19/03/13, stage 39, Namanga to Arusha

We had already heared that today was going to be a pretty nice day. And it was 🙂

This morning we crossed the border into Tanzania. Once we hit the road after the border post we were immediately confronted with the presence of 2629 meter high mount Longido right in front of us. And more subtle, hiding in the haze, to our left in the east, 5895 meter high mount Kilimanjaro. Highest mountain of Africa. Mountain of god. And although you had to look very good to see it, we saw it. And I think we were very lucky that we did, because with just a little bit more haze we wouldn’t have seen it. And this was our one opportunity, because we will not get any closer…
We passed mount Longido on its western side and after we passed it we got mount Meru in sight. 4562 meters high and also a serious mountain (or actually volcano, just like Kili). Arusha, our destination for today, lies just behind Meru. Between us and Meru a 50k bush covered plane, with a perfectly paved road, almost no traffic and utter scilence. The only thing you could hear were birds. And despite this serenity I had to hit my brakes hard, because there was a little tortoise on the road 🙂 It was not in a good place, so I waited for some other riders and consulted with them whether we should move it. The concensus was that we should, so we did.
I thought that was already a pretty cool wildlife experience, but a bit later I overtook Paul and he told me that he and some others had seen a giraffe. I can’t deny that I felt a bit envious when I heard that. It made the tortoise seem a bit meager. After all, potential widlife encounters are one of the reasons why I wanted to cycle Africa, even though I knew that there was a very big chance that I wouldn’t encounter any wildlife on the bike at all. In that respect  the tour hasn’t been bad yet; all the camels and baboons and the ostriches and the hippos and the warthogs. And the baby elephants and baby rhino and giraffes in Nairobi. But a giraffe in the wild, while on the bike….
So I kept on pedaling, while I kept looking around me. I overtook Tom and asked if he’d seen any wildlife. He said he’d seen the same giraffe Paul saw. Bastard. I cycled a bit with him though and we chatted a bit about who knows what. And then we got to a hill and I got a bit annoyed by the fact that I had to focus on the climb and couldn’t pay as much attention to my surroundings as I wanted. How weird a human mind can work…. But then it was there… on the right side of the road, slowly moving out of the bush… A genuine, non animatronic, non zoo, living in the wild, living and breathing, warm blooded, yellow with brown spotted giraffe! And it was even better than I had ever imagined it…
It slowly moved out of the bush and it slowly crossed the road. I took some pictures and once it crossed the road, it lingered on the left side of the road. I got back on my bike and slowly cycled towards it and while I did, it slowly walked away from me, but parallel to the road. So I kept on cycling while this long legged and long necked gracious animal kept on walking. And after a while it broke into an easy gallop. Just like a horse’s gallop, but clumsy and slow, while fast at the same time. And then it turned left, into the bush. Speechless, me and Tom watched it walk out of sight, with mount Kilimanjaro at the backdrop. And once Shirley and Dan had caught up with us, it had walked out of sight. 
What a day! I feel so privileged that I’m able to do this whole thing and that I’m granted experiences like this. And I’m gratefull for it. And things are only going to get better. We have three restdays in Arusha and I will spend these restdays with Loraine, Pete, Richard and Aex on safari… Hopefully there are many more wildlife encounters to come! The giraffe encounter while on the bike is not one I will forget soon though…

Mount Longido, about half the size of Kilimanjaro…

The tortoise! Hiding in his shell…

Look good! Mount Kili in the haze. On the picture it’s even worse than reality…

There it is! Mt Meru on the background….

Walking of into the bush…

Oh and we saw some dressed up Masai as well!

And a secretary bird! (Paul told me)

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