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Old 02-02-2015, 05:30 PM   #1
Osadabwa OP
Don't be Surprised
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Joined: Mar 2009
Location: Nairobi, Kenya
Oddometer: 286
Thumb Rocking and Rolling in Kenya's Rift Valley

Plans change. Don't be surprised.

Sunday morning, Atreyou and I are kitted up and rolling out of town prepared for a full day of Kenyan backcountry riding. Sadly, his bike had other ideas. Having just swapped in a new IMS fuel tank the night before, we were disgruntled to see that fuel was leaking from the O-ring at the petcock (lazy workmanship, IMS…). Not keen to piss petrol all day long, and somewhat concerned that the drippity-drip was landing directly on his header pipe, we decided to call the day off. Disgruntled, we turned back toward home from Ngong Town, taking a small detour to have an early lunch within view of a dozen Masai Giraffe and one grumpy Common Tit.

Above: The anti-clockwise route from leafy Nairobi Suburb to Rift Valley and back over the Ngong Hills

Not wanting to quit yet, I phoned Neb to see if he wanted to help salvage the day. At first, he said no, then he said yes and within the hour the ride had resumed. An odd couple for sure, me with my full-on Enduro kit and Neb in his workboots, carpenter pants and hoodie, zipping along below the Ngong Hills in search of some stony paths up the flanks of Mt. Esakut.

The quick track beneath the Ngongs robbed Neb of his helmet cam, sending it bouncing who knows where into the bush. Some lucky Masai will probably stumble upon it and have a good time watching the silly Mzungu ride his bike through the bush til the battery dies and the thing becomes a bauble for his prized bull.

Above: Nebs through a dry creekbed, a KTM in her element

Unsuccessful in our search for the cam, I led us into a valley I’d discovered with Labda some months back. It was hot in there, and full of loose baby-heads, but Neb and I were handling it all pretty well. As long as we kept momentum and our feet on the pegs, our bikes took care of the rest. We decided to deviate a bit from my known track and were rewarded with some entertaining technical sections rife with loose stones and wait-a-bit bushes diabolically designed with hooked thorns that are a nightmare from which to untangle oneself.

Above: Acacia thorn blooms and bikes

Above: Neb's enjoying the ride

The climb up the valley had emboldened us to explore additional unknown tracks. From our water break spot on the saddle of a hill, we could see what looked like a road snaking its way down the hillside. Upon closer inspection, it looked less like a road and more like a thousand year old cattle path, but we had to give it a go. The thing was strewn with sharp volcanic stone, most of which slid free under the weight of the tyres. It was a bit of a scree field and it was easy to get sliding out of control. We both made it down the steepest section unscathed, Neb more gracefully than I.

Above: Contemplating the descent

Above: Neb handles the steepest section

Above: A Neb double take

Above: My turn to bounce over the stones

At the bottom of the valley we were greeted with an equally steep exit track. I was half hoping the trail would follow the valley downstream, but no such luck. The track climbed straight back out of the valley. It was tough going. We’d handled some similar sections earlier well enough, but they’d taken their toll on our energy reserves and the heat of that little airless valley was brutal. Neb skittered up the first section alright, but I could hear the bike struggling, spinning and revving ahead. I gave my best effort, and made it fairly smoothly up to the point where I could see Neb, wedged between a big stone and a tree letting the CRF cool down.

Above: Neb skitters up the slope, his bike at rest on a stone step

Above: My KTM and I taking a breather… It was hot

It took a while for Neb’s CRF to cool off. Being the R model, it’s not very happy to be doing this kind of labor. No fan, hard suspension, you name it, but Neb just soldiered on. Once she stopped steaming, he was back on and lurching over the top of the rise.

Above: Neb on the final ascent

The steep valley connected us with a lovely track King Louis and I had found previously. Though loosely covered with rolling stones and sand, it had a mild slope and was good for cooling engine and body. We were both out of water, so when the time came to cut left or right, we aimed for the way that would take us to Olepolos for cold drinks.

Of course the extra speeds over stony paths caused Neb to pinch flat, so we got to work (well, Neb did) in the blazing sun (why the hell didn’t we sit under the shade tree) shooting the breeze (in pidgeon Swahili) with a boma (family home) full of Masai, one of whom was super helpful (all thumbs, totally clumsy) and made the work a breeze (caused Neb no end of consternation). All in all, the time passed quickly enough and we were soon on our way again.

Above: Neb and his lovely assistant fix a pinch flat, selfie with Mr. Helpful

In two shakes of a goat’s tail, we were in Olepolos. All business after being promised quick eats there only to leave hungry on previous trips, I forced the waiter to swear on his ancestors’ graves that meat could be procured immediately and I was not disappointed. In no time, an entire front leg of goat appeared to satisfy our meat cravings. While we waited, we decided the day had been too successful not to end it on a high note and vowed to ride the spine of the Ngongs on our way home.

Above: Olepolos didn’t disappoint this time

It was close to 5:00 PM when we skittered and roosted up the steep southern face of the Ngongs. Below us, a wedding party or church gathering watched in a mixture of awe and annoyance as we revved and lurched along. The light was getting toward that perfect African afternoon quality and the air temperature had dropped perceptibly. We’d made the right call.

Above: Neb was excited to climb the Ngongs again

Above: Neb’s high gearing occasionally catches him out…

Above: Neb captures the money shot: Me atop the Ngongs with Mt. Esakut in the background

Above: CRF over the Kenyan plains

Above: A sprawling Nairobi as seen from the Ngong Hills

Above: Parting shot, Neb on the way to the windmills

We’d put in a hell of a day considering it really didn’t start until around 11:00. My body was rocked, my legs burned and my middle fingers locked out straight instead of obeying my directions to squeeze the levers. A day later, I’m still sore as hell and can’t wait to do it again!
Don't be surprised.
Osadabwa is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-03-2015, 06:14 AM   #2
Ride far...
Joined: Nov 2012
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Excellent ride report! Great photos too.
I spent a few days in Mombasa in the early 90's, good times!
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Old 02-03-2015, 08:11 AM   #3
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Joined: Feb 2010
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Cool to read as always, thanks Osadabwa!
Never forget 911 * Je suis Charlie
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Old 02-04-2015, 01:53 PM   #4
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Joined: Mar 2009
Location: DFW Area, TX
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Cool ride and good pictures!
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Old 06-23-2015, 01:36 AM   #5
Joined: Mar 2015
Location: Kenya
Oddometer: 2
Ngong Hills

Hello Osadabwa! Amazing ride reports as always.

I am a resident of Nairobi and I've always wanted to ride Ngong Hills although I didn't have a dualsport bike. I recently acquired a Suzuki DR200 and would be honoured to join you on a ride sometime. I'm not a very experienced rider and afraid I may slow you down.

Will you consider my offer?

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