Mtwapa is full of surprises. Yesterday I was minding my own business when I spotted three Maasai warriors resplendent in red and purple lesos and lots of beads, but mercifully devoid of the six foot spears. These chaps are not your fierce killing machines but pastoral farmers who only need blunt sticks to keep their herds in order. Still a head-turner in the market place though.
You never know what the chap coming towards you might be carrying. A two foot machete? I’ve seen four or five being walked around. But so many people use them for so many things that it’s really just like seeing someone back home with a lunch box. I’ve also stepped over eight discarded razor blades so far, worrying since hardly any kids have shoes.
Goats are another surprising daily sight here: Herds of up to twenty, all shapes, sizes and colours, freely roam the streets scavenging among the litter. Chickens with clutches of tiny chicks also scratch around unharmed.
I had always believed that robbers in the U.K. are resourceful, even ingenious; It is comforting to know that we can still lead the world in some things. However there were new dangers at our last hotel: We had to close the patio door when we went out just in case we were being cased by monkeys. As we sat in the dining room red squirrels scurried across the floor in search of scraps. We all know how cute bush babies are, but when one jumps onto an empty chair, reaches onto our table, grabs a bread roll and then hops it he shows nerve!
Continuing the theme of hard work, there are little 125cc motor bikes called boda-bodas buzzing round everywhere. I saw one carrying four passengers: This time the lady perched on the parcel shelf was a local cook who is reassuringly chef-shaped. Another had two proper pub-sized metal beer barrels strapped on. One carried a double bed, although it was in MFI-style pieces. Another carried a double mattress folded in half, perhaps trying to catch the earlier frame. Today I saw five passengers on one, although the one wedged in the middle was no more than a toddler. The most heroic load so far was a bookcase with a wooden bed (single but intact) tied on top.
Another transport option which defeats the cissy four-wheel standard is a motor bike with two back wheels and covered over – a tuk-tuk or Piaggio. These can eclipse the efforts of the boda-boda with their water-carrying capacity (pictured) or carry three passengers behind the driver.
Following on from Mme Susan in my last entry I have to tell you that if your faith in human nature is flagging visit Mr Bosco, director of Royal Academy, school for ages 2 – 12. Not only does he look just like Louis Armstrong (apologies to younger readers – check him out on You Tube) but he runs his Wonderful World on a shoestring. When food parcels were distributed he asked to keep the empty paper sacks to cover the school books so they would last longer. Why does he do this? I can’t tell you, you would have to ask him or one of the many like him out here. Blessings and thanks to Milele and to you for all your help.
Yes I wilt! When even the palm trees are withering, you can imagine what the sun is doing to us!
Contrary to the opinion I had before arriving, everybody and everything works hard for a living here, whether it is a two-year-old starting school or a matatu taxi. I experienced my first matatu ride on Sunday the 13th (“black Sunday”!) For the uninitiated, these are Toyota Hiace vans with a driver and two passenger seats up front. Entry is via the sliding side door, there are four rows of three seats inside, very cosy. So, 14 passengers in all plus a conductor, although on Amy’s last trip she had a competition with her friend for the most crowded matatu ride. Amy smugly reported her entry of 32 passengers but was trumped by her friend with 36! In a Toyota Hiace! The truth needs no exaggeration in Kenya.
Now I bet you know some Swahili without realising. “Hakuna matata” (copyright Disney’s Lion King) hakuna = none; matata = worries. This must be where the name comes from, matatu – worry on wheels!
With so many people living in close proximity, one obvious problem is litter. There is no council refuse truck to clear streets so the locals sweep their own patch maybe twice every day and simply set fire to the pile, so the air is thick with the smell of burning, especially plastic. Just remind me of the smell the next time I complain about my council tax.
In spite of the circumstances the vast majority are very cheerful and completely honest. Once in a while you meet an exceptional individual like Madam Susan. She runs Victory Academy a daycare centre at her home for kindergarten aged kids. In theory parents pay and those that can do pay, but many can’t. Madam Susan draws no distinction, they are all loved, fed and taken care of. The parents are all doing their best to support her, as is Milele, thanks to your efforts.
Next time… ‘baby-faced robber’ and goats in the high street… no ‘kidding’!
This is only my second trip to Africa; I had a two-week holiday to Morocco in July 1980. The first thing that strikes you (after the heat) is the friendliness of the people. Not in a mercenary way – they just don’t seem to be stressed (although they have a right to be!). The young kids are thrilled to see a white face and yell “Jambo!” with a wave when they see you.
Central Mtwapa is full-on noise and bustle everywhere. The single-carriageway main road is busy with lorries, cars, matatus (minibuses) and boda-bodas (motor bikes) constantly striving to widen it. The boda-bodas are 125cc motor bikes. I read the make as Had-jin, and my advice is to take some before getting on! These little things carry heroic loads. It is not unusual to see a family of four – mum, dad & two kids – spread from petrol tank to rear parcel rack, more of these sights to follow.
We have been visiting schools, childrens’ homes, a feeding programme and also individual homes. These people are cheerful and hard-working.
I have never before seen for myself lives being improved and lives being saved. Milele is doing fantastic work out here and you should be proud of yourselves for playing your part.
I’d just like to say a massive thank you for everyone who donated to, advertised and helped with the cycle. It has surpassed all of our wildest expectations and we now had chance to gather most of the money together (if you have any more please contact us to find out how to donate) and wait for the gift aid to trickle in.
We managed to raise more than:
This means that when we go back to Kenya at the end of this week we will be able to sponsor another child!I cannot thank everyone enough for your generousity.
A special thanks really needs to go to Tomo and Andy for their cycling and fundraising efforts, there is no way I could have ever done it without you! This has been one of our best ever fundraising events and I can only say thanks so, so, so much to every one who helped in any way!
We finished our cycle on Sunday evening after about 30 hours of cycling and covering over 330 miles (we may have deviated from the route from time to time). Thank you so much for everyone who has donated! I thought it might be nice to share our experience here for anyone wants a little more information than has been on twitter. Hopefully you will find it interesting.
On the first day we woke in Blackpool at the Ashcroft Hotel, Robert provided us with a great room that was very comfortable. After breakfast we made the short cycle to reach Blackpool North Pier which was the official start point. We took a couple of quick photos and then started our daunting journey. It wasn’t too long before we were unwittingly heading off north through Blackpool in pretty much the exact opposite direction to where we needed to go. We realised after just a few minutes and managed to recover and find our way out of the city towards Preston. Our first stop was on the south side of Preston and came as a very welcome break. Although the terrain was fairly flat we had been riding in cities for most of the first leg and this is really quite unpleasant. For the remainder of the first day we unfortunately had to make our way through an array of towns and cities including: Chorley, Bolton, Leigh, Trafford and finally Congleton. The going was quite tough and navigation was a constant issue as our maps just weren’t detailed enough for the tight twists and turns of built up areas.
About a mile outside of Congleton we had our first flat tyre. A thorn had gone through the wall of Rich’s tyre so luckily it was a fairly easy one to fix. We finished after a very long day of cycling at around 8:00pm with 91.5 miles under our belts and a total of 7:25 cycling time.
Upon arriving in Congleton we met Drew who showed us to our rooms at the Queen’s Head Hotel, it was just about perfect for what we needed. Nice comfy beds and a really good shower! We went into the pub of the same name to find the kitchen had shut for the night. We thought we would have to go about searching for somewhere which was still open until another bar maid came up and said that they would open it back up for us. We were so grateful to hear this and the menu had a dish which just called out to us both after a hard day’s cycling. Beef and Potato Pie!
After a good night’s sleep we got up and ready for the day to begin cycling at 9:00. We managed to make it all of 1/4 of a mile before Tomo got his first puncture. This meant another quick stop to sort this out before we forged ahead on our second full day of cycling. We had been lucky on our first day that the roads had been quite flat, on the second day we had no such luck! The hills began as soon as we left Congleton and they just kept on coming at an alarming rate. One minute we were climbing a really steep hill the next we were hurtling down the other side. The problem with this is that we were going so fast down the hills that our legs had barely had time to recover before the next mini mountain appeared before us. Nevertheless we had to forge ahead and we really had to dig deep to get through the day. We must have consumed 5 or 6 sharing bags of peanut M&Ms over the course of the day and we really used every last drop of energy they gave us. One thing we did enjoy very much about the second day was the stunning landscape that we were cycling through; some of the best views came from the top of hills which gave us a good excuse to stop for a minute’s break. As we started to cycle through North Warwickshire we got a little boost from starting to recognise some place names and knowing that we couldn’t be too much further for our stop for the night. We finished the day at 8:00 at Rich’s home in Wolvey after 80.5 miles and 7:05 hours of cycling. It was great to get home as it gave us the chance to have lovely hot baths and home cooked dinners.
So day three started and we had another long day of cycling ahead of us. Andy joined us at Wolvey and we headed off with at least one of us feeling up to cycling another 80+ miles. The terrain had luckily flattened out a little which made the cycling much easier than the previous day. We started to see more people around as it was a Saturday and this included 9 people jumping out of a plane! Quite late in the day we were going over a rough piece of road, something happened and Rich managed to jar his right ankle. This was the first injury of the trip and very luckily it came close to the end of the day. One of the most memorable points of day 3 came right at the end when we were whizzing down a long hill which stretched into the distance. Tomo had managed to reach about 20mph when a deer ran out into the road less than 10 meters in front of him. We were very lucky that it decided to carry on as that could have been one very bad accident! On the bright side it was incredible to see a wild deer that close; this was followed by seeing several birds of prey in the sky and an incredibly beautiful sunset. We finished the day just north of Reading after 86 miles and 7:35 cycling time. A friend of Tomo’s (Ratty) was good enough to put us up for the night so we had a really great shower and then straight to bed for the night.
So the final day had come. We made our way (by car) back to the north of Reading and set off for the day. We spent our first 20 miles wriggling between cities so we could avoid having to stray onto very busy roads. In my haste to avoid the main roads when planning the route I had inadvertently included a small ford. The river was quite high for the time of year (just less than 1 foot) so we had to carry our bikes through it! We couldn’t risk stripping the chains of oil and the bikes getting damaged when we only one day to go.
We stopped in the morning in a small town called Blackwater to have a snack and a local cyclist who had just popped to the shops struck up conversation saying “Lovely day for a peddle. Where have you come from?”. This was the chance we had been waiting for so casually we said “Blackpool” and his jaw dropped. We then had to confirm that we did start quite some days ago and were not cycling at 100mph! He wished us luck and we went on our way. We had some really nice patches for roads on the final day; one that particularly stands out was the road between Seale and Puttingham which was just fantastic. It was beautiful scenery, a nice big downhill at the start followed by many little ups and downs which you could really keep your speed up through. I don’t think we were the first to think this as we saw more cyclists on this bit of road than anywhere else!
We had been cycling for about half the day and made really great time so we decided to stop for lunch in a small village called ‘Hurtmore’. We seemed to at least still have our sense of humour after so many miles! We started cycling again after lunch with quite some speed. We all knew how close we were to the end and just wanted to get there. As we got nearer our pace rose until we just had to stop about 16 miles from the finish point. We quickly took on energy drinks and food and got back on the road. From here it took us just an hour to reach the sea front but seemed to take forever to make the short trip from Shoreham-on-Sea to Brighton. As we pushed through the sea breeze we drew ever closer to the finish point until the pier was in sight. This gave us all we needed to forge ahead and reach the finish line with a flourish. Our final day had taken us just 6:25 hours and we had covered 81 miles.
When we reached the pier we could see some of our family and friends waving us on and cheering gleefully! It was great to see them all and it really made the end that much nicer. So that was it, we had finished our mammoth cycle all that remained was to get our first estimates of our total. We have smashed our £750 target, partially because Andy decided to come along for the final two days but also because Santander will double Andy’s sponsorship (up to £700) as he is an employee. This means that our total is likely to be in excess of £1000. There is still plenty of money coming in from various places so we will count our final total in a week or so just to make sure we include everything!
Once again thanks for all of your donations and help with organisation. A special thanks goes to Ashcroft Hotel and The Queen’s Head Hotel for providing us with accommodation and food.