Stranded at Lake Baringo

We caught our first sights of the Lake, standing beautifully below us and surrounded by countless green hills. The views were exquisite from our high vantage point.

After some hard cycling on bumpy dirt roads, we reached a tiny village. It was a little way off the road according to our map,but we figured it was a good place to stop for the night nevertheless. What happened next was both comical and frustrating.

Lake Baringo in the distance

A group of friendly kids directed us down a path to the village. The path gradually got steeper and steeper. Even worse, there was volcanic rock everywhere. Soon our bikes were bumping over boulders of it. At some point we were just hoping we would find something here… we had passed the point of no return! It would take us forever to get the bikes back up to the road. When we got there – we realised this was a tiny village – more like a collection of houses. Despite its small size.. we now had a parade of villagers following us and our bicycled to no man’s land. We asked them to guide us to a boat in the hope there was a fishing boat that might be able to take us across the water. We followed them until the path got narrower and narrower, until we we pushing the bikes over massive volcanic boulders wedged between thick bushes.

Where are we?

When we emerged on the other side, we were on a beautiful shore of Lake. Large, dead trees stood in the water around an old windmill. What we realised next was not so pretty – the only boats in sight had gaping holes and were in no condition to take our heavy gear.

Fortunately, the locals saved our asses. There must have been about 30 kids and 10 adults with us at the shore. While the adults were calling around, we had some fun with the kids. Simon showed them some juggling, I let them play around with the camera. Kids genuinely get so excited to see themselves on screen.

Chilling with the locals

After a lot of calling, the only option available was the fancy lodge on an island of the lake. They had an engine boat they could send over, but it would cost us $50. We explained our situation to the lodge manager, but she would not budge. In the end, the lodge knew we had run out of options and we had no other choice.

We were glad for the lovely villagers, however, who did an amazing job trying to get us to the other side of the lake. They stayed with us until we got on our boat. When gave us a good send-off, waving from the shoreline as our boat drifted away.

The helpful villagers saying goodbye

When we neared the shoreline at the village of Loruk, our driver was unsure where to go. He subsequently had a conversation with a naked teenager, covered in soap and crossing his legs to hide his crown jewels. Trying to preserve his pride while having a conversation with our boat driver and two mzungus is medal worthy. Still unsure of where to go and with night almost falling on us, the driver switched the engine off and we drifted into a dead forest submerged in the lake. While navigating through the exquisite trees, we head something – a very familiar high pitched grunt: hippos. We were now in hippo territory. Before long we located the pod who were clearly not happy about us. Fortunately, they didn’t decide to charge and we found a pathway leading down to the shore.

Turning off the engine..

Floating through the dead forest

We had to hurry now – night was falling and the hippos would soon come out to graze. We carried the bikes to the start of a path and quickly loaded the bikes. Once all was sorted – we cycled as quickly as we could on a small dirt path, keeping a keen lookout for any stray hippos.

Eventually we got to a small town where we stayed in the most adorable shack hotel. The hotel was made entirely of metal sheets and wooden panels to hold it together. The place was clean and we met many friendly people. Only one downside – it was like an oven inside. A cold bucket shower cooled us right down.

Can you spot the hippos?

But I suddenly fell ill. I felt like the plague was upon me and my stomach suddenly hurt like hell. What followed was one of the hardest nights of the trip. I won’t force the goriest details into your imagination, but it involved me running to the outside toilet, in the pitch dark every 20 minutes. That wasn’t the bad part. When I got to the toilet – every time I opened the door and flashed my headlamp, I saw 10s of cockroaches fleeing from the pit toilet. I even had to fight some of them off to get my space at the toilet. And no – that was not the worst! As I said, I won’t give you nightmares with the gory details.

The shack hotel

To be fare, the toilet was actually clean, but if you have a pit toilet you can’t control the cockroaches and what they decide to do at night. If it wasn’t for that, we actually enjoyed our stay at the cute shack guest house. If I have a hard time on the road now, I think back to that night and say to myself, Tanya, pull your socks up, it can’t be worse than that. It can’t.

Crossing the Great Rift Valley

Sometimes we choose the harder way. Sometimes we question why we chose that harder way. After cycling it, though, the rewards are clear. This time, the reward was looking down into the Rift Valley and appreciating the beauty, the wonders of nature and the physical effort we pushed ourselves through.

After just recently coming off the dirt roads, this ride on tar was two of the toughest days we have had cycling. First we cycled 1200 m up in elevation to Karbanet. Then we had a beautiful decent down onto the Rift Valley floor where we fuelled up on Ugali at a cute restaurant hidden behind a tiny store front.

Nice views

Almost at the top

Some kilometres later we hit the next mammoth hill – a steep 1300 m up over 20 km. We had to fight a lot but the views were incredible! We could also see this region was crazy about running. Many kids ran next to our bicycles as we cycled up. We were so slow, however, that they ended up walking next to us – clearly a bit disappointed in our slow pace. Nevertheless, we still felt like champions when we hit the village of Iten.. especially when we ‘crossed the finish line’ under this sign:

Home of Champions!

We made it!

Iten is indeed the home of champions. This is where the marathon runners of Kenya train.. up the very hill we cycled. This was clearly their home turf. And at nearly 2400 m in altitude, it is very cold up here! In the evening, we had the best masala chips at our Guest House and the place was packed. Everyone was watching the Boston Marathon and we grabbed the last two seats. Some Kenyans were the frontrunners and everyone was shouting and rooting for them. It got so exciting we felt we were at a world cup football match. Simon and I were more entertained by watching the crowd, though. But in the final moments of the men’s race, the Kenyan lost to a Japanese runner. Maybe next time guys.

We went to bed tired and exhausted, but happy we made it across the valley. From here, we headed to the Ugandan border, reflecting on our time in Kenya. Kenya has easily made it to our list of favourite countries and we have made unforgettable memories here. We have met so many kind, self-sacrificing people and we are just deeply inspired by them. Goodbye Kenya and thank you! For more photos from Kenya, see here.

Bye bye Kenya

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