While writing this update I am sitting under a tree, up on a hill, overseeing the great Lake Victoria. Birds are singing, hippos are blowing water out of their noses and I just enjoyed a really good lunch. This paradise like state that I am in right now has been like this for much of Kenya. I have a hard time thinking of where to start, my month in Kenya has just been extraordinary. As the border crossing at Moyale was accomplished, I was able to hit the beautiful Kenyan Tarmac towards Masarbit. There have been many tribal conflicts in the last couple of months in the area, people got killed and the region was mentioned in the news a couple of times. I was told just to talk to the police officers at the various checkpoints, they would tell me whether it’s safe or not to continue. I never rely on just one opinion to make up mine, and luckily most of the police officers told me that the area was safe right to cycle through. One also needs to consider that the northern region of Kenya, bordering Ethiopia, is very remote and the tribes won’t just fight in the middle of the main street, and from Moyale, down there is only one street. I did not have any incident that made me feel unsafe, the few people I met were very friendly and welcoming. It is crazy, as soon as I crossed the border, kids were just standing at the side of the road, waving at me, calling me a Mzungu but in such a cute way that I barely believed it to be true. How can in a region, where tribes matter more than determined borders (the borders were drawn by some European countries), the difference be so huge from one side to the other. I cannot explain it, I was speechless, and I gained so much pleasure in cycling again. From Moyale to Masarbit it’s roughly 260km, and exactly in the middle there is a town called Turbi. That’s where I met Josh, an American cyclist who currently wants to cycle the world. He has already cycled all the way down the Americas and is now crossing Africa. He is only the third cyclist I met on the African continent yet, an all three went the other direction. When I meet other cyclists, I really try to relax and take my time. Sharing experiences, hotspots and funny stories can be really nice and I highly enjoyed the evening together with Josh. We were able to pitch the tent inside the police area. The police officers were very friendly and even offered us food and a hot shower. The next day we went off again, Josh towards Ethiopia, myself down towards the equator.
I stayed at camp Henry in Masarbit, which offers overlanders to camp. The place is led by Henry himself, a fellow Swiss guy who has been living in Kenya for more than 40 years. As his family was with him, it felt good to speak some Swissgerman again. Another visitor was Peter Baumgartner, a former Africa correspondent for one of the most read newspapers in Switzerland called the “Tages Anzeiger”. Travelingon a bicycle gives you the chance to meet many interesting people, just because I am taking the slow way. There are guys who were in Egypt when I was in Ethiopia, and they have now already entered Zambia as I write.
The kindness of strangers
I have now been invited twice in Kenya to stay at someone’s home. As I had an interesting time in Ethiopia, Michael texted me through Instagram, telling me that if I needed a bed, a hot shower and food, I am more than welcome to come to his house. Of course, I can never say no to food! What I did not know until then, was that Michael is the manager of the Borana Conservancy. I cannot describe in words what a beautiful week I had at Borana. I was able to stay in the middle of the conservancy, watching Elephants and Giraffes from my bed out the window. I was able to watch the rangers training, to go out with them to scout the rhinos, to mountain bike around the area, I had a helicopter flight, an airplane flight, game drives and so much good food. There are not many people I have met so far in my life as kind and generous as Michael and his wife Nicky. For sure some of the most memorable time of my trip. I first intended to stay there for 3 days and ended up staying 7 days. I guess that’s the beauty of traveling slow, I am really flexible on my days and free to do what I like.
Secondly, from Nanyuki to Nyahururu I decided to take the direct dirt road instead of taking the busy tarmac road that was around 30km more. I really struggled for the first 25 km as the heavy rain of the night before created a mud hole out of the street. My wheels got completely blocked and the dirt became hard once dried a bit. I really didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t push my bicycle since nothing was moving, I could not carry my bicycle since it was too heavy, so I decided to hitch a ride before even more of my equipment got damaged (A panier had already broken and I was afraid that my belt would be next). Three guys in a car stopped once I flagged them down. I told them my problem and they were so happy to help for the next few kilometres. Apparently, the previous night’s rain only affected the area close to Nanyuki, so the further away we god, the drier the road was. After a 5km hitch I jumped back on the bike again, removed all the dirt first and continued. During the worst part I did around 5km per hour, asking myself why I didn‘t take the tarmac road hahah… It turned out to be way better and dry after 30km and it was totally worth it. I saw a huge Elephant herd, over 20, around 50 meters away from me. I saw Giraffe, Antelopes and Zebras as well, how cool is that, being able to do game drives on my bicycle. Soon after I took a little break, checked my bike quickly and had a sip of water. Slowly an old Land Rover came closer, stopped and a woman with a dog asked me if everything was ok. Seriously, here in Kenya so many people ask me if everything is ok when I stop somewhere. As a cyclist I highly appreciate that. That woman’s name was Polly and she lived in a nearby town where I would pass through. Spontaneously, after I told her what I am doing, she invited me to stay at her place. I couldn’t believe it, this is happening again! I spent 3 lovely days at her place, with great food, very nice discussions and I even had a bathtub in my room. I had my first bath since I left Switzerland 140 days ago. It felt amazing and I think I was finally able to really get myself clean. Think about that, just a stranger inviting you to their house, offering everything and caring about you. We should take this all as an example to do in future as well. I have a feeling people in Switzerland don’t really do that, they are more scared of strangers than they think they can meet someone nice who has an interesting story to tell.
Wildlife in Kenya
I remember being asked about this ALL the time. Hey Lukas, what about dangerous animals in Africa, how are you going to deal with that? I still think the most dangerous thing on my trip is traffic, so I really don’t worry too much about the animals. I highly respect them, and their privacy and I think that is the solution of dealing with wildlife here on this continent. I mean the Elephants, Hippos, Lions and Buffalos are not just waiting at the side of the road to attack me. Usually I can already spot them from far away, I observe the way they are taking and if I see that they might cross the road, I just wait. When I was cycling down from Masarbit the road was flat and I leaned down to be more aerodynamic. As I looked to the side, I suddenly realized that a Giraffe is standing 15 meters away from me. What an amazing experience, I cannot tell you how it feels, but seeing all these animals wild in the nature is a beautiful experience. I sometimes cannot even believe it myself, it feels like I am in a BBC documentary, totally surreal. With the astonishing wildlife comes its price, threat, or whatever you want to call it.
Did you know that Elephants, Rhinos and many other species are under a threat of extinction in our lifetime? We are losing species at between 1,000 and 10,000 times faster than the natural extinction rate, caused almost entirely by human activity. Tourists come to Africa, see the beautiful wildlife, but don’t get to see what’s going on behind the scene. There are brave man going out every night to provide protection and security for the wildlife and the community.
What is sometimes overlooked is the toll that is taken on the men and women protecting it. A ranger is killed every two days protecting our wildlife against well-armed and motivated poaching syndicates. Moreover, rangers also provide security to local communities from thieves and robberies. They leave behind families and dependents. ForRangers is providing insurance for over 950 rangers in Africa – making sure they can do their difficult work in the knowledge that their families will be taken care of should anything happen to them. If you care as much about animals as I do, please spread the word and raise awareness for these guys! Follow ForRangers on Instagram and Facebook to be up to date.
As I don’t plan to rush through Africa and I have way enough time to complete my journey until June, I have time to do various activities a country has to offer. From the beginning on it was clear to me I either do Mt. Kenya or Mt. Kili in Tanzania, which are the second highest and the highest mountains in Africa. A lot of travellers told me that Mt. Kenya is breath-taking, and also budged wise around 1000$ cheaper than Kili. Easy decision, I am going to do a 5-day 4-night Mt. Kenya track, up at Sirimon and down at Chogoria. To safe a bit of money and to increase the level of challenge and adventure I decided to carry my own luggage and to sleep in my tent every night instead of a mountain hut. As usual on those high-altitude tracks, most of the tourists use porters, who carry their luggage. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable if someone was just up there to carry my stuff, but it is actually good for the community as jobs are created this way.
As I am not carrying any high-altitude mountaineering equipment with me, I had to rent most of the stuff. As you know how it is with rented equipment, the fit is usually not the best. Already on my first day I ended up having huge blisters in the back of my feet. As it usually rained half the day, and my backpack did not have any rain cover I had to hike with an umbrella. This is the first time I hiked with an umbrella, but it was the only way to keep my backpack and the sleeping bag inside dry. The first day starts on 2900 meters above sea level, and once you get to the peak, I reached an altitude of 4985 meters above sea level. The air already becomes very thin up there, luckily, I have zero issues with altitude and I was able to push with full strength all the way up. On the 3rd day my guide and I started hiking at 3am, to reach the summit before sunrise. It was a beautiful hike up; the moon was so bright that we didn’t need any flashlights and we reached the top way before sunrise. Being up there all by yourself, inside the sleeping bag watching the sun to rise was an unbelievable experience. Luckily, I was carrying all my stuff up there, as all the other tourists who arrived later were literally freezing their butt off as they did not have any sleeping bags with them to cover themselves. I had an ice-cold Fanta ready to drink and a chocolate bar with me. I learned that in the military, it is the small things that can make such a moment even more perfect. On our decent from the peak, it constantly rained. I believe that the views would have been outstanding, but as I could barely see my guide walking ahead of me, I did not see anything. Being up on 4,200 meters when it is cold, raining and there is nothing to do than just waiting inside your tent until the day passes can be depressing, even more when you think about the beautiful views you are missing out. Luckily the day after it cleared up and as you can see on the pictures the nature up there is just unbelievably pretty! The whole experience was totally worth all the suffering, I would def. do it again, however, I will never do any hiking trips anymore without my own equipment, lesson learned!
An ordinary day
My alarm goes off at 5:30 every day I plan to do an average cycling day (around 100km). Usually 100km take me between 5 and 8 hours, depending on the wind, weather, altitude, road condition and surprises like punctures. However, that doesn’t really matter, I just like to have enough time during the whole day, so that whatever happens I do not need to cycle at night. I have cycled at night before, but I really don’t want to do it again. Anyway, as I tried to insulate the light cables again, it is not working anymore. Sometimes I laugh about myself, usually when I try to fix things, I make it worse before it is good again… haha. Hopefully my dad and I can fix it during Christmas. Once I get my eyes to open, I turn on my head torch and start packing all the stuff inside my tent. This includes the mattress, pillow, sleeping bag, medical stuff for wound cleaning, my electronics and camera equipment. I put everything to the corner of the inside tent, so I will not have to get inside anymore. Once I have some clothes on, I get out, take all my bags and put them next to each other. Usually whilst I fill up my water bottles (filtering takes some time), I have an easy breakfast, containing bred, peanut butter and bananas. As soon as my breakfast is done, I can pack everything, since I have to brush my teeth afterword’s I cannot put my toothbrush away before. As I am close to the equator now my tent is completely wet on the outside every morning. I don’t have time to wait until the sun is up and it can dry. I usually let it dry once I get to my destination. As I get all my paniers together, closed, I put them on the bike. I need to be careful with this, since my bike stand has already broken many times and if the underground is not really solid, it is likely to happen again. Once my daily tracker is turned on, I am ready to roll. This whole process takes me exactly one hour. Depending on my mood, the surroundings and the weather, I cycle with music. However, there has been barely any day that I started right away listening to music. I really enjoy the mornings and listening to the sound of birds is highly satisfying. Ethiopia was the only country I put in earplugs right away… Another thing with listening to music is that I cannot always hear every kid calling me. As here in Kenya the children are adorably cute, I really don’t want to miss any waves, since when I wave back it makes them incredibly happy. I cannot put in words and I can also not capture it with my camera very well how I feel when those kids greet me. Really, I feel like a rock star on tour, and the joy and happiness they show towards me is on another level. It does make me tired after a long day on the street, but the mental energy it gives me is much more valuable. People just love to see a Mzungu (word for “White guy” in Africa) on a bicycle here, and I just love to meet those happy people. This is the Africa how I imagined it to be, and I think I have finally arrived.
Food and water are available everywhere along the road, and there is a town at least every 40 to 50km at max. Kenya is also the first country since Egypt that has really nice supermarkets available in the bigger towns. This makes traveling on a bicycle very easy and not a lot of planning ahead needs to be done all the time. Additionally, there are goods available that I really missed, like peanut butter. Unlike in Ethiopia, when I arrive in a town, life for the local people continues and I can do freely what I want, without constantly being surrounded. I enjoy sitting at a roadside coffee, having a soda, a chapatti and some other snacks. Usually there is a hut in every town selling speakers, and to promote the speakers they play really loud local music. People are dancing, singing and they are just all so relaxed and easy going. It just makes traveling so enjoyable.
Not every day I enjoy cycling the same, there are days I really count the kilometres and then there are days I cannot believe how quick the day has passed. Once I reach my destination, I usually do some vegetables and breakfast shopping. Every little town has the same little shops multiple times and everything I need is easily available everywhere. After my groceries shopping, I find a place to sleep (police station, camp ground, in a hotel’s yard). When I camp, I cook dinner myself, when I sleep in a room or it is heavily raining, I do not take my gasoline cooker out, I usually just get some food from the local restaurant around the corner. Setting up my tent in the evening takes around 30 minutes, then I usually cook and have a cup of coffee afterword’s (1h). As the sun is gone, I jump inside my tent since there is not much to do anyway and the mosquitos are just too annoying to stay outside.
As I am now in a malaria region again, I really need to be aware of mosquito bites. Ethiopia and most of Kenya’s highland wasn’t a problem since it was too high up. However, since Khartoum Sudan, I have been taking the weekly malaria prophylaxis called Mefloquin. There are cyclists doing it without any, they have emergency medicine with them. However, I really don’t want to risk a malaria infection while being traveling by myself. I know it is a lot of chemicals I take in for a long time, but I guess that is the downside of traveling through these areas.
My month full of holes
Especially in the northern part of Kenya, where the land is drier there are so many thorny bushes. I didn’t really pay enough attention to that in the beginning and so my material suffered quite a bit. I got a hole in the roof of my tent and realized it when it was dripping water on my body in the middle of a rain shower at night. I got a whole in my tent floor as well as in my mattress, luckily Expeed has provided me with a good fixing kit, that made it possible to fix these two holes in the middle of the night. I really don’t know how my pillow got a whole as well, but it did. Last but not least I had a hole in my plastic bag walled (some of you might have that too but from different reasons). Oh, before I forget, I had two punctures, and one turned out to be a tricky one, I first didn’t see the metal piece inside the tire, and then after the third puncture within 2 days I almost didn’t get it out. Now I should be puncture free for some time again, hopefully! Nevertheless, I quite improved my puncture fixing abilities! Haha
A couple of weeks ago I received a message from my Twint (mobile payment in Switzerland) account, telling me that already 1 million people are using Twint in Switzerland. Sounds like a lot, and people keep on asking me why I have Internet all the time, even in Kenya. As most people don’t know, half of all worldwide transactions worldwide are done in Kenya through their mobile payment system called Mpesa, which is operating since 2007. You can literally do anything with Mpesa in Kenya: By the numbers:
1.7 billion: the number of transactions processed over M-PESA between July 2016 and July 2017.
48.76%: the share of Kenya’s GDP processed over M-PESA. That’s about 3.6 trillion Kenyan shillings or 29 billion euros.
93%: the proportion of Kenyans with access to mobile payments.
120.000: M-PESA agents across Kenya, where Kenyans can exchange cash for virtual currency and vice versa.
2.000: The number of ATMs in Kenya, down from a peak of 3.000
If anyone wants to know more about it, here is a good Article.
My days ahead:
I will follow the Equator towards Uganda, where I will spend at least 3 weeks again. There is so much to see, to do and I just don’t like to rush. As I am entering rain season, it usually rains pretty much once a day. There is no reason for me to cycle to fast. I just get under a tree or inside a hut somewhere and wait until it is over. My first stop will be in Jinja where many people told me I need to go rafting, from there on I will do a D-tour to cycle through the Queen Elizabeth National Park down to Bwindi National Park where the mountain gorillas are.
Kilometres cycled: 1222
Days spent: 27
Cost for food: 133$
Cost for sleeping: 88$
I also had the honor to be a guest in their podcast again, here is the direct link