Longonot ride and climb

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by Osadabwa, Nov 8, 2019.

  1. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

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    Wry and I have hatched a plan for December to ride into Tanzania and climb Oldonyo Lengai, the silliest mountain in East Africa. It’s a semi-active volcano smack-dab in the middle of the plains south of Lake Natron. The sides of this thing are steep dust and scree, there are no switchbacks, and you just basically have to muscle your way up it in the dark and tumble down it again in the heat. For whatever reason, that appeals to us, so it’s planned. In the meantime, I need saddle time and some cross training, so I grabbed Brain (who will also be coming with us) and we set off down the valley to combine a bit of biking and hiking. Of to Mt. Longonot!

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    Above: Morning on the XRs with the fog toupee over the Ngongs and the new tar road in the distance.

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    Above: We followed the new railway for quite a while before joining the new tarmac road construction dirt superhighway. It’s all different now. The railroad feels like a DMZ, some long, impenetrable thing slicing through what only 5 years ago was empty bush. Giraffes will be trapped on one side or the other permanently.

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    Above: After the dirt superhighway where I reached 145kph just because, we played hunt-and-peck to connect ourselves over to Mai-Maheiu, crossing under high-tension wires and wire fences that also weren’t there 5 years back.

    After a quick shot up the tarmac, we arrived at the Longonot gate where we changed into walking gear. The four or five guys in olive drab waved us around to park under the shade, which was nice, but the VIP treatment vanished when I got to pay full fare for entrance… I’d grabbed my son’s passport instead of my own that morning and the guy wouldn’t believe I was resident.

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    Above: XRs and wildlife bones… both endangered species

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    Above: At Longonot Rim. To put things in perspective, Google Earth shows that this hike was 3km long with an average slope of 14% and some concrete steps in places. We handled it well, but Lengai’s hike will be twice as long with an average slope of 35%, and deep sand and scree in place of concrete when the going gets tough. Still, I can’t wait. The day we have planned will be a 100% full moon and the hike begins at midnight after a 300km ride… HERE is a link to Xpat's experience there back when he was just a wee lass.

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    Above: Brain enjoying a cold Coke. I definitely want to come back to Longonot a few more times before the trip.

    We trotted back down the hill, passing a church group of Kenyans who looked like they were being broiled alive, donned our riding kit again and headed out for Mayer’s Ranch. We’d been invited for lunch and a tour of the Bateleur Brewery. It’s a place carved out of time, full of colonial history and beautifully maintained. A spring runs through the garden and trees teem with Sykes monkeys and song birds. Lunch was fantastic, and the brewery tour was great and ended with a wee tasting session with the Master Brewer.

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    Above: The Mayer’s grounds

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    Above: Brain soaks his sweaty feet in the spring

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    Above: Bateleur Brewery is probably Kenya’s best (and newest) craft breweries.

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    Above: Brain in his fancy hat (don’t want to be spreading little curly ginger hairs all over the place) sampling beer straight out of the cooling tanks with the Master Brewer, a lady who really knows good beer.

    After our tour, it was time to hit the road. We rattled over the fairly horrible road out of Mayer’s, past a huge stone quarry where men with chisels hand cut foundation stones from the Earth. From Ewaso Kedong, it was a lovely, late afternoon rip up the road to Saikeri where the Friday Masai Market was in full swing - shukas and sheep shining in the sunlight. Finally, we re-connected with the soon-to-be tar road and it hit me hard. If you put a tar road through it, it ceases to be remote. A tar road means progress and people, cars and more litter. It’s inevitable, but hard to accept.

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    Above: Stone quarry… the men who work in that puppy are made of tougher stuff than I

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    Above: Fun, flowing tracks after the pounding of the stony, dumptruck-clogged road clogged

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    Above: I don’t know when that Lutheran school opened (top), but it seems just a bit out of place… for now.

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    Above: A perennial favourite escape track. I was relieved to see the new tar road doesn’t come this way.

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    Above: Windmills on the Ngongs (with plans for expansion, and rumoured to soon have a 300 person “eco” hotel as well), high- and low-tension power lines, barbed wire fences and tar roads. So it goes.

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    #1
  2. NAVIGATOR

    NAVIGATOR Wanderer

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    Nice report and a nice way to improve your fitness for the volcano climb
    #2
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  3. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

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    Yes, particularly the beer tasting... after that mountain, we're going to hit the bar!
    #3
  4. ADVer

    ADVer Been here awhile

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    Good prep hike.
    Your Swahili didn’t convince the guard that you’re a local?
    Lots of change.
    #4
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  5. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

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    @ADVer - No, those guys have no agency to use their common sense, and it's by design to prevent petty corruption. I mean, it's a Friday... I'm on a Kenyan registered bike... have just arrived like I own the place... dropping Swahili and joking with everyone... Kenyan driving license... still no dice. I didn't fight too hard. No sense making that guy's day miserable... there's enough to worry about in the world.

    I'm glad we got out when we did... it's now pouring buckets!
    #5
  6. SIF

    SIF Adventurer

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    Bateleur Brewery and Mayer's Ranch, open to the public ? Loving the quarry, looks like something out of Mawdor !
    #6
  7. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

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    This morning I took off for Longonot again solo. Plan was to ride the dirt down and back, but I got moving and decided I'd do the 60km of tar in one quick go and spend more time walking the volcano. Tar isn't my favorite, but there are times I'm into it... the Mai Mahieu road is just stupid... big trucks overtaking up blind corners, ProBoxes careening everywhere. For whatever reason, I kind of got into the madness today and didn't get killed in the process. There's a kind of flow to weaving in and out of chaotic Kenyan traffic. Anyway, arriving at Longonot, I ended up doing a couple of loops of the crater rim... took me 4 hours to do about 18km in all, clocking some 1,380m of elevation gain.

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    Above: At the rim, still looking pretty fresh

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    Above: But steep trails would eventually wear me out...

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    Above: By the second loop around to the top, I was pooped

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    Above: But one man's poop is another man's treasure...

    The legs were killing me when I got back to the bike (bad news, since Lengai is both taller and steeper, and I'll be doing it after 300km of riding and in the dark) but as soon as I was on it, I was drifting out on the dirt. Got to the tar and immediately decided to go back-tracks home. Rode like a striped ape along the pipeline road's endless line of jumps and blasted up the dirt superhighway they're making for the new tar. I think it was just a case of having brand new tires front and rear... so much grip!

    Great day. I'm happy the climbing muscles and the riding ones seem to be separate, so after Lengai we'll be able to get up and crush some TZ bush tracks.

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    #7
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  8. suber1959

    suber1959 Adventurer

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    A day well spent that is. Thanks for sharing the tour around Longonot.
    #8
  9. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

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    Great to see a report from you @Osadabwa! Been wondering what you've been up to across the world from the PNW.

    Sweet terrain to climb, both on the bikes and on foot. The practice crater and climb to it looks to be no joke, pretty damn cool that you're going to undertake the volcano climb in the dark after riding a serious chunk of mileage to get there. Can't wait to see that report.

    That brewery is neat and the grounds are quite the contrast to the desert stuff you typically post. Nothing like a tour to break up a great day of riding and hiking!

    Keep the knobby side down man, look forward to reading the report from the volcano rip :thumb :thumb
    #9
  10. GoatOfDoom

    GoatOfDoom n00b

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    Great stuff as always, Osadabwa! Your characteristic way of narrating is one of, if not the, best, in the whole forum for me.

    Thanks and keep thumping!
    #10
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  11. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

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    Another day on Longonot, with Wry this time

    So after trying and failing to get the other BRP riders to commit, it will just be Wry and I heading to Lengai in 10 days’ time. We’re properly eager, but it’s been wet in Kenya, to put it mildly. Nairobi is a mud pit and landslides and floods are happening all over the place. Frankly, however, I don’t give a damn. What’s the point of having those knobby tyres if you’re not going to get them muddy now and then? Anyway, that’s the theory. I refuse to let weather dictate my plans.

    That said, this morning as I left at 6AM in the rain down the Uhuru Highway’s maddeningly slow construction nightmare zone, nearly losing the bike in a lake that had formed in my lane, I thought “what the fuck am I doing?” What I was in fact doing is heading back to Longonot with Wry to get some more miles on our hiking legs. Pressed for time, we’d just scream down the road, leapfrogging lorries and dodging oncoming assholes (assholes... assholes everywhere), climb the hill and repeat the return journey, but it was great to be on the bike with somebody who doesn’t worry about getting a little bit wet.

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    Above: The rainy season has made the mountain green and lush, but has also excavated some serious trenches in the trail

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    Above: Fog hugged the northern side of the mountain all morning, making us feel like we were someplace properly exotic instead of just being on a volcano in the Rift Valley. I’ve now climbed Longonot 4 times since going with Brain in early November and it has made a huge difference for my fitness. I no longer have pain. Bring on the Mountain of God!

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    Above: Back down at the gate, Wry couldn’t get his bike started (so much for a macho departure... gravel spewing, engings roaring... meh). We kicked and kicked. Drained the carb even. It sounded like there was no spark... maybe rain water fouled something up? But what? The BRP only has like five wires... Turns out, while we were hiking, somebody’s busy fingers had found his never-used kill switch and put it to off… muppet.

    So, with dry tarmac, it was a screamer heading back. The Pig makes steep grades seem like nothing, so we whipped past crawling lines of cars and lorries to the Milano overlook for some chai and then zipped for home.

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    Above: No time to return via the sloppy wetness of the valley dirt roads, we screamed up the twisty tar road to the Milano overlook for a cup of milky tea, some long views of the soon-to-be-destroyed valley floor and a friendly mutt.

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    Above: Wry with his Kevin Costner's receding hairline and Lyndon Poskitt's discarded riding jacket at the Milano Overlook

    Ten days to go. Ten. Days.

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    #11
  12. ADVer

    ADVer Been here awhile

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    A volcano in the Rift Valley IS exotic - you’re getting jaded enjoying the Kenyan landscapes!
    #12
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  13. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

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    Great pics and update @Osadabwa, getting any butterflies now that you're 10 days out?

    I like the reception sign at the entrance; and I can't tell you how many times the stoopid kill switch has been a bane of my non-starting woes :lol3 :lol3. I even tell myself to start with the easiest possible problem and nearly always forget to check it...lol.

    Looking forward to seeing the report from when you trek to Lengai :ricky :thumb
    #13
  14. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

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    Last Longonot Ride and Climb

    Nairobi is a swimming pool. Well, more like a cesspool, but you get the idea. It’s been raining continuously for a week or more now and chaos reigns on the roads. I left this morning for one last final ride and climb of Longonot in preparation for Lengai, and it was silly. Mud everywhere on the main road which is under perpetual construction. Busses and cars driving all over the place. Drizzle falling from the sky and sick spray coming off everyone’s tires. Going down the Mai Mahieu road, it was clear something was amiss. Trucks were stacked for miles, trapped by one that had broken down in the climbing lane, turning the country’s main transport route into a single lane. What. A. Joke. But, on my Piggy, I just laughed. I ripped around the crawling trucks and squeezed through when they were totally stuck. Took a bit longer than usual to get there, but the mountain wasn’t going anywhere.

    It was gray and misty up there. Even rained on me, but this isn’t a hiking blog. I was head-down trudging around the rim and thought I saw a big ass cat track. Farther up the trail, I confirmed it. Pics are hard to make out, but it was as big as my fist. KWS guys reckoned it was a lion. Kind of crazy to imagine a lion up there prowling and me rocking my tunes oblivious… anyway.

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    Above: Lion track in the pumice on Mt. Longonot… tough to see, but it was there alright

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    Above: The trail has been severely destroyed by the heavy rains. Though, anywhere else in the world would not put the trail straight up the side of a hill. Kenya, oh Kenya.

    Lengai in 5 days. Turns out it’s been raining in Northern Tanzania as well, so we may be in for a wet and muddy ride and a gloomy climb, but we’re going! Also, we have booked into a posh tented camp for three nights, so as long as we get there, I guess we'll survive!

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    #14
  15. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

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    Sounds like the rainy season is hitting hard @Osadabwa :doh

    Just a note, but the linked pics aren't showing up - at least not for me (might be a firewall issue on my side).

    Looking forward to following along on the Lengai adventure. Can't effin' believe you were sharing the trail (or had shared the trail) with something along the lines of a lion. Hope you don't taste good...lol.
    #15