Equatorial meanderings! (Kisumu, Kenya – KM 17,055)

Getting off our bicycles and out of our stinky sandals at Borana Lodge was a bit like dying and going to heaven. The plush room, feather pillows and spa-size bathroom, along with daily gourmet meals and wine made for a change of gear and a surreal holiday. For a couple of decades the former sheep farm on which sits the luxurious boutique lodge has become a conservancy where every shilling is reinvested for wildlife protection. Through early morning and late afternoon game-drives (with Land Cruisers, mountain bikes or on horseback) we spied on countless animals we had never seen before, namely the buffalo, secretary bird, warthog, impala, eland, dwarf mongoose, Thomson’s gazelle, and a slew of more obvious ones : giraffe, zebra, lion, elephant and the highly endangered black rhino.

  • Reticulated giraffe as seen from the bath tub!
  • Groovy stripes!
  • Jackals on a scavenging hunt.
  • African elephant mothers showing the kids how it's done.
  • 21 highly endangered black rhinos have been reintroduced.
  • In a pride of 12, only the curious babies paid us any attention.
  • The lazy and gregarious panthera leo.
  • Enchanting room #2.
  • We had so far only heard about "turndown service"!
  • The real Pride Rock from The Lion King movies.
  • Horseback game-drive.
  • Lunch time!
  • Room with a view.
  • Mountan biking safari.
  • Tortoise crossing.
  • Mount Kenya calling.
  • Evening deployment of 50 rangers.
  • Military style wildlife protection.
  • I see you.
  • Heaven on Earth!

Borana Ranch stopover slideshow

(pause on hover)

« John will escort you to the windmill to make sure there are no elephants, safari salama! », said Flick, Borana Lodge’s director, as we rode off from the lodge with our sight on Mount Kenya.

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Making sure not to touch the powerful electrified elephant fence and curtains. Borana, Laikipia County, Republic of Kenya.

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We get acquainted with East Africa’s murram roads after a short downpour. In an instant we have mud-caked fat tires and Steve’s derailleur tears off! We make a note to stay on pavement as much as possible during the awaited rainy season. Ethi, Laikipia County, Republic of Kenya.

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After a clean up and short evaluation of Steve’s bicycle we make it to Nanyuki, home to hundreds of British soldiers. There, a mountain bike enthusiast sells Steve a new derailleur and an officer offers to keep our bicycles and panniers while we’ll hike up Africa’s second highest mountain. Cheers mates! Timau, Meru County, Republic of Kenya.

Mount Kenya is an eroded extinct volcano straddling the equator and culminating at 5,199 metres above sea level. Its two highest peaks (Batian and Nelion) only climbable with guides and mountaineering equipment, we dug out our hiking boots and backpacks and set out to scale its third-highest peak, Point Lenana (4,985m) on the well trodden Sirimon Route. The Kikuyu tribe believed God himself lived among the mountain’s—fast disappearing—glaciers and the trek certainly had a divine quality to it.

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Weather is unpredictable on the lofty mountain. Steve emerging from the clouds on the Sirimon Route. Meru County, Republic of Kenya.

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The jagged Batian Peak (5,199m) from Shipton Camp. Meru County, Republic of Kenya.

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At the summit of Point Lenana (4,985m) as the clouds roll in. Meru county, Republic of Kenya.

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Ostrich plume plants and water-holding cabbages, giant groundsels and Lobelias, part of the exuberant Afro-alpine vegetation. Meru County, Republic of Kenya.

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Oversized tip jar at the privately owned Old Moses Camp set by ambitious caretakers. After we have paid USD255 each for the right to spend 4 days in the National Park we pass on camping here and head to the « free » campsite near-by. Even this far into the bush one has the impression of being a walking cash machine!

We went from celestial to mundane in two seconds flat when a Nanyuki technician diagnosed our laptop a write-off! If you need food, beer, gum, a map, a broom, bike parts or a television, Kenyans will send you in the direction of the nearest Nakumatt store, so this is how we, unexpectedly, bought a computer at a Kenyan supermarket!

By the time the hard-drive transplant was complete Steve’s month-long holiday was coming to an end and our friend made his way by bus to Nairobi to catch his flight to Montreal, his new derailleur used only from the bus station to his hotel. From Nanyuki our intent was to ride to Narok County and Maasai-land avoiding Nairobi and its sprawl. We could only do this by weaving our way around the Aberdare range, down into the Rift Valley and up the Mau escarpment crossing the equator 3 times, so we did.

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Life after Steve on the ring road towards Naro Moru. Chaka, Nyeri County, Republic of Kenya.

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Waiting for inspiration. Sometimes riding is less painful than writing! Nyeri, Nyeri County, Republic of Kenya.

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Mom and baby waiting for a matatu in the bucolic coffee-growing region between Mount Kenya and the Aberdare range. Nyeri County, Republic of Kenya.

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Bicycle at work. Nyeri County, Republic of Kenya.

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From the escarpement after Nyahururu we are looking into the Subukia Valley, the Maasai’s « Beautiful Place ». The valley, with its lush pastures, was so attractive that the Maasai were evicted in 1911 and the area became part of the White Highands. Nakuru County, Republic of Kenya.

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The Menengai crater is 12 kilometres across and nearly 500 metres deep. The normally fearless Maasai traditionally consider it to be the residence of devils and evil spirits and avoid it. Nakuru County, Republic of Kenya.

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Carrying the cabbage bounty from the Mau escarpment down to the markets in Nakuru city. Naruru County, Republic of Kenya.

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…and coal! Naruru County, Republic of Kenya.

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Home is where the potato field is! Nakuru County.

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Roadside carrot washing and packaging station. Mau Narok, Nakuru County, Republic of Kenya.

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Cute doll walking along as we check-out from our 2,800m-high self-contained room. Tibis, Nakuru County, Republic of Kenya.

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The Mau escarpment is an agricultural paradise. Nakuru County, Republic of Kenya.

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Wheat as far as you can see. Narok County, Republic of Kenya.

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Officially entering the rainy season with afternoon opportunities to indulge in andazi and sweet milky tea.

The Maasai, a pastoralist tribe roaming the plains of Kenya and Tanzania since the beginning of the 17th century is on the list of nomadic people we would like to meet and learn from, but knowing them to be the tourists’ darlings we had little hope of getting close without loosening the purse strings. Our incapacity and unwillingness to pay for visits and photos kept us disconnected from the tall blanket-wearing spear-totting Maasai. Was it the right decision to not fork out the dollars? I don’t know. What we do know is that their nomadic lifestyle is threatened by loss of grazing land for their cattle. They are urged to grow crops (something beneath the haughty Maasai), build permanent houses and stop being a nuisance.

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Maasai cattle herder navigating both wet season and urban sprawl. Narok, Narok County, Republic of Kenya.

After a fast ride on the 2,000-metre high plateau in Maasai-land, we reintegrated Kalenjin tribal areas over green rolling hills and a patchwork of cultures. After Bomet all rivers we crossed flowed west towards Lake Victoria, the source of the river Nile.

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Kenya’s tea capital and Africa’s most important tea-growing area. Kericho, Kericho County, Republic of Kenya.

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After spending weeks above 2,000 metres of altitude we get a glimpse of Lake Victoria from above and descend to 1,100 metres, from tea plantations to sugar cane and rice. Kisimu County, Republic of Kenya.

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Riding into the sunset. Ahero, Kisumu County, Republic of Kenya.

An invite to stay at Royal City Hotel in Kisumu came just at the right moment as we needed a haven to write this post, prepare our upcoming entrance into Uganda (and fourth crossing of the equator) and celebrate Pierre’s 50th birthday! Thanks to Internet, Birthday Boy sat by the pool with a cold Tusker in hand, and received love from every time zones. Fifty years old already. Time flies. It flies so much that we have only one month left on our East Africa Visas. Let’s go!

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Go West! (Fort Portal, Uganda - KM 17,685)
It's a holiday in Kenya! (Borana Ranch, Kenya - KM 16,405)
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