The ethereal beauty of Murang’a part.
So we have started this thing where we go cycling every Sunday on different routes around Murang’a county.
This past Sunday, we had proposed to go cycling up the Murang’a-Kīríainí road and turning off at Mahùa-iní, then towards Mùkùrweiní- Kímathi- kígetuiní- Sagana-Murang’a and then finally back to Thanda Maria.
We were a little apprehensive about the proposed route because the climb towards Kíría-iní from Murang’a was very steep and intimidating . It was like the mountain stages of the Tour de France or the Giro d’Italia but we were dreaming no small dreams.
Personally, I was keen on conquering the mountains. I wanted to be Marco Pantani, king of the mountains.
So Sunday morning came and we started making phone calls about the proposed rendezvous . Our elite level cyclist that had a birthday party the previous weekend had held another post birthday throat irrigation party the previous day. I highly doubted whether he would make it. Around 0930hrs , credible reports reached us that he had over- hydrated his larynx the previous night and was passed out in his house.
My uncle, who had joined us the previous Sunday and who beat all pre-match predictions by completing the grueling 60km stretch was not picking up his phone. We started getting suspicious.
I went out with my pickup and picked up the bike that I had intended to use because the climb was not the kind to be played with. The bike had to be capable of handling it without wanting to kill you.
When I got home, I met my young neighbour, Jackie, another fitness enthusiast. I have worked out with her a few times before and I knew that she was in seriously good shape, so I asked her if she wanted to come. Without hesitation, she said yes. I gave her my carefully selected bicycle.
My friend Ndegwa had also expressed interest for the third week in a row, though he was always a no show on race day. The Ninja is seriously flaky; he always grows an errand out of thin air on race day. I set out to his house to see to it that he came this time around. Ironically, he has by a long distance, the best bicycle of the lot. I waited for him outside his house until he got ready, he wasn’t lying himself of this one.
Now that I had given out my bike, I had to look for another one capable of making the climb at very short notice. The options available to me were pretty bad. Finally, I had to settle on my friend Waguta’s mineral crasher masquerading as a mountain bike. I was willing to risk permanent birth control just to make the climb.
Finally, six aspiring cyclists rendezvoused at the Total service station around 11am. We then tried to reach the two remaining participants, my uncle and a Ninja by the name of Ben, via phone.
Ben picked up his phone but said that he had only just woken up from his beauty sleep.
My uncle also picked up his phone but he said he had developed a stomach upset. He said, and I quote, “ní ndírakunyo ní nda”. That is Gíkùyù for ‘ I am being pinched by my stomach’. Not as convincing as the more thorough and customary, “ní ndírarío ní nda”, which translates to, “ I am being eaten by my stomach’.
He had the kind that didn’t require inpatient attention but effectively ruled one out of a cycling climb.
Since he was out, his ambulance, which had come in handy the last time around, was out too. Now, if you died, you died.
So we started the climb. By the time we maneuvered our way out of Mùrang’a town and done the climb towards the post office, Ndegwa was firmly behind. We decided to wait for him at the summit because we knew that if we left him behind this early, he would shamelessly turn back. So Mùrathi and I devised a plan. We decided to keep waiting for him at the summit of each climb until we were firmly in the hills of Gaturi. Once there, we reasoned that the journey back would be as long as the proposed route and Ndegwa would be forced to see it through.
He finally caught up after a few minutes.
We went past the post office and started the long and exhilarating drop to the Mathioya river bridge. Their air was crisp. The kiss of the mid-morning Mùrang’a sun was just right. The hills of Gaturi set a majestic backdrop. The beautiful Mathioya slowly came into view. It was full due to the prevailing rains and it looked some type of beautiful. I must admit that growing up next to it, I never thought much of this river. The older I have grown and the more I have travelled, the more resplendent Mathioya has come appear.
The scenery felt like a page out those ‘Awake’ magazines peddled by Jehovah witnesses that make one want to go to heaven.
Somewhere down that descent, I got that eerily peaceful stillness of mind and I remembered why I have come to love this. I love it for the ethereal calmness of mind. I love the thrill of chasing that feeling.
I felt a little short of breath by the beauty of it all. So I got off my bike and took pictures.
After crossing the bridge, a relaxed descent slowly turned into a mind numbing climb. The mwírua River snaked violently along the road down to the valleys of Gaturi to join the Mathioya. Jackie was handling the mountains pretty well for a rookie cyclist.
We came by one of those rickety bodaboda sheds that are the hallmark of the ‘generosity’ of any aspiring village politician. The name of the benevolent benefactor, as always, was more prominent than signs of any reasonable structural integrity. We decided to catch a breath under the charity of our political class.
Ndegwa who was miles behind,
finally caught up.
Some dogs were lying lazily next to us. You could use them as teaching aids for veterinary anatomy because every single bone on their bodies was visible. They looked either stunted or young.
“ Tùtù ni twana “, I remarked.
“These are juveniles”.
“ We kaí wathaka, Ici nī ngui ng’ima, cií na maciara ta matano, kùhùta no kuo cií hùtu”, Ndegwa, our resident expert on canines and who has a witty tongue, retorted.
“ Why are you playing? These are old dogs with like 5 births each, they are just very hungry”.
I could have sworn that they were puppies, but the authority had spoken.
We started on the longest and most serious climb thus far. Waguta’s bike was giving me a torrid time in the climbs. My back hurt and I couldn’t feel my baby makers. After climbing for what felt like forever, we noticed that no one had seen Ndegwa for quite a while. A Ninja called Kevin and I decided to wait for him long before the summit. At some point, Kevin theorized that Ndegwa, who was taking too long, had fled.
Kevin left and began his ascent.
After about 10 minutes, I saw the very tall figure of Ndegwa coming up the hill on the back of a bodaboda, his bicycle shamelessly in hand. He had given up. Behind him was sleeping beauty, Ben. Ndegwa finally caught up with me and firmly told me that he was done. He was going back home on the back of the bodaboda on general principle. We exchanged bikes and I took his pocket rocket.
He would later remark in his trademark wit, “Ngumo íyo íretho nií ní ngùgùra”.
“Whatever fame is to be earned, I will buy”.
We cycled on up the hills.
At some point, a familiar Toyota Landcruiser Prado J150 could be seen coming down the hill. It came to halt next to Mùrathi and I, and from behind it’s tinted windows was the stomach-upset-having Ninja. He had gone up the hills of Gítugí all the way to Kíría-iní town and then down the hills of Gaturi to see if we had actually made the climb.
He looked pretty ok for a guy that was having a stomach upset.
We came by the Mahùa-iní junction and decided to grab something to eat at one of those roadside hotels. There were rumors of a police operation arresting mask-less Ninjas in the nearby Kawerù town. The three ladies manning the eatery could be heard falling over sufurias as they were running away from us. They actually thought that we were Law enforcement.
After lengthy assurances that we meant no harm, they decided to serve us. Everyone had Njahí and chapati but I elected to have half a plate of Njahí without the wheat because I was “counting calories”. An elitist mistake that I would later regret. Jackie abstained altogether.
We then cycled towards the small center of kígetù-iní. There were scenic views, winding descents and moderate climbs. The were birds in the air and it was calming to the spirit.
It was beautiful beyond belief.
We came by the flood plains of the Sagana river and then finally the junction to Mùrang’a town. It was decided that it was still too early to head home. So, Instead of turning towards Mùrang’a, we elected to head in the opposite direction towards Sagana town. We went all the way to the Magunas mall on the Nairobi-Nyírí highway.
Here, I made another crucial mistake. I have a serious aversion to sugary drinks. When everyone was having ice cold juices, I tripped and found myself in the liquor section. I bought a solitary, cold white cup which I sipped leisurely as we chilled on top of the kerb at the Cabro paved parking lot.
We then started the long stretch back to Mùrang’a town. By the time I got to the edge of the town at the Huhi service station, I was numb, weak and hypoglycemic. I regretted my elitist calorie watch at lunch and the ice cold white cap.
Mùrathi decided to call the sell out Ndegwa as we caught our breath. He couldn’t believe that we had made it, especially Jackie.
In his infinite wit he asked, “ aaii, ona kairítu kau no karíkia?”
‘Has the girl finished the race too?’
“Yes,” Mùrathi replied.
“ Aaaiii! Kau ní kahíí ti kairítu”, Ndegwa remarked.
‘ That is no girl, that’s a boy’.
Jackie was that fit.
I was so hungry that the last 3 kilometres of the hill climb towards Thanda Maria took their toll on me. I had to push the bike the last kilometre home.
Next Sunday, we are going for the crazy ascent to Kangíma.
Audaces fortuna iuvat.
Fortune favours the bold.
We are getting pretty good at finding the courage to suck at new things.