On having been in Uganda for so long it was finally time to move on to Rwanda crossing the Equator for the last time until heading home. The route that I decided upon took me across the Virunga volcanoes in the south western part of the country. This was rewarded with some of the most stunning landscapes I’ve so far seen with views across the lakes and terraced hills of the local villages. This was again all off road riding on tough tracks. Having got lost a number of times taking the wrong tracks to find the border crossing into Rwanda as the locals and police give conflicting information. I stubble across the most obscure immigration office location ever, well and truly hidden down a side track with hardly anyone around who looked official. Would have made for a good picture however common sense got the better of me if I wished to leave.
Having crossed into Rwanda the first thing that strikes you is the abundant colours that are everywhere. As the saying goes, Africa is full of colours and there is no place where this is truer than here. A photography’s wet dream. This may well be down to the fact that there is no rubbish strewn all over the place as is the case in many parts of Africa to distract the eye. The first stop was to go and visit the cousins in the Parc National des Volcans, Diana Fossey did not get the name ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ by chance as the densely forested slopes are perpetually covered in rain cloud. However, the trekking to and the one hour spent with the Umubano group of gorillas will be one of my life’s unforgettable experiences.
More off road riding on beaten up tracks was encountered on my way down the side of Lake Kivu to the Nyumgwe forest. Again as when riding across the volcanoes in Uganda the scenery was nothing short of spectacular with panoramic views that would not have looked out place in the Hobbit. At one of my evening stopovers I got the chance to watch the must anticipated match with Chelsea, of which Arsenal’s involvement in the title race was to hand Man Utd the title after a 1-1 draw. Thrilling! There is always next season. On a more serious note the people whom I was watching the game with, all which were of a similar age to myself, were, given the country’s painful past fortunate to have been there at all. Of which the full scale of the horrific events that unfolded during 1994 can be taken in at the national genocide museum in Kigali. A very disturbing and moving exhibition.
The weather was closing in and I had to get to Tanzania over the mountains for the start of my volunteer work before the roads become impassable. I soon found out that I had probable left it far too late to ride the road over Mt Hanang which was actually a mud and sand track that was fast becoming a bog mare with the continuous rainfall. I will now revise an earlier statement and proclaim that this is the hardest riding that I have ever encountered. I have never seen so much carnage on one road as this. Trucks were broken down, stuck on ascends due to no grip resulting in hold ups of any vehicle with four wheels for three days plus. Buses sliding at 90deg to the direction of travel blocking the road. All male passengers were outside doing their best to dig the bus out but only resulting in mud being thrown all over the place and on themselves. Consequently there were great big potholes being created that just filled up with rain water. I managed to fall off twice and get completely stuck on a number of occasions; one of which required the local Massai people to start digging up the road to get me out of a ditch that I had unfortunately fallen into. I was covered in mud as was the bike and at near breaking point and exhausted with only another 100km of track in front of me before hitting the sealed road. If a truck had offered a ride there and then I would have taken it which is something that I promised myself I would never do before leaving on the trip. No matter how bad things got, Africa bites back. TIA! I did finally get to the sealed road at a pace of 15mph!
On arriving at the school where I was to coach football with the first team I found that the school kit was in fact the Arsenal home kit, a good omen. After a number of sessions and me concluding that any exercise in 35deg heat and high humidity was not appropriate an inter-school match was arranged. The school won 4-2; it was just like watching Arsenal play as the majority of the team were yet to break out of their teens. My tenure as first team coach was over, which makes my stats impressive reading. One game, one win, a 100% record; watch out AW I’ll be looking for a job on my return.
Next stop, the roof of Africa.
The roof of Africa and for all that effort of trekking for four and a half days to see the spectacular views of precisely……..nothing! We almost walked straight past the sacred sign post at 5895M due to the lack of visibility in the ensuing snow blizzard. High winds, a temperature of -20degC and poor visibility, what a strange way to see in a new day. This was one hell of a surreal experience. To start with you get up at midnight to start walking, very slowly, up the final ascent to Gilman’s point at 5681M in total darkness on a path that can be best described as unsure with all the packed snow on it. Then comes the altitude sickness which is equivalent to being drunk to the point of passing out, splitting headache, vomiting, the lose of balance and consequently no coordination. Not good when you’re just about to walk the snow covered craters edge in gale force winds. One slip and you could find yourself sliding down 3000ft into the crater or worse; off the mountain altogether. All makes you feel a little……………
The best part of the whole trek is the descent which takes one fifth of the time and you start to get some good old oxygen back in the lungs; very welcomed. I will have to change the name of the trip to Chelmsford to Cape Town via the roof of Africa. So if you have been sitting there thinking of donating but not sure when to or even wish to donate more. Then there’s no better time than now. Congratulate me in getting there; a lot of people who do try do not make it.
After all that excitement a rest on the beaches of Zanzibar was in order to take in the infamous sunsets and hot weather. Managed to get in a bit scuba diving, however this turned out not to be all that it is cracked up to be. A big disappointment.
Back in Nairobi and the bike is apart again getting fixed after the rough roads that I encountered on entering Tanzania last month. Also a service and new tyres to make it feel like new again, the last set have long past their best having covering over 6000 miles.
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