Prison Canteen

Day 49, stage 38, 89km

Start, bush camp

Finish, Kenyan wildlife service, Moyale, Kenya


Since we cross the border into Kenya to day there is no race. I was up and away early. The first 15km were great, the wind was quiet, the road was ok and the land flat. Around 7:45 it all went bad. As the sun grew hot the wind picked up the road deteriorated into lumps and potholes. And the climbing began. But it was a relatively short day so not that punishing really. And now that I was taking ORS daily, I was recovering better and riding better.

After lunch we had just less than 40km to go, so not far. It was hilly but pleasant riding. I rode in a pelaton with Jan, Bridget and Rosie. It was a good group. We stopped for some ice cold cokes a couple of km before the border and then pressed on. Formalities were minimal. We were in Kenya before noon. Just as well, because we later heard that the Ethiopian immigration office closed from 12 – 2 and that those who had arrived there after 12 had to wait for two hours.

A new country means a new SIM card for my cell phone. Our first stop in Kenya was Moyale, a real border town, full of money changers and chancers, a bit of an armpit really. A few people had purchased SIM cards in local kiosks only to find that they didn’t work. I decided I would try my Tanzanian card. I was told it would roam in Kenya. It didn’t. but by the time I found this t we were travelling again and there was no place to buy a SIM so I was going to be out of communication for a few days. This was not ideal because the Kenyan elections were approaching and there were worries about security.

We stayed in the walled in compound of the Kenyan Wildlife Service. It was across the street fro the Moyale prison. The best bar in town was bar attached to the prison operated for the welfare of prisoners and staff. It was a great place. We could see the guys in striped pajamas just over the wall of the bar.

That evening we were briefed about changes to our itinerary due to the Kenyan elections. We were to miss five riding stages and we would be bussed from Sololo to Nanyuki. In 2007 over 1000 people died in riots after the presidential elections were disputed. This is the first presidential election since then and also since the passing of a new constitution. A lot is riding on this election. There are about 100,000 police and army personnel on duty. There are also thousands of neutral election observers involved. But there is still very real concern about what might happen. We have been advised by the Kenyan police among others, not to travel on election day, March 4, or for the days immediately following the election. We have also been advised not to stay in certain potentially volatile areas during the election period. We were due to have a rest day in Marsabet on election day. But Marsabet is one place we were advised not to stay. It was agreed that a safe place to stay was Nanyuki. Ordinarily we would have arrived in Nanyuki on the third riding day after our rest day in Marsabet. But in order to get there without travelling on election day we would have to arrive there on March 3rd, which meant travelling there on march 2nd nd 3rd – since it is a two day bus journey from Sololo. So we would miss the two riding days from Sololo to Marsabet, bus from Sololo to Nanyuki on March 2nd and 3rd, and then spend 4 days in Nanyuki waiting to see what happens during the election period. If all goes well we will cycle the last two of the section into Nairobi and be back on schedule. Let’s hope it works.

The decision to bus over 500km and miss 5 riding days was not taken easily and while we all recognize and accept the wisdom of the decision, we also regret it a bit. We came to ride. Even the tough bits we bitch about – and three of the five days we miss are tough off road days. Although it must also be admitted that there is some relief in missing a few tough days. At the end of the day having 6 days off the bike will also give those who need it a chance to recover more fully. And perhaps climb Mount Kenya.

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