I made it to Nairobi! It took awhile, thanks to Kenya Airways canceling a flight for the final leg of my journey. I ended up checking into a hotel at 4:30 in the morning, after they finally shuttled us over there, only to return to the airport at 8am to hunt down one of my bags (which had gone missing when they unloaded all of our luggage). Total door-to-door travel time ended up being just over 48 hours!
I met up with the other unicyclists for dinner after arriving (I was the last to arrive). Today I assembled my unicycle–everything arrived intact–and we went for a brief ride around Nairobi Central Park in the morning. The traffic on the roads here is a little bit too dangerous for a longer, more exploratory ride, but the short ride felt good. We got some funny stares, but for the most part people’s response to the unis was fairly reserved.
The weather is fantastic! Slightly humid, but today was in the mid 70s with just a few clouds. The forecast for the rest of the tour is looking good. It should be clear skies and cool nights all the way through.
There’s a surprising dearth of wireless access points. In Vietnam we had free, open wireless available almost every single night. No one on the trip has found a single open point, yet, and the hotel’s wired connection is pretty sluggish. Geoff (my roommate from Saigon) decided to take things into his own hands, and purchased a 3G modem and 4GB of download credits. He’s sharing the connection with everyone else via wireless. As long as we’re in range of a cell tower I should be able to keep the flow of photos going, which is awesome!
The tour officially begins tomorrow at 5pm for dinner, where we’ll meet the local support staff and the three bikers brought in to fill cancellations. I’m not sure what I’ll do until then, since Nairobi doesn’t have a whole lot to do (the Lonely Planet East Africa guidebook literally mentions “taking in a movie” in their list of things to do while in Nairobi).
In less than 12 hours I’ll be boarding a plane, beginning a journey to Nairobi, Kenya, where I will join up with 6 other unicyclists who will be pedaling their way from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. I can’t quite believe it myself!
I didn’t hear about this tour until last year, while unicycling from Hanoi to Saigon in Vietnam. The other riders wanted to know: Was I going on the Africa tour? My first answer was, “yes!”, followed by a more reasoned, “Wait, what Africa tour?”. Details were largely irrelevant; it sounded like an awesome thing to do and I wanted to go. I later learned this is the route we’ll be taking:
Day 1 – Arrive in Nairobi, free day. Airport transfers can be arranged. Alternatively taxis are available outside the airport, approx $USD 20 to the Hotel where we will meet for a pre departure meeting at 5pm.NOTE- please change money on arrival at the airport for at least the first week of your trip.
Day 2 – We take a short drive out to the surrounding plains. From here we begin riding on undulating tarmac and dirt roads through the African savannah. A fairly gentle day of approx 25kms to ease us into the saddle brings us to an ostrich farm where we camp for the night.
DAY 3 – Heading away from civilisation we ride on dirt roads towards Amboseli National Park, meeting up with Maasai tribesmen and various plains game along the way before spending the night under the clear African sky in the open bush. Approx 82kms riding.
Day 4 – We continue riding on dirt roads and tracks to AmboseliNational Park, renown for its huge herds of elephant and stunning views of Mt Kilimanjaro. We finish the day with a short game drive into the park to the campsite. Approx 50kms riding.
Day 5 – With an early start we spend the morning on a game drive through Amboseli. Leaving the park after lunch we ride across the dry bed of LakeAmboseli and around the lower slopes of Mt Kilimanjaro to camp in the shadow of the massive mountain. Approx 25kms riding.
Day 6 – A relaxed morning gives us the chance to visit a Maasai manyatta, (village) and experience their traditional culture and lifestyle. We continue riding around the lower slopes of Mt Kilimanjaro towards the Tanzanian border. Approx 45kms riding.
Day 7 – After crossing through the Kenya/Tanzania border we drive on towards Arusha the safari capital of East Africa. After lunch, back on our unicycles and you choose between the paved road or dirt roads and tracks for approx 25kms to the MeseraniSnakePark. Lunch at own cost.
Day 8 – A full day of paved roads to really stretch out the legs as we ride away from Arusha. We again encounter Maasai tribesmen herding their cattle and some plains game. The afternoon brings us to Mto Wa Mbu, a small town at the foot of the Rift Valley escarpment.Explore the town and visit local craft markets. Evening meal at own cost. Approx 89kms riding.(Upgrades to rooms available*).
Day 9 – With an early start we drive into the Ngorongoro Crater, a natural Garden of Eden, and spend the day game viewing the highest concentration of plains game in Africa, Returning to Arusha in the evening.
Day 10 – Departing Arusha we begin heading towards the coast, driving south past Kilimanjaro and the huge wide open spaces of the Maasai Steppe. We finish the day with a 40km ride to a secluded campsite on the banks of a quiet meandering river. Lunch at own cost.
Day 11 – Climbing away from the plains we head up into the UsambaraMountains, driving up for the main climb then riding on towards Lushoto – an old German colonial town nestled high in the mountains. From here we cycle up to a viewpoint overlooking the endless plains below then continue further into the mountains to camp at a rustic colonial lodge. (Upgrades to rooms available*).Approx 45kms riding.
Day 12 – A well earned rest day for those who wish. Or join with a guide from the local village for a day hike into the stunning UsambaraMountains with unspoilt forests and views that go on forever. Here we have a chance to visit a local school. ** (Upgrades to rooms available*).
Day 13 – “The ultimate day” – What goes up must come down; riding further into these beautiful mountains we pass through pristine rainforest and village farmland. This is an area that rarely, if ever gets visited by travellers and the welcome and response we receive from the local population is fantastic. You have the choice of 2 routes back down, and then after lunch a gentle 14kms of scenic winding tarmac to get us back down to the plains below. (Upgrades to rooms available*). Approx 60kms riding.
Day 14 – With the tropical coastline as our goal we ride along a little used dirt road and through sleepy palm lined villages to meet the Indian Ocean at Bagamoyo. This small historic town right on the coast is at the end of what once was the major slave and trading route through East Africa. We camp at a lodge right on the beach. Evening meal at own cost. (Upgrades to rooms available*). Approx 65kms riding.
Day 15 – We ride through old Bagamoyo town then follow the coastal road to Dar es Salaam “Haven of peace”. A quick check of the local fish market to choose our dinner then a last gentle ride along the coast to our campsite – arriving in time to enjoy a swim in the Indian Ocean. Approx 25kms riding.
It’s fairly comarable to the Vietnam tour in total distance, except for:
Fewer rest days (there are longer stretches of consecutive riding)
And off-road! Vietnam was mostly paved; this will be mostly dirt. This is awesome.
I’ll be covering the trip here on my blog, primarily in photo and video form. I ranted a bit last year, but this year I’ll probably be taking more video/photo footage than anything.
I’m arriving a few days before the tour in order to wander around Nairobi. I expect I’ll have Internet access there, so I should be posting. If access is spotty, or I don’t have a lot of time, I’ll try to at least post photos to my Flickr account and videos to my Vimeo account. Keep an eye on those (and my Twitter account, of course).