THE ROAD TO KITUMBEINE

Landing at Nairobi International Airport at 0700, I cleared customs with a bike in a box and boarded Riverside Bus Service for a three hour ride to Longido, Tanzania, where I would begin my biking adventure.  We made the border crossing at Namanga, but not without the customary investigative shakedown.  After discovering that there was a bike in a box on top of the bus, I was immediately taken by the customs officer to a dingy, unlit office, furnished with only an old wooden desk and two chairs. The walls were sparse and desired a new coat of paint. A picture of their President hung tilted on the wall. I knew the procedure and I sat down to wait.  Three years ago I had sat in the same office after they discovered that I had brought a power paraglider with me on the bus.  They were insisting on an import duty fee.  I told the officer that it was my personal PPG and that I had brought it in on prior visits.  Yes, he wanted proof.  I had to think…..yes, of course.  My Facebook profile shows me with my PPG standing next to a Maasai woman in Tanzania. Yes, “Duty” problem solved.

Now the officer wanted “Duty” for the bike in the box.  I insisted that the bike was 19 years old, not a new bike.  He insisted that the bike was new to Tanzania though, which I could not argue.  I insisted that the bike was my means of transportation in Tanzania and that it would take me back to Kenya.  Surprisingly, with just a promise not to sell the bike and a simple handshake, I was on my way across the border.

Image 1The bus pulled off the road at the turnoff to Kitumbeine, a few kilometers from the town of Longido.  I took my luggage and the bike in a box and placed them under an Acacia tree. Even before the bike was out of the box, I was surrounded by curious Maasai, all willing to help sort and assemble.

Image 2

Already two hours behind schedule, but what is a schedule in Africa, I knew I could not waste time. It was already an adventure in itself without the added risk of riding after sunset!  Kitumbeine, a small Maasai village, is where my friend and grade school classmate, Steve Friberg, lives with his family as a missionary doctor, and where I plan to spend the night. 

Image3

Thirty-five miles of dirt road through remote northern Tanzania rich with wildlife now lay before me.  “Pinch me”, I thought.  “Is this for real?”  The road was mine, except for the occasional Land Rover or commercial lorry which would pass by.  For one hour I cranked on the pedals and noted that the odometer was only reading 6-10 MPH.  I thought, “What is wrong?

I am in good shape and can average 20 MPH at home.”  It was only after I stopped to look back, that I noticed I was on a steady up hill incline.  So I trudged on. Then the sound of a gunshot, but I knew it was my back tire which had just blown.  I pulled the bike under the shade of an Acacia tree and before I had the back tire removed I had a visitor.  Yes, a Maasai herder.  While I repaired the tire, he asked for maji, (water) but I said “No”. I needed it more than he did.  He then begged for my Leatherman.  I said “No”. Your knife on your belt is much bigger than mine.  Finally, he asked for the old tire, which had blown out.  This I granted him and off he went with a smile.

With the wind at my back, riding downhill on the washboard, bumpy, gravel road, shaking my eyeballs right out of their sockets, I glanced down at the odometer reading 22 MPH. Finally, I had reached my cruising speed, but as I glanced up, too late, a sand trap engulfed my front tire and I did a slow-mo summersault over the handlebars.

ImageSoft landing.

Everything is OK.

Not a scratch.

As I shook off the dust, I noticed four beautiful and curious giraffes gazing at me over the tops of the Acacia trees.

With dusk fast approaching, I could see the corrugated shiny roofs of the village of Kitumbeine. Almost home.

Image

My roommate tonight, Friberg’s pet dik dik.

Look at those big dark eyes and long lashes.

Tonight I will sleep well.  My next lag will take me to Engaresero, a 50 mile ride on not so good roads through some extremely desolate landscapes.

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3 thoughts on “THE ROAD TO KITUMBEINE

  1. Scott, God has granted you many experiences that I’m sure I’ll never have until I get to heaven. I also know that,” to whom much is given much is required.” You are an amazingly giving person. Blessings to you! You’re just fun to know!(:

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