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Farcing Champagne Ridge

I started cycling about three months ago. The other day, a female friend asked me if cycling “adds stamina.” I remained tight-lipped about that.

This adventure ride I had, that I’m about to narrate to you, might just be the proverbial brew that lets loose secrets held behind these tight lips. The title of this story is apt, so if she is reading this, hang in here to the end, lady, I just may answer you…

Like I said, I started cycling three months ago. During that period, I’ve been looking for like minded lunatics to hang out with. Today I think I found the right mix.

A friend sent me a poster for this day adventure ride event organised by an outdoor adventure company @adventureescapadeske. It was not barbarically priced (KES 1500), so I jumped in with both pedals.

On the day of the ride, we check in at around 8:30am, ready to see what adventure our guides have prepared for us.

Morning arrival and preparations.
Getting to know each other, and a quick briefing on the route.

We are to ride in two groups, one group to do a shorter and easier 20km, and the group with higher levels of of lunacy to tackle the 40km track. I appoint myself as one of high levels of lunacy, and opt into the 40km group. If I die, I die. Hardly anyone in the group seems keen to do the 20km stretch… Some seem undecided, but there is a general gung-ho spirit to go 40.

Trouble starts immediately we set off. It’s a long steep incline getting out of here. Really steep! Jacob’s ladder to heaven reincarnated!

Tony, our guide leading us out.
Quickly wearing my SPD shoes…
And off we go…
The climb begins…
And gets even climbier…

Mid-climb, my chain pops off. I took my bike for service yesterday, and the fundi told me my small front ring has a bend, one he couldn’t straighten at the time. I need the small ring on the hills, but the bend is causing my chain to keep falling off…

Putting back the chain…

I reach the top of the hill where some of the faster guys are waiting for us. I’m heaving and wheezing like an Omicron-stricken walrus. My limbs are shaking, I feel a bit dizzy, and I’m clinging onto my bike for balance. My lungs and my legs are burning red.

Top of the hill.
The rest arrive, some pushing the bikes.

It’s like 300 metres into our ride, and the gung-ho spirit we had a few minutes ago has been flogged to death, and replaced with what-the-hell-am-I-trying-to-kill-myself-ho.

The three ladies promptly drop out of the 40km plan. They will do 20km with another guide. We, the boys, stick together, doing 40 with our guide, Tony.

We set off…

A few minutes later we hit this climb that knocks the wind out of our sails. But we sail on…

Tears! Tears only!
We stop to wait for each other. It’s adventure, not a race.
We stop here for a breather, and I realise I have been here before, during an adventure motorcycle ride with Tina. Beyond that fence is a small dam, and on that day we had a chat with the dam’s caretaker.

We take another break at a shop, and buy some water and bananas.

After this we take a descend into a riverbed. We can’t ride over the large boulders and have to carry our bikes…

Another break, with a bit of tomfoolery.

As we set off, I realise my rear wheel is flat. There’s a thorny branch stuck to my tyre.

Flipping the bike to repair the punctures…
The others come back to help…

I carried a new spare tube, and choose to swap the punctured one with a new one, since the old one already has about four patches. My ride buddies repair the old one, anyway, even as we put in the new one. The repaired tube goes into my bag.

We set off…

At a rocky climb, our guide goes down. It’s a technical section, and his shoe refuses to unclip as he tries to steady himself. His shoe is still stuck to the pedal, and I have to help hold the bike up so he can free himself. No one is hurt, everyone is good natured about it, and we keep going.

Another break…

As we set off, I notice that Brian’s rear wheel is flat. And thus begins another puncture repair session in the sun.

Yo! You are flat!
Sinia mzima wa wali!!
Them: Helloooooo…
Me: Aiiii! Hiyo ni luga gani? Sielewi! Habari zenu?

Once the leak is patched, we put the tube back and air it up. Or try to. Coz after trying three different pumps, the tyre won’t inflate. The tube still a problem. Out it comes again, and we find another big hole. We have no idea how we might have missed such a big hole before. We patch it.

We set off. But a minute or two later, Brian has disappeared behind us. We come back, and find him with the same tyre flat again. Since he and I use the same tyre size, I offer my tube that we had repaired earlier.

Where is Brian?
Back to the sunny workshop.
Another break to wait for each other.
My chain pops off again at another climb.
He stops mid-climb to take a breather.
Top of the climb.
He makes it to the top, cycling.

Another break, and a probox grinds to a stop near us. The driver asks if we know Kinja. Anyone who has been in the cycling arena for a while knows Kinja. Kinja is a certain man who is almost 50 years old, but is the living nightmare of 20 years olds at local races. The probox zooms off, leaving us wondering how he knows Kinja.

After this we head over to a look out, a place to take in the view of the Champagne Ridge. We push our bikes through the thorny landscape to avoid getting punctures.

Climbing out of there.

The probox shows up again, and the driver tells us that he is a retired cyclist. He used to ride between 1999 to 2008. You who is asking me about stamina, were you born even? But I shall answer you… Maybe…

It’s now the last stretch home. Abraham and I take the lead. We push hard. We are fighting wind and dust. We reach the last hard climb, eager to conquer it and roll down home. It’s so steep and bumpy, even cars are getting stuck.

My chain breaks.

Very steep climb. One of those cars was stuck, and struggling to keep going up.
My chain snaps.

I left my chain tool at home. I saw Tony with one, but we have left them some kilometres back. Luckily, nothing is lost. I find the popped rivet in the sand. We try to hammer it back with rocks, a futile attempt.

Trying to hammer the rivet back with rocks.

Tony arrives and fixes it with the tool, as easily as if he were sipping tea. I won’t be leaving my tool at home again. Lesson learned.

More mechanical problems… Brian’s (another Brian) bike has shot its stem bearing or collars… Or something. His steering is loose. Tony advises him to push it all the way back. Riding it is dangerous.

Home stretch.

And so we limp home, to find the girls napping on the lounges. They finished their ride about an hour ago and have just been waiting for us to arrive.

We end our adventure day over a sumptuous meal of ugali, goat meat ,chicken and fries, swapping our day’s stories and getting scratched by resident cats.

I hadn’t ever met half of these people before, but I have a really good time with them, a camaraderie built on the foundation of thigh-powered two wheeled adventure. As one of us would put it, “Thighs save lives.”

Anyone who wants to know if cycling adds stamina, just show up for one of these adventure get-togethers, and bring up the topic after a whole day of tempting fate, when everyone is high and giddy on adrenaline. Verily verily, you will get answered.


Did you enjoy this story? Want another? Read about my solo adventure motorcycle ride to lodwar, through Kacheliba and Lorengippi, and my terrifying trip across Lake Turkana on a small boat with my motorbike onboard, and camping for a night among the El Molo, the smallest tribe in Kenya, and eating a tortoise… Ah… I’ll just leave you to read it HERE.

Go HERE to see all my stories.

Someone stole my horns!

I roll out of sleep in the morning and, with one eye open, I ask myself: “Is today a good day to ride?”

Do ducks swim?

I thumb my phone and open Google Maps… Where can I go today? After a while I agree with myself, “Yup! That sounds good!” The plan is to do a loop around the Aberdare Range: Nairobi – Nakuru – Nyahururu – Nyeri – Makutano – Nairobi.

My new ambition is to one day ride an 8 around the Aberdare and Mt. Kenya.

At about 8 am I’m ready to leave. The weather laughs at me, it starts raining. I’m tempted to go back indoors and snuggle up with a hot cup of tea and continue bingeing on “The Real Hustle” series… I hit the start button and thread my way out through the rain, a smile on my face.

I get rained on most of the way to Nakuru, but thanks to my gear, I remain bone dry. As I enter Nakuru, my hands are freezing. I’m also a bit weary because of being buffeted by strong side winds. I stop at the first restaurant I see and order tea and chapo. The tea is ok. The chapo is the most horrible I have had in a while. I chomp all of it down, refuel, and hit the Nakuru – Nyahururu road.

The road is scenic. The rain has eased. It’s warmer. It’s an awesome ride. I stop at the view point to admire the Rift Valley. An elderly man carrying some soap stone plaques approaches me. He gives me the usual tourist run down: The Rift Valley runs from Israel to Mozambique, and it’s nine thousand and blah blah blah kilometres, etc etc. He points beyond some mountains and tells me the shimmering I see is Lake Baringo. He points down into the valley at a house with a black roof and tells me he lives somewhere near it.

I start taking some photos. He offers to take some and I hand him the camera. He tells me he used to be a photographer, but those days cameras used large bulbs for the flash.

I ask if I can take a photo of him. He says “Okay, let me sit here and pretend I’m carving something.” Now I believe he used to be a photographer. His name is Kamotho. I promise him that if I ever pass this way again I will print and bring the photo with me.

As I leave Nyahururu town heading towards Nyeri, something on the side of the road catches my eye. I make a U-turn, get off the road and stop at a small shed with bodaboda riders around it. This is what caught my attention:

The owner comes around. The other riders are cheering him, because someone with a big bike made a U-turn to come look at his bike. I ask him if it actually works. He puts the bike into neutral, starts it and plugs something somewhere. Yes, it works!

The birth of a Japanese model

Location: Japan, some years ago…

The executives are seated around the giant table, stern creased faces all round. The matter at hand is heavy. They whisper to each other in hushed voices, covering the side of their mouths with one hand, and giving slow, deliberate nods after each whisper.

Boss Chan walks in. Chairs creak and scuffle about, as their occupants shoot to their feet in a swiftness that defies their ages.

“Haaach!” they say harshly, bowing slightly at Boss Chan.

Boss Chan waves them down, the large sleeves of his yukata flowing regally in the air. They all sit is unison, as if Boss Chan’s hand has pushed them into their seats. They don’t look at him, but each stares straight ahead, into the air. No more whispers going around.

Boss Chan’s voice is heavy, guttural, commanding… It reverberates against the painted walls and echoes around the room, saturating everything in its immensity…

“You know why we are here!” says Boss Chan, taking time to look around at each of them. They don’t flinch or look at him. They just stare straight ahead. “We have to name our model to-day!” His fist punches the air. You can almost hear air scream as it moves away. “It has to be a memorable name! Something our generations will remember and be proud of!”


“Something that will bring Japan glory and honour!”


Boss Chan strokes his white beard and twitches his white eyebrows. The large patterned sleeves of his yukata flap, making a pop sound as he stretches out his hands.

“Suggestions are welcome!” he announces.


One of the men around the table shoots to his feet, so fast and so abruptly, it’s a miracle he doesn’t get a bit airborne…

“I suggest Home Car,” he says, bowing a bit, his hands clasped together in utmost respect. He sits. There is a moment of silence. Boss Chan begins to look exasperated…

“I know this is hard,” says Boss Chan. “We have had so many models, it’s becoming difficult to find names! But let’s not become stupid! Our models don’t stay at home! And we don’t want the word car in their names!”

Boss Chan starts pacing about the room a bit. The men are now looking at him, and they fix their stares at him as he paces about. It looks as if they are all doing unison neck exercises…

“We must find a name that suggests comfort! That people will love! That is easy to say! That is…”

Suddenly the unthinkable happens! One of the men interrupts Boss Chan. No one ever, EEEVVVVVEEERRRRR, interrupts Boss Chan.

The man shoots to his feet, fast, gets a bit airborne, and lands back on the floor. His right hand is in the air, he has a brilliant idea that has him so excited to the point of defying protocol…

“How about Car Seat?”

There’s a moment of silence. Everyone stares at him in horror! Not only did he interrupt Boss Chan, his idea has car in it, and is stupid too…”

Farcing Mt. Kenya

She parks her motorcycle and removes her helmet, revealing short hair and a wide grin – the type only motorcyclists have after a death defying ride. After a quick run together – She, another rider called Allen, and I – from Nyeri to Karatina, I perfectly understand what she means when she reaches out her hand to greet me and says “Sorry, I’m a bit of a crazy one!”

Carol has the air of an I-don’t-give-a-rat’s-ass woman, the type that does not obsess over chipped nails or fawn over glossy fashion magazines. It’s the first time I’m meeting her. We’ve been friends for a while on Facebook and from her posts I could tell she is a hard rider. Now I know from experience.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Allow me to start from the beginning…

It’s Saturday at 6.30am. I hit the start switch on my bike and I’m ready to roll on to Mount Kenya region. I’m supposed to be in Embu for a work function at 11am, but I’m taking the long way there. The plan is to get to Nyeri at 9am through back roads, then ride on to Embu. I’m hoping to have breakfast in Nyeri with a lady called Harmony, a rider too. She is doing some outriding work, escorting a campaign entourage. That breakfast did not happen, thanks to the befuddling rat’s maze that is Othaya area. When I finally emerged out of Othaya, I felt like the intelligent rat that made it out of the researcher’s maze… I will explain in a short while.

After Thika, I have to make a choice on which route to use to get to Nyeri. And this is where my problems begin. See, I’m already familiar with the main route through Makuyu, Makutano and Karatina. I want roads I have not used often before. Anyway, I miss the road I intend to take and end up at Murang’a. I actually don’t realise I’m on the road to Murang’a until I get to the town, and it hits me – wait a minute, I have been here before! Some time back I had come here to attend the funeral of a friend’s child.

After a short while I find myself at Kangema. The road there looks completely unfamiliar, but as soon as I reach Kangema town I realise – wait a minute, I have been here before! Some time back I had come here to attend the funeral of a friend’s parent.

No, I do not work in life insurance.

After Kangema, I get into totally unfamiliar territory. If you look at Google maps, the road from Kangema to Othaya seems pretty straightforward. Don’t be fooled, homie!

Some minutes later I begin to get this strange feeling that I might be heading the wrong way. I make a U-turn and go back to the nearest centre, where I ask a bodaboda guy for directions to Othaya. He turns and looks at his fellow rider and asks him “Which road should we show him?”

How many freaking roads to Othaya are there?!

They have a quick conference in Kikuyu language, which I can barely understand, and seem to reach a consensus that I should go back where I came from and continue that way. This means I go back to where I have come back from before I came back. Get it? No? Welcome to Othaya!

I hit some awesome roads after that, the famous “nyokanyoka”. I’m a bit clumsy at the corners, my brain seems to not be fully awake. It’s barely 8.30am.

I take a wrong turn somewhere and end up at Chinga Dam. After riding for a while my geographical instincts tell me that something is not right. It’s morning, I’m supposed to be heading north, but the sun is behind me a lot, so it looks like I’m heading west. I decide I should stop somewhere and ask for directions. At some point the road climbs up a hill and at the top I’m presented with this awesome view of Mount Kenya. I stop to soak in the awesomeness and take photos.

Awesome Mt. Kenya!
Zoomed in.

.A small boy stops to admire me. Okay… To admire my bike.


I ask him if this is the road to Othaya. He laughs.

“You have to go back and go the other way!” he says. I turn the bike around and start making my way back towards Chinga dam. There was a point at which the road forked and I’m pretty sure that is where I took the wrong way. He laughed at me!


After some time I’m pretty sure I’m on the right road. For a short while, anyway. The road suddenly becomes really curvy with a lot of loose murram. At some point it has barriers on the sides. I again get the feeling that I’m going the wrong way. It looks like a major road so I’m pretty sure I will get to a town or something nearby where I can stop and ask for directions.

What town? This, what looks like a major road, comes to an abrupt end at a downhill slope, without any warning. That’s it, end of the road. What follows is a small path through a gap in a barbed wire fence, going down into some bushes beyond. I stop and take a moment to savour this bizarre coup de graĉe.

I found this dead end on google maps. Can’t make this stuff up!

I look behind me. A group of about three bodaboda guys who were chatting loudly have gone quiet and are looking at me, the way you would go quiet and look at giraffe who has got his neck stuck up in the branches of an acacia. I ride back to them and have a chat with them, seeking to find exactly what the hell is happening to my neck! Another high level Kikuyu conference, and this time there seems to be no consensus. One thinks I should go on with the path and I will hit another road after about two kilometres. The other thinks it will be easier to go and find another junction back where I just came from. There is absolutely no way I’m descending into the depths of those bushes!

Farcing the Maumau Den

I wake up on Sunday morning, not knowing I’m going to walk in Dedan Kimathi’s footsteps today. Or is it ride in Dedan Kimathi’s footsteps? Dedan Kimathi was an English teacher at a school in Ol Kalou, history teaches us. But he was excessively violent with the students, and his teaching career was axed. He eventually landed where his excessive violence was appreciated: among the Maumau fighters hiding in the Aberdare forest. This is just a colourful way of telling you that I’m going to ride my motorcycle from Ol kalou into the Aberdare forest. I also have no idea that my bike will refuse to start in the middle of the forest where there will be no one, and lots of elephant dung lying around. And no phone network! I will tell and show you the whole story…

It all begins when a friend, an alumni of Moi Forces Academy, Lanet, asks me to escort her from Nairobi to Nakuru. She has been riding for just a couple of months, still building up confidence on the road, but yet daring and brave in every way, with that dash of youthful abandon. I oblige. I, however do not want to attend the event she is going to, and have no idea what I will do till she is done so we can ride back. (Well, she rode back alone.) I pack my drawing tablet, maybe I can settle somewhere and do some drawing…

Leaving home…

We meet on Waiyaki way about 8am, greet each other, insult each other a bit like good friends do, and start our trip. Sunday morning traffic is already getting busy.

Sections of Waiyaki way are caked with slippery mud…
Quick SitRep check stop… Are you ok? Yep. You? Yep.

“Why are we so slow?”
“What? I was doing 110!”
“Huh? We have not done 90 anywhere!”
“Seriously, I was doing 110!”

Stock factory speedometers lie.

It gets really foggy.

We reach Nakuru, and she gets off her bike, and does this little weird dance. I thought she was just stretching, but turned out she was pressed.

Edit: “Both,” she says, when I show her this story before publishing it…

Behold the bladder dance..

We finally get to her destination…

Feels good to visit your former high school on your bike, especially in the company of a biker or bikers. I know, coz I have done it too…

I grab a quick breakfast as I pore over google maps…

I finally decide to take the road from Lanet to Ol kalou, a road I have never used before, then find my way from Njabini to Thika. I had heard of a nice recently tarmacked road going to Thika, and was eager to see it.

It’s a brisk ride to Ol Kalou. Nice windy road.

At Ol kalou I stop and have some fruit. Note how healthy those bananas are, it’s important to this story, you will see…

Note the nice yellow bananas…

It’s a quick, uneventful ride to Njabini, save for a police stop that did not prove any fruitful. To them.

My occasionally untrustworthy pal has told me to turn left at Njabini and I will find a nice road that goes to Thika. I remember it being unpaved, but lots of roads have been paved of late, and I’m glad to hear that this is one of them. He is occasionally untrustworthy, and that’s why I turn left, and run into a really rough unpaved road.

My immediate instinct is to turn around and look for the other good road, or just use the roads I’m already familiar with. But I find myself not touching the brakes and stopping. A kilometer passes, then two… The adventurer in me wins. I want to do this rough road. I stop and ask someone if this road will get me to Thika. He says yes… But it goes through the forest.

“Is it muddy?”
“Nooo! There’s no mud.”
“Are there wild animals?”
“Noooo! There are no wild animals there!”
“But it’s a forest,” I think… “The Mighty Aberdare!”

I ride on…

I run into an electric fence with an open gate. This is my first sign of trouble ahead. I’m very sure this fence is not to keep humans out, but rather to keep something in there, and I’m wondering whether going in there is a good idea. I consider turning around, and asking at the Forest Service office whether it is safe to go ahead. But I get the feeling they will say no, even if it is. Modern human is overly cautious to being sued, everyone walks on eggshells around everyone. I pass through the gate and go on…

It’s quiet in there, and breathtakingly beautiful!

Trouble starts… The road within Nyandarua county is paved with stones. They are rough to ride over. I have to stand on the pegs and gas it sometimes. I also fear for my computer in the top box, and try not to be too rough. I would not have brought the top box had I known I would do this. Then come the puddles on the road, and mud…

Let them go first, so you can know how deep the pool is…