"The West Surrey Cyclist" - July - September 1996
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We have plenty of tours to keep you informed, Malaysia, Africa and the London Docklands to mention a few.
The picture below is the answer to the question in the last Editorial re: a source of water. My thanks to Base5 Technical Graphics for this image (photocopying may affect the final result that you see). They will produce CVs, Cards, Business Cards and Project Binding to mention just a few of this companies services, call their sales dept on 01483 761197 and ask for Mike.
The staff at the magazine would like to thank all of the contributors, distributors and most of all its customers.
The Maharajah's Well at Stoke Row, Oxfordshire
Happy cycling Ed
The Clover Leaf Rides were well liked and many expressed that this event should be repeated. Roger had things well organised with excellent route sheets. Thanks also to those who contributed their time and effort to help make this event a success (E.g. the West Surrey DA Catering Corps!).
Our Intrepid Explorers are back. Chrissy arrived before Malcolm due to her mother being unwell. Malcolm continued the final stretch and arrived back a few weeks later. They had some wonderful experiences which you can read about in this and subsequent issues of the magazine.
Message from Ed. It is important that this Magazine contains entertaining and useful information, please let Ed know if there are any areas that you would like to see represented in the magazine. Members can place For Sale or Wanted Adverts for free.
Tour de France is being shown on Channel 4.
Mountain Bike Tour of Britain was shown recently on Channel 4.
Articles for the next issue should be given to Ed or
a ride leader by the 1st August 1996
Sorry that this issue was behind schedule.
It is about 18 miles from West London to East London where the canal flows into the Thames at Limehouse Basin. I made sure that I had a bell fitted to the bicycle before starting. The canal runs beside the railway for the first 3 miles towards Little Venice where it changes name to Regents Canal. We passed the new Channel Tunnel Train Maintenance Terminal, where we saw one of the new trains, and Wormwood Scrubs prison not far away. We chose a nice Pub at Little Venice for lunch and watched the colourful boats and water buses. This is also where the Old Toll House is. From there we made our way round the 272 yards Maiden Hill Tunnel into Regents Park, a scenic stretch along the canal with its Regent Houses and Zoo. We noticed some elephants crossing over a bridge, cycling is not allowed in Regents Park. After this the Canal goes under some major railway lines that go to Euston and Marylebone etc., before Camden Lock. There is a spectacular Iron Bridge at Camden Lock that had to be crossed, it's always crowded with people on Sundays. The water buses come here from Little Venice.
Two miles further on there is a 960 yard long tunnel built in 1820 that we had to go around between Kings Cross and Islington. Once we found the canal again it did not take long to get to Victoria Park which is about 5 miles, where Canary Wharf comes into view. The last stretch from Victoria to Limehouse Basin we cycled the 3 miles by road as the surface of the path is rather rough. New lock gates at Limehouse Basin have recently been fitted. The new road from Canary Wharf to the City goes through a tunnel underneath the Basin and part of the Basin was done away with. From here we went to Canary Wharf along the old roads where a good view of the Thames and new buildings could be seen from the Canary Wharf roundabout.
We had afternoon tea at the Docklands Visitors Centre where films and model displays of the buildings are shown and also information about the docklands. We all felt a bit tired by then. After that we went under the Thames foot tunnel to cross the other side to Greenwich there are TV video cameras in the tunnel. To stop people cycling through it new lifts have been fitted last year, it was built in about 1905.
From Greenwich and the Cutty Sark there are marked cycleways and walking routes, so it is possible to follow the river most of the way to Westminster. A few years ago a lot of land by the river would have been private. We passed Greenland Dock where the wheat came in from America and Canada which is a big marina now. Good view of Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs and its buildings can be seen across the river.
The new YHA building is along here just before Rotherhithe and this is where Brunel's Engine House pumped water out of the first under-river tunnel, and also the Mayflower Inn. Further along there is the Angel Inn where excellent views of the Thames and Tower Bridge can be seen. The Design Museum near Tower Bridge is another new building worth a visit. We passed Hay's Gallery and HMS Belfast, there is a lot more to see along this bit of the Thames that I won't mention now. We caught the train back after a good meal at Waterloo Station.
The Ridgeway varies in surface quality, I only had to walk once and that was only for a few yards, however balancing on ridges between tractor wheel furrows is an art which you may not wish to practice! The views vary from OK to excellent, and the lack of traffic more than compensates for the rough surfaces.
The Great Barn on route to Burford is a very Impressive Tithe Barn owned by the National Trust.
Burford is very picturesque as are the roads in and out of it. The tourist office here is very well stocked with info.
The Cotswold Farm Park is well worth a visit, it has many rare breeds of animals and is nicely laid out. You can also get refreshments here.
Aldbourne Tea Rooms (see list of addresses) is well worth a visit, good service, refreshments and after refuelling you can pop through into the Wholefood shop to stock up with snacks to keep you going later on. This is also a Dr Who location.
On route to the Cotswolds I called in at The Craven and Worsall Farmhouse to get their details in case anyone else decides to cycle around the Oxfordshire cycleway and needs somewhere to stay as these are on roads taken by the route.
The second night was spent at New Barn Farmhouse, under new management since my last visit, but very welcoming and very cycle friendly. The first concern was where to park my bicycle which ended up in the Office room. There is also a very nice little village shop and post office nearby, well worth patronising. The pub 1 mile down the road is good for food.
The third night I stayed at The Old Manor House, where they were very cycle friendly, Mr Kucharek offered his help when I was making some additions to my luggage capacity, and when his friend arrived they started to rebuild a bicycle in the shed. Carmen was very thoughtful, going out to the shops to get baked beans for my breakfast, and generally welcoming.
The fourth night after trying several other B&B's, one I could not find, the other with no answer at the door, I finally arrived at Clench Farmhouse. Clarissa asked how I had found her, I was the first person to arrive on spec! My bicycle was accommodated in a shed in the company of the family bicycles. I had a very nice room and was well looked after, evening meals by arrangement, you don't need to go out when staying here, many a restaurant would be hard pressed to do a better meal. Many other facilities are available on request. The other guests had been several times before, which is always a good recommendation.
The fifth night I was beginning to run low on B&B options, Leyland I had passed on my way out on the first day was full, however Mrs Wiltshire was very helpful and sorted me a room at the John Barleycorn PH. They were cycle friendly and well appointed.
Set off towards Sunningdale then onto Wargrave - Henley on Thames follow straight through the centre past the college, on past Greys Court (NT) and pick up the Oxfordshire cycleway through to Goring. At this point I left the route and headed through to Streatley and followed the Ridgeway Signs to pick up the LDP. Followed this as far as West Ilsley there leaving the Ridgeway to pick up the Berkshire Cycleway through to Farnborough, and then to Wantage on the B4494.
Set off on the Oxfordshire Cycleway through to Burford. Then to Little Barrington, Great Barrington, Great Rissington, Bourton on the Water (through the centre then right and left across the Foss Way past Slaughter Farm, across the B4068 on past the Cotswold Farm Park and on to Temple Guiting.
Temple Guiting to Malmesbury. Temple Guiting, Barton, Guiting Power, Hawling, across A436, across A40 to Compton Abdale, Yanworth, Chedworth, down the White Way, at the 3rd crossroads, left across the Foss Way and take the right fork to cross the B4425 onto Akeman Street to Ready Token, south to Poulton, Down Ampney, across the Ermin Way through Cerney Wick to Ashton Keynes then south on the B4696. B4696 towards Wootton Bassett turning off right onto the Wiltshire Cycleway past Webb's Wood through to Malmesbury.
Wiltshire Cycleway from Malmesbury to Pewsey.
Wiltshire Cycleway from Pewsey to Aldbourne and on towards Liddington. Pick up the ridgeway before reaching Liddington at Fox Hill follow the Ridgeway to Uffington White Horse. Oxfordshire cycleway, turning off south to Letcombe Regis, across the A338, Ridgeway to B4494, south to Farnborough and follow the Berkshire Cycleway through Four Points. Leave the Cycleway taking the B4009 to Streatley then Goring.
Goring, use the Oxfordshire Cycleway in the reverse of day 1 and then the reverse of day 1 back.
( ... rest of list, which concludes the article, not transcribed.)
Bert will be sadly missed by his many friends, to whom he was affectionately known as 'Bionic Bert' because of the remarkable mileages he covered. On a very hot Sunday in 1994 I returned home exhausted having ridden 85 miles with the Intermediates; by the time he was home, Bert had ridden 116 miles! Of course Bert was only 83 years old then!
It may be presumptuous of me but I can not help thinking that Bert died as he would have wished; on his bike with his friends, in the country and quickly. Bert was an outstanding cyclist but he will surely be remembered as much for being such a gentle gentleman.
Working at British Aerospace at Brooklands, Weybridge we used to lock our bikes together to stop them being moved. Bert was much younger then than I am now. He was working in the rather noisy tinsmiths (nicknamed the tin bashers). He was a detailed fitter in the tinsmiths.
It was at the end of an evening at the Club Room he came over and said 'do I know you from some where', the answer was yes at BA. He was a great old chap.
It was a nice sunny day as we set off for the Magna Carta Cafe at Runnymede. We had taken a route via Lyne, Thorpe Village and on through Egham along by the river. We had with us one new member, for Simon his first ride with the Wayfarers will I'm sure be remembered, as will Bert's last ride. After coffee we made our way via Crimp Hill to Windsor Park and Bishops Gate. It was sad to see Bert go, but very moving to see everyone who was there do their very best to help try to save him. Club members, motorists, locals and the emergency services were absolutely fantastic.
Bert's funeral at Kingston Crematorium was well attended, with family and cyclists paying their last respects. The general feeling was that Bert had departed doing something he enjoyed with his friends in the Club.
Dear David and Woking CTC,
Well I hope this letter finds you well and not freezing in the cold. Sorry about the slow correspondence but pict postcards are unavailable and stamps/main post offices few and far between.
I can't remember when Chrissy last wrote to you but I will possibly re-cap on some of the news. Arrived in Kabale Tues. 6th Feb. after 2 days of Hard riding from Mbaroua stopping overnight at a small trading post. Our first night at Kabale didn't go too well as I came down with all the symptoms of Malaria.
So after much deliberation Chrissy searched out a local Doctor who confirmed our suspicions of Malaria. So one painful injection in the bum with one of our sterile needles of quinine. (Was a surprise to us due to no evidence of a bite plus a lot of bite avoidance and taking Larrium). Spent the next few days resting, not so much from the malaria but the side effects of large doses of Quinine sulphate which affected my hearing and balance.
Whilst recuperating Chrissy got to know town and everyone in it pretty well. Our Hotel manager was very worried about my health, we found out afterwards that in Uganda if you die on someone's premises they are responsible for returning the body to that person's village. So I could see the horror in his face of him calculating the cost to NZ!
Met 2 Americans who were doing a 2 week blitz by touring bikes around Uganda so did a small day ride with them. Once recovered we left the bikes at Hotel and caught a bus to Kisoro, definitely a good idea as road very hilly 90kms, no Lodgings on way and some hostile locals who could be Rwandan/Burundi refugees as this area of Uganda is also home to Hutu and Tutsi tribes.
Spent a night in a grotty hotel before catching Matatu out to Mga Hinga National Park where we visited the gorillas which was an experience especially when you are in touching distance of 200kg of silverback that resents your presence. This group is not habituated fully to humans which I think is good for the gorillas' continued existence, however the tourists are the only thing stopping the poaching so it's a case of the lesser of the two evils.
Whilst at Mga Hinga we climbed Mt. Gahinga 3474 metres high. As usual in a Nat Park we were accompanied to the top by armed Park rangers. We crossed into Rwanda at the top foregoing any border formalities. At the top we found evidence of the recent troubles in Rwanda, bullets, mortar shells etc. On the descent the weather changed dramatically and we got hit by an electrical storm with huge hailstones that really hurt right through the wet weather gear.
The other activities we did whilst there were an 8 hour Nature walk, plus an exploration of underground caves where Pygmies used to live. It was on this trip we saw why the rangers carry AK 47 machine-guns. We came across a group of poachers stealing bamboo which is vital for the gorillas and he had no hesitation in firing off 2 rounds. The poachers got away so I helped our ranger carry the ill gotten gains back to HQ so they wouldn't return to collect their booty.
Back to Kabale after 4 days of fun, we hired a Matatu with 6 other mzungus, this was slightly more than the bus but we could dictate the terms i.e. you don't speed round the vertical drops by the mountains.
Spent a day in Kabale washing clothes, buying supplies and deciding to catch bus back to Mbara to save cycling over the same ground as it would take us 2 days and trading post at Ntungamo was nothing to write home about for another night's stopover.
Little did we realise when we asked the waiters to wake us up to catch the early bus it would mean a 3.30 am knock on the door. Sure enough 1st bus came through at 4.00 am but due to lack of luggage space had to wait for next bus.
It turned up 10 minutes later but then spent 2 hours going up and down the main street trying to collect enough customers to go on to Mbarara. We decided to stay on 1 more stop and got off at Sang, a small trading post at the approach to Lake Mburo Nat Park, when to the amusement of locals I reassembled the pedals, straightened the handle bars and reconnected panniers. After a quick soda we hit the dirt track that leads to Lake Mburo Nat Park, after 8 miles we reached the park entrance.
We could cycle through the park even though it has leopards and just recently lions (crossed from Rwanda due to war). We came across lots of Impala and Zebras and by bike you came within metres of them.
After another 9kms (6 miles) we arrived at the Park HQ and camp and were surprised to find the place to ourselves, which it was for the next four nights bar one.
The following morning we went with a ranger on a walking safari for 3 hours and saw Impala, Zebras, Topi, Buffalo, which are extremely dangerous and really worried our ranger to the extent of a few mad dashes for trees and the good old AK 47 swung down ready for action.
By midday heat is unbearable so it's R & R time. Next morning started with a thunder storm quite typical in Africa. We then went out on Lake Mbuo in a small boat with outboard to view birds, hippos and crocodiles (the latter we didn't see).
After 2 hours on the water we returned to fishing village and I got our ranger to buy us 4 fish otherwise I would have paid dearly. After lunch Indiana Clark set about gutting and descaling fish then constructed an open fire with spit attachment to rotate fish above burning embers.
That evening was spent dining on our fish and watching stars, plus waterbuck running about grounds. Next morning we went out again for another walking Safari but to a different area this time.
Again afternoon was spent relaxing, cleaning equipment, bike gears etc. Then I did a quick trip to fishing village and negotiated a deal the same as day before plus also bought some cyclists' fuel (bananas).
After the usual fish preparation routine we got hit by a sudden thunderstorm so that put the open fire routine out of action. Once the weather cleared we had fish/rice combo over the campstove then retired to bed ready for an early am start out of the park.
However had only been in bed half an hour listening to World Service when it sounded like someone or thing was outside tent tampering with the bikes. I flung into action only to be confronted by 3 tons of Hippo! A hasty retreat was the order of the day.
A rather anxious hour passed with thoughts of being flattened, before sleep took over. Awoke next morning to the relief of being the right shape. After a quick recce of area found only footprints.
Left Lake Mburo Camp and within 1 mile came across Buffalo but luckily no problems. Came across lots of Impala, Waterbuck, Topi and Zebras again and just before leaving Park boundary (I was looking out for buffalo) Chrissy decided to go bush (don't ask why) luckily no damage apart from dirty shirt and a few bruises.
After 15 miles of murram (dirt) we hit the main road which was very undulating tending more on the hilly side. Like all roads it was a headwind so what followed was 74 miles of hard slog broken only by lunch at a town called Lytonde and Soda and cake at Mbirizi (where we intended to stop) but was a one horse town.
Arrived absolutely knackered into Masaka and after difficulty finding a room, ended up in the pitch black, as usual at night in Uganda the power fails. Luckily I asked a shop owner to help us out and 10 minutes later were in lodgings.
After a quick wash and surprise, surprise hot running water, staggered to the nearest restaurant to fuel up on beans, rice and sodas.
It was then sleep time Yahoo, next morning woken early by the usual African noise everyone makes. Then after a lazy start, breakfast, change money, buy supplies, ring NZ as we found an outside line.
Next had lunch at a restaurant before heading out of town on a murra road for Lake Nabugabo where we are relaxing at the Church of Uganda's conference centre, camping right beside the lake.
Writing letters, being slobs and having Vervet Monkeys try and mug us of our breakfast. Beautiful area and very peaceful.
Well must go now, next destination Sese Islands then back to Kampala then on into Kenya.
Cheers from Malaria Mal and Chrissy
Dear David, you've been an absolute star keeping everyone in touch. Thanks a million. Received your news letter and hope work's settled down a bit. After leaving Kampala made our way slowly towards Kenya. We were sad to leave Uganda as we really enjoyed our time there. Hopefully Kenya can live up to the same experience. It is definitely a lot more commercialised here and there are a lot more commodities available in the shops here. You can even get Milo (sort of like Horlicks) that we have in NZ. It is a bit cheaper too. Route from Kampala was Jinja, Iganga, Tororo(Border), Webuye, Eldaret (where we are now laid up with a bug, could be food poisoning - who knows. Now heading towards lakes Banhgo and Bogona. ETA Narobi about 3-4 weeks. Have changed flights from Dar es Salam to Narobi at this stage. We're playing it by ear. Take care and stay warm C&M
Dear Our Man in Woking, Nabari Gani from Magotio (that will keep you busy looking at the map) 50 miles from lake Bogoria just before Nakuru and 2kms of the Equator. Well since our last postcard we recovered from our food poisoning, left Eldoret and stayed at Kessup at top of the Rift Valley, then 15 miles downhill, 5 miles of blistering heat on the floor of the Rift Valley then, oh no, 12 miles vertical up the other side. From Kabarnet to Lake Baringo for 4 nights, then to Lake Bogoria where we camped at Fig tree which is in the park. No amenities just water from the stream and wild animals about. The downside of this beautiful location we laughed at the 4WD Zone Only sign and endured 8 miles of the roughest track in Africa. 2 lots of people in 4WDs found it nearly impassable so we amazed them by arriving by bike, however by the time we left and rode out it had destroyed 1 tyre, 1 camera lens, numerous punctures and sore bods and butts. Lucky, I bought a Kevlar folding tyre so no worries but will buy another in Narobi as they have a good bike shop, take care Kwa heri Mal and Chrissy.
Dear David and the Woking Wayfarers,
Habari Garii from Kenya, how's it going in old blighty. Firstly apologies for being a slack @#$#@! and not writing as often as promised but with mileages, activities, wear and tear on bikes/bodies time just slips past. So after going for the sympathy vote I'll keep you up to date.
Well we've made it to Narobi at last Yah! No easy feat, cycled all the way except for about 15 miles where robbers were supposed to be operating, holding up slow moving trucks, and obviously slow moving cyclists would have been icing on the cake for the day.
Will back track now and possibly repeat on previous postcards etc. From Eldoret where a meal at the Thumi snack laid us low. After we recovered we wobbled our way to Kessup (just past Iten) and spent the night on the floor of a barida then 15 mile down hill, Yahoo boy can Mavic Rims glow under pressure, then 5 miles of flat across the rift valley floor in searing heat before 12 miles of uphill with the sun on your back, will we ever complain about cycling up Combe Bottom hill again? I think not!
After a good night's rest in a £2 room we set out for Lake Barings so it was a leisurely down hill ride 28 miles to Marigat, get supplies then cycle 12 miles to Lake Barings, en route we saw a weird weather pattern ahead and soon discovered the delights of a dust storm blowing down from Northern Kenya. After a battering from this and knowing what silac sand feels like coming out of a sand blaster. We made Lake Barings a little worse for wear. Here we spent 4 nights in incredibly hot temps which did not diminish through the night.
We had plenty of involvement with wildlife, firstly a giant land tortoise which mistook our tent for another tortoise and resided in our door opening for 18 hours, not moving apart from the odd fart which would cause a mini sandstorm from under his huge shell. Made a comfy seal though.
Our other brush with nature came in the form of a snake just as I was putting on my shoes, it appeared from under the tent's groundsheet. What followed would make Chevy Chase's movies look tame. Me madly hopping away on one booted foot, Chrissy rushing over in the dark saying its only a worm! Somewhere amongst this I headbutted Chrissy; to add to the chaos the snake disappeared. Luckily Chrissy saw it with her torch and dispatched it with the help of my baboon basher. Needless to say when we packed up the next day extreme caution was the order when lifting the tent up.
From Lake Baringo we cycled to Lake Bogoria and as I mentioned in the postcard shouldn't have scoffed at the 4WD Zone Only sign and are now minus a 28-70mm Lens and have a Michelin tyre sporting African ingenuity, a car inner tube glued inside over the split areas.
It was very beautiful and remote there with a lot of wildlife especially baboons that liked raiding our camp, but the trip in and out was hell especially with another dust storm en route and 3 punctures from acacia thorns, whichever way they laid they still pointed upwards, the big ones 2" in length are easy to spot but the little suckers do the damage.
We spent the night at a cheap hotel by the park entrance as we got 2 more punctures whilst leaving so I spent the evening on tyre repair duty.
From Lake Bogoria we headed towards Nakiru which was actually quite pleasant cycling. A bit hilly in places but not bad. In Nakiru ended up at the National Park where we were informed that we couldn't visit by bicycle but they ran a weekend bus which we could join. Made arrangements to visit the next day. Also met David, an English guy, who cycled down through Ethiopia and Kenya and was heading south. It was the first cyclist we'd actually met although there are obviously others around. We had a brilliant time on the bus (not the most obvious choice for a game drive vehicle) and saw masses of animals like rhino, giraffe, zebras, jackal, baboon. It was good fun. From Nakiru we headed up to Lake Naivasha where we relaxed for a few days. Visited Elsainere, home of Joy Adamson (born free). They did a film of her life and the ultimate cyclists' afternoon tea. It was a shame that we'd only cycled 2 miles to get there but we still managed to do justice to it!
Also visited Hells Gate National Park; where we were allowed to cycle. Too many buffalo for my liking. It was good being amongst the animals though and gorgeous scenery. We spent one night camped high on a cliff overlooking the valley and watched the animals go to sleep. Next morning got up at 05:30 to watch the sun come up, and the animals start moving around. Decided we had to make a move at some stage and decided to visit Mt. LWigonot National Park and climb that Mountain to get views over the surrounding countryside.
The old road (closest to Mt. LWigonot) is used by trucks who do not want to have to pay the tax to go on the new road. Therefore it is in an appalling state and had huge potholes everywhere, in fact in most cases it was best not to go on the road and go on the musam which was just as bad. It was quite hard cycling as it was also uphill with a headwind. We reached Longuna village in the afternoon and bought some supplies, Mal also got a tack in his tyre but he's got pretty quick at changing his tyres. We carry 6 spare tubes and Mal fixes the holed ones in the evening to avoid spending too much time on the side of the road.
Pushed our bikes up a 4km very sandy road to the newly constructed but unfinished gate to Longunot National Park. It was a slight case of overkill as it was a huge building plus architecturally designed wardens' houses which were very smart. All in a park which has no game apart from zebras and antelope plus the dreaded buffalo, and thus not so many visitors. It started to rain so we sheltered in the main building for about half an hour eating our lunch before making our way up to the ranger post. There was no official campsite as such so we were advised to pitch our tent near the main huts as we were few in number and therefore may be more susceptible to danger, i.e. guarded from buffalo, but later found out that 3 tourists had been relieved of their belongings at gun point last year whilst walking the mountain so that might have had something to do with it. Pitched tent and did some washing before dining starting a very good bottle of 1993 red wine that we'd bought from lake Naivasha vineyard and watched the stars come out. It was quite windy that night and cool. We arranged to walk the Mt. the next morning at 07:00. One of the rangers had spoken to us about our proposed route to Nairobi. We said we would take the old road. He was a bit concerned about this as apparently there were robbers on that road that attack the trucks as they grind out of the Rift Valley. A reassuring thought I can tell you! But he had nothing to gain or lose by telling us so we took this as a possibility. That is why he wanted us to go early. Nothing like putting the wind up you! It was a fairly strenuous climb up although it only took about an hour. We were accompanied by a ranger with a 404 elephant gun. I think that would deter a few would-be robbers. We had fantastic views out over the plains and surrounding Aberdare Mountains. It was a lot easier coming down but we had decided to go back to Naivasha and go on the main road which would have put a two day extra 50 mile detour, more traffic but hopefully less robbers!
We headed back to Naivasha but about 3 miles down the road came across an empty truck heading towards Nairobi. Mal flagged him down and asked if he would take us towards Limaru turnoff (over Robber Hill and still about 30 kms from Nairobi). He agreed and one of the boys and Mal and one of his lads hauled the bikes up and onto the back of the dump-like truck. Luckily we had our Ugandan seats and we bounced around on those for about 20 kms over the worst road in all of Kenya! There's a bit of discussion about whether Moi is corrupt or not but one thing is for sure, wherever President Moi has relatives the stretches of road either side of their places are perfect. Anyway we continued on and up out of the Rift Valley, to be quite honest I did not regret not cycling it as it was really steep. It was quite nice to have the pleasure of admiring the views without doing any of the work! Lazy - once we got to the top the road levelled out a bit and we got off the truck at the junction for Umaru.
He didn't even ask for payment (a rare thing here I can tell you!) but I gave him a packet of Marlborough which I'd been carrying out since we'd left England. He was really appreciative when really he'd done us the favour. A mere 5 km ride brought us to Limaru where we stocked up on cornflakes and pasta - food we love when we can get it. We knew there was a campground nearby so pedalled off to that. It was a bit further than the 6km stated on the first sign but it was about twice that, still when we got there the campsite was found to have fabulous views over the city of Nairobi and the tea plantations which stretched out in front of us. There is obviously still an area of gross white wealth around this area if the houses and sections are anything to go by.
We had a nice last camping meal on the hillside overlooking the night lights of Narobi. Probably the only time we'd ever see them as Narobi is meant to be one of the most dangerous cities at night and you are advised by all the guidebooks not to go out at night especially with any valuables on you. Our friend, Alan, got robbed just down the street from his hotel which is a bit more salubrious area than ours. Actually it felt really funny seeing that many lights spread out in front of us. You can imagine how the early pioneers must have felt when they finally reached civilisation and for us, it's only been 3 months!! (There are not a lot of facilities at the camp but the guy at the desk was most helpful and arranged some hot water as well as a clean towel and soap).
The next morning was a Sunday and we had a leisurely pack-up whilst we waited for our clothes to dry. We have one set for cycling and we try and wash them daily as they get filthy!! (Especially sitting on the back of a truck, on a muran road) It was then to Narobi, we'd actually timed it really well and knew that there wouldn't be so much traffic. It was actually my best day's cycling as it was downhill all the way!! yee hah!!. 20 miles of downhill - what bliss. We had really studied the map the night before and had written out instructions so as to look like we knew where we were going! Passed through the awfully posh area of Muthaiga, where the club of the same name is. It was at this club that all the scandals took place in the 1930's. It was all pink outside which looked funny! This area is also very wealthy and there were many embassies.
We roared into town narrowly missing street kids, taxis, and checked out the two hotels that we'd been recommended. One by a VSO woman we'd met at Lake Nivasha and another run by the same people who ran a Lodge in Nakuru that we'd stayed at. The first was overpriced and the second was right in the middle of working class Nairobi but it was clean, the rooms were large enough to keep our bikes in, and it had hot showers, lugged the bikes up 2 flights of stairs and unpacked. We'd heard such bad reports of Nairobi, that it was almost a relief to get there in one piece and with all our belongings intact (n!)
Dear David, To continue! Sorry about the mishmashed letter - time just gets away from you! When we got to Narobi rang my parents and found that Mum hasn't been well - lymphoma cancer to be precise, it's not life threatening at the moment and both her and dad want us to carry on with our travel plans but you never know. So at this stage we're hiring a car to visit the Masai Mara (leaving 19/4) for about 5 days then we'll call Mum again to see what the situation is. We're still planning to go to Tanzania (we think) but when we get back to England we will be making plans to go back to NZ for a while. So we will have to organise a get together with the club before we disappear again!
Thanks for all your support and keeping every one up to date with our progress. We'll try and keep in better touch but as you can tell it usually falls to me to finish the job! Mal's too busy doing punctures but I am going to put him in a tyre changing contest next.
Hope it's getting warmer and that the daffodils and bluebells are starting to bloom. Spring is my favourite time in England!
Take care and see you sometime!
Chris & Mal
Dear David & the CTC, Habari Gani from Kenya. Well after our motorised expedition to the masai mara we have spent a further 7 nights in Narobi at a nice campsite run by a Dutch woman. After nearly 2 weeks out of the saddle we have decided to press on to Tanzania after checking on Chrissy's mum's condition. We've had lots of bad reports on Tanzania as a country to cycle in but figure we were told the same about Kenya.
At present I'm watching the sun go down over the savannah at a place called whistling thorns in-between Kiserian and the Tanzanian border, this place is bliss and due to a beautiful crystal clear pool went for our first swim in Africa. Bikes still going well but 2,400kms of African roads mean regreasing hubs, pedals a more common chore, take care and keep up the good work, cheers Mal & Chrissy
The travel agent told us that we could disembark at any one of the three resorts that the ferry serviced on Tioman. He said that we could cycle between them all no worries. Unfortunately we believed him and decided to get off at Paya Village and cycle from there if we wished. We were dismayed to discover once here that there is only a jungle trail linking Paya Village to the other resorts. On inspecting and even trying to haul our bikes along this trail which was very steep in parts and blocked by large boulders, we eventually gave up, exhausted and in a pool of sweat. We are stuck in Paya Village until the ferry returns. We could leave our cycles and the majority of our belongings here and set out to tour the island by foot. If all the trails are uncyclable like the one we experienced today then of course this is our only option, (thank you very much Mr travel agent *!)
We obtain a bungalow at M$ 35-00 a night. More than we budgeted for, but it was the cheapest going in Paya Village. There are no shops in Paya Village. This place is made up only of two bungalows on the southern end of the beach (we are in one of these) close to a larger building that holds dormitory accommodation, and a more posh resort-ish establishment at the northern end of the beach. The latter also has a restaurant. This restaurant is the only place in Paya Village where one can obtain food. We used their restaurant tonight. A sea view and breeze while we dined on the porch. The sun sank below the sea in a reddish brown haze.
Friday 25th Oct
This morning we set off in our raincoats to walk around the island and see what the other resorts had to offer. The track first of all led us through dense jungle up, over and down a hill to a beach around the point from Paya village. While walking this track we were frequently attacked by hundreds of mosquitoes and at one point we saw a long snake slither across our path only a few feet in front of us. Malayan snakes can be classified into three sections; sea snakes, all of which are poisonous; poisonous land snakes which number sixteen species, and harmless land snakes. The Malayan python is the largest snake in the world. They can grow up to nine metres in length and may weigh up to 127 kilograms.
Of the poisonous varieties, the most infamous is the king cobra which grows up to 5.5 metres and is the largest poisonous snake in the world. As well as these there are also the black cobras, kraits, pit vipers, racers etc. Needless to say we were very cautious when trekking through the jungle.
We walked along the beach to where a track again forged through jungle up over another hill and down through Tioman Golf Course. At the end of the golf course is Tioman Resort.
The resort is a large complex with a posh hotel and many chalets, a swimming pool and all the usual fixtures. We walked through the resort to reach the road which runs to Tekek Village. On the hillside above the resort the land had been cleared to make way for phase 2 expansion which will include more chalets, a conference centre and another swimming pool.
We walked the road to Tekek Village. This is where the budget accommodation is to be found. From M$5 to M$35. Here there is a police station, post office, money changer and a couple of cheap restaurants.
We decided to walk back to Paya, do some snorkeling there in the afternoon and then return to the mainland tomorrow morning. (Due to an accident we stayed on Tioman longer than planned, read on.)
Back at Paya we hired snorkels and masks from the resort shop and ventured up the beach a bit to an island outcrop. The tide was low enabling us to walk out to the outcrop. We scrambled over the rocks to the far side where the sea level was sufficient for snorkeling and we could see some coral. I slipped on the rocks and fell, landing on my left arm. The sharp oyster shells welded to the rocks gashed my forearm and sliced my palm open in three places. The major cut on my hand was very deep and long. Gushing blood dripped onto the rocks and mingled with the sea water. We wrapped a tee shirt around my palm and headed back to the hire shop for help.
They ushered us to the resort restaurant for first aid. Some bloke not realising the full extent of my injuries offered me some sticking plaster. When I unwrapped my palm and gushed blood all over his highly polished restaurant floor his face turned to horror and he ran out to summon a boat taxi to take me to the medical clinic around the coast at Tioman Resort.
This boat ride (in a 10ft dinghy with a 25hp outboard) was to say the least rather fast and thrilling. It took about 15 minutes to reach Tioman Resort. From the jetty the resort security drove us the short trip to the clinic. To cut a long story short I received 13 stitches, 12 in the palm and one near the elbow. I was impressed and very grateful to the clinic staff in their thoroughness to make sure all the wounds were clean before they stitched me up. They used double dosings of Hydrogen peroxide (ouch) to kill any germs. They injected anaesthetic into my hand but the major wound in my palm was still very sensitive and I felt every painful stitch go in.
I am on anti-biotics and have painkillers should I need them. At present the wounds are sore and tender but not bad enough to warrant painkillers. The stitches come out in five days if all goes well. Until then I can forget about cycling. We will stay on the island until I am fit again.
Wednesday 30th Oct
Transferred ourselves to Tekek Village on Sunday. We arrived in the afternoon after catching the Seagull Express. A nice spot on the beach front is where we have been staying. Our cabin is without a bathroom but has power and a fan. We use a communal shower and toilet out back. M$15 a night with free toilet paper and mosquito coils.
As I write it is raining heavily and from the bed I can see through the half open door the rain pounding upon the surface of the sea. Monsoons begin in November, that's the day after tomorrow.
The group of cabins on our section is named Tekek Inn. Next door on both sides are more cabins run by different people. All along the beach at Tekek are various forms of accommodation, from "A" frame flax huts without power to ensuite cabins. A selection of eating places also provide plenty of choice. There is a restaurant next to our cabin where we have tended to eat the most because of its convenience. We ate one night at a small cafe near the roadside. The only food they served was Roti Chanai, a pancake with egg. Only 50 cents each and delicious with the sauce that came with it. There are many variations of Roti. They can be cooked with meat, fish or just plain and the sauces can vary also.
Most of our time here has been spent reading and relaxing, giving my injury time to heal.
We were invited on a round the island boat trip set up for yesterday by a bloke who had introduced himself as "working for the government". When this fellow approached us we received him with a sceptical attitude. We decided that he was too friendly and suspected him of being a fraud. We thanked him for his offer and politely declined. He had three other bods with him and he said he was observing the tourist facilities on the island, (seemed a bit dodgy to me). Instead yesterday we trekked over to Juara on the other side of the island. My injury was still rather tender so the going was very slow but we had plenty of time. The jungle track took us over a mountain ridge which dominates the middle of the island.
Near the top of the ridge was a small waterfall. The water seemed clear. A group of students from Kuala Lumpur University were sitting by the falls. Porridge simmering in a billy mounted on a gas stove. We stopped to refresh ourselves, splashing our faces with water to wash away the sweat which was pouring from us.
There were some interesting trees on route, apart from rubber trees which were being milked, there were a variety of others. Many of them were labelled. Also we saw some incredible fungi and ferns.
We found Juara to be a pleasant place. It had a better swimming beach than at Paya or Tekek. Juara has its share of chalets and eating places. We had lunch before walking back the same way to Tekek.
At the clinic this morning they removed 7 of the 13 stitches in my hand and I was told that I could remove the others myself tomorrow. In the doctor's opinion my hand would be able to cope with gripping a handle bar okay so long as I was careful.
Thursday 31st Oct
This morning after breakfast I took the remainder of the stitches out. The wound looked sealed enough so Gill and I jumped on our bikes and went for a ride.
I was ecstatic to be back on Pilgrim again. We rode a path around the edge of the island towards the North until we reached a walking track. We parked the cycles and continued on by foot to Air Batang where we sought shelter at a restaurant from a sudden downpour. While eating lunch the rain fell.
Later on today I removed the bandage to inspect my hand. To my dismay the wound has re-opened, needless to say the stitches came out too soon.
I am determined to head back to the mainland tomorrow and then to cycle to Koto Tingi. I think as long as I keep the wound clean there should not be any worries.
Friday Nov 1st
This morning during our voyage back to Mersing on the mainland we watched "The Terminator" on video in the ferry's cabin. Being absorbed in the movie helped Gill to keep her mind off seasickness.
The ride from Mersing to Kota Tinggi was about 70 miles over hilly terrain. We passed through the usual palm oil and rubber plantations as well as much natural jungle. A troop of what we at first thought were orang-utans gave us a fright when one of them came boldly running towards us. He was bluffing and stopped in his tracks a short distance away. We cautiously rode by the troop, not taking our eyes off them.
It is very unlikely that they were orang-utans. They were probably some species of gibbon that are common to the area. A little later we passed a half-grown leopard. Sadly it was also half flat and stuck to the road. It had been run over.
There were many pillboxes situated along the route. These were built during WWII to monitor the progress of the advancing Japanese army.
We met a young Aussie bloke who had just cycled through Indonesia on his own. He was now heading North through Malaysia to Thailand.
The last three hours today was cycled in heavy rain. We didn't mind at all, it gave us relief from the heat. Once in Kota Tinggi we found a cheap hotel that had a caged bird in the lobby. This bird sang an exquisite song that was a delight to listen to.
The next day we rode via Johor Bahru, through the border and across the causeway to Singapore.
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Web page by Chris Jeggo. Last revised: 19 September 2006.