When a nervous voice at the other end of the line said he had my stolen hard-drive I thought I was on the road to recovering it. That was two weeks ago, shortly after arriving in Nairobi. Well I left yesterday and there is still no sign of it. The anonymous caller, whose name I managed to confirm, put the phone down on me after I told him where it could be safely deposited. I explained the reward (a substantial amount and far more than the hard-drive could ever be sold for) would be paid if it was still intact. He thought I was trying to set him up. When I called back the phone was switched off. It’s been that way since. Deeply frustrating. I sent text messages to reiterate my word. Still nothing. Perhaps when I’m long gone something will surface.

As for the items that were stolen – the kind and overwhelming response from my last post ensured that I have replaced what was taken from me. Many many thanks to those who donated something.

Let me skim back  over the past several weeks to bring you up to the present. Apologies for the hiatus in blog-writing.

The ride from Kapsabet to Nairobi was cold, wet, and in places more challenging than I expected. Dropping to below 1300m in altitude after descending off the Nandi escarpment close to Kapsabet (my GPS was the only electronic item spared from being stolen, probably because the thief thought it could be tracked, which it can’t) I spent the best part of an afternoon and another morning climbing back up to over 2800m. This probably makes it the longest climb both in vertical ascent and distance (about 35km) on this journey.

Tired, famished and cursing one of the worst country maps I’ve used in Africa (Globetrotter your Kenyan country map is useless) I managed to meet up with another trans-continental cyclist before he continued towards Uganda. Ken, also English, started his African adventure in Egypt last year and is on a possibly slower and more meandering course to South Africa than me.

Meeting Peter Gostelow from Ken McCallum on Vimeo.

Entering Nairobi was made easier thanks to the guidance of several Kenyan cyclists. David Kinjah is the founder of SafariSimbaz, an NGO that focuses on training Kenya’s youth to become future cycling champions. In a country where competitive cycling is taken about as seriously as beach volleyball in Mongolia, that’s not easy. Lack of funding and support means David works full time chasing sponsors and organising events, but it’s a labour of love, at least the cycling aspect

David Kinjah

He led me to his home outside Nairobi – a simple compound of tin-roof shacks, most of which contain dozens of bikes. BMXs, racers, mountain bikes – his home is a museum/show room of second hand bikes and spare parts. And good quality ones it should be noted.

“Many of the boys who come here and stay have problems with family and school. I want them to learn discipline, learn about bike maintenance and those who have the interest and potential – how to race.”

I returned with a camera to see David on a later date, and wanted to share some of the photos here. Should you be passing through Nairobi on the bike and need some maintenance or spare parts I highly recommend getting in touch (he re-greased my pedal and front hub ball-bearings and totally replaced the crank arms when he discovered the chain ring holes had worn from not being attached to the crank arms tightly enough). To top off his encyclopaedic knowledge of all things bicycle-related he’s a thoroughly nice guy – open, honest and friendly.

David and some of his bikes

The bike work-shop

Work shop and bedroom

Apprentice mechanic

Bike workshop

Young Simbaz

Regreasing the front hub

Changing the crank arms

David Kinjah (left) and the young SafariSimbaz

From his simple tinned-roof living quarters David escorted me to a Nairobi address where high gates, guards and swimming pools are more the norm. An entirely different World, and an all too familiar environment in urban Africa when your host is a well-paid expatriate. On this occasion my host wasn’t even there, so I had a 3-bedroom furnished apartment to myself.

The truth is I’d only met John a few days previously, before he returned to England on leave – another kind stranger taking an interest in my trip. As a keen cyclist and from working in Africa over the years John has played host to other cyclists crossing the continent. And so he just left me the keys.

It was easy under such circumstances to stay longer than I originally planned. When that anonymous caller gave me what has turned out to be false hope, I felt delaying my departure from Nairobi was a good thing. Another kind stranger brought out replacement gear from the UK and I lived like one of the many white faces in this city by shopping and drinking good coffee in an enormous mall within walking distance. It felt so utterly detached from the Africa of several months ago, and I sought comfort from thinking that any day I wanted I could so easily leave all this behind. Which is what I did yesterday morning.

I’m typing this from the town of Machakos, which lies some 70km east of Nairobi and thankfully off the Mombasa Highway. The latter must surely be one of Africa’s busiest roads. Mombasa is east Africa’s largest port and when you think trucks continuing beyond Kenya to Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia Rwanda, Burundi and eastern DRC ply this route you can imagine what kind of cycling experience it is.

For a time I considered continuing to the Kenyan coast and from there pushing south into Tanzania, but the lack of quiet roads is partly why I’m turning directly south from here and heading towards one of the continent’s most famous landmarks – Mt Kilimanjaro. Will I climb it? No. The high cost and shear number of tourists walking up it lessens the appeal, but I’ll happily cycle around the base and gaze up to the snow-capped summit from the comfort of the saddle.

And as I click on the publish button from this website and note the date I realise that exactly 2 years ago I pedalled out of that small village in South West England. I think that means it’s time to get out of this Internet cafe and hit the road. If anyone has friends/contacts in Tanzania I’d be happy to hear from you. I’m mostly sticking to the coast as I head towards Mozambique.