Hi. I’m Simon Roberts. I’ve been visiting and helping the Ol Lentille Trust in the Laikipia region of Kenya for the last 3 years. The Trust was established 10 years ago as a community project to support education, wildlife conservation and healthcare in a very beautiful but extremely poor part of Kenya. Most people live in small manyattas (thorn-fence compounds with houses made of sticks and mud) with no electricity and for many there is no fresh water supply.
Kenya is not without its well-publicised problems. Laikipia is pretty immune from most of these and the Ol Lentille Trust is trying to make a difference by supporting the neediest and developing a sustainable future for the Masai and Samburu people.
The Trust actively supports healthcare in the area. It recently completed the building of a 24-bed hospital with outpatient wing, a maternity ward and operating theatre. It also operates a mobile health clinic and provides support to local health workers who visit the more remote villages. There are no tarmac roads here so travelling between villages is a challenge.
It has also drilled boreholes and built dams to provide fresh water supplies to schools and villages. None of these come cheaply and take a considerable amount of logistics
The Trust supports twelve schools in the area and currently provide bursaries for nearly 70 children of different ages to provide schooling and college fees for those that cannot afford it.
It has also set up a wildlife conservation area where elephants roam freely as well as a plethora of other wildlife including leopards, gazelles, zebras and greater kudu. The Trust employs 27 Rangers to guard against poachers and manage the conservancy.
All this work is done by working closely with the local Samburu and Masai communities.
Hopefully this will have given you an understanding of why I decided to do a 75 km charity bike ride on behalf of the Trust. I was joined by Vincent a young 19 year old Samburu student that I help out with his school fees.
The Bike Ride: Ol lentille to Nanyuki by bike
Here is an insight into our challenge.
We set off from the camp at 6:30am just as the sun was rising. For once I was grateful of the clouds in the sky so we wouldn’t be cycling in the blazing heat of the sun. Vincent was on the new bike that I brought out and I was on one of the camp bikes.
My biggest concern was punctures and an hour into the ride I got the first. The culprit was a 2-inch long acacia thorn. It was as long as a toothpick and as sharp as a needle. With the puncture repaired, we set off again.
We passed waving children who came out from their manyattas to wave at the unusual sight of the crazy white man on his bike trailed by a young Samburu on another. We passed all sorts of wildlife including dik diks (a tiny antelope) and gazelles as well as lots of goats being herded by very young children.
The undulating hills of Laikipia
Over the hills and far away
The road was a dirt track full of bumps and loose rocks and there were plenty of ups and down to challenge us. It was a relief to reach the tarmac road for the last few miles. But it was on this last stretch that Vincent learnt the hard way not to use a front brake on its own. He went head first over the handlebars landing on his shoulder. Luckily, he was wearing a cycling helmet, otherwise it could have been much worse. So with a badly bruised shoulder and a few more cuts on his knee we managed to limp the last few miles into Nanyuki
After a rest we decided to take Vincent to the local hospital to get him checked out and their diagnosis was nothing was broken. Being a Sunday there was no X-ray machine operator available to confirm this but gave painkillers to help.
I decided that there was still time and I still had enough energy left to attempt to return to Ol Lentille. This time I was on the new bike so I suddenly found the lighter frame!
It was all going well although there were dark clouds gathering over Mount Kenya and in the direction I was going. Unfortunately, after about 25 Kilometres I got another puncture. I was repairing it as the dark clouds started to unleash lightning bolts. Makesen, who was driving our support vehicle and the wounded Vincent suggested it was time to call it quits.
Storm clouds gathering on my way back
The puncture before the storm. Time to call it quits!
Even with the first drops of falling rain, I was still holding out some hope that it would pass. Finally I gave in and put the bike in the back of the truck and we drove back to Ol Lentille just as the clouds dumped their contents on us. It was rain welcomed by the land and the local communities. And it was good risk management to be sitting in a pickup truck rather than being out in a thunderstorm in the African bush.
So I did ride 100kms and will just have to go back next year to do the route both ways!
Although I have now completed the ride I would welcome any further sponsorship for a very worthwhile cause. A few pounds goes a long way where people don’t even have the basics of electricity and fresh water.
If you would still like to donate towards my bike ride and I would like to thanks all those who have already done so for all your support.