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Kenya's "Kinda" DGR - Just Our Cup O' Tea

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by Osadabwa, Sep 28, 2020.

  1. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    706
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    2020 has been disruptive, you could say. Months of lockdowns globally and economic turmoil. The globally popular Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride even had to change their format, encouraging everyone to go for a solo ride this year instead of toodling around in dapper mobs. So, this year’s Kenya DGR year was unofficial, and the organizers bear no responsibility if any of us keel over later. In fact, this was not the Kenya DGR at all, it was the Kenya “kinda” DGR. Caveat out of the way, on with the ride.

    We met a Patient-P’s at 9:00AM, right on time and an hour early because the Karen contingent was taking their sweet time as ever. This was fine with us because it meant we could enjoy extra coffee and most of the bacon and eggs P made for us. Plus, it was gloomy and the longer we waited the better the weather might be. At last, the other guys arrived, and it was a motley crew… we had bikes of 4 makes, 5 models, 4 decades and all states of vintageness from the BSA Golden Flash, to the brand-spanking new Africa Twin. Again, this wasn’t a real DGR, so the rules were flexible.



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    Above: The bikes – XT500, XL250, BMW R100, Honda Arica Twin, BSA Golden Flash, and a Triumph Scrambler in the back

    For the past four years we’ve made something of a mini-adventure out of the DGR, riding down to the sweltering bottom of the Great Rift Valley to the Magadi Sports Club. Here's a link to last year's ride. It’s a tradition we’ve enjoyed as it pits man and machine against the environment in a very Kenyan sort of way… the heat is insane and some of the hills are steep, giving the oldest bikes a run for their money. This year, however, Magadi is off-limits due to Covid fears so we decided to explore another side of Kenya. Rather than sweat our wheel nuts off in the valley, we’d ride north into the coffee- and tea-covered hills below the Aberdares to Ndakaini Dam. The exact destination was utterly random. We just needed somewhere with beds, food and beers about 100km away from home. It turned out great.

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    Above: We crawled through Nariobi traffic into the nearby rolling hills.

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    Above: Patient P and Ugy had chosen our destination. It was my job to get us there. I’d picked us a route that was hardly ever straight, but almost totally tarred. The road network in the highlands is impressive, with lots of good tar roads and a zillion decent murram ones to choose from. You can go North and South very easily, but it’s much harder going East to West due to the many small river valleys coming off the Aberdares mountains.

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    Above: Ugy on his Golden Flash. That bike never fails to impress. She handled the hills and valleys with grace and ease and later she’d prove capable on some dirt as well.

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    Above: Stopping for a quick break somewhere in the eucalyptus and dust

    We were making good time so we decided to stop somewhere for some nyama and and a cheeky mid-day beer. Not being remotely picky about these sorts of things, we pulled into the first dodgy joint we saw that had dead things hanging in the front window. We got ourselves a few medium-cold ones to wash down the ugali and beef and shot the breeze, enjoying being on the road.

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    Above: Don't worry, we're of age.

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    Above: Ah, White Cap. The refreshing choice.

    After lunch, it was back on the bikes and higher into the hills. We had to loop south to find an East-West road to take us North again, but nobody was complaining. The roads were dry, the sun was shining, and we were enjoying the views. As we switch-backed and climbed up and around, we zoomed between vegetable plots and fields of tea and pineapple. Interspersed along the road would be a trading centre with agro-vet shops, petrol stations and markets catering for the farms around. It’s a prosperous part of the country that has enjoyed a lot of benefits over the years.

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    Above: Round we go

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    Above: My XT500 down in a verdant vegetable valley

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    Above: Stopping for petrol in a trading centre. 10 year old me would have loved this guys paint job.

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    Above: The higher we went, the more pronounced the terrain

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    Above: One of dozens of little stream crossings coming down from the Aberdares

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    Above: A hillside of tea and pineapple. I’m a little worried about the appearance of pineapple here… means that tea isn’t as profitable as it once was. Pineapple is a pretty harsh crop for soil health and requires a fair amount of spraying which in Kenya is uncontrolled and winds up in water sources. Alas.

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    Above: A bit higher up, this stream might be stocked with trout

    Around four PM we arrived at the Ndakaini Dam Resort, put our gear in the “spacious accommodation” and began enjoying a new round of White Caps. The place was typical in many respects, but located on exceptional grounds with nice views over the reservoir. When the sun went down, it got positively chilly and we all donned our warmest kit and crowded around the fire they prepared for us. We chowed down and shot the breeze late into the evening, but once the Caol Isla single malt was done, we called it a night.

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    Above: Ndakaini Dam Resort

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    Above: The reservoir… beautiful, clear water… but no swimming allowed. It’s the water source for Nairobi so it’s prohibited. Boats are okay and agricultural runoff is fine, however.

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    Above: Thumbs up for the glass-enclosed veranda and wood stove.

    Thankfully, Kenya still has a 9pm curfew, so we could say one thing for the Ndakaini Dam Resort... it was quiet.

    Tomorrow, back home.
    #1
    liv2day, eaglescan and Clem Fandango like this.
  2. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    706
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Amazingly, the following day brought no hangovers and apart from a lot of grumbling about the firmness of beds and coldness of the showers, everyone was in great spirits. Breakfast was served on time and we were on the bikes BEFORE our advertised departure time, which is simply unheard of. I was keen to get moving because I was pretty sure the return track I’d planned would be slow, and we had been invited to a braai back in Tigoni that I didn’t want to be late for. So, off we went, with me nearly being taken out in the first half kilometre by a matatu overtaking another matatu on a blind corner. Good morning Africa!

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    Above: Only two of us got into the proper DGR spirit this year… we’ll do better next time!

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    To my surprise, the road I was sure would be rough and slow was tarmac in places and nicely groomed murram everywhere else. The bikes rolled through it in no time. We stopped a few times to take in the view of rolling tea fields and admire our bikes in the morning light, but then pressed on through the Gatamaiyo forest.

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    Above: Blue skies, green blanket of tea

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    Above: Ugy and my XT pose for photos

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    Above: the group selfie

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    Above: Nice riding all morning

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    Above: Bikes coming around

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    Above: Triumph on the prowl

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    Above: XT in the sun

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    Above: Tea, tea, tea!

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    Above: In Kenyatta’s tea estate, carved blatantly (andillegally, if you believe there is such a thing as law) out of the forest years ago. It’s good to be king.

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    Above: A nice lineup of bikes. All shapes, sizes, ages and uses.

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    Above: Into Gatamaiyo forest. Lots of construction on the road. Wonder if they’re planning a 4-laner.

    We were making very good time and I was wondering how to extend the ride so we wouldn’t arrive too early to our bbq. At a petrol stop, I hatched the idea of taking a dirt road from the flyover down to Longonot and then ride the MaiMahieu escarpment road up to Limuru. Ugy’s Golden Flash was the big unknown, but he immediately said we should go for it. So, after replacing the XL250’s exhaust mount bolt which decided to abandon us, we were off on an unscheduled detour.

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    Above: It’s good to be prepared. Replacing the XL’s lost bolt

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    Above: Highlands woodworking in faded Kikuyu Blue

    As with the rest of the ride, I was surprised to find that the track I planned was in fine nick. The road seemed to have been freshly repaired and all the bikes, the BSA included had no trouble bouncing down to Longonot. Once on the tar, it was as straight shot to the Milano lookout point on the edge of the escarpment. A few of us waited there a bit for the others to sort out a chain and brake issue on the XL, but in no time we were back in a group and dodging rolling death up the escarpment road.

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    Above: The BSA on the well-laid murram

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    Above: Ugy: “Isn’t this ridiculous?” Yeah, man, it’s Kenya!

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    Above: The two dapperest guys on the ride pose with the oldest bike and an extinct volcano.

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    Above: Down on the MaiMahieu road, I finally stopped to get a photo of this sign. I mean, I’m glad to hear that this sub-location is ODF, but what’s that mean for the rest of the country?

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    Above: At the Milano enjoying a Coke which had to be found somewhere else because despite ample signage to the contrary, they were Coke-less.

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    Above: Ugy, looking a tad more weathered than earlier in the day

    Back in a group again, we fought our way up the rest of the escarpment road, over to Limuru and out to our day’s destination: a beautiful 1940’s farm manager’s house lovingly restored and occupied by a friend of the Kenyan DGR who sponsored the braai. We parked the bikes under a massive old Jacaranda tree on the lawn and were promptly handed cold Carlsberg’s. We killed the remainder of the afternoon shooting the breeze and dining on a fantastic spread of beef and the farm’s own lamb.

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    Above: Bikes, ridgebacks and at the big old Jacaranda

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    Above: A fairytale house in the tea estates

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    Above: Braai scenes

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    Above: The route, counter clockwise from Nairobi

    It was another great ride on the old bikes. I suspect that when the DGR is back on in coming years, the Kenyan contingent will vote to stay in tea country rather than return to the valley of death, and if we have a sponsored bbq at the end of it, it’ll be hard to argue!

    Thanks to everyone who participated, our gracious host and chef, and to those who donated this year!

    Cheers
    #2
    orionsilver, bomose, jasiu and 6 others like this.
  3. Salsa

    Salsa Long timer

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,355
    Location:
    Arizona, Alaska
    Another great report from one of my favorites!!!

    Don
    #3
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  4. Hedonist222

    Hedonist222 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2014
    Oddometer:
    860
    Location:
    Dubai,Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
    such a wonderful trip

    thank you for sharing
    #4
    Osadabwa likes this.
  5. eaglescan

    eaglescan Borrego rocks Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2009
    Oddometer:
    719
    Location:
    Langley,B C
    Excellent , and that XT is so cool. I had a Triumph TR6C new in 1967. Sorry to have abused it a lot in mud ,sand and rocks. 40 years later , bought the BMW X Challenge, it was Blue like the Triumph , a 650 and had the cross over pipe. Been a little easier off road on it, 96000 km so far. cheers
    #5
    Osadabwa likes this.
  6. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2016
    Oddometer:
    2,430
    Location:
    Sherwood, Oregon
    Outstanding @Osadabwa! Good on you and the crew for keeping something going for the DGR this year. It's great to see the collection of bikes, just think about the technological advancements between the BSA and AT; pretty dam cool to have both of those on the same ride covering the same terrain.

    Wonderful scenery shots from the ride up and the ride back; and that resort with the glassed-in patio and wood stove is sweet.

    Appreciate you taking the time to get the pictures posted and report crafted; enjoyed the wit and writing as I always do in your reports.

    Knobby side down for anything coming up man.
    #6
  7. SIF

    SIF Adventurer

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2015
    Oddometer:
    27
    Location:
    Nairobi
    Outstanding as always, great effort by all of you.
    #7
    Osadabwa likes this.