Facing Mt. Suswa

It’s cold and foggy. As I hit the start button on my bike, I can’t help but ask myself, “Do I have to do this?” The answer is a feeble yes. I ride towards Karen and Ngong, and see lots of pools of water and mud on the sides of the road. The rain fell more this side that where I live. I’m going riding offroad, with a bike that weighs over 200 kilos, and tyres not meant for true offroading. Everything in me tells me to turn back, go home, settle down with a cup of tea and Netflix the day away. But my tyres keep rolling.
I reach Karen and call Grace of Rhino Riders. She had plans to take some guests on a riding tour of the same route I intend to use. She doesn’t answer. I lower the pressures in my tyres and decide to go on ahead. After all, they have lighter bikes with proper offroad tyres, I’m sure I will be way too slow for them.
The plan is to ride from Ngong and find my way to Suswa and come out at Duka Moja on the Mai Mahiu – Narok road. Last time I tried to do this, I got lost and ended up at Mai Mahiu instead, It was a good ride, nevertheless.

Riding into the fridge
A few kilometers from Ngong, I start getting lost. The construction of the SGR line caused some changes here.

Getting directions

Ngong hills. The windmills are barely visible.
I spot something new…

Trying to force the phone camera to focus on the reflection.
Time for a swim…
It started getting rocky.
I arrive at Ewaso.
In true adventure rider fashion, I stop at the local “Java”. There’s a motorcycle mechanic’s shop opposite, and some bike lovers jump my bike. I get my helmet back full of dust inside. I take the chance to straighten a gear lever that has been giving me trouble shifting. Someone points out that my exhaust is loose, and yes, the bolt is out. I tighten that too.
I ask for directions to Duka Moja. They give me directions through the east side of Mount Suswa. This road joins the tarmac, and then one has to ride the tarmac down to Duka Moja. I tell them that that is not the road I want, I want the road through the west, that comes out right at Duka Moja. Most of them don’t know about it. Those who do tell me that it’s too far and not worth it. One gets visibly angry at me for wanting to use a long torturous route, when there’s a perfectly short way. I make my way out of the town…
I get lost and end up at someone’s gate. Thing is, the roads are not very clear here. Most times you follow tyre marks. So if you live here and own a car, confused travellers will show up at your gate!
I ask for directions again, and turns out I’m heading the wrong way, back to Ngong’ I have to turn around.

Mt. Suswa in the background.
While looking for the road, I run into what turns out to be a football field with a game underway. I apologise for rudely interrupting the game and move on.
Finally I get on the road leading to the east of Mt. Suswa.
I ask for directions again.

“Yes, this can get you to Duka Moja, but it’s too long, and the road has a lot of ‘korogesho’…”

“Better turn around and use the other road.”
I take that as confirmation that I’m on the right route, and this is confirmed in a short while when I see lights behind me. It’s Grace and her team, riding the correct bikes for this terrain. I wave them past me.

The sweep rider stops to shake my hand, and tells me his name, which I promptly forget. I’m poor with names, and more so when there is no face to it.
We chat a bit as the other riders roll into the distance.
Finally we say bye. He pops a wheelie (as if to emphasise how slow I am) and disappears into the distance.
I plod along, hoping to catch up with them if they take a break, but then…
I take a wrong turn. A man working in a field whistles at me to stop, and tells me there’s no road ahead, I have to turn around. I give up hopes of catching up with the others, but it’s good I can now follow their tire marks wherever they are visible, and this is how I find my way, most of the rest of the trip.
I get lost again and end up at someone’s compound. I was following motorcycle tyre tracks, but for some reason so many of them led here!
On this (and the next) river crossing, you have to go down into the bed of the river, ride inside the river for some distance and climb out the other side. There’s thick dust everywhere, and bottomless sand in the bed of the river.

Riding INSIDE the river. Worst time to remember that there exists a thing called flash floods.

Power up the sandy incline.
Another river to cross:
This time with a longer ride inside the river.
I decide to make this a photo op. Wouldn’t it be cool to get a photo of my bike in a river? Only problem is that I can’t put my side stand down here, it will just sink under. I remember a method used by cool offroad guys to park in sand. I lock my front brake and let go of the clutch. The rear wheel spins digging a hole. I’m hoping the bike will sit upright in the hole. I’m also afraid of digging too deep, lest I be unable to come out. I step off, and the bike seems to stay in place…
…or maybe not. It tumbles down after me.

“RIverbed… It’s a bed, then right? Might as well take a nap here…”
It’s a photo op I wanted, right?
Some local folks walking in the river (that sounds wondrous… no?) come to help me get it up.
I ask what direction the other bikers took…
Still riding in the river…
Power out!
It gets really sandy after that. Sometimes it just sneaks up on you, the road may look ok, as if it’s compacted, because there’s little traffic here. You will know that was sand when the bike suddenly swings sideways.
When I see electricity poles, I know I’m nearing Duka Moja.
A police station at Duka Moja. I suppose cars that get accidents on the road come to die here.
I meet the other riders again.
I ride back to Nairobi by tarmac. Mother Nature blesses me with a wash.
Traffic stopped to pull power lines across the road.
Foggy Limuru.
Home at last! Kinte sniffing my boots to see if I had been with other dogs.
Today, for me, was a lesson in courage to face my fears. When I woke up in the morning, I REALLY did not want to go through with this ride. Not after the rains, not with this bike. Not with my wanting offroad skills. I wanted to go back to bed and sleep away my free day. Such rides are for nice sunny days. But I refused to listen to that voice and soldiered on, and it was worth it in the end and absolutely fulfilling! I will do this again!
EDIT: For perspective, I left Karen at 8am, and reached Duka Moja about 4pm.

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