Bicycling in Kenya

Three months into our around-the-world bicycle odyssey, we flew to Kenya from London. We landed at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi in the morning and rolled our bikes out to pump up the tires. We fortified ourselves with a sweet roll and tea with milk at the airport, clipped on our panniers, and biked ten miles into the city. Traffic was light on the two-lane road in the early-morning hours. We cycled past zebras and giraffes grazing in the plains. The view of those wild animals in their natural habitat felt like the authentic beginning of our adventure.

Photo by Carla Fountain

One night we camped near Lake Naivasha on a beautifully manicured lawn.

Fisherman’s Camp near Lake Naivasha, Kenya – Photo by Carla Fountain

Hippos swam in the lake during the day. The tips of their ears flicked at us as we boated by.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

But late that night in our tent, we found out how the lawn was maintained: large hippos came out of the lake to walk around and graze. We inched the zipper open and peeked out. The huge, black hulks of hippo bodies stood too close for comfort, with their red eyes reflecting back at us. We could hear them quietly munching the grass.

Photo by Roger Brown on Pexels.com

Around midnight, I had to leave the tent to go to the bathroom! Shaking and scared, I gave the hippos a wide berth and got back into the tent as quickly and quietly as possible.

Photo by Follow Alice on Pexels.com

Many years after our trip I found out that the hippo is considered one of the most dangerous and deadly land mammals in the world. They are aggressive and unpredictable, and they kill an estimated five hundred people a year in Africa. Their massive weight—an average of three thousand pounds for females and as much as nine thousand pounds for males—can crush a human to death. Had we known that at the time, we would have been even more terrified.

You can read about my life-changing around-the-world bicycle odyssey in my book.

Bicycle Odyssey An Around-the-World Journey of Inner and Outer Discovery

Available in print or ebook through amazon.com , BalboaPress.com, BarnesandNoble.com, or at your local independent bookstore. Ask them to order for you. Help support indie bookstores!  These independent stores now carry my book: Half-Off Books in Fullerton, California, Vroman’s in Pasadena, and Book Soup in West Hollywood. 

Creativity in Uganda

Homemade scooter in Uganda – photo by Carla Fountain

Our decision to go to Uganda on our around-the-world bicycle trip in 1991 was the result of a conversation with an English woman we had met on safari in Kenya. She had traveled to see the gorillas in Zaire, and she said the best part of that trip was going through Uganda and meeting the Ugandan people. She told us she would do the trip again just to go through Uganda and encouraged us to continue bicycling west along the Pan-African Highway.

Remnants from the wars – Photo by Carla Fountain

In 1991, few tourists had visited Uganda since the early 1970s because of the political turmoil. Tourism was starting up again slowly, so we saw very few other travelers on our trip. This made for many pleasant encounters with Ugandans, who were welcoming and eager to talk to us.

Photo by Carla Fountain

At the time we entered the country, a large project was in progress to rebuild the roads. For much of our ride, we cycled on freshly asphalted roads built by either Chinese or Yugoslavian aid workers. We also cycled on long stretches of hard-packed dirt roads. The earth was a rich red, a gorgeous contrast to the sharp blue of the sky.

Photo by Carla Fountain

Uganda possesses spectacular natural beauty. Fertile, red earth abounds. Every day we delighted in the lush, green hills we rode through. We cycled in the “short rain” season. It would rain for about an hour or two each day. The daily rainfall was a small price to pay to bicycle through such gorgeous nature.

Photo by Carla Fountain

One day we climbed through vibrant vegetation overlooking the hills and the Rift Valley. In the valley, we saw deep craters filled with lush banana trees and blue lakes. White clouds dotted the azure sky. The sight was refreshing, gorgeous, and pure—a hidden Shangri-la.

Photo by Carla Fountain

Often, when we entered a village we saw children playing on the street who smiled at us with friendly interest. Ugandan children made ingenious toys for themselves out of necessity. They fabricated toy trucks, cars, and even ride-worthy one-speed bicycles. They engineered many of the toys with movable parts. One boy had crafted a large, toy helicopter, which he pulled along with a stick, making the propellers spin. He decorated it by writing “Uganda Red Cross” on the side.

Photo by Carla Fountain

We noticed how the cows changed from region to region on our trip. In this area of Uganda, the cows had three-foot-long horns spread far apart, similar to a Texas longhorn. At one point, we almost ran into a bull crossing the road when he stopped to look us in the eye. We braked furiously to keep our distance.

Photo by Carla Fountain

Our month in Uganda was one of the highlights of our trip. We couldn’t have planned it. Because we had stayed open and adaptable, and followed our intuition we were led to explore off the beaten path where we encountered some of the warmest people and the most beautiful nature on our year-long odyssey.

We picked up a hitchhiker! – Photo by Carla Fountain

You can read about my life-changing around-the-world bicycle odyssey in my book.

Bicycle Odyssey An Around-the-World Journey of Inner and Outer Discovery

Available in print or ebook through amazon.com , BalboaPress.comBarnesandNoble.com or at your local independent bookstore. Ask them to order for you. Help support indie bookstores! These independent stores now carry my book: Half-Off Books in Fullerton, California, Vroman’s in Pasadena, and Book Soup in West Hollywood.

After you’ve read the book, please let me know your thoughts. If you’ve made creative toys like the children I met in Uganda, please tell me about that in the comments below.

Spring Energy

All around me on my short rides I see nature blossoming. Spring brings the added benefit of extra sunlight hours. The light lingers longer on the horizon after the sun sets than in the winter months so we can squeeze in an extra half-hour of bicycling. In my corner of California, orange blossoms fill the air with a sweet intoxicating scent. Their perfume fills me with nostalgia for my two years in Valencia, Spain known as La Costa del Azahar (the orange blossom coast).

Orange blossoms
Bougainville blossoms
Lemon blossom

Maybe like me, you are shaking off winter sluggishness and feeling more optimistic about future plans and travels. The planning stage is a fun part of travel. I spent five years planning and saving for my around-the-world bicycle odyssey. It was well worth the effort. I spent another five years writing about the journey.

You can read about my life-changing around-the-world bicycle odyssey in my book.

On the shelf in the travel literature section of Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena and Half Off Books in Fullerton.

Bicycle Odyssey – An Around-the-World Journey of Inner and Outer Discovery

Available in print or ebook through amazon.com , BalboaPress.com , BarnesandNoble.com or at your local independent bookstore.

Please drop a line in the comments below to share you spring plans and dreams. Happy bicycling!