Massi Steppe- Nairobi to Mbeya April 09 2014
After I left my sister, Bella and Kaaya outside Arusha, the rain continued for two days as we headed into the off road section of the Massi Steppe. Despite the very quick downpour, it was a beautiful two days biking out of Arusha headed to the dirt road, which lead us to Mbeya. These 7 days were the longest section of our tour without a rest day, and were forecasted to be rainy, wet and very muddy! I was ready for it with my mountain bike tires and love of off road!
To my surprise, once we hit dirt my speed increased from 25km per hour to 30km. Clearly my motivation had picked up. Our first night in an off road camp was great; the campsite had bucket showers for us to wash off the days sweat and dirt. Over the next five days we had a little bit of rain in the night, but nothing significant until the last two days.
For me, the biggest event of this section was at a school camp where I decided to pitch my tent by a big tree. A few of the other riders, Steve, Kim and Mateo followed suit. As darkness set, we looked at the rings and three moons of Saturn on a rider’s telescope. Getting ready for bed, I brushed my teeth under the tree; quickly I realized that there were ants, big red ants, crawling all over my feet and legs. Looking down it was obvious I was brushing my teeth on an ant’s nest. Running away screaming for help, I found Steve who just laughed at me and did not think my yelling was really quite necessary. Ok, perhaps, yes, I was over reacting but I had never had anything like this happen to be before! Dragging Mateo with me, I walked back over to where the ants were and showed him that in fact that ground was moving, there were millions if not trillions of huge ants under the tree I pitched my tent. Mateo, also did not seem too concerned, and went into his tent for the night, mocking me. Within a few seconds he started to say there were ants trying to invade his tent; since he is really quite a jokester, I did not believe him. This was until I looked outside my tent and there were hundreds of ants crawling on my ground sheet and up the seams of my tent. Quickly we decided to evacuate that area, leaving Steve and Kim behind to fend for themselves. Yelling, laughing and dragging our tents away from the ant’s nest we went. Although we were safe from the ant nest, we were not able to escape the village disco that was pumping music as loud as it could! Oh camping, I really do not think I will camp much more in my life!
The day before we reached Mbeya many riders got caught in a huge storm that transformed our school campsite into a pool of mud. Riders who reached camp before the storm were able to set up their tents on semi dry ground, but as the rain heaved down, trenches were built around tents in order to prevent a flood inside their tents. The next day we knew there was going to be a lot of mud for us to bike through, so I was excited, but we also knew there was a huge climb into Mbeya, through an area called the “Worlds End” and that there was a good chance it was off road.
Having the mental challenge of ant attack under my belt, I knew I was ready for unknown road ahead. Around 40km we hit pavement and by about 60 we hit road construction. Views from the “World’s End” were like nothing I have ever witnessed before! Low lying clouds looked as though they were touching the road ahead. From the high elevation we could see far off into the distance, and it really did feel like a scene from The Lord of the Rings. It also became very stormy and rain came down on us like nails. The pelts hurt my skin and eventually I became very cold. Continuing to climb into the abbess, it became colder as the rain continued. Eventually we reached the top of the climb and needed to head downhill on this horrible, pot whole filled road, with humongous rain filled potholes. I could not feel my feet, or my hands, and was worried about the state of my break pads. Mateo, being the smarter of the two of us, decided to put his bike in a dump truck and meet me at the bottom of the hill. Clearly I made it down the hill; arriving to Mbeya, drenched, frozen and feeling exhilarated that we had competed another section of the TDA 2014.
Mateo and I after biking up and over the "Worlds End"