Home' Travel News : October-November 2015 Contents 32 travel news october november 2015
october november 2015 travel news 33
Five o’clock in the morning, the final wake up call is in an hour. The air is crisp and cold,
the sky clear, ablaze with stars. Mount Kenya a dark shape looming against the star
lit sky, a lot closer than it was yesterday. Yesterday. Yesterday was particularly brutal:
ninety kilometres, two thousand two hundred metres of climbing back up the mountain,
eight and a half hours in the saddle.
Welcome to The Laikipia XC.
We started out six days ago, fresh and enthusiastic with little technical skill (in my case)
but a pleasing level of fitness after four months of hard training, from the Naro Moru
River Lodge on the western slopes of Mount Kenya. Little did we realise then quite how
extreme this challenge was going to be, for both riders and organisers alike.
Day one was a fifty kilometre climb up one thousand metres through the wonderful
forests of the mountain to where we are now on the northern slopes of the mountain
near the Fairmont Mt. Kenya Safari Club; a shortish but slow and interesting first day in
the saddle. Some route deviations took us through thick undergrowth and over boulder
strewn lava fields, which broke the derailleur of one of the rider’s bikes. In this challenge
you either fix it or get to the end as best as you can; he got to the end, broken derailleur
Day two was a stunning sixty-five kilometre slide down the mountain, north through
the Loldaiga Hills, teeming with wildlife, to the wide open plains of Borana Ranch, our
home for the next three nights. The ride was easy, flowing and fast, mostly downhill
(but still recording nine hundred and fifty metres of climbing) with the vista of northern
Kenya always ahead; hard to concentrate on the road sometimes. Riding through herds
of elephant, zebra and giraffe is an experience not to be forgotten. Luckily the buffalo
were far from the track and contentedly chewing the cud under spreading acacia trees.
The nights at the Borana’s campsite were gorgeous – no light pollution here, falling
asleep after hard days in the saddle to the sounds of the Kenyan wilderness: hyenas
singing in the distance, lions roaring close by, elephants feeding on the acacia trees
on the other side of the valley. Hyenas also breaking into the kitchen tent and stealing
tomorrow’s bacon and sausages; not much protein for breakfast for the riders that day.
Tired legs, quickly woken up by the adrenaline of anticipation of another day of riding
in the wild.
Day three was my personal crash day. Seventy-five kilometres with fifteen hundred
metres of climbing, and a long seemingly never ending undulating thirty kilometres to
the finish, during which I forgot to feed properly. Result: a blood sugar crash on the finish
line. “You sounded as if you were giving breech birth to a cow” was the encouraging
comment of an earlier finisher! Not a pleasant place to go, but remarkably easy to come
back from – a bottle of sweet drink with a pinch of salt and almost right as rain again.
Day four saw us descending one-thousand metres over eight kilometres down the
most stunning free fall slippery sandy rocky single track I have ever ridden. My lack of
technical skill meant hanging onto the brakes all the way down.
Result: I boiled away all the brake fluid in the back brakes by the time I got to the bottom.
Luckily the only way home was a tortuous climb back up the other side of this incredible
valley, having crossed the valley floor in upwards of 35Co through thorn country and
glue-like sand riverbeds, so not much use for brakes. Another fifty-five kilometres done.
So, back to day five yesterday. Ninety kilometres, two thousand two hundred metres
of steady continuous climbing. The climb started from Borana Ranch, up through the
Ngare Ndare Forest on the northern foothills of the mountain, and on up through the
wonderful wheat fields of Wangu Embori farm, and on up through the Hagenia Forest
to the moorlands at about three thousand metres. A long hard climb – taken one pedal
stroke at a time. No other way to do it: you cannot multiply those pedal strokes. An
exhilarating free fall (mostly) back down to the Fairmont Mt. Kenya Safari Club at two
thousand three hundred metres. Brutal.
The wake up call comes. Today, the last day. A short “easy” forty kilometres (with seven
hundred metres of climbing) a double loop through the forests of Mount Kenya. A last
push for tired legs, a last chance to climb hard, and descend fast. Finally crossing the
finish line at the Fairmont Mt. Kenya Safari Club after riding a total of three hundred
and seventy-five kilometres, and climbing nearly eight thousand metres in a gruelling
exhilarating wonderful Kenya Wilderness Mountain Biking Adventure.
Thank you Team Laikipia XC ... see you next year!!!
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