Victoria Cycle Challenge – Will Whitaker

Well, we did it. 280(ish)kms across the unpredictable Kenyan terrain, from the (almost) flat planes of the Maasai Mara to the well-paved shores of Lake Victoria. And while the journey may have been net downhill - a fact that provided little solace halfway up day two's mountain - I've come out the other end feeling a lot fitter and a little fatter, no doubt due to the substantial portions provided by our Maasai chef, Joseph. For someone who doesn't eat anything but meat, he sure knew his way around a vegetarian menu.   

Preparing ourselves at Crocodile Camp Masai Mara


Our first casualty came before the start line, when one of our group of four showed up with a chest infection. But don't worry, we stuck to the pirate's code, not even hesitating before leaving him behind to relax and recover at the wonderful Wildebeest eco camp. At the time I may have been a little envious, my stomach upset by nerves and the endless jiggling of Kenyan roads (otherwise known as a 'free massage'). Anyway, however he spent his time did the trick, and he managed to catch up just in time for day 3's downhills.

The first day was the easy one, just long enough to make me thankful for my padded shorts while also being farther than I'd ever cycled in one sitting (a word that still makes me twinge). It provided a nice taster for things to come. The roads were rocky, my palms hurt from the outset, and it got really, stupidly hot. But we also saw glimpses of gazelle, heard the fascinated cries of the local children (Mzungu! Mzungu!) and tasted a well-earned beer from a Maasai bar ('This is called the hodi dance' 'This is called the floss!'). I was knackered by the end, resenting everything around me for my being there. But then our guide, John, told us he'd seen enough. We were gunna make it.

Giraffe crossing


Although we set off at 7:05 (sorry John), we still didn't reach the beast until the sun really got itself together, melting us faster than we could chug our GrifAid filtered water. Every two pedals forward meant one back as the bike's hefty tyres skidded on the loose stones of the endless winding mountain track ('that next corner *has* to be the top'). After conquering that, I barely remember the slight undulations of the plateau, winding through Acacia trees and piki pikis down ever more rural tracks.

I mentioned the mountain on day two? Yeah, it was a big one. It spent the morning jeering at us from the horizon as we made our way passed the giraffes and wildebeest of the Mara, morphing from a vague blue outline to a sharp sheer sheet of rock. What I do remember is our arrival at camp no.3, nestled in the deep wilderness, leaning over the plateau's edge above hundreds of miles of Kenyan and Tanzanian plains.

I'll never forget that view. 

The trouble with describing a view is that you, the reader, will compare it to your own experience. Maybe I'd tell you that it was the best view I'll ever see (it was), then perhaps you'll think of the best view you've ever seen, nodding along with understanding. However, trust me when I say, yours falls short (unless you're an astronaut, you lucky sod). It was indescribable, but there is no harm trying. Savannah stretched the horizons, broken only by a we