By Dan Goodwin
I have just been guiding a five day mountain bike expedition across Laikipia with a great team. It’s a special way to travel seeing the world from two wheels. Bringing you down to a pace and viewpoint far better than a speeding Landcruiser, far more in touch with your surroundings and not to mention a much more ecological travel method. We began with some training rides through the local Ngare Ndare, Mukogodo, Borana and Lewa Conservancies which offer some of the best game viewing venues in East Africa. We were treated to a wide array of wildlife from Elephant, Giraffe, Oryx, Rhino, Baboon and even a snake eating a rat and with many more animals seen from the saddle.
With the training rides under our belt we got organised to head out deeper into Laikipia and moving from camp to camp journeying through the bush. Camping gear, food, water and a plethora of supplies including an expedition Chef which were all neatly packed into the Land Cruiser. A torrential unseasonal downpour occurred overnight but waking to find that the trails may be damp didn’t deter enthusiasm to get going. After a bit of sunlight to dry the trails, off we went.
Leaving the village of Ethi we wound through the community land gaining a steep climb up into the Chumvi hills affording great views into deeper Laikipia where we were heading. The terrain descends from the lusher areas higher up closer to the mountain to the more stark arid and bush like terrain with orange dirt and sandier tracks at lower altitudes.
As the heat began to build we made our way steadily down running along the side of the Lolldaiga ranch with Mount Kenya getting smaller behind us. More great riding brought us down to Il Polei – a village under a huge unique rock formation and the venue for the first night. The Twala Camp a women’s community project which was set up and founded by Rosemary consists of camping or Manyattas (the Masai term for houses). We chose the latter and got settled in while Omari the chef for the journey prepared some excellent spiced chips as bitings so the team had an accompaniment for their well earned cold beer. After dinner everyone gathered by the fire before turning in. Only seconds after heads hit the pillows the distinct roar of lions could be heard. The loud roaring was coming out of the nearby Lolldaiga. I made a double check that the door was definitely closed and people were quickly asleep ready for an early start.
An early start some breakfast and the day was underway. Some pretty heavy overnight rain had passed through but rather than the muddy black cotton soil closer to the mountain which is impossible after rain, the trails down in Laikipia are murram, a sandier mix which fairs much better in the wet. Winding our way under rocky outcrops and acacia trees we made our way towards Kimanjo. Just prior to reaching Kimanjo we stopped for a water break and to watch a large number of baboons passing shortly followed by a man who wandered out of the bush smartly dressed with a clipboard and pen who also crossed the road following the baboons. We chatted establishing he was Francis who had been tracking the movements and behaviour of baboons for the last eighteen years. We couldn’t gather who this was being done for but he was clearly very keen on them explaining quite a bit about them. A quick farewell and he vanished into the bush to catch up with the troop. We carried on winding up and down short hills before a good sweeping descent brought us into the village where I rode straight over a dead dog but managed to warn the rest before we made more of a mess, “let sleeping dogs lye” Peter joked!
After a quick tea break we had nice rolling trails with the odd dry river bed crossing to bring us down to Ol Gaboli – our camp for the night. Set in a lovely location on a bend on the Ewaso Nyiro river under a giant fig tree – a set of Bandas for accommodation look out to the majestic river.
After a good meal it was early to bed with the final ride the following morning back towards Nanyuki. We rose early in order to get the best of the cooler hours. Heading out from camp we crossed the river making our way towards Mpala conservancy but not before we found a large granite dome to peddle up and get some incredible views giving a good impression of just how vast the area is.
We carried on winding our way through the bush keeping the vehicle closer to hand this time. In the dense areas care needs to be taken as large game can be just a few metres away. We crested up onto the escarpment on Mpala ranch with nice undulating terrain and a long down punctuated with water breaks as the heat picked up. Descending towards the corner where Ol Jogi conservancy started we came across grazing Elephants who looked keen to cross our path. Hanging back we watched as they grazed on the lush grass along the river bank. They crossed our path and disappeared into the bush. Quite grateful in the heat for the break and great game viewing we saddled up for the last push to the finish line and onto Cape Chestnut for a great lunch and celebration. A great RVA trip with great biking, food, camping and wildlife viewing. For more on bike expeditions head to Rift Valley Adventures