look he’ll give me if I take us on the wrong track in the heat and the thorns
Above: Wry got confused for a bit… thought his XRR was a Lil’ Push balance bike or something. Feet on the pegs, you noob!
After skipping a year due to Covid-19, it was time to revisit the in-laws in Northern Spain. Asturias, to be exact, a lovely region to ride a motorbike in… if the sun is shining. Fortunately for me, I do have a motorbike and the sun was shining! Happy days! To the mountains then!
Above: My lady, the angry hornet… or perhaps the grumpy gnat. 1999 Vespa 125 in Furia Roja Red. Formerly a Spanish mail delivery bike (originally painted bright yellow with a massive box on the back), it was made in either Spain or Italy (so it’s solid, not like those from India) and had some fancy features for a bike that looks vintage Vespa. First, it has e-start, which I disconnected (starts first kick and the battery added weight), second it has auto-oil delivery, which I disconnected (I absolutely flog this thing and want to be able to go above a bit on the oil), and third it has a disk brake which I absolutely did not disconnect (unlike most Vespas, this baby can stop!). I also added 50cc or so by way of a longer cylinder and con rod setup, and a few HP (small horses) and decibels via a sneaky little exhaust pipe, so she fairly flies (when on flat terrain or going downhill, 100kph is yours for the taking).
But, it wasn’t easy getting the girl on the road this year. First of all, she lives with my buddy who had taken her to Nueva, his summer place near the sea. Secondly, her ITV was expired (… a seriously annoying thing about the “First World” is all the rules… the ITV is a biannual road worthiness thing). Thirdly, this holiday was fraught with family stuff and I was basically a chauffeur… but eventually the guys helped me go get her and I decided to skip the ITV. After all, nobody expects a Vespa rider to be breaking rules, right?
Above: Caito’s Blue 1967 GS 208cc… I love that bike, more character than an old sailor and faster than (almost) any scooter around and most big bikes too in the curves. I like the rat finish patina as well…
Asturias has the weather of Ireland, not of Sevilla or Madrid. So, while most of Spain was melting at 40C, we were thrilled to have sunshine and 25C days. Finally out on two wheels, I filled the tank with fuel and oil and the glovebox with chips and a beer. I was off for my favourite day ride. Truth is, I never really know how to get there. Outside Oviedo the roads just wind up and down and all over the place. The road signs are unhelpful at best because you always have to know the name of the next village along in order to know if you’re going the right way. So, I wing it, and eventually see familiar landmarks.
Above: From Las Caldas, climbing up past Proaza over a long shortcut I like to take that passes Las Xanas I hook a right and start really climbing. Even my short-range gearbox (remember, she was meant for delivering mail, not mountain climbing) and extra 50cc was struggling to keep me in top gear up the hills most of the time. But climb we did. And we climbed and climbed and climbed.
Above: Red and green go well together, no? This is hilarious because I took almost the exact same photo a few years ago: See here: LINK
At last I reached the tippy-top. It’s a place I like because it’s got 360 Degree views and you have to ride a bit of dirt to get there (after all, I’m a Pig rider at heart and always want a bit of dirt regardless of the bike). By a bit of dirt, in this case I mean about 50 meters… and it’s rough, slow going on the little Vespa I assure you, but we make it. I pop open the glove box, grab my snacks and settle in, leaning on the fender, to enjoy the view.
Above: See what I mean about 360 views?
Above: Cheers all, and relax, it’s just a lil’ cervecita, nothing out of the ordinary for Spain
From the top of the climb I bee-lined it back to Oviedo to Caito’s, dumped the bike in his workshop and spent another week with the family at the beach. Sandcastles, sun, swimming, jogging etc behind me, a week later I was back on the bike!
And this time I took her for a proper ride. I dropped the rental car at the station at 11AM and walked to Caito’s with my helmet in hand. Out the door I went with some vague idea to reach some pass or other up in the hills. So off I went, buzzing up the valleys and over the ridges. The scenery is very unique, at least to me, so I kept stopping to enjoy it… and by enjoy it I mean take pics of my Vespa on the roadside.
Above: What a beauty… she makes the scenery better I think
Eventually I ended up on a route leading to Puerto San Llaurienzu which was deceptively steep. My little gal could not do it in top gear… I would hold her wide open in 3rd and upshift only to be told… not so fast, little man, I’m not your Piggy… You rack disciprine! You must exercise patience! So we buzzed and whirred up to the pass where I pulled in for a little snack.
Above: Right near the pass pull-out (where I watched BMW GSs and Honda Gold Wings come and go… like so many fat, happy cows) there were cattle and horses grazing unattended. Then I saw the shepherds… dogs that is… massive ones at that, with matted fur looking like proper beasts… squatting over bushes to shit… I’ve been warned not to confuse these guys with somebody’s porch pissing puppy and gave them their space and made damn sure not to aggravate any of their charges!
Above: The local fauna… big shepherd dog and a horse on the Right… lovely little Vespa de Correos on the Left
Above: Went for a little walk (most of the dirt tracks in Asturias are off-limits to vehicles and you can get a proper fine if you mess around) up the hill to catch a different view away from the Beluga Bike crowd (two GSs and a Goldwing… honestly, I understand the Goldwing more… at least it’s not pretending to be adventurous) and have some chips and a beer under a tree in peace.
After my little pit-stop, I decided to backtrack a scoot to fuel up. I wanted to keep going, but with a small tank and a surprising shortage of fuel stations in small villages up here, I couldn’t risk it (been there before… ran out of gas on the border with Leon once...) So, I set my sights on a new road and took off. More lovely little single-lane tar roads with amazing views were the result.
Above: Little roads in the mountains
Above: Some haystacks in a style many centuries old stacked up out there. Pretty rare these days.
At some point, I ended up on a smaller than usual little track. It was tar, but pretty broken up in places. I was heading down and enjoying swerving around the holes and hearing the grind of gravel beneath my impossibly small and inappropriate tyres. Up ahead, I noticed a helmet coming my way. Another biker! I figured I’d better move well over in case he was ripping along. Nope, far from it! It was a BMW poster child on his 800GS (I think, they all look the same to me), all kitted out with the gear and crash bars and BMW panniers and absolutely crawling around the corner in the full attack position, probably thinking “Okay, keep your elbows bent, butt off the seat, bend your knees but not too much! Be ready for anything! Oh here comes another pothole! Whooo! I made it!” I chuckled, waved and ring-ding-dinged past him… man BMW has done well. And by done well, I mean perpetrated the perfect crime by convincing people they need those bikes.
Above: Heading down to Grado after a lovely day
Back in Oviedo after over 150km hunchbacking it on the Vespa, it was time for my despedida. I spluttered back to Caito’s workshop and we went straight for the bars. A group of other Vesperos showed up and before we knew it the beers and sidra were flowing. Because the guys know everybody in the city, half the drinks were on the house, which only made us order more. Night came and I stumbled home sideways and awoke with a tidy little headache.
Following day or two, after needing to change my plane ticket due to Covid PCR test delay shenanigans, I returned to the workshop and Caito helped me with a plan I hatched ages ago. I want a GPS on my Vespa. I never know where I am and I enjoy exploring small roads, so it’s a must... especially with the small range I have. Now that I have a proper smartphone holder, a mount was needed. The Vespa has a couple of perfect mounting points where the right-hand mirror would go, so we cut a thick piece of steel and I mounted the RAM mount and Hondo Garage Perfect Squeeze and voila! When I get back in a year, I’ll be sorted!
Above: Caito getting busy with the grinder. He first mocked up a test with some sexy, thin steel but it wasn’t up to the task. Needed more girth!
Above: Clearly, this isn’t Panic’s garage… a difference of styles for sure, but the essence is the same.
Above: The final product! My huge 10,000mAh DooGee S88Plus smartphone mounted with the Perfect Squeeze on my Vespa. Come 2022, I’ll be loving it! Unless the Greek alphabet song of Covid variants doesn’t ruin the plan!
A couple weeks ago, Panic’s wife calls: You’ve got to take this man on a ride. I want him out of the house so much, I’ll babysit your kids for 3 nights while your wife is away!
Pause a minute, kind reader, and consider that! A) it's great that Panic's wife actively encourages his riding. She knows it improves his mood and is an integral part of who he is. She doesn't brow-beat him about being away and doesn't make him feel guilty. And B), imagine what an absolute pain in the ass he must be if she's calling me to get him out of the house!
Whether the cause was primarily A or B is immaterial. The plan was hatched. Panic, JimBob and I would take off for 4 days to someplace wild in Kenya. First we considered the Loitas, but then we swung back to parts north. 4 days isn’t quite long enough to get really far, but I had a plan that would keep us very much occupied.
Let’s get started: with this
Above: Panic feeling exponentially less grumpy than he was in Nairobi. By the way, that man just turned 50, so credit where it's due.
What do we want out of a bike ride? In our case, we want big, open, desolate areas with ample opportunity for wide-open braaping and some more difficult sections of rocks, sand or mud. Typically, we want to see new areas, or have a different take on something we’ve done before. Since we opted to head North, we would have to hit tar for the first half day. That meant we were in Maralal Ngari Hills Lodge by beer-O’Clock, thrilled to be out in the fresh air of the countryside. We rested a bit after the beers and headed out for World’s End, a viewpoint down into the Southern Part of Suguta Valley looking roughly toward Kapedo.
Above: First thing was a beer, then a kip, then back on the bikes for an afternoon braap.
The trail out toward World’s End was a ripper, made speedier by the looming presence of a whopping raincloud directly ahead of us. So we didn’t slow down, we didn’t pause to smell the roses. I clearly remember wheat fields which surprised me, glowing green in the afternoon light, with the gloomy clouds black behind. We roared straight at the rain, went to the viewpoint, took some snaps and got the hell out of dodge before all that clay soil stranded us there for the night!
Above: At World’s End. It’s a community campsite that has seen better days and doesn’t offer much. If they would just stock a bar and offer basic food, it’d be an improvement. Or at least give you a way to organize something in advance… we’re in the internet age after all.
Above: Spectacular views through the rain
Above: Panic hoping I’m not planning to linger long
Above: Three bikers keen to be out of town, whatever the weather
After our quick sight-seeing tour, I brought us back to Maralal on a different track that was also spectacularly beautiful in the afternoon light. The place was a blanket of green, kind of a rolling grassland with clusters of trees in the cervices. Everywhere there are signs of property being carved up and sectioned off, cedar posts planted in rows along the road waiting for their barbed-wire links.
The rain made a perfect rainbow for us and since we were in front of the worst of it, by the time we were back, we had dried out.
Above: Beauty… nice rainbow too
Above: Hmmm… it would seem the XRR is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! Can’t argue there
Above: Panic fiddling
Above: One of many steel foot-bridges out here that took the place of a proper bridge when it washed away. Works for us.
Above: Back at the lodge, beers and bullshit flow well into the night.
Slept like the dead in a very comfy bed. Sure, it would be more hard-core to camp somewhere, and maybe even nicer in some respects, but what the hell?
Heavy of head… turns out there was a bit of whisky consumed later on as well… we were on the bikes and heading off the escarpment down a road I’d found long ago but never tried out. This was the perfect opportunity. It seemed very clear on Google Earth, but the imagery was from 2012 and this is Africa. We trundled up through the forest on a really fun and clearly badly abused road. Notably, there were no boda boda tracks, which wasn’t a good sign. Eventually, we dead-ended into thorny scrub amid some African Cedar (that’s where the fence posts are coming from I gather). I briefly considered pressing on, but the track was totally overgrown so we headed back to the usual descent.
Above: Morning light on the trail
Above: Really nice forest track. Cedars, scrub and meadows dotted with elephant poop.
Above: Unfortunately, the road has been completely overgrown… this wouldn’t be a fun way to spend a morning
Above: So we headed back toward Maralal and the track to Oporoi and the Milgis
Above: On the Opopri road… they keep putting concrete on this thing! It’s like a racetrack now… I liked it better when it was a stony mess of a thing
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/pw/AM-JKLWgbw3y9UwCszHQLRg58Wfft-LDXtMpOpGqUqkoLr2RPgCswD6H5Wvxlm4tm7no356D-xjAuMZWkQWY9qxYkqr-MILg3y5HpYdyl-BgmYQ7hwnmwrc0TbXnjNDx6bUP85YAbove: The perennial lookout spot. A place for a bit of droewors and other bitings before heading down.
Hitting the bottom of the road, we pulled off to the right and followed some lovely, quick tracks toward Wamba. Well, some of them were lovely. I like the ones that are narow, hard and winding through the trees, not the ones like they’ve made over to the Milgis that are like dirt highways with trees ploughed back 5m on both sides… anyway at least it isn’t tar (yet). Eventually we crossed a little scrub of a village and pulled in for a few litres of fuel and a beer. We’ve found that a beer for elevenses is kind of perfect, so it’s become a routine. Learned that from Tigo... maybe the only thing of use that boy ever provided... refreshes the mind and body!
Above: Heading along the mountain in direction of Wamba
Above: Our elevenses bar… they have power poles but no electricity. Next time maybe we’ll get a cold one here.
Above: A warm beer in the shade while Jimbob tops up his KTM’s puny fuel tank.
From the village, we roared around to the southern end of the Mathews Mountains and a signboard indicating Kitich Camp. We’ve been here before. Last time, we broke a guy’s leg and it was pretty rough after several hard rainy seasons. For the first bit this time, however, it was easy and quick. No washouts to speak of for most of the track.
Above: Crossing dry luggas in the Mathews
Above: Panic seeing double
Above: Just lovely riding
Above: Getting a bit more worn, the track got interesting from here on
At one O'clock, we found a suitable lunch spot tree and chowed down on tins of fish, more droewors and other mbits and mbobs. From here to the Milgis, it was a delight. Big views. Bomas like some desert version of alien crop circles in the valleys. Roads a bit torn up and trickier, we crossed up and over a pass of sorts to within view of the Seiya River and eventually caught sight of the Milgis Lugga.
Above: Lunch tree in the Mathews. Many trees nearby had been pushed over by elephant
Above: Babitchka JimBob… when this guy gets going, he’s hard to stop
Above: Just my kind of riding
Above: Over the pass
Above: Panic gives her the beans and lets fly
Above: Nearing the Milgis… Panic sheepishly catches up after dropping the bike in the lugga turning around… muppet
Above: Descent to the Milgis Lugga in the distance and smoke on the flanks of the Ndotos.
Normally, we’d hit the Milgis and head over to Ngurunit for the night, but our plans took us back up to Maralal. Every time we are in this dry riverbed, it’s different. The first time it was white and flat and dry. This time it was dark with fresh traces of water, deep cracked clay patches and lots of foot-high drop-offs to navigate. I love riding in it, throwing it wide open and dodging the drop-offs, but after seven visits or so, it has become so familiar it’s lost some of its mystique… how spoiled can you get?!
Above: Mini sand-storm in the distance as panic crosses the dark, cracked clay
Above: Ships of the desert heading to port
Above: Panic about to drop off a little ledge
Above: JimBob landing off a ledge
Above: I love these little corners you can find if you’re looking for them.
Above: It’s so cool to be in the Milgis at Golden Hour
It had been a long day, so once we hit the road out of the lugga, we just legged it. We blasted over to the escarpment road and rode up without stopping. There was rain on the horizon, but for once we missed it and arrived to Ngari Hills in time for a couple of afternoon beers.
Above: A bit of the ascent, heading back home
Above: Our rainbow coalition riding club in descending order of melanism (and age too)
That night we went for it kidogo… leaning heavily on the Black Label, I had a bit of a rough night, but the cool air and the absolute silence of Maralal, despite its rather large visual footprint these days, made up for it.
Fasts broken, we were on the bikes and out of the Lodge neath gorgeous, sunny, African skies. Fantastic way to start a day, even if the ol’ head was a bit fuzzy on account of our buddy Johnny Walker. First thing was to replenish water and fuel stores, then it was along the flat plateau of Laikipia, down a delightfully rocky road to Churo near Tangulbei and down to the half-submerged tarmac road along the West side of Lake Baringo. Our plan was to keep going due-west up the Tugan Hills. I had a zillion tracks I wanted to explore.
Above: Our water stop near the petrol station
Above: JimBob wondering which Old Testament book this guy just walked out of. Jesus wept some of these guys are rough looking!
Above: Some of the ripping flats
Above: To the descent under cotton-wool clouds
Above: I feel like this was rockier last time I came through… but it could just be less rocky in comparison to what was to come
Above: Double your Jimmy, double your fun…
Above: These tracks are wonderful. There is no reason for anyone to ever go here in a 4x4. On a bike, you see places the muchedumbre simply doesn’t, can’t or won’t.
Above: I mean, look at this little paradise
Above: The nguys
Above: From above Lake Baringo, the past years’ flooding are abundantly clear. Trees submerged, islands barely out of the water. It’s been crazy. The camp we stayed at in 2018 on this Xmas ride is now completely gone.
Having ripped down the hill and past the lake, lo and behold we found a bar at eleven O’clock! Ok, “bar” is one way you could call it… dump is another… local establishment another… straight up shithole... you get the idea. I’m not precious about it. I like these little places. The owner of this one herded us and our bikes around back to be away from the leering public and we henjoyed our mbeers in peace with a few chickens and a lazy dog in the shade. Then we took off on a cat scratch through the thorns to the base of the escarpment leading on a many-switchbacked dirt masterpiece to Kipsaraman at the top.
Above: Bikes from the bar
Above: Our mid-morning refreshment hut
Above: We went over to have a look at the tarmac road… Now it’s a convenient place for people to do their washing and maybe launch a boat or something
Above: The scratch through the thorns… I like these little tracks, but this one was lined with wait-a-bits that left their mark on our skin and kit
Above: What a nice view… an acacia in bloom and the mysterious Tugan Hills behind
Above: The base of the escarpment road is a blast
Above: Full of lugga crossings and a mix of sand, dirt and stone
Above: And trees! What a joy to have a bit of a canopy now and then.
Before long the road launches skyward and we switchback our way up up up. The track is rocky and steepish and keeps showing more and more of the valley and lakes below the higher you climb.
Above: Looking back
Above: Panic coming up
Above: Sometimes I follow the track, but not always... it usually works out
Above: Again, unspoiled riding
Above: Left… JimBob dropped the bike and Panic helped him get underway again… just a moment of muppetry. The rest of the time we climbed it with ease
Above: Almost at the top
At the top, we took off toward a little track that would continue our westward trajectory down into the Kerio Valley. First, though, we paused in a dense, cool forest for our lunch. We were relatively tucked out of the way, so we munched unmolested. Getting back on our bikes we found we were in for a bit of excitement. Panic missed the turn I’d made on the GPS and it led us to a rather tricky looking descent. But, we decided to go for it anyway, and it was great.
Above: Lunch in the trees
Above: This bit was a tad on the tricky side. As usual, the camera does a great job of making it look flat
Above: Panic above had stalled the Pig, but got her going with a kick and all was well
Above: The rough stuff gave way to a better road and we followed it down to the valley floor
Above: it crawled along the side of the slope
Above: Past funky huts and homesteads tucked in the green lush grass and brush
Above: So many unexplored roads, so little time!
Above: Places looked like scenes from Indiana Jones
Above: There were delightful stream crossings
Above: Some clean enough to be really inviting
Above: I could have stripped necked right here and lounged in that stream all day
Eventually we rode back up to the top tarmac road and bee-lined it for Marigat. It was after 3pm and we wanted to enjoy the swimming pool at the Bogoria Spa, our digs for the night. As soon as we hit the tar road, Panic flipped a mental switch and took off like a rocket. The tar winds its way along with switchbacks and straights through forest and down the valley wall. It was amazing. JimBob and I never saw him again until he stopped at a viewpoint.
Above: Some of the beautiful views looking back at Lake Baringo below. Some places are just lovely.
Above: At the Bogoria Spa, three filthy bikers bespoil the pool with their bodies and the general atmosphere with their banter.
We took a relatively early night and enjoyed an amazing sleep.
Slept great. Nothing like a proper bed and some AC in the heat. With a good breakfast in our guts, we packed up, bid farewell to the Bogoria Spa and a big Monitor Lizzard that had the hots for JimBob’s KTM, and hit the road. We went over the north end of Lake Bogoria on back roads as the usual track is now under water. Within ten minutes, we were crossing another metal foot-bridge and climbing up one of what would be a hundred rocky hills (there). Baringo/Bogoria area is a stone lover’s dream, so I love it cause I’m a stone lover by now… got no choice but to love ‘em if you ride in the Rift Valley.
Above: Getting our show on the road
Above: Bogoria has swallowed up a bit of forest
Above: Just past the foot bridge, a nice little spot tucked in the rocks
Above: And a growling stony hillclimb to get the heart racing first thing in the morning
The whole morning was stones, bedrock, stones, river crossings, and more stones. It’s the hardest place you can imagine, but with spectacular views and quite a lot of vegetation. Really beautiful area and not regularly explored. The folks we bumped into were cool and I’d be keen to go back and camp along one of those streams we found. At one point we got high enough to see Lake Bogoria, but just a glimpse of it. The better viewpoint was farther down, but I had plans to climb out of the escarpment that couldn’t wait.
Above: Row after row of hills and rocks and bush
Above: On the descent to this stream, a guy was giving me the universal “you’re going the wrong way, muppet, turn around!” hand gesture, but I ignored him. Boda tracks don’t lie. There was a nice place to cross and a way out the other side.
Above: Panic likes to keep his tootsies dry when crossing streams…
Above: JimBob doesn’t give a hoot!
Above: Up and down, up and down, just beautiful views
Above: The only downside to the place: Lots of charcoal burning in evidence. We passed every phase of the process as well. Full bags like in the pic, guys actively digging out after burning, ovens in action, branches cut and waiting, and remnants of burn piles. Panic thinks they might be cutting selectively, but I’m sceptical.
Above: Purdy flowers
Above: A stream we’ve forded in the past, leading up to the top overlooking Bogoria
Above: A Bogoria overlook. If you look closely you can see the beehive in the tree
Above: Heading back down to then head back up and out of the Great Rift Valley
Having explored the morning away, it was time to hit Nyahururu and slab it back home. But I had saved one big challenge for us. To get out of the valley we were in, we had to climb the mother of all shagged stone roads. Going down that sucker makes you pucker, going up… we’d never tried before. First time for everything, so off we went.
Above: The last steel footbridge
Above: The climb out has 3 or 4 big pushes that are tricky. I found a spot mid-way up this one I could get going on again, but some places were too steep… stopping would be ill-advised
Above: Panic coming up…
Above: … and going on by
Above: Resting for the big push…
Above: Once the guard rails show up, you’re almost to the craziest bit…
I was in the lead. Being my dumbass idea to climb this hill, I figured I’d better go first. Having felt really strong on stones all week, I approached the last push with gusto, roaring at it in second gear and feeling great. Then there was a steep section ahead and my thinking proceeded something like this “oh shit, I missed the line… it’s cool, I’ll just blast this other line… shit, I’m losing momentum a bit, let me shift down… ok, now try to ride that stone like a berm… oh shit again, I don’t have the speed for it! I’m going down! Mommy!”
My attempt to bank off a stone failed miserably and the Pig took a big, hard flop, tossing me onto the stones with a bit of oomph so that I tumbled down the hill like a dung beetle, banging off my helmet and coming to a stop in front of an old lady holding a chicken. I heaved the big Pig up (no mean feat, given she was past horizontal) and spent quite some time getting my heartrate back down. I got situated for a second go, but the clutch was so hot she kept jerking and popping a wheelie, no matter how far forward I got my weight. Finally, I relented and let some helpful chaps in search of quick cash give me a boost.
Victorious after all, I was able to watch Panic roar up the same line as me, but nailing it, leaning away from the fall-line and roaring up to the top. It wasn’t easy though… thought he might not make it. He was cussing a blue streak as he went. JimBob did well too, needing only one big boost in the middle to clear the hill. 10/10 will go back this way. Amazing stuff and just at our limit!
Above: Panic got a couple of pics of me trying and failing to get rolling again… damn hot clutch! I was so close!
Above: The view from the top of the track… it’s steep
Above: Fumbling with my goddam phone (camera batteries are dead) I just caught this pic as Panic clears the section
Above: Me and my helpers at the top. Thanks fellas
Above: We ripped over to Nyahururu for an amazing lunch, had a beer, shot the shit and blasted for home.