220km left, 2 days. Easy money. I’ve only gone and bloody done it!
Woke up on the morning of day 89, a wind stronger than any in the past blowing into my face, “who cares?! I only have to do 120 and then a nice short 100km day into Nairobi tomorrow. Beautiful”
Pedalling away into the wind, singing along, excited.
Snap. Chain breaks. Fine, I’ve got time. I push my bike up to a roadside shack where me and the boys (on the edge of the Masia Mara) in the howling wind, mend my chain. I’m quite good at it now. Finish my chai say goodbye and off I roll.
20kms later. Snap. Chain Breaks. This time however, my momentum took the chain round my gears, snapped them off, shattered them, mangled the chain, completely twisted and smashed my front derailleur. Everything was completely broken, unmendable, only replaceable.
It was over, I wasn’t going to make it, the only place in East Africa this could be replaced was Nairobi. I was on the brink of tears, devastated, I really just couldn’t believe it. Speechless. (Oh yes, no one to speak to anyway!)
As I stood there, head in hands, unmoving, a guy I had passed ten minutes before and had ‘Jambo’ed, walking along the road approached me. I pretty much cried on Raynold’s shoulder. “There is always hope my friend, there is always hope”.
So Raynold and I walked along the road, buffeted by the wind side by side, me pushing Lady Love, he marching and off we went. Raynold really provided me with a bit of perspective. He had just had to run away from home as he had accidentally bought a stolen phone, and despite handing it back to the Police and explaining everything the original owner of the phone wanted him to pay all damages which he simply couldn’t afford. He had run away to “greener pastures” in Nairobi.
So we pushed and walked 20km to the next town, both mostly silent. It must have been an amazing sight, like the final shot of a film ‘with heart’, side by side, wind howling, one white one black, both thinking.
We got to Narok a dusty grim town, and went deep into the back streets and found a little shack of guys who claimed to be bike mechanics. Raynold, my translator explained the issues, although pretty self evident, and we got to work. 3 precious hours later and with a crowd of about 30 people watching, the boys had pieced together 5 different bikes, a little of my own, to create a concoction of pieces to put on the Lady Love. They rebent the chain (remember I can’t use my spare new one!) and Lady Love, missing 5 gears just about moved. He creaked, grinded and was crying out in pain, had lost about 8km/hr in speed. BUT, he moved!!
I had lunch with Raynold, said goodbye with a big hug but unfortunately couldn’t exchange numbers as he had no phone! What a man. I managed to do another 30ks, very very slowly. Eating my supper on that final night, in the courtyard of a grotty little roadside guesthouse, I gave up again. “There’s no way I can do 170km tomorrow on this bike. No way.” However, as I got into bed, I rallied myself again. “Even if it takes me 14 hours, I can do it, I can’t give up, maybe I should lie to everyone? No! Yes! No! I can do it. Just going to be the biggest day of the trip.”
Woke up on the morning of day 90, was on the move as the sun was rising. Completely still, and after 20ks was also totally flat. The perfect conditions. I was flying along (ish), I was going to do it! I needed to double back on myself 50km to stretch out the distance as I was too close to Nairobi. But it was going to be feasable, the wind had gone and the bottom of the rift valley is as flat as a pancake. WHOOOOOOOPPPP!!!!!
Ping! Wobble. Wobble. Wooobbblle.
Broken spoke, the lads in Narok had over tightened my spokes. Fine. Stay calm. Fix it. However, the spoke on my back wheel had snapped on the side of the ‘cassette’ (the run of gear cogs the chain goes round), and had managed, impossibly, somehow, to entwine itself inbetween the gear cogs. It took me three and a half hours sitting on the side of the road to get it out and to put in a new one. My hands were bleeding, my pliers looked like a murder weapon, and with every minute, it became more and more apparent that it would be impossible to do the full 170. My target and will to live were slowly slipping away. I must have been on the edge of crying about 5 times, and kept thinking, “Just lie! Just tell everyone you did it!”, I also considered rebreaking my gears so I had to give up (twice, I put the wheel down, stood up, walked towards the bike. Stopped. Went back and picked up the wheel). I couldn’t though.
Just as I was on the brink of mending the wheel, I realised for the final stage of mending it, I needed help. Oh God.
Hoot hoot! A car pulled over and out stepped a great friend of my Parents’ Simon and his friend Rory. They – my Nairobi welcoming party- (the 99, mullet loving, bikini clad babes nowhere to be seen?! Shock horror.) - had been following my tracker and had seen the stationary spot and had come to see what the problem was. Extremely emotional at this point I (tried to) put on a brave face, as they drove me 20ks to the next town where with the help of Rory, a second pair of pliers, we managed to finally get the spoke in. At this stage, it was impossible to finish, not only was Lady Love incapable but I had run out of time.
I can’t express the feeling. Working towards something every single day for 3 months and not doing it. It was, sure, out of my legs, and I had tried EVERYTHING, but it really was awful. Those 3 hours sitting on the side of the road, chain smoking, were the pits. The worst part was, (as I free wheeled down the back route into Nairobi that Simon had shown me) that I had this feeling of relief, that secretly I had wanted to be forced to give up, as I had no will power left to keep fighting, that I was secretly relieved I had no choice. I felt I was cheating myself.
Anyway. I cycled the final 50 downhill kilometres at a snail’s pace into Nairobi, and Simon and Rory were so kind that once I had finished, I really did try and celebrate, but there was a bitter bitter taste in my celebration. One that with a week’s retrospect is still lingering in the background (hence – any friend who has tried to contact me I haven’t replied. Wanted to be feeling happy when I spoke to you all! Feeling stable now though, so free on Skype this week, although as ever I will still be playing the invisible man). The tears I had been holding back with Raynold, in Narok, in the guest house on my last night, and the ones on the side of the road, inevitably came like a flood when I got on the phone to Dad (all I can say is thank goodness Mum wasn’t at home. Headline news: “Flash floods hit Nairobi and Fife simultaneously”!!!), but there we are.
And as I said in my Facebook announcement – a very very (very) wise man (me) once said “Life is Life”. Good to remember your own mantra! Will have to make sure I complete the next one, that’s all.
It also helps that on Friday morning, alone in Jack B-H’s (he was in the UK) house, a banging on the door. Shit, my parcel from mum. Fumbling for my keys, padlock, door, half asleep. “What?! An Mzungu delivery man??? WHATTTT??? A DE KLEE DELIVERY MAN!!!!”. My cousin a champion. Never have I been so happy to see his grinning face, the best surprise ever. With our host Archie Matheson– Silky's pal, we had an incredible weekend of football watching, eating, partying, dancing with prostitutes and returning to normality. I have never been so touched by anything in my life (I’m not talking about Bridget the prostitute, I’m talking about the thoughtfulness of my Cous. Anyway, whatever the others say. I believe that Bridget was a 2nd year student studying Mass Communications at Mombasa, and she loved me for who I am. Sure.)
(I have received a tip off that this sounds seedy... this is an edit- nothing happened with Bridge!!)
Believe it or not, I am going to do the ‘rambling retrospective, introspective, profound, waffly paragraph on the trip as a whole’ and a few final ‘general observations’ blog on Friday, (It’s so nearly the end! I’m so sorry! No more bloody Swifts!!! Facebook silence!) so stay tuned. Thank you all as ever for reading and remember – it’s not too late to sponsor- 9923 is still loads.