During my visit to Naivasha I have the top room in a large guest house with great views of the lake, no curtains though so I wake up with the sunrise. After a breakfast of boiled eggs and toast I wander out to the town center to find a bank. According to Gmaps there are plenty in Naivasha however they all refuse to acknowledge that Revolut online banking is a thing so I resort to using my Halifax debit card and swallow the fees. The town center is not quite as crazy as Nairobi but close. The high-street is a strip of pothole ridden concrete with drainage ditches either side with paving slabs lain across at intervals so pedestrians can move from the street to the shop fronts. People park, drive and walk wherever they want but it seems to work. It’s hard to know what each shops sells, it seems to be a bit of everything. They are all painted different colours, the next seeming to try and be brighter than its neighbor. Just like Nairobi I am the only white person around and people stare but smile and wave when I say hello. A little girl in a bright pink coat, she couldn’t have been much more than two, ran to me on wobbly little legs. I crouched down and took her outstretched hand meaning to shake it as I said hello, instead she gazed at my hand whilst rubbing my skin then giggled.
Once I have the extra cash I need I go in search of a taxi to take me to Hells Gate National Park which is 30km south from Naivasha. A friendly looking guy takes my hand and ask me if I need a taxi, magic! The friendly man takes me to a much less friendly man who askes where I want to go, I reply Elsa park gate, he wants 2000Ksh ($20) for this 30min journey I get him down to 1500Ksh (I am still over paying double what it should be).
Halfway through the journey the unfriendly driver tells me I have to have a guide to enter Hells Gate, I know for a fact that this is not true, and that he will be my guide for $40. I specifically wanted to go to this national park as it is one of the few where you can (a) cycle through it and (b) do so without a guide. I don’t want to call him a liar so I just say no thank you and that I am going to cycle. He remains silent and pulls up to a bike rental place (a strip of verge with some bikes on it) still 2km from Elsa gate. I ask him to drive on to the gate as agreed he tells me this is the only place to rent bikes, another lie. I’m angry by his blatant lies but haven’t really come across this sort of thing before so I just pay him and get out in a huff.
The guys renting the bikes seem lovely but my anger only builds so as soon as he mentions the word ‘guide’ I cut him dead. “Rent me a bike but I want to test it first” I say in my best authoritative voice. The mountain bikes all look as knackered as each other so I grab one, squeeze the tires and ride it up and down the road testing the breaks, seems ok. I hand over cash and pedal off up the road to the park entrance.
I pass through the gate, paying my $26 fee, without incident and see that the bikes being rented here are only a dollar cheaper. I stock up with some more water and re apply factor 30 and off I go into a scene from Jurassic park. To the left the open plains stretch on to the horizon and to the right, 3km off, are huge jagged cliffs. The park is also know as a great location for rock climbers, apparently you can rent some gear nearby. Sadly, I know I am not nearly good enough to climb by myself and I cant find a (qualified) guide to take me. I cycle down the dirt road towards the cliffs and take a deep sigh of a relief as I leave haggling, taxi drivers and being stared at behind.
Cycling to work will never be the same after this. Although I have lived in London for 6 years, I have only been commuting to work by bike for about 8 months. I had been resisting due to the horrific cyclists deaths statistics on London roads, however the lure of huge savings on travel costs got me. I asked my brother in law to borrow his bike and have since grown to love it. Now every day starts and ends with a rush of adrenaline as I escape death by motorist. I cycle like I think everyone is out to kill me, which is actually how it feels. In one week, I had 3 cars try and turn left through the cycle lane and therefore through me, a tourist step out in front of me and an Uber driver reverse into me for reasons completely unknown to even himself. I narrowly avoid being squished by either rapid acceleration or use of good breaks whilst always shouting a string of expletives. I wouldn’t blame them if it weren’t for the fact that I dress in fluorescent yellow and lit up like a Christmas tree.
More annoying than the man- slaughtering motorists are other cyclists. To be specific it’s the middle-aged men dressed head to toe in expensive Rapha cycling gear. They all feel the need to park themselves in front of me when stopped at traffic lights. Every time, I am passed them and 20 meters up the road whilst they are still trying to clip their little shoes into their pedals. Rapha must not sell thighs of a 28-year-old runner. There is no cyclist code, we can be, and usually are, totally awful to each other. I believe this is largely due to all imagining we are competing in the Tour De France, maybe that’s just me. Quite often I arrive at work or home feeling irritated and restless but will continue to choose this over the feeling like i have been herded to work on packed trains.
Rant over, back to Africa. The first animal I see is a warthog! I actually say Pumbaa out loud, it runs off. Clearly not a fan of the joke. Next its three Zebra wandering through the grass about 80 meters from the road, I would love to go closer but was once told that the reason people don’t ride horses but not Zebra is that horses will kick you until you go away, Zebra will kick you until you are dead. I stay on the road.
The road winds up a small hill, I give a little oomph the pedals to make it up and as I do my bike chain falls off. I’m 7km from the gate at this point so I lay it down and begin reattaching the bloody thing. After 10 minutes, I have done it, I wipe most of the bike grease on the grass and the rest on my trousers. Drawback of doing stuff alone, everything is your problem to sort out.
3km on and I see a family standing outside their Land Rover and looking out into the bush, I follow their gaze and spot 3 giraffes. I take a seat on the verge and watch them munch at the trees.
I am nearly back at the gate when I see this 50ft tall spire of rock jutting out of the ground. Tourists are filling the picnic benches surrounding the rock so I take a seat of the grass and graze on some salted peanuts. The rustle of the peanut packet causes four Hydrax (African rat) to come bounding out from the base of the rock towards me. All four stop a meter from me, they look like overgrown guinea pigs. A brave one walks towards me. I flick my hand at and hiss but in Africa, this gesture must mean come and sit in my lap, not piss off. I have to actually stand up to get it off me, persistent little bugger. People must feed them.
After I exit the park and return the bike I find myself on the side of the road without a means of getting back to my accommodation, I ask the bike renter for help and he waves over a guy on a moped. He hands me a helmet and hi vis vest, I get on the back knowing this is a bad idea but try and mitigate the risk by asking the driver to go slowly which he does! (probably more due to the 50cc motor than my plea) I tell him the name of the guest house but he doesn’t say anything so I say near the police station, he nods and off we go. Turns out he has no idea where the police station is, I tell him we are going in the wrong direction so he pulls over, I had him my phone with gmaps up proving that I am right he looks blankly at the phone and calls over to people to ask them, they wave up the road. I tell him this is not right but he ignores me and we drive further away from my accommodation. We reach A guest house, not MY guest house. I get off and he looks pleased with himself. “this is not the right guest house” I tell him. “I will go in and check” he says. At this I very nearly lose my shit. But instead I just assure him it is not the right one and give him a few dollars and say “I will walk from here”. He asks “are you sure?” and follows up with “are you comfortable?” my anger dissipates as he actually seems concerned now. I manage a smile and say “I like to walk”. I head off in the direction we have just come. It begins to rain. It’s a 20min walk back, I am soaked but know a hot shower is possible so I don’t let it ruin my day.
Lots of lessons in assertiveness doled out to me today.