2022 - Big Red Pigs in Kenya - Season 7... The Re-Oinkening

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Osadabwa

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Dumped the kids at school. I was in crocs and my riding kit sans armour and helmet. Back home. Bag packed. Bike started. Fuelled and on the road at 8:00AM sharp. I needed a solo day in the Rift Valley! I had plotted a few tracks I wanted to explore and had dumped them all in my phone. I didn’t really know what I’d get up to. Usually solo days on the XRR are brilliant for just that reason: you never know where you’ll go. It’s like something out of Dr. Seuss but with more horsepower. I said I would launch out of town past Ewaso on the loathsome new tar, but of course I didn’t. As soon as I smelled dirt and the freezing temperatures abated a bit (I felt like I was on a ski lift leaving Nairobi) I drifted and braaaped my way through the rocks, gravel and dust. Ended up deviating and finding a really nice Air-BNB to take the family to some day. Since the valley is now officially fakked, er, developing, we might as well have nice holiday spots to visit, right old chaps? Anyway. The more roads, the more riding, I guess.


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Above: Marking my territory… obviously I’d had a few coffees before embarking. The overlook down into a valley that was probably completely virgin 10 years ago is now the view of my next posh holiday pissup.

After my detour, it was flat out past Saikeri, Ewaso Kedong and up the side of Mt. Suswa the old way. The track took me up the Eastern flank of the massif and down the Northern side, ending inside the Suswa electrical substation. The guards were bemused to see me: “Where you come from?”, “Up on the mountain”, “Up on the mountain??”, “Yessss…. BRAAAAAAP”. From there, I took a totally annihilated track from Suswa Town that Panic and I used to take to have lunch at Ranch House. To call it a fekking feshfesh fekking disaster is putting it mildly. It was treacherous. All those volcanoes blowing ash out for billennia plus a thousand trucks has really made a mess of the place. But the Pig and I handle all conditions with aplomb, so in no time I was turning toward the river that exits the ass end of Hell’s Gate National Park. And when I say the ass end of Hell’s Gate, I mean the ass end of the ass’s end. When they installed a massive geothermal plant inside the National Park boundaries, INSIDE THE NATIONAL PARK’S BOUNDARIES, it kinda ruined the atmosphere. Anyway, the ass end of the river is actually awesome and I always have it to myself. So off I braaaped.


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Above: After some hunting and pecking, I found the entrance to the riverbed and was surprised to see it was wet. I went gingerly at first, worried I’d sink up to the axles, but after a while I could tell the crushed pumice made a solid base, so I let the piggy run.

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Above: Had the place to my lonesome, just how I like it. I can’t figure out why everyone wants to avoid an apocalypse. I say, bring it on!

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Above: I stopped under the same tree Panic and I did a few years back for a tin of mackerel and some peanuts. I was glad to see it still standing. 20 meters to my left was the bleeding stump of her chopped compadre.

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Above: I’d like to camp in here. Dig a hole for the water to fill up and make a pool. Scrub my nasty feet in the pumice… explore the steam vents and caves… Maybe someday.


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Above: Go to far and the canyon narrows too much to continue. I’ve pushed past that spot, but it’s nothing but a shoulder-width slit through carved stone. The Pig is not slender enough to pass, alas.

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Above: Look at that pile of fesh-fesh waiting to be released from its bonds! It’s solid enough for now, but let some trucks drive on it and pooof!


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Above: This is the iconic shot of the area.


Above: Here’s a video of the place I did with Panic many years back. Solo, you can’t get any fancy moving pictures.

To be continued... 10,000 character limit ffs
 

Osadabwa

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Nairobi, Kenya
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OK. After the riverbed, I didn’t know what to do. Looking at my watch though, I was shocked to see it was only noon! Hellsfire! I reckon I ought’a go see about that other track yonder, I said to myself. So I tore back through the fesh, over to the Suswa-Narok tar and zoomed into another unknown track. Guess what it was entirely composed of: FESHFHESHFAFAKSAKE! Honestly, the valley is really the place to test your riding skills and your kit. There isn’t anything harsher in all of East and Southern Africa… probably.

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Above: Having submarined through several deep pits of this shit, I finally got my footing and stopped for a wee pic. It doesn’t tell the tale. You feel like you’re riding through a sea of baking flour. But why the hell would you do that? The stuff pulls your feet of the pegs. Trucks get stuck and dump stones in the ruts, making it more challenging. The ruts themselves are slick as you like on the edges, trying to get you to take a lowside flop, and deep as hades in the middle. It’s fantastic. I love it! (Today I did… other days, not so much. Biking, like life, is full of contradictions.

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Above: Nobody ahead of me. All I have to do is ride a bit and stop. The fesh overtakes me and blocks out the sun! Glad I was solo… anybody behind me would have been in the dark for an hour!

At the top of the climb, I knew I could continue into the crater or explore the rim. Glancing at the watch… plenty of time… rimjob it is! Suswa has an inner rim (where we usually camp) and an outer rim which is 10km in diameter. I was trying to ride counter-clockwise around a portion of the outer rim on what started out to be a very nice charcoal burner’s track (at least the destructive assholes are good for something). Of course, eventually it vanished into a series of cattle paths… one of which finally connected with the far western exit. It was potentially risky going at times… a bit of a drop-off and some deep ruts to contend with, but I made it with no issues. Of course some Masai guy wanted to block me by cutting trees down and laying them in my path (do these guys do nothing but cut trees? FFS?) but I just shouted “Mambo vipi bwana!” and launched the pig over the kindling like a middle-aged, slightly overweight hard enduro guy on holiday showing off for a group of toddlers. But seriously, I can’t think of one reason I’d agree to stop my ride to discuss absolutely anything with a guy who is trying to block my path and who carries a 2-foot-long knife at all times.

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Above: Burn, baby, burn! Charcoal fire stinking of carbon monoxide. They’ve chopped all the leleshwa in large swathes.

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Above: Just off-piste somewhere on the North rim. Hunting for another cattle path to get me around the bend.

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Above: Way in the distance is the highest point of the mountain, which is the inner rim of the crater… it’s a weird place. In between are a bunch of farms and people with cattle grazing. Soon there will be geothermal plants and pipes no doubt. For now, though, from far away… it is green and lovely.

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Above: I hiked this bit from the top. Ended up riding it down no problems, but there was a moment where I thought I might lose it. With the rear brake on the uphill side and nothing but crater on the downhill side… it can pucker the ol’ sphincter. Do I brake a bit, or dab the foot? It’s one or the other, boy!

Having ridden around the outer rim, I blitzed through the middle of the mountain, down the side, up the tar a bit and along the SGR. I was parched and gagging for a beer. Stopped at Drips, but the feckless fekking fekkers didn’t have cold beer or any food (not even chips!), nor did they have their usual cadre of bike washers! One can be driven to distraction, I tell you! To hell with it! Back home I braaped!

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Above: At home. 2PM. Not a bad way to spend 3/4 of a day...
 

Osadabwa

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ADV+ in Kenya - 2 days, 700kms, 2 XR650Rs to the Loita Hills​


Another ride! Two days, two Honda XR650Rs. YOM: 2003. My partner in crime: LoboMoto… DOB: also 2003. So the bike is vintage… the kid, not so much. Makes him perfect for the ride I had in mind… long days, tough and variable terrain. Me… I’m not so recently off the factory floor. I’m a ’76 model. But my brain doesn’t know it yet, so I tend to push it sometimes. So I figure, I’ll get a youngster along in case I get over my head and have to have him ride my carcass down the escarpment to a helicopter evacuation site or something. Anyway, them’s the initial conditions. Let’s go “Adventure Riding!” (By the way, if reading is not your thing there is a very complete video at the end you can watch and avoid any unfounded braggadocio and thoroughly well-polished smart-assedness brought out in the writing here.)

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Above: I sent Lobo this pic and said: Let’s not bring them back this clean, eh?

It started with a plan for the families to take a trip to Nguruman with cars and tents and cold beers, oh my! But timing didn’t work out right, so Lobo and I were handed an even better deal. His folks would take my kids for a night, and I’d take him biking. I rode with him for his 18th birthday a year ago and had an amazing ride, found new tracks, tried some nutty stuff, and had a blast. (That ride’s HERE.) Then we tried to go to the North, but his KTM 520 Schmidt the bed and left him stranded in Ngurunit. Shame too, cause that ride ended up being epic in all the right ways for the rest of us. (That ride’s HERE). He’s since been off to college, so hasn’t fixed that pumpkin’s electrical woes, but I have two XRRs for this express purpose, so it was a millisecond before I agreed to let him hop aboard one of them and accompany me to the Hills.

At 8:30 AM, we were on the road, leaving Nairobi in the fog and swiping fecklessly at our goggles/face shields for an hour before it lifted. By then we were on well-trodden tracks (several grams of my own tyre rubber coat the stones there) and making cracking time. Our first goal was to cross the Ewaso Nyiro somewhere so we didn’t have to hit the tar at all for two days. Let’s go.


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Above: Cleaning goggles and pissing out that last cup of coffee. Getting here was slow going. Lobo was feeling like a fawn on ice riding a different bike. Didn’t like how it braked. Didn’t like how it turned. I agreed… it does neither particularly well, which is why you don’t touch the brakes at all and steer with the rear wheel!

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Above: He had to admit, though, that the XRR was a forgiving beast, suspension wise. We weren’t mid-way through the morning before he was declaring the suspension leap-years ahead of the KTMs he’s ridden.

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Above: He’s eaten so much feshfesh by now, he’ll probably crap coprolites, but he’s having a good time.

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Above: He made the Pig run, that’s for sure…

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Above: Her native landscape… feshfesh hanging in the air, thorn trees lording over the desolate desert floor

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Above: The Great Rift Valley is really a great place to test your gear. My first XRR is going into its 7th year and who knows for sure, but over 50,000km of this and we still haven’t seen the inside of the engine. Broken wheels, broken spokes, broken bash-plates, broken tires, broken hubs, broken sub-frames, broken bones, yes, but not the inside of the engine!

Right. We’d already ripped through 100km or so of Valley by late morning. In Mosiro now, it was time to find that elusive river crossing. Another reason to bring Lobo… maybe he can carry an XRR through waist-high water. Dunno. We’d see. I had compiled several tracks for the task, and this is why I do it: Many of them weren’t worth a good hot-damn! So much changes so quickly, you have to go and see. We finally ended up on the right track after getting lost and turned around and dead-ended several times. And what did we find? A trickle! But wait, that’s not the actual river… we held our breaths… and what did we find? A frigging bridge!

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Above: Nice and green around, west of Mosiro in the bush proper

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Above: Lobo crosses the tributary

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Above: Imagine my surprise to find a brand-new bridge over the River Nyiro! Then I remembered: It’s an election year! Of course! In 3 years’ time, this will be washed away. In 5 years’ time it’ll be rebuilt.

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Above: There was plenty of great riding before and after the bridge, but I was a man with a mission. First task complete: we’d crossed the river. Second task was many kms ahead at the top of the Loitas: I wanted to ride to a place to look over the Great Rift Valley, Lake Natron and Mt. Shompole. I didn’t know if my tracks would work, so I was kind of hustling us along. We did stop briefly for a snack after the river, but then, it was full-speed ahead to the Loitas!

To be continued...
 

Osadabwa

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Nairobi, Kenya
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Past the bridge, it was fast going. Very fast going if you know your way. At one point, Lobo’s GoPro documented him bouncing around 140kph (but don’t tell his mum). Having reached the main road through the Wildebeest Plains, we were soon in Narosura where we took on a bit of Go-Juice and ripped up another election-cycle-tastic dirt superhighway to the top of the Loitas. Once there though, I couldn’t help but explore and in no time we were off on 4x4 and cattle tracks, riding over open plains and through deep forests. The air was clean, the trees were thornless… it was another world.

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Above: Up on the Loitas

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Above: Same red clay roads, but no dust, no thorns and no tourist-jaded Masai… Loita Hills folks were genuinely wonderful

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Above: Just a couple of Piggies henjoying the mview

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Above: The place is open and beautiful, but parcels are more clearly demarcated than in the rest of Masai land. I’m ambivalent about that. On one hand, private ownership could mean protection from charcoal burners. On the other, it closes wildlife corridors and changes a place forever. One thing’s for sure: it won’t be me who decides the future here.

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Above: Deep in one of these beautiful forests, I paused in a muddy bottom. Lobo approached with caution, like a gazelle at a waterhole, sensing danger. He pulled up to the left of me, wisely, and allowed himself to be lulled into a sense of security by my seemingly benign musings about the beauty of the place, bla bla bla. Then I hit him. I started up, re-aligned, and roosted till the birds fled the treetops, covering him head to toe in sloppy gunk. Glorious. Simply glorious!

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Above: Would cedar fences make this place worse if we can still come ride?

The day was getting long in the tooth and it was decision time. Do we bee-line it for camp and the promise of cold White Cap, or do we complete our day’s ambitious mission and find the overlook? This is why I brought a youngster. His answer: Overlook! Beers don’t go bad! And it was a bit of a challenge finding it too. My tracks were clearly speculative at best, so we did some hunting and pecking. I’m sure there are easier ways to reach there but ours was the most fun, with long, rocky climbs that brought out the sweat (in Lobo’s case, due to dumping the bike and needing to kickstart her out of a flood), you really earned the view.

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Above: If I’m not mistaken, this is the spot Lobo dropped my pristine Piggy in the rocks and spent 5 minutes kickstarting her out of a flood. Something about heavy, something about old… we’d already done 250km from our front door, so it’s more likely rider fatigue (as he’d prove the following morning by riding circles around me)!

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Above: Looping around to reach the top of our viewpoint

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Above: And what a view it was! Shompole loomed deep in the haze, its Southern toe dipping into L. Natron in Tanzania. I’ve ridden that area often, but never seen it look so serene. I also don’t think I’ve ever seen Lobo smile in a photo.

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Above: As usual, the splendid scenery compliments the majesty of the marvellous bikes magnificently

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Above: After taking in the view, we spied some quaint border-markers. I hadn’t realized how close to Tanzania we really were. It’s so frustrating we have to respect these imaginary, English/German colonial markers… bikers should be like pastoralists: Nationless and free (until there’s a problem, then I want a strong passport to protect me… hypocrisy really is the human condition).

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Above: Satisfied with our day, it was now well past White-Cap-O’Clock, and we were in hot persuit, bwana. Retracing tracks is a lot faster than making them, and we were counting on it because dusk was falling and my headlights are already dead.

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Above: Just because it’s late in the day doesn’t mean you don’t have to do some rock and roll, baby!

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Above: In 45 min we arrived at Olkoroi Camp. It was a new place for me, and it exceeded every expectation. Great tents, great beds, great food (they made a Lasagne in a Poike and baked fresh bread in a wood-fired oven!) and the staff were fantastic. Five stars from me!

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Above: Lobo’s tent… how did you get that mud on your headlight, son?

Bikes ticking themselves cool, we immediately downed our first beer, showered up (bucket with spout in outdoor enclosures… perfect) and reconvened around the fire near the kitchen, telling tales and chatting the evening away. After the huge dinner, we retired around Lobo’s fire for a few sips of Black and then hit the tents. It was an amazing day and I slept like I’d earned it.

To be continued...
 

Osadabwa

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Up on time. Breakfasted. Toured the camp a bit with Kashew the manager. The plans for improvement are well underway, and I can’t wait to see it all finished. But for now, it was time to ride. Our ambitious plan was to try to find an elusive track down to Ol Kirimatian from the Loitas. This has long been something I’ve wanted (I and many others), and there is already a road, but it passes through the land of His Majesty Sir Philip Leaky who refuses to allow bikes to pass, ostensibly to protect riders from getting hurt. A right pile of rubbish, in my view, but in Kenya, Big Men of all kinds make up rules to benefit themselves and their friends while denying others, so we’re out to find another way. It’s a shame one man can hinder tourism this way. Both Ol Kirimatian and the Loitas would benefit from it being open, and on both sides the elder Masai I’ve spoken to have told me so. But in Kenyan politics, unlike their propaganda, it seems the Masai are not so revered after all.

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Above: In no time, we had climbed to the top of the Loitas into the fog, past the now dismantled Jan’s Camp where Panic and I stayed on my first visit (writeup of that ride HERE) and beyond. It was all cattle paths with sharp little sides of damp grass, and with foggy screens and watery eyes it was a challenge to keep upright.

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Above: Like yesterday, the track rose and descended in and out of forest cover and open meadow, only in the fog it was more mysterious and eerie.

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Above: Since we were exploring, it only made sense that we’d get lost at times… we spent some time doing comical loops in this section of forest before abandoning it and finding an alternative way around.

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Above: Eventually, one of those cow ruts caught me out. I’d been concentrating my hardest not to have a low-side tumble, but finally got it wrong. No shame in taking a tumble in front of a youngster who seemed to have no trouble at all, but I did manage to hurt myself. The bike fell with all of its weight directly onto my foot with the handlebar.

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Above: Fortunately, nothing broke and apart from a lot of swelling and some fantastic colour changes in my corpse-white pigment I was able to continue. But any tumble shakes the nerve, and there were tough sections ahead.

The scenery was lovely, but I was concentrating on seeing how far down this track we could reach, so pics are few. We’d crested hills and descended into dips with dried up waterholes, through forests and through rocky meadows. Then we came to a tricky spot courtesy of a majestic old tree whose roots had been excavated by hundreds of cattle over the years. I went first and stalled on a big one. After ten attempts to launch up it (trying to recall all my Cross Training Enduro Vid learnings), I finally managed, only to tip over on the roots with a splat. After that I was winded to be sure, but managed to ride ahead and over the next obstacle, a fallen branch.

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Above: After picking up my Piggy on the roots

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Above: I was ready for the next bit

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Above: And the photo makes it look pretty skillful… the video will show otherwise of course. I tried to get my feet on the pegs, but didn’t quite have time (er, skill).

Lobo, having watched my aged ass fart and grunt his way up the section like a wallaby riding a wombat absolutely killed it. He threw that Pig up the roots and over the log like Pol Torres! Helps that this guy spent hours in his backyard playing around on a KTM 2smoke and racing the Kenyan enduro circuit while I was, well, not. This stuff is kind of pushing my skills and endurance, but I love that the bike can do it if I’m willing to try. Thing is, it only makes sense to me if I can do it loaded with camping gear too. We had half the kit, but not all of it… fully loaded it would have been even more challenging.

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Above: Lobo flies over the root that toppled me

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Above: And proceeds to launch the Pig over the next bit effortlessly. It was awesome.

Having warmed up (or tired out, more like it) with the extra picking and kicking, the sensible 40 something in me started to rear his ugly head. Suddenly calculations were happening… we were still 8km of riding away from our goal. All 8km of that would almost certainly be hard, and possibly impassable by my standards (nobody’s been there that I know of)… and even if we were determined and fit, we’d probably run out of daylight. After a few hundred more slow, steep minutes, I finally had to pull the plug. We were 250km from home and it was 11:30AM. We’d been riding for the better part of 2 hours and were still not certain of reaching our goal.

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Above: Our furthest point. I just couldn’t see enough to make a good call on whether to continue or not. From here, I think the track would descend precipitously and I just couldn’t see us doing it and getting back to Nairobi with the daylight we had left. But I’m determined. I will be back!

To be continued...
 

Osadabwa

Pack Dog
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Having warmed up (or tired out, more like it) with the extra picking and kicking, the sensible 40 something in me started to rear his ugly head. Suddenly calculations were happening… we were still 8km of riding away from our goal. All 8km of that would almost certainly be hard, and possibly impassable by my standards (nobody’s been there that I know of)… and even if we were determined and fit, we’d probably run out of daylight. After a few hundred more slow, steep minutes, I finally had to pull the plug. We were 250km from home and it was 11:30AM. We’d been riding for the better part of 2 hours and were still not certain of reaching our goal.

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Above: Our furthest point. I just couldn’t see enough to make a good call on whether to continue or not. From here, I think the track would descend precipitously and I just couldn’t see us doing it and getting back to Nairobi with the daylight we had left. But I’m determined. I will be back!

Having reluctantly sounded the retreat, we climbed back up and over the roots (much easier going down than up) and rumbled easily back to Entesekera for petrol. It’s amazing how much quicker it feels to go back on a track you know exists and you’ve already conquered. On the return, we took the time to take a few more pics. I really want to go back and camp there, explore the track a bit by foot and if it’s rideable, then give it another go. It’s good to have unfinished business. Motivates a guy.

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Above: Lobo making his way through the lush rockiness

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Above: The love-heart shaped elephant wallow just before the roots… Next time I’ll put my tent right there… or anyway, somewhere near it. Don’t want to piss off the elephants!

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Above: I kept saying it… It is like being in another world

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Above: Lobo enjoying that low end grunt as we climb back up some of the golden meadows

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Above: And grumble back down the tricky cattle singletrack

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Above: Back through the forests

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Above: And over the rocky knolls

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Above: The return ride was a blast. I often note how different a track can feel depending on your mood. I’m sure a return trip would make it seem like a piece of cake.

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Above: Magical light out there in the slowly warming morning

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Above: And before we knew it, we were back in Entesekera for fuel and to check in.

To be completed...
 

Osadabwa

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It was pushing noon when we left Enetesekera and we had a long ride ahead, especially after playing ADV enduro all morning. We opted for the fastest, most recently politically improved roads and made cracking time. Soon we were off the hills and back into the comfortable, dusty Valley. I had hoped we’d avoid some of the slow-going between Narosera and Mosiro, but no such luck. Any attempt at finding a clever shortcut just found us dead-ended in some thornbushes or washouts.

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Above: Ripping cracking whacking braaaping roads up there right now in the Loitas. Give them a couple of years though and yikes.

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Above: Already back on what I call the Wildebeest Plains, cause you know… I always see wildebeest on ‘em.

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Above: And soon at the Ewaso Nyiro concrete bridge for a little snack and a break

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Above: There are so many nice places out there

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Above: And odd things you find… but usually if you’re not looking. We spotted this unique hoodoo looking rock on a dirt pedestal because I took the wrong track

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Above: The Masai have put a protective fence around it. It would be fun to say: Oh the quaint pastoralists must revere this rock as sacred, but they’re more practical than that… I reckon they do it to keep a back-scratching cow or goat from getting squashed.

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Above: The road out was just as rocky as it was coming in, only we were 2 days less gung-ho

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Above: I love that this track exists and that I will ride it again. What a weird and wonderful place to braaap!

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Above: By this time, Lobo had figured out the quirks of the XR and happily overrode them to good effect

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Above: And even found a moment to fly now and then. I counted… I think he flew at least six bike lengths. And this is us ADV riding!

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Above: Way back near Suswa in the as-yet-unmolested sand riverbeds, we had to pause again just to grab a sip of water and a snack. We were on the home-stretch, but complacency on a bike leads straight to hospital

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Above: Home at last. After 5pm. Another 8 hours in the saddle, much of it slow and tough. The rest of it, fast and rough! All told, nearly 700km of riding in 2 days’ time. I want to heal up my purple foot and do it again soon!

And here's the video of the whole ride:


It has taken me as much time to write this up and edit the video as it did to do the ride. Sometimes I get down about that fact, but on the other hand, I get to relive the ride by retelling it. I see what we’ve done and know where it could be done better. It’s all a learning process, and we’re getting better at it all the time.

Thanks to Lobo’s folks for taking care of my little ones so I could have an awesome weekend, and thanks to Lobo for always saying “sure” to whatever I proposed. Let’s go back and finish what we started soon!

Oink
 

the ruffian

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You can indulge your literary braggadocio as much as you like, ‘bru ...

I love your schtuff - the rides you do, the acerbic humor, the pics, the understated socio-politickkal insights ...

Keep it cranking, papa ... We wait for the return with bated breath... to share in your unabated largesse.
 

Osadabwa

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Loita Hills: The Return of the Piggies! (And a KTM 350)

Two weeks went by since Lobo and I got back from our recce, but the whole time I was thinking about going back. As luck would have it, Panic and Jimbob were pushing hard to get out of town on a ride, so I pitched “Loita Hills: The Return”, and they went for it. Packed and ready to braaap, we set off on Sunday morning. This time we’d be prepared to camp as well, but the first night would be Olkoroi again because who can resist a potjie-cooked dinner and a proper bed?


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Above: Two XR650Rs in travel trim ready to blast the Rift Valley

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Above: And blast it we did

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Above: Back through all the feshfesh… turns out this is nothing! We’d see much worse on the last day

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Above: Just let that front wheel swim… it’ll get you there in the end

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Above: Amazing stuff…

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Above: Oh yeah, Jimbob was there too on his KTM 350. Less power but also less weight… he floated through the fesh rather than ploughing the big XRRs

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Above: Even though I’d just done this track, it never gets old. Between the fesh and the rocks and the scrub and the long views, I just can’t get enough.

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Above: Scootin' Jimmy like a SCUD missile

We retraced the track Lobo and I did two weeks ago but ran into one hiccup. Apparently, we’d trespassed on someone’s shamba. This time he blocked the track and got stroppy about it, but in the end, like a politician, he was full of talk and bluster but just wanted money. His “shamba” was a scrubland he was busy denuding to make charcoal. Next time we’ll either go around or go faster.

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Above: Still moving along

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Above: Nearing the bridge over the Ewaso Nyiro. Now that’s a shamba in the distance. Tomatoes growing I think

In short order we were on the wildebeest plains and opening up the throttles again. We’d been going for four and a half hours or so and were thirsty for a cold one. Narosura awaited just at the base of the Loitas, so we opened throttles and let rip. Of course Swinging Jimmy forgot that his KTM doesn’t have a 25L tank like the XRRs do, and he ran out of gas just short of town. Panic and I went back and rescued/abused him and we tore into Narosura for fuel and beers.

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Above: Jimbob on the plains

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Above: Panic extracts go-juice from his piggy while Jimbob looks on

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Above: In Narosura there is a bar adjacent to the petrol station. Convenience! We enjoyed ours in the shade while Fixin' Jimmy attached his GPS to the battery... maybe that's why it wasn't charging...

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Above: The bar

To be continued...
 

Osadabwa

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Plan for the day was simple: Get up to the Loitas, sprint to the lookout, head to the camp and chill. So off we went.

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Above: Point one, check. Up on the Loitas with big views and cool air

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Above: Point two, check. In short order we were at the viewpoint in the sunshine. Mt Shompole, L. Natron and Oldonyo Sabuk visible through the haze. I’d love to come back when the air is clearer.

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Above: Like a pair of chunky lovebirds taking in the view

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Above: Back on top! Love it up there, especially in the sunshine!

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Above: Sabuk in the far distance. One day we’ll ride to the top of that puppy, but it’s in Tanzania so we have to do it properly.

We enjoyed the view awhile and turned back for camp. It was going on 5pm and we’d cover over 350km by the time we arrive. Panic was practically asleep at the viewpoint so I figured we’d best make tracks. So lovely riding around the Hills at Golden Hour in the sunshine!

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Above: Heading back, just rolling grassy hills and patches of trees

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Above: Of course my track is a bit tricky in spots, but that’s what makes it fun

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Above: The stony section is a lot easier to descend than the opposite

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Above: Panic riding directly into the sun

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Above: Last of the little paths, time to move

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Above: Big, rusty coloured tracks take us all the way back to camp

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Above: Apart from one or two little settlements, there aren’t a lot of people up here. Can’t really understand that. Guess Masai, like the Panic, don't like the cold.

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Above: Throwing dust into the sunset

Arriving to camp, Slipping Jimmy took a digger just inside the gate. I can’t count how often that happens. It’s why we always say the ride’s not over til you’re boots are off. We installed ourselves in tents, had piping hot bucket showers and met at the balcony for a sundowner before bundling up around the fire. The guys cooked us mbuzi stew with potatoes, green beans and butternut squash and it was amazing. We were sensible the first night, only had our beer ration and left the whisky stowed away. Tomorrow we’d be trying something tricky.

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Above: View from Panic’s tent

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Above: The bathroom area at my tent. Love these outdoor setups, though in Loitas, there’s a chance you might have to poo in the rain

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Above: Bucket shower and complimentary Flamingo brand soap. Flamingos being famous for their pink colour, it must have been easy for the makers of the soap to choose the colour of their soap. Oh wait, FFS.

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Above: Sundowner on the terrace

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Above: Panic trying hard to keep his eyes open

That night we slept like the dead. It had been a long day.

Tomorrow we’d see about that descent…

To be continued...
 

Osadabwa

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We were up bright and early. Chirpin’ Jimmy was up with the birds and had his slow leak all sorted out before breakfast… wait, no that’s obviously a lie. He hadn’t even removed the wheel before breakfast and his ineptitude caused him to puncture his tire again when re-installing it, meaning we didn’t leave camp until after 10:30, and all of it could have been avoided if he’d just listened to us and bought OKO Extreme and left those stupid HD tubes in the garbage where they belong! But I digress.

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Above: Faffin’ Jimmy “repairing” his puncture. We’d see later if his patches stick or not. Spoiler alert, dear reader, they don't.

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Above: While we waited, Panic and I explored the grounds and took a minute to appreciate this old relic

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Above: She’s seen better days, but the aluminium body was still in one piece

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Above: As foreshadowed so subtly above, not 30 minutes into our ride and Jimmy-No-Skills had gone flat again. This time I insisted he replace the tube with my spare which contains OKO Extreme and lasts the rest of the ride. It was good as I could get some work done by phone, have a nap, ponder the nature of the universe etc…

On track at last, we bee-lined it to where I floundered over the big roots of the strangler fig last time with Lobo (and he launched like a champ). This time though, the silverback committee found that there was a go-around, which we happily took, saving us precious middle-aged energy units we might need ahead. And sure enough, just ahead we came to a virtually impassable section.

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Above: The last meadow before the proper descent

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Above: Panic appreciating the strangler fig

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Above: And then riding around it rather than over the root steps

Not 100m beyond where Lobo and I called it quits last time was a very gnarly section. Maybe about 20-25m long, it was very steep, very loose and very rocky. I immediately knew we wouldn’t be able to ride the thing, and though we all agreed that we could carefully drag the bikes down if necessary, we knew getting back up would be the end of us. So if we were going to continue, it would be a one-way mission and we’d have to be 100% sure we could get out by going down. With that, Panic and I set off on a foot-recce.

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Above: We barely managed to find a spot to park the bikes on the slope

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Above: The steep stuff never looks as steep and the rocky stuff never looks as rocky in pictures, but I think that right panel comes close

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Above: On foot in Sidi Crossfires… not bad walking boots really. All told, I did over 2 km up and down hills with them on

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Above: The path was pretty good down the left branch until it was very much not good at all. I actually think it once was a road. But now, full sized trees had fallen over the path and the go-around made by the herders was not much better. After finding several sections like this, I abandoned that idea and went back to the junction to see about the right branch.

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Above: The go-around’s not great either

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Above: More one-way steps and tree-blocked sections

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Above: Man some of the cedar trees were huge… couldn’t even fit this one into a selfie

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Above: Hiking back to where Panic waited in the shade

While Panic hiked back up to the bikes, I had to satisfy my curiosity by walking down the other branch. It was obviously less used and more overgrown, but in short order it spilled out of the forest onto what I had taken to be meadows by looking at Google Earth. Well, “meadows” isn’t really the right word. It was a quartz quarry really, with only the faintest track scrabbling along the face of it. I’m sure with time, patience and the right frame of mind we could ride this, but I could not be 100% sure it wouldn’t end in another brutal descent or something, so I hit pause on the plan again for now.

After all, for me, it’s not about doing this once to show how big my piston is. If you have a lighter bike and no luggage, it’d be a no-brainer. But for me it’s about finding a 1) reliable track from Loitas to Nguruman I can do 2) with my friends on 3) unsupported camping adventures. All three of those conditions must be met. If it’s tricky, great, but brutal won’t really work. A broken leg there would ruin the fun. That said, I’m not done with this project… next time, I’ll come up from the bottom and see how high I can climb! (BTW, any lurking Kenyan riders planning to do this before me, just let me know how it goes. I’ll buy you a beer. But don't ask me for the track. Put in your own legwork, maybe you'll find something better!)

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Above: A nice spot, but it was time to give it up for the day

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Above: No real trail, but with patience you could clobber yourself over this for a while

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Above: Farthest point hiked… close but still too far

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Above: Hiking back up though was beautiful. This forest is untouched, and that’s something hard to find in Kenya

To be continued...
 

Osadabwa

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Reconnecting with the guys, the spirits were very high. We all agreed to turn back and the idea of having another night at Olkoroi fit the bill perfectly. So we kitted back up and rode up to the hilltop meadow, had a rest under a beautiful tree and hooted it up. Riding back was 10x faster than coming in, and with the exception of Panic tripping over a stump, was lovely and uneventful. Out of curiosity, we rode past Jan’s Camp to confirm it was indeed abandoned and indeed it is. From there to Entasekera to stock up on beers and it was a quick blitz back to camp for a second, more animated night around the fire with mbuzi in the potjie. Awesome.

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Above: Lunch break! I was soaked through from hiking in my kit, so I laid most of my kit in the sun to dry.

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Above: This would be a lovely campsite in good weather... and a miserable one in the rain!

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Above: The mboys moving quickly now

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Above: Panic picking his bike from his encounter with the stump… if you zoom in really really REAALLY far, you might be able to see it!

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Above: Over roots and through the forest

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Above: Getting late in the afternoon again

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Above: Over the rocks and down

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Above: Jan’s Camp defunct and returning to nature, but looks trashy in the process. Not sure why the community didn’t tell them to bulldoze their structures at least. Alas. It was a nice place once.

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Above: Around the fire, whisky so nice it glows in the dark

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Above: Night scenes… on the right, a trail of safari ants leaving the underside of my tent. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep comfortably after I found them doing a patrol inside as well… but luckily they didn’t invade my bed this time.

Tomorrow, we'd explore new tracks out of the Loitas. We still had another night out, so we had to make the best of it!

To be continued...
 

Osadabwa

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Despite the safari ants, I slept through the rest of the night like a log. Nearly missed breakfast at eight o’clock even. But soon we were packed and on the road again, stopping in Entasekera to deal with the morning drunkard and fill up our tanks. But where was Jimbob? Apparently he was on his ass in the mud. There is only one muddy crossing and Slippery Jimmy managed to wipe out in it. What a way to start the day!

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Above: Jimbob’s bike after the tumble… the back was covered in muck and so was he, but no harm done.

The track I chose out of the Loitas was surreal. I can’t get over all the different landscapes Kenya packs into one relatively small area. We left the hills and little forests behind and landed flat out on a wide open plain with black-cotton soil under a black-cotton sky. It was cold and eerie almost for a long while before melting into euphorbia trees and more open space. I loved it and we raced through it all morning.

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Above: Black cotton plain

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Above: Sandy soils bring out the euphorbias

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Above: And some of these are the biggest and most uniform euphorbia’s I’ve seen

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Above: What agriculture there is was little to non-existent

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Above: And then we reached the Big Open. Structure above is a cattle corral in the middle of nowhere

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Above: I guess this is high savannah

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Above: Jimbob’s bike looking like a piece of art out there

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Above: And Jimbob like an explorer on a foreign planet

We eventually kicked off the Big Open and joined some bigger roads toward Naikara. My plan would take us on smaller tracks North toward Maji Moto over the mountain. We found the tracks easy enough, but where they took us was anything but easy. Some unused tracks are a blast, this one wasn’t. It had no flow. Everything was hard, off-camber and slippery with loose marbles. On top of it all, it was sliced and diced with fences and plots that Panic finaly dubbed the Masai Maze. Higher up, it felt like maybe we’d strayed into a conservancy, so we were just waiting for somebody to pop out and bitch about it, but it never came to pass and before we knew it we were on the speed run to Narok.

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Above: Infrastructure doesn’t last long in rural Kenya

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Above: Well, 10km to Naikara and some distance to somewhere else

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Above: The slow, frustrating Masai Maze track

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Above: Which was actually really beautiful in spots

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Above: Back out on the braaaaap

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Above: Under very big skies

To be continued...
 

Osadabwa

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In Narok it was decision time. First we got petrol, then we found a place for a beer. But not just any place, a fantastic spot that had nyama choma and chips too. So while we were chowing down and sipping frothy beverages, we had a decision to make: where to sleep for the night? Initially it was going to be Carnelly’s but for that we’d have to lumber over the Mau, and that could take forever. The Mau is beautiful riding, but not good riding. So instead, we opted to fill our bags with beers and shoot for Mt. Suswa. I had to show the guys the North entrance… I knew they’d love it.

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Above: And the Narok Junction choma joint

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Above: Some tar to Suswa town thorough gorgeous wheat fields in the sunshine



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Above: And then came the feshfesh. We are used to this, but the North entrance to Mt. Suswa puts it on another level

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Above: Dustin’ Jimmy does well through the fesh

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Above: And leaves a trail large enough to be seen from space

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Above: Panic digs a trench with the XRR, using all its considerable torque to plough through the axle deep stuff

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Above: It’s like nothing on earth

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Above: Somewhere down there, the boys are coming

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Above: What did we just ride through?

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Above: At last, the final turn with the inner crater rim in the distance

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Above: And after a long day, the cold beers taste that much better

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Above: Really not a better campsite anywhere

Clever, seasoned bikers that we are, we not only schlepped beers from Narok, but also another 1.5kg of mbuzi pieces wrapped in foil. By dark, we’d already polished off several beers and had the mbuzi on the fire. Whisky came out later, but we were again sensible and called it quits before anyone fell into the crater.

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Above: Darkness and fire on Suswa

Up with the sun, coffee on (no thanks to Jimmy’s empty stove), bikes packed and we were out of there. By mid-morning we were back in Loresho having brunch like the dainty ladies we are. In some ways, we’re so different from BMW riders. We all like riding our bikes to the café and having cappuccinos with our friends… we just like getting there the long way!

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Above: Suswa sunrise

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Above: Steam vent moistened succulent on the rim

Now for the video recap:


That’s it for now, folks. I shall return to this project at a later date… stay tuned.

Oink
 
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