Miles on the clock: 30,475
Three years (almost to the day) after setting off on my bicycle, I finally crossed into the southern hemisphere. I'd been up to the Arctic and within 85 miles of the equator in Singapore, so it felt like a landmark and I took the appropriate posed photos infront of the sign.
Ben's mother, Deb, soon arrived and that evening we ate a spoiling meal at Muthaiga Country Club (est. 1913). I wore socks for the first time in months.
On Monday morning I presented myself, smartly-dressed, at the British High Commission to submit my passport application. I was curtly informed that they no longer receive applications in person and that I would have to go away and have it couriered back to them. This also meant that I'd have to get my photos witnessed and signed by someone to prove they were of me as well as enclosing copies of said person's professional qualifications. Three years travel through forty countries and the worst bureaucracy I'd encountered was British.
Application submitted, Rod flew me to the coast in his 2-seat, 270kg plane. Pretty much a perspex bubble on wings, the handy little kit plane provides peerless panoramic views and we sighted a fair amount of zebra, elephant and various types of antelope on the 3-hour, low-altitude flight.
We met Deb, their niece Caragh, and Caragh's friend Anna at the idyllic beach house in Watamu and enjoyed a week of sun, books, Pimms and great food. Rod took Anna and I to the Watamu Reptil Centre where they house captured snakes and milk them for antivenom. The knowledgeable assistant Boniface took us around, talked us through the animals and let us hold a few of them, including a three-meter python.
I shared the 330-mile drive back to Nairobi with Caragh. After almost getting stuck in deep, cloying mud, we joined the Mombasa Road and its attendant traffic. The vast majority of cargo coming into East Africa docks in Mombasa and is then carried onwards by lorry along this single-carriageway. The resultant overtaking of slow trucks is sometimes paramount to suicide and left me utterly drained by the time we arrived in Nairobi after 12 hours on the road.
I stayed a few days with a new friend called Obs and we went along to a weekend polo match. This odd refuge of Englishness in Africa struck me as discordant but was an interesting place to watch the various characters sauntering around. I also went to the giraffe sanctuary where visitors can stand on a platform and feed these amazing, tallest-of-all animals...or even kiss them.
Along with Henry (a student from Britain helping out for the summer), I passed a couple of weeks hosting guests, clearing 4x4 tracks, mowing lawns, running errands, assistant-guiding game drives and all the while seeing incredibly abundant wildlife. One pride of lion at Mugie recently had cubs and I enjoyed a couple of breathtaking sessions of watching the curious, playful creatures while their parents kept a wary eye on us. I once parked just four meters from Castor (the head of the pride) and then stuggled for bladder control as he stood up to a hair-raising height and ambled past, an arm's length from the open windowed vehicle.
On my last day at Mugie, the ex-Speaker or the House's son came for lunch and to see the camp. Over a sumptuous meal (Donna is a trained cordon bleu chef) he lamented the corruption in Kenyan politics and how the Kenyan MP's salary is the highest in the world. The road passing the conservancy was supposed to have been paved under president Moi but the money disappeared. This, out guest also lamented eloquently while I bit down on my tongue. His father was a close crony of Moi's and was MP for this area so the absentee money for that road likely paid for his flash 4x4 that navigates it with relative ease. The deplorable state of politics in Kenya is less surprising when you know that both the president and the vice-president face charges for crimes against humanity at the ICC.
I made my way back to Nairobi and collected my passport. With regret, it was time to saddle up again. My deep gratitude to Rod, Deb, Jess, Robin, Donna, Josh and Obs cannot adequately be expressed here.
I took the route past the Masai Mara National Park and literally hundreds of smart safari vehicles shot past me on the road. I glimpsed into them as they blurred by and noticed that well over half of them carried Chinese tourists. This is one very noticeable development since I last visited Kenya seven years ago.
After a couple of days of tarmac I turned off onto a mud road and passed through an area of immaculately planted tea fields, glowing glorious-emerald in the late afternoon. At a loss for somewhere to pitch my tent I asked a villager if I could sleep next to his mud-walled home. Evans didn't hesitate to invite me in and we feasted on pineapple-sized avocados from his shamba (kitchen garden) before sleeping on mats on the floor along with his wife and two young children.
When I reached Kisumu I met with William; a nice young South African man I'd been put in touch with. William cycled from Cape Town up to Kisumu to work for a few months on an orphanage and feeding program project outside the city. I spent a day, exchanging notes with William, helping out on the shamba and letting the kids crawl all over me, tugging my body hair with amusement.
A big, 90-mile day of hills through humid, tropical greenery brought me back over the equator and to the border of Uganda. I was very sad to leave Kenya.