Sunday, 5 March 2017

Woman V Cancer Cycle Africa- Tanzania - Group 1- October 2015. Days One to Three.

In January 2015 I received a letter saying the flight itinerary for the Woman V Cancer Cycle Africa had been changed? The flight was out of London Heathrow, and not direct to Kilimanjaro, but to Nairobi then by bus to Moshi, Tanzania. Also the cost for Tax and Fule was £358.00.
Well! me being the aircraft geek that I am knew that I could go to Kilimanjaro with Qatar Airways. However due to the connection times I decided to go Manchester to Dubai to Dar es Salam, then get a Precision Air flight to Kilimanjaro airport. This cost me £500.00.  I informed the company of this and was advised I would have to pay for my own transport to the hotel in Moshi. I also decided to go one day earlier to make sure I was in time and so needed one extra night at the hotel.
I packed according to the pack sheet I was sent.
For the rest of this account I am going to copy what was on the official tour information with what really happened so here goes:
Thursday 1st October 2015. Day One. Depart on overnight fight for Nairobi, Kenya.
30th September 2015, I was on a study day in London, I got from London to Heathrow on the Paddington Express, it was great. the Emirates lounge was shut as it was being renovated so disappointingly I had to use the BA lounge in Terminal 3. it was very poor and looked shabby.  
I left London Heathrow on the 20.20 flight to Dubai, ( EK 4), this was a very good flight and in Dubai I had a short layover before getting the Dar es Salam flight. In Dar I already had my Visa, it had cost £40.00, so I was through customs in a flash. I got my bag them walked to the domestic departures to get my flight to Kilimanjaro. In London they had told me my bag would go through to Kilimanjaro, but I didn't believe this and I was glad I went to the carousel and got my bag. I had a short wait in the very small domestic terminal and then was on the Precision Air fight.
My pick up was waiting for me at Kilimanjaro Airport to take me on the 1 1/2 hour car ride to Kilemakyaro Mountain Lodge, Moshi. In the Taxi was another one of the participants who had arrived on the Qatar Airways flight just before me.  We checked in at the lodge and had a good nights sleep.  
My friend had not booked the flight independently, so she had a day in London, then met members of the group at London Heathrow and got the Kenya Airways Dreamliner to Nairobi. She said the overnight flight was good and it arrived on time on the morning of 2nd October 2015.

Friday 2nd October 2015. Day Two. At Nairobi airport we board buses for the 3 hour journey to the boarder with Tanzania. Once we have crossed the boarder we have a further 2 hours to reach our hotel. the hotel in in the shadows of Mount Kilimanjaro.
After lunch we will have time to enjoy the hotel facilities while the cycle mechanics set up bikes to individual specifications during bike fitting at the hotel. After dinner our challenge Event Leader will brief everyone on the challenge ahead.
As I was at the hotel already, I had breakfast then read my book by the pool.
Kilemakyaro Mountain Lodge, Moshi.
At about 10.00 Lunch was set up for the rest of the group arriving, I just carried on talking to a few who had made there way via different routs, there were 'laides who lunch!', they had used KLM Business class, and KLM had lost the bags of the three women.
Two other women who also did not have bags had gone BA to Nairobi, but they did not know they had to pick up the bags in Narobi, having been informed the bags would go through .
Finally two other women arrived having travelled from Doha with Qatar Airways.
I rested by the pool with my book enjoying the sun.
10.00 am and Lunch is ready at Kilemakyaro Mountain Lodge, Moshi.

Kilemakyaro Mountain Lodge, Moshi.
 I waited and waited, at 13.00, there was no sign of the group so we were told to have our food. I did this and I had my bike fitting; well I was given a bike. The food that was put out at 10.00 am, was prepared for 80 people it was put away at 15.00.

My friend was on the bus! She said it was the journey from hell. In Narobi the group of 75 women were split into three and got on to one of the 3 NON AC busses. It took at least 3 hours to get to the border, and then it took ages to get through the border and for people to use the toilets. It was then well over 3 hours from the border to Moshi. Interestingly,  this was what I had read on the internet when researching the journey. So the main party in the busses arrived at 18.30, in the dark and there was a big rush to serve the dinner. The food served was the lunch that had been kept warm for hours! So the 5 hour journey had taken over 9 hours and all who had undertaken it were shattered. at least the accommodation was nice, clean and with a bit of hot water coming at very low pressure from a shower.

 3rd October 2015. Day 3-Mosh to Olpopongi Maasai Village.
we leave the hotel and cycle down hill for the first two KM on tarmac roads into Moshi. we then go 30KM on tarmac on mildly rolling terrain towards Arusha. A Few moderate hills.
we reach our overnight campsite we will explore the village look at the Maasai way of life see a museum. We will be treated to a BBQ dinner around a camp fire have Maasai singing and dancing.

Ready to go
We were told to meet at 08.30 for breakfast ,so we did, but It was late when we had breakfast. As there was no space for us at the tables, or any chairs we sat on the sunbeds for our breakfast.
The bike fitting consisted of a grab your bike situation! the group had a briefing and a warm up and it was 0945 before we left the lodge. The bumpy dirt road from the lodge lead to the tarmac road in Moshi. as we left Moshi it was incline after incline, I call them hills! it was also very windy so it was hard going. The tar road was good and the first stop was at a filling station. there were water, biscuits and crisps on offer. My friend reported that she has a tummy pain, as do quite a few others in the group. The Q for the toilets is long.

First Stop

Very soon we turned off the main road and onto a minor Tarmac road and peddle up a long uphill stretch, this goes on for a very long time. Legs begin to tire and it is very, very hot. Up and up, when will it end? at last we see the lunch stop it is 12.15.  However the lunch stop has been set up in the wrong place, so we all have to wait whilst it is moved.

Standing in the sun
The tent is not up so we stand in the sun at the side of the road getting very hot for over 1/2 an hour. The second lunch stop was set up in a dusty field - the fine black volcanic dust is flying all over, dust devils are hitting us all the time.

At last the tent is up, so we get some shade. But my friend is ill. She has a tummy bug, probably due to the food waiting over 7 hours yesterday. She rushes to find a bush.....there are not many! Many others in the group are in the same predicament.
First Lunch...what have I done!

Safety first
 After lunch I peddle on, to be greeted with hill, after hill after hill. It is so hot and I think I have a degree of altitude sickness as I am gasping for air and unable to get air into my lungs.  I stop and get a coke at a shack at the side of the road and use the ice to cool me down. I also make use of the clean toilets. Finally after many steep hills, at one of the water stops I get on the bus, the bust is full to bursting, we are all finding the altitude and heat to much.
At the next water stop at about 15.30, it feels cooler so I get back on the bike.
the road is dusty and is being renovated so large trucks with rubble are whizzing past.


Cycle Africa 2015

 Also so ominous clouds are building and it looks like rain.

Rain on the way?

Women V Cancer Cycle Africa Oct 2015
Well it did rain and the soft dust turned in to thick sticky mud. We looked like creatures from the deep, the bus and support van couldn't get through and was stuck in the mud.
The camp was a long way, and it was getting dark. There was one faded tin sign saying ' Olpopongi 17 KM'.  I could have gone on faster but stayed with one of the group as she was getting very nervous as dusk fell. the signage to the camp was very poor, the woman I was with was panicking that we had gone the wrong way, I just kept reassuring her to keep going straight on. We were among the leaders of the 80 women, so most of the group was behind us. At last, as the last light was fading I saw the Maasi Village. It was about 18.00.

Olpopongi Maasi Village
The Maasai had come out to greet us and were singing, it was a pity that the rest of the group missed the display.
I was covered from top to toe in the tick mud, there are 4 showers, but no hot water. there are also 4 toilets, but only 2 have been set up in tents, the rest are just standing next to huts.

Women V Cancer Cycle Africa. Toilets....?????
 By now it was almost dark ( my camera has adjusted the lighting . the cases had been piled up next to the tents. I found mine and my friends and took them to a tent. The tents are dome tents with sleeping mats. I should have been organised, I have forgotten a pillow, and the things I need, like a towel and clean clothes were at the bottom of my bag and I was groveling about with a head torch on.
I get a shower, the cubical has open sides and the Massai are looking but I don't care.
My friend arrived at 19.00, its pitch black. many of the group have fallen into the mud so are wanting to clean up. As it was dark they have been guided in by a lorry with its lights on. I really do not know how the whole group is here, and I am amazes no one is lost it is a fiasco.  
At 20.00 we are told to go for dinner, but it is only served at 21.00. and what is it? Soup on a plate! then some bones and a bit of jelly. We are to late for the Maasai dancing and singing.
Soup served on a plate
 After dinner I was chatting to the Maasai man at reception, as I asked if they had a pillow. He took us into one of the mud huts for a pillow. He also offered us the hut, we took it! so having upgraded from a tent to a mud hut, we did get some sleep unlike the rest of the group.  
The kitchen at Olpopongi Maasai Village
The dining area at Olpopongi Maasai Village