Tag Archives: RVO13

Tarangire NP camping

AD was determined that my entire week in Tanzania was not to be spent relaxing around the house – & when someone is willing to take me camping and on a big game drive in an Africa national park I am hardly going to offer a dissenting voice.  Tarangire National Park was one I had never heard of & AD had not been too – so that was chosen as our destination.  A relatively easy (especially for me in the passenger seat) two-hour drive south-east later we were at the park gates around noon on Friday.  Camp was quickly set up in the public campground and we set off for a game drive for the afternoon.  The previously much-derided Range Rover came in to its own off road – very capable & very comfortable.  As AD was driving, I became chief photographer – it sure was nice to have a proper big camera, even if my photography skills are rudimentary at best.

We couldn’t believe how many elephants there were – hundreds!  All the other usual suspects were present: giraffe (much darker than those I saw on my last trip), zebra, ostriches, big vultures, buffalo, water buck, various antelope, mongoose, monkeys, baboons.  We finally saw a couple of lions nearing the end of the afternoon.  It was more than fun to be two guys from NZ just driving abound a huge national park in an ageing 4WD in amongst so many animals & tourists on proper expensive safari trips. Enough talking, the photos are better (more and better versions are here).

Apparently a large herd of elephants came to pay our tent a lot of attention after we drove off.

AD tried to take promotional photos, I minded the barbecue – sort of

Thankfully more large steaks didn’t attract the lion(s) we heard a little distance from camp

So many large baobab trees

Up & decamped early, there was enough time to marvel at plenty more elephants before returning to Arusha. I hastily packed, said my goodbyes and started what turned out to be a thirty hour trip home (that’s almost as bad as returning from NZ). It turns out carrying a Thermarest Neoair in your hand luggage is great for napping on boring airport (Nairobi) floors. Arriving home Sunday afternoon to the order of England, not too tired considering, it was hard to believe just the morning before I was out camping in a fantastic African park and seeing so much extraordinary wildlife.  Thanks AD & Carm for an excellent African break.

A restful week in Arusha

I’d previously vetoed the idea of returning to the Mara or even climbing Kilimanjaro (not enough time & $2000 seems a bit much for a big walk) after the rather tiring RVO.  The proposed Mara trip was originally to have been if Adele had joined me on this Africa trip, but as I have such great memories I didn’t really feel the need to go back this time without her – especially as AD & Carm had only just moved to Tanzania the week before returning to Kenya for the RVO it seemed a little unfair to drag them all the way to the Mara when they should be settling into their new adventure.

So the thirty year old Range Rover (it sort of came with the business that AD & Carm have taken over) was loaded and we left for what was a six hour trip over the border to Arusha.  Everyone was pretty sick of the Range Rover & all it’s various quirks (the polite term) by the time we even set off, but it got us there OK.  Unfortunately, being Mum to an almost two year old (Ethan/Bug – who it turns out really likes to dance to Lady Gaga) and a two month old (the very well behaved Chloe/Plum – who is already sleeping through until six am each night!), Carm got stuck in the back seat all the way – I tried, albeit not that hard, to get her to swap: to no avail.

African land border crossings are always so much more chaotic & fun (sort of) than just strolling right through as one does in most of Europe.  The one at Namanga was no different.  AD went through the drama of getting a private vehicle across the border (this seemed more difficult than getting a person across), while Carm & I tried to stop Bug running out into the melee of oversized trucks.  I think I somehow got cast in the role of father to the kids as AD was off sorting out the vehicle – with the bonus that the border agent seemed to think I was a returning resident & therefore didn’t charge me the $50 fee for a tourist visa.

It wasn’t long down the road before discovering that while most of the Tanzanian highway was very good – although with that strange propensity for speed bumps in the middle of an otherwise fast open road (I think it must be the only way they have of slowing traffic down). If any work was needed on the road, a diversion would be put in place.  I’m used to a diversion being routed down existing roads, but out in the country in Tanzania there are so few roads and so much land – they simply close stretches of highway miles long and build a temporary road (gravelled, potholed & bumpy to the extreme) parallel to the real road.  It does tend to slow progress a fair bit.

Eventually we made it to the new home.  AD & Carm have taken over a small business that runs safaris (there’s a small fleet of safari vehicles, of various ages & conditions) and does bike tours in the wilderness (also a sizeable fleet of mountain-bikes).  With two young kids in the craziness that is Africa it all looks very adventurous to me, but I’m sure they’ll settle in and make a good go of it.  I’m already starting to think about what escapade I can persuade AD to organise for us for a future visit.

After those four days of strenuous riding & the slow trip down, much of the week was relatively inactive and relaxing.  But when you’re somewhere like Arusha, just driving into town is an adventure in itself.  The week quickly passed with AD working but still around (the office being a minute’s walk away), Carm juggling being a Mum & learning some of the administration of the business while I was/we were reading, entertaining children (the trampoline is a favourite already for Bug),  holding screaming baby, playing games, quoting too much of The Castle & classic Big Bang, baking, eating (National Braai [South African for barbecue] Day was duly commemorated), making a slow start on the varied liquor collection that was left with the house, sleeping and just generally spending time in the company of good friends.

All I have to show for it is some rather average phone snaps:

Keeping Bug occupied in the behemoth of a Land Rover (below) while Mum & Dad work

This behemoth – used as a safari support vehicle

It’s much easier to be a millionaire in Tanzania

Celebrating National Braai Day – an occasion I was previously unfamiliar with, but considering the massive piece of steak consumed, one I’m in favour of

Rift Valley Odyssey – Day Three

Huzzah – I slept reasonably well & managed to have the appetite for a reasonable, but not too large, breakfast before another seven o’clock start.  With those things combining & a relatively short stage (only 77 kilometres, but with half the climbing of each of the other two days) it was a bit of a cruise for me.  We started out on the road going west in the same way as Day Two – but kept going west instead of turning south into the big hills.  The gentle climbing started at about the ten kilometre mark & it was only a shade under four hundred metres up over twenty-five kilometres – very civilized compared with the previous two days.

Sporting a new Combe Raiders shirt at camp

Stage starts weren’t the most formal of affairs

There was a great little descent before the first feed station and then the long gradual climb through a large wheat farm started in earnest through an awful lot of mud.  Cloudy again, the views afar weren’t fantastic – but the acacia trees in the wheat fields were pretty nice against the dark sky.  With the fast descent off the hills of wheat done, there was a cool bit through a canyon where we had been told the night before to not necessarily follow the trail on our GPS (the whole race was navigated by GPS – there were no signs or so on), but just make it to the bottom in whichever way we thought best.  This was great fun as I cleared some nice technical drops and then bashed through some trees before it opened up & got fast.

The last part of the day before the road ride back to camp was through another conservancy – the usual suspects were all out: zebra, various antelope, monkeys, giraffes.  Also we managed to startle a herd of wild buffalo – I wasn’t quick enough to get a photos of these huge guys, & we were rather glad they didn’t hang around.  The day’s ride was over much too soon at 12.30 – I felt I could go around again, but some of the team weren’t so keen as we all suffered some degree of soreness from saddles.  With a welcome back by the rest of the team’s wives & children we settled in for some well earned pizzas.

Not too shabby considering I was riding when I took this

Pretty happy to have that finisher’s medal around my neck

So that was my RVO experience – a great time (vomiting aside) and one which I was adequately prepared for as my legs didn’t exactly suffer.  My knees ached a little at the end of the first day and the beginning of the second, but considering all the climbing were pretty well behaved.  The weather was mostly great for riding (the exception being the downpour at the end of Day Two) – pretty cloudy, not too hot, no huge winds to battle; unfortunately this meant that the panoramic photos are not great – but as I’ve already been to Kenya & seen plenty of wildlife, taking photos wasn’t really a priority of the trip.  Well pleased with the event & how I survived it.

Rift Valley Odyssey – Day Two

Considering the big day previous, the night’s sleep was once again quite broken.  But up anyway at 5.45 for breakfast, some bike tinkering and a seven o’clock start on the second day of the RVO.  The day started off pretty flat as we took the road around the lake for about fifteen kilometres before turning left and the climbing started in earnest.  There was the odd flat section & short downhill respite, but generally it was solid climbing – over 700 m to 2700 m in about seventeen kilometres.  It was all ridable apart from one short section near the top that was too steep & technical.  But it sure was hard work with the sun beating down.  AD seemed to find some legs from somewhere and rode like a champion.

The feed station at 2700 m was welcome and we rested there a little.  The food was perhaps a little too good as it would seemed I ate too much as something very odd happened as we started down the monster downhill that we had very much earned.  It may have also been a very common reaction to the anti-malarial tablets I had been taking – but as the descent opened up & I bumped around a bit more, I started to feel decidedly nauseous and queasy.

For the first time in more years than I can remember, I was vomiting; once that was over we set off again.  Not to last long however, as as I waited for Bobby (he was a little hesitant of excessive speed – not surprising as the mechanics could do nothing for his air bubble-ridden rear brakes overnight) I had another good effort at reintroducing my food to daylight again.  As we had over 760 m to drop in sixteen kilometres, I was at this stage beginning to wonder how I was going to get down such a fantastic downhill (i.e. quite bumpy & fun) when I couldn’t hold my stomach down.  But a combination of not having much left in my stomach, taking smoother lines & taking it easy waiting for Bobby (Sean & AD blasted on ahead in my hour of need, the cheek) and determination saw me to the bottom of the rather fantastic downhill no more the worse for wear.

It was still pretty warm & the lack of food intake (what energy I had consumed was mostly no longer with me either) made any climbs a little more challenging than they would have otherwise been.  At the final feed station I managed a couple of slices of apple and a gel – enough it turned out to get me through the last fifty kilometres of what turned out to be one of the tougher days on the bike I can remember (not due to the terrain, due to the food issue).  Most of the rest of the way was fairly easy valley floor through Hells Gate on gravel road, but there was one nasty shock at the end – a steep 250 m climb to overlook the lake beside which we were camped.  After all of the rest of the day, it was pretty unrelenting – but we had to make it to the top as big storm clouds were rolling in.

Just as we did make it to the top, the storm broke and what would have been a fairly difficult start to the downhill (very deep & loose gravel) just became more unpleasant as we got absolutely soaked dropping 330 m to the road.  It was fun enough after a kilometre or so, and then all the rain turned the hillside in to a myriad of streams that we followed down.  As we neared the field at the bottom all those streams had combined into an instant raging torrent that we had to cross – as the motorbikes were behind us, we let them go first to gauge the strength & depth of it.  It definitely wasn’t ridable, but it looked OK to walk.  An incredibly strong current didn’t quite wash us over a newly formed waterfall, but did soak us to above our knees and completely fill our socks & shoes with stones & silt.  After stopping briefly to reinflate Bobby’s rear tyre (his tubeless worked as it should on the climb) we made it back to camp, food (of which I forced myself to eat a vegetarian pizza) and warm-enough showers before the heavens opened again.

With the stomach issues and that nasty last climb, this was definitely the hardest of the three days for me – as much climbing as the first day, but in twenty or so less kilometres distance and noticeably warmer.  For the first time in days, I slept rather well (considering I was camping) that night.