Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Around Kili with Peter Gostelow

I left Arusha late and drove to the foothills of Kilimanjaro at Maranngu village to meet my grandma. I had long chart because have been a year without seeing her, she is getting more older and more worried. At 6:30am I was awoken with big knock on the door “you said you want to leave early” my grand called out, reminding me of the days of primary school. I was bit lazy but thankfully the coffee was ready, so I assembled my bike as sipping large mug of coffee after that the full breakfast was ready. At 7:30 I was ready on the road warming up with rolling hills, though it took time to become hot as the weather was bit chilly which made the breathing difficult.
It’s always fun to cycle in this banana and coffee plantation with some tall and huge trees like albizia, avacados, mangoe, etc. This time it was totally exhilarating. For more than ten years of living here a tarmac road was a far dream, but now it almost all paved! Can’t help to think of the dust from fast drivers and uncountable pot holes. Passing through chains of villages all with schools near the road, I attract great deal of interest. Students keep running out and shouting ‘Mzunguu! What is my name?, What is this?” Tarmac road with relative little traffic,
picturesque landscape with twin Kili peaks , breezing wind with a little bit of sun, and lush green mountain farms and forest make for the perfect day, no matter how many times I cycle here. I stopped for a coke in the market but forced to finish my drink quickly to avoid the crowed of curious local which was starting to get bigger than I can handle. From Tarake the road becomes more than rolling hills, it is long climbing with few flats, thanks to tailwind. The human habitats stop at Rongai North Kili forest gate. The mixed forest planted and natural forest is so calm, lots of wildlife (plenty of birds) and I was lucky enough black and white colobus monkeys on the river stared at me as I was stare at them.
I made it to Rongai village and border without border post, there a hundred old wooden bands for forest workers. I try to find food in a local restaurant locally know as ‘hotel.’ Please don’t ask for rooms! I popped in the one pointed by pass by, ‘do you have food?’ ‘yes’ ‘what kind of food?’ ‘Chai and chapatti’ (tea and chapatti), ‘where can I find food?’ ‘probably on that big tree.’ I maneuver the way to the big tree and after some direction from maaasai men sitting under tree (as normal). It a M-kamba woman (from the Kenyan plains) ‘ Uko na chakula?’ (do u have food?) Ndio, chain a madnazi! 9yes tea and some cakes) ‘Thanks, where can I get real food like rice and beans?’ ‘Just try at the end o0f the village’ At he end of the village, a woman dress well compared to the rest of the villagers with the hood; ‘Habari gani? ‘alkhumsalam’ (ooh she replay like I said salamu alekhum, she is Muslim). Do you have food? ‘Yes but not now, we cant it now because its holey month’ Thanks, ‘we’ Holey Month’ Doesn’t make any sense to me. I should probably cook but before I decide that someone offered me a direction to somewhere else. By the way, this isn’t a large village. You can just see every where so that is easier than cooking. At this last place took 2 1/2hrs to get rice and beans. I’m now tired and exhausted. It seems like Peter is not going to make to here as the plan, but I’ll wait for his update. I went in the guest house we slept last time. It is just a wooden room of 4.30m wide and 8m long, but it make sense to be called guest house because it cost me 3000Tsh (approx 2$). Around 4pm Peter text ‘45km away, not sure if I can make it, probably I’ll bush camp’. Behind the guest house there was football match and from time to time the ball hit the corrugated iron of my room with a scream, so I couldn’t take a nap. I just wander in the football pitch. The match seemed to be bit serious as I found more spectators than I expected, and players with formal jerseys with hand written numbers. The scene where like imaginary football match on the green pitch surrounded by old wooden bandas, all kinda folks children to adult watching a match, goats, sheep cattle roaming around, forest and hug mass of land with white peak. After 20minuts of watching I could predict the match so there was no point of standing there.It was sun down so better take a walk. I took a walk towards the mountain. The walk was a perfect call, there was an awesome view of mountain two peaks connected with a saddle with colorful reflection from sun set (I wish I had a good camera).
The lush green with high diversity of plant as much as my eyes could tell, the birds call were so varying, fiscal shrike and pygmy falcon perch on electrical polls waiting for last insects to show up, bunch of Hartilabs Turaco telling each how was the day from far, couple Tropical Boubou calling each and paradise fly catcher busy in the mating. This was probably walking to the little paradise. I walk back in the house when it was dark made my spaghetti and canned beans dinner. I set off at 7am to cycle the cloudy and chilly cold mountain, at some point the road return to the rolling hills. It was too cold with little rain in those long down hills.
I stopped in one village for chai. Peter texted ‘I’m getting lazy in my old age, still lying in the tent listening to music but soon I’ll be on the road’. At Kamwanga village where the green forest turn to dry savannah stretching from mountain to Kenyan plains also the tarmac road turns to gravel road with some dust pool. After about 20km from Rongai I was now aware that I might loose Peter probably in the bush or chai stop, I stopped a motor bike driver coming from different direction, ‘Did you pass mzungu on the bike?’ ‘no’ ‘where are you from?’ ‘olmolong’ ‘how far from here?’ ‘may be 2km’ !!! ‘how long do you think it will take me to be there?’ may be 1/30hrs’ ‘Thanks very much and safari njema’. Five kilometers ahead I meet a maasai on his cool traditional dress cord; ‘Habari rafiki? ‘Have you seen mzungu on the bike?’ ‘Yes’ ‘Where’ ‘Here’’ When?’ ‘About 2 or 3 days ago’ Thanks, see you later.’ About 2km from maasai guy Peter was struggling uphill with his heavy loaded bike. We just laugh at each as we great each, we have been up to date each for couple of days . Before going further I just ask Peter, “how did you sleep he just laugh more. ‘I camped after dark, it happened to be the wrong spot, because it was behind a chickens pen. There were tons of cock calling just in my head from 3am or so. 10m from my tent it was pig pen, the smell was unbearable in the morning. But all is fine’ “All is Fine!!” More or less that is what I could say as well so I now realized we’re on the same page.
We stop for about half an hour talking on different subjects. We resume our cycling towards the mountain to Rongai when we start to feel cold. Me and Peter we knew each about 3yrs ago when I was researching for my cycling around Africa mission, in that time he was arriving back home from China by bike. He cycled a lot in central and southern Asia,
actually this there where he started his bikes touring adventures. When he was setting off for ‘Big Cycle Africa’ we hope to meet but never schedule it. Peter cycle for his own pace with plan of London to Cape Town, he said he always tell people that he will be in Cape after 6 months now it almost 2yrs on road and he’s still telling me he will be in Cape after 6 months.
Talking with Peter about his adventure in Africa I think is a first cyclist who had real enjoy and experience ‘real’ Africa. Despite robber attack in Senegal and theft of all electronic equipments in Kenya he is still super positive and never related them with his biking experience. The both happen out of cycling, he took the wrong walking path in Senegal and Kenya incident was thief in the recommended guest house where he stayed while distributing mosquito net which is a cause of his Africa adventure. Malaria is a disease which is a cause of many death in Africa than any, since there have been little done to eradicate this disease a cause like Peter's it invaluable. He is going through most remote part of the continet, central Africa, Congo, etc and set up mosquito nets distribution. I think this is among of worth cause to undertake. Good work Peter! Our meeting was bit strange, after few hours together it was like we knew each for ages. We talked of many different things than bikes. We had later lunch at Tarakea, continued with cycling slow with Peter’s pace, exchanging bikes, make some silly games with locals while listen to Fela Kutte in his external speakers. The dark found us at Rombo, we sorted accommodation here, had long conversation over diner. This was the perfect time for me to talk with Peter about my coming expedition; “Chile to Kili”. The plan is to raise money to offer scholarships for motivated Tanzania students who want to study Natural Resource Management or Environmental Conservation. I am one of these students, who has been struggling to find funding for school. On the way I plan to raise awareness for Nature/environment conservation in different ways. This is quite the same mission with Peter of raise money to “Fight Against Malaria in Africa”. Peter likes the idea a lot, he believes it will be also an inspiration for most of the youth especial African. He relates this with his talking he did in Africa. He is also down to come and join me for couple of weeks in somewhere like Mongolia; “I cant imagine what will be the reaction of people who have never see a black man before” he concluded.
The next day we start our day slowly as we didn’t feel like leaving each other. Peter showed me what he packed, important and not important, useful and not useful, etc. We spent couple of hours at breakfast and coke stops. We gave each other one final hug and best wishes as Peter camped in the rim of Lake Chala and I headed back to Arusha for further preparations of ‘Chile to Kili’. Stay turned for more info as soon we will launch the movement, there will be also plenty of chance if you want to join me for a stretch.