About last Sunday.
Now that we have begun cycling regularly, I must admit that I never thought that cycling would turn out to be this much fun.
It has been the most pleasant of discoveries.
This past Sunday, we decided to embark on the most serious climb thus far. We proposed going up the C72, from Mùrang’a- Kahuhia-Kangíma-Irima and then back through the Irima-Kanorero-Kíamara-Nyakahùra – Mùrang’a road. The route was conveniently coming to a punishing 60km, like almost every other route we had covered so far.
So Sunday morning came and we set off to pick up our respective bikes. My daughter Wangarí and I drove Jackie to go pick up her bike. Jackie is this fitness enthusiast who was joining us for the second straight Sunday, having outdone herself on the first Sunday.
Her bike wasn’t exactly a carbon fiber Tour de France class bicycle, and it didn’t pretend to be. Whatever it was though, would have to suffice.
A while later, I also went to pick up the bicycle I had intended to use. It was a lump of low grade aluminium masquerading as a mountain bike that belonged to my friend Waguta. I feel compelled to mention that due to it’s poor ergonomic build, it is constantly trying to cut off the minerals of whoever is using it.
We rendezvoused outside Mùrathi’s shop in Thanda Maria. Even the Ninja that had developed a penchant for having throat hydration parties before the big day, decided to grace us with his presence.
I left the group there and walked towards my uncle’s hotel, The Tighties, which is located about a hundred meters away. As I neared the gate, I came across this gentleman working outside his compound. Sadly, the gentleman suffers from occasional mental breakdowns. He is a pretty big fella. He happened to be carrying an axe. Since a day of cycling had me in an upbeat mood, I politely said hi. Huge mistake. He hurled a plethora of unmentionable insults and profanities at me while swinging his axe in my direction.
I came just shy of breaking into a full sprint to get away from him for obvious reasons; he was a pretty huge Ninja with loose nuts and an axe.
When I got to the hotel, I found one of my uncle’s state-of-the-art Shimano bicycles receiving a thorough cleaning in anticipation for race day. It made the bicycle I planned to use look like scrap metal, a fact I was quick to point out. He generously offered me his spare bicycle instead.
I went from Robert Kubica in one of those last-on-the-grid force India Formula one cars to Lewis Hamilton in a pole-sitting, AMG-Mercedes -petronas silver arrow.
We had a second rendezvous outside the hotel a while later. We were eight cyclists in total. After reflector jackets were handed out and a final check of the bicycles done, we set off towards Kangíma. The set off time was very close to midday.
We had an ambulance chase car for those that would find the climb impossible to handle.
After less than 5km of cycling, I started coming down with a bad case of hunger. I had been making a habit of miscalculating calories lately. I knew I was not going to make it, so I made a stop at the nearby Kíangage shopping Centre. Kíangage literally means the place that has a lot of jiggers. The only decent looking shop around was poorly stocked, so I settled for a very sketchy looking yogurt and a KDF.
After my pit stop, I lost about 5 minutes on everyone else. Making up the distance really took it’s toll on me.
We had the pleasure of having two new Ninjas who were self-proclaimed world class cyclists. As expected, they were far out in front. They kept rocking from side to side on their bicycles like those Tour de France ninjas on TV and making the rest of us look bad.
The climbs were demanding. The landscape was pristine. The scenery was right out of a postcard. The weather was pleasant. As always, the Nyandarùa ranges set a beautiful backdrop. It was everything and then some.
We snaked steadily up the hills of the C72. We went up past Kahuhia, Koimbí and finally the final, spirit breaking climb into Kangíma town. A few of us couldn’t make the climb and I saw bicycles being pushed up the hill. Mùrathi’s bike developed a puncture and he had to board the ambulance.
After a brief stop over in Kangíma town next to General Kago stadium for repairs and water, we rode on. We cycled a few Kilometres past Kangíma town in the direction of Kíría-iní town. The landscape was covered with resplendent green tea bushes that are the hallmark of the central highlands.
At the Irima Junction, we turned off the C72 and we began our descent back to Mùrang’a town. We stopped outside Kangíma high school to immortalize the moment in photos. A very happy and spectacularly drunk Ninja dressed in near tatters stopped by to exchange pleasantries. He was wearing a Green, Kangíma high school standard issue sweater that had more holes than material. On his feet, he was sporting the preferred footwear of the impoverished village drunk, Macina ndutu, or ‘jigger burners’. The are normally fashioned out of incredibly poor quality plastic and his were in really bad shape.
Mùrathi told him, “we ní ùroneka ní ùhagíríte itinga we, tondu we ndungihota kùgùra njohi na íkùríe tene ùguo”.
“It would appear that you have brewed some Matinga, because you do not seem financially capable of procuring enough legal alcohol to be this drunk this early”.
Matinga is an illegal and highly potent home brew around the village. The good gentleman didn’t refute this claim.
We cycled on.
The drops were exhilarating and the scenery was more breathtaking than anything we had seen before.
As we descended into Karùgia town with Mt. Kírínyaga in the background, the sheer beauty of the scenery left me breathless. I got that calmness of spirit that I have come to love.
I finally got that ethereal feeling that I was chasing. I stopped to take it all in.
As we neared Kíamara town, we met the steepest climb of the entire journey. By now, our showy elite cyclists had lost their mojo and they could be seen having to endure the embarrassment of pushing their bikes up the hill. The rest of us cycled up that hill.
We had a stop here for refreshments and water. I elected to have bananas and we embarked on the final stretch of the journey.
After passing over the Mùkùngaí, Mathioya and Karí-ciùngù rivers, we were at last in Thanda Maria. One of the two self proclaimed cyclists did the final stretch inside the comfort of the ambulance.
By the time I got to Thanda Maria, I couldn’t even feel my brain. As I went back into the Tighties to return the bicycle, I was suddenly overcome by that kind of thirst that water cannot quench. So I had a few celebratory, ice cold white caps while looking over the magical views of the Mathioya River. The beers were heavenly.
This Sunday we do it all over again somewhere else.
The courage to suck at new things.