The courage to suck at something new.

So we went on a grueling 60km cycling run last Sunday and we liked it so much we unilaterally decided to do it every other Sunday.  I know, it was a heat of the moment declaration after not dying from fatigue and it wasn’t completely well thought out. 

It felt nice though at the time.

Sometimes during the week, a WhatsApp group was created to signal our seriousness. The group was moderately busy. So this Sunday, we had proposed using the very hilly Thanda Maria-Mùkùyù-Mùgoiri- Kahatia- Nyoka Nyoka road- Kahùtí- Kangíma -Kahuhia- Thanda Maria route. It was coming to just about 60km of spirit breaking climbs and descents.

During the week, my path would cross with some of the participants and the attitude was generally a little lukewarm so I was not overtly optimistic that the cycling run would take off on Sunday.

On Saturday evening, I heard that one of the elite participants was having an isolation birthday party. I knew for a fact that the throat irrigation that would take place at said party would effectively cancel any Sunday cycling plans.

So on Sunday morning, I called the elite, birthday having Ninja and the phone was conveniently off. I assumed that the throat hydration exercises that must have unfolded at the isolation birthday were Olympic level serious. I reasoned that the Ninja was going nowhere.

I put all cycling plans to bed at that point.

So I decided to spend the morning at the gym for the lack of more pleasurable activities to engage in. As I was headed to the gym a few minutes to 11am, I found one of the original participants chilling outside his home and he told me that he had tried calling me earlier that morning to enquire about the state of our cycling affairs. I told him I’d rush to the gym then I see what would happen from there. 

On the way, I met my uncle and his daughter in what looked like they were getting ready to start cycling. My uncle had expressed interest in joining us after our first foray the previous Sunday. He was a late entrant of sorts to the party. He told me that his mind had already been made up and he had decided to go at it with his daughter since he couldn’t reach the other would be participants.

I immediately abandoned my gym plans, rushed back home and changed. I then passed through my friend’s home to solicit for his ‘state of the art’ bicycle that was a little friendlier to the baby makers. We had a rendezvous outside of Mùrathi’s home. 

Armed with a decent bike, the three others participants and I made our way towards Mùkùyù market.

We had another slight rendezvous near Mùkùyù market where we were met by my Uncle’s state-of-the-art ambulance. I realized that no corners were being cut and nobody was taking chances with dying.

As we got ready to start, another one of the original participants could be seen snaking his way up the hill to Mùkùyù market coming towards our general direction. He kept waving at us, so we waited. 

When he finally reached us, we had a slight discussion regarding the proposed route and we set sail so to speak. We turned off into the junction towards Mùgoiri and started cycling along the C71 road.

The ambulance followed us at a short distance behind with hazards blinking to protect our rearguard from over speeding NAMU and MUNA matatus that are driven by lunatics.

The climbs were daunting. Near Gaitega, my cousin’s legs finally gave in and the young lady had to board the ambulance together with her state of the art bike. She had covered a good 7 or so Kilometres; an incredibly decent effort for a 14 year old girl.

For every hill we would summit, a slight descent would follow and an even steeper hill would beckon. 

We passed over the resplendent Kayahùe river which was full and had burst it’s banks. My friend Kevin had been struggling with a rickety bike until this point. He couldn’t keep up with us. So we stopped so that he could exchange his ramshackle with my cousin’s jet propelled pocket rocket. 

We also took time to take in the ethereal beauty of Kayahùe.

From the moment we made that pit stop and he exchanged machines, I would only see him far ahead at or near the horizon. My friend, money can buy happiness; or at the very least a bike that would make happiness a little easier to reach.

A few kilometres outside of Mùgoiri, we heard the roar of a single stroke engine of a Dayun motorcycle belonging to one gentleman by the name Pau. He was carrying our elite level, birthday having friend and his bicycle. He was determined to be party to the proceedings.

None of us had seen that coming.

Incidentally, the gentleman Pau is an Uber-elite cyclist that is known to easily cycle the stretch between Mùrang’a and Nyírí towns and back in less than a day. It’s a 130km round trip. He is a village Lance Armstrong minus the juicing.

Now three became five.

We cycled on. The scenery was to die for. The famed Mùrang’a hills became treacherous. At some point, Mùrathi’s legs have way under him and he had to board the ambulance with his bicycle.

We soldiered on.

We came by Mùrira-nja sub-county hospital. It was named after sell out colonial chief, Mùrira-nja. He had succeeded another sell out colonial Chief, Inyathiù (Ignatius) Mùrai. Inyathiù was the father of Watírí, wife of Senior Chief Míchuki Kagwí’s son, John Michuki.

The landscape was scenic. The much vaunted hills of Mùrang’a didn’t let us down in their beauty. The descents were scintillating. The birds sang their hearts away. The Nyandarùa ranges seemed ghostly and  imposing in the background.

The odd crowds of Ninjas we came by at various roadside barazas were overtly friendly and excited to see us followed by an ambulance.

After an eternity of climbing, we finally turned off at Kahatia and joined the new, pristine and winding highway that is famously known as Nyoka Nyoka because of the way it snakes down the hills and valleys of Mùrang’a. It’s dangerous bends and steep declines are the stuff of folklore around the village.

As I went down along a lengthy, steep and winding descent at blinding speed, my mind became weirdly still. Maybe it was the feeling of risk and higher concentration that comes with great speed. Maybe it was the mind blowing beauty of my surroundings. The calmness of mind I felt was transcending and felt trancelike. I screamed at the top of my voice going down a long straight and it felt good. 

This is exactly what I had been seeking. This has become my new drug. Peace that surpasses understanding.

By the time I was done, the most imposing of the climbs lay infront me. We had talked about this man size climb. The climb to Kíanderí. Kíanderi means the place of Nderis. Incidentally, nderi , a vulture in Gíkùyù, soars really high.

By this point, my uncle had also boarded the ambulance. 

I decided to conquer the hills. 

Most stage races have a special category for the best climber, usually by awarding points at the important summits of the race. In the tour de Fance, the best climber, is known as the “King of the Mountains”. Marco Pantani was the greatest climber in the history of the tour de France.

I wanted to be him. Until I couldn’t.

Somewhere around quarter way up, my legs gave way. They had put up a gallant fight but they wouldn’t climb and inch further. My time to board the ambulance finally came. I boarded it to the summit of the climb.

We went past the sleepy town of Kahùtí and found ourselves near Kangíma town. From here, we started on the 25km descent to Mùrang’a along the C72.

The alternating steep descents and shorter climbs were mind numbing.

At some point, with only the ambulance behind me for company, I came across a group of people near Kenneth Stanley Njindo Matiba’s home in a place called embassy. They seemed mesmerized by the fact that a solitary rider was being followed by a state-of-the-art ambulance. They were awed by this show of opulence.

One Ninja asked, “ ní we ufuatíto ní ambulanci íno?”

“Are you the one being followed by this ambulance?”

I replied in the affirmative.

He proceeded to ask, “kaí wí mùndù mùnene handù?”

“Are you a big someone somewhere”.

I wasn’t going to miss that cue; after all, in law, possession is nine-tenths the law.

“Ndí mùndù mùnene mùno” , I casually replied.

“ Yes, I am a very important person”.

They further suggested that I should channel my obviously vast resources to the fighting of the Rona pandemic and I told them I would think about it.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, we reached Thanda Maria. By this point, I was hypoglycemic and sore. I couldn’t even feel my minerals.

It so happened that my uncle in his foresight and charity had a few Kienyeji chicken murdered and prepared for us at his home. The most pleasant of surprises.

We ate the sumptuous chicken with some ugali and sukuma wiki. They tasted like heaven at the end of purgatory. I was also extremely thirsty. A peculiar kind of thirst that water couldn’t quench.

So after long break from throat hydration, I had an ice cold white cap.

It tasted like sidewalk coins on broke days.

We shall do this all over again next Sunday. Same thing, different route.

The say that home is not a place, it is a feeling. Well, the hills of Mùrang’a have always felt like home to me.

The courage to suck at something new.

Wanna come with?

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