I am going to have to start wearing a bra if this corrugated dirt road doesn’t improve I think to myself as my flimsy torso bounces off Pandemic’s seat, my airborne body hardly landing vertical back on the pedals. My bum, insect bitten from peeing outside is also bruised. I feel as if I have been continuously spanked from attempting to cycle from Lodwar to Kitale. This road is getting to be a real pain in the ass, I chuckle to myself as I make my way into Kalengmorok village. I park Pandemic and waddle into the restaurant for some lunch and a break from all the bouncing.
At lunch at the hotel/restaurant I sit eating stewed brown beans and ugala, a wet cake like stable food made of maize flour. A friendly man wearing a world vision t-shirt and freshly pressed grey pants comes over to say hello. I ask him about road security, I read on the internet somewhere that N.Kenya south of Lodwar, is an area known for banditry. The often savage nomadic Pokot tribe occasionally infiltrates the Turkana tribes territory and shoot at passing vehicles. “Insecure area misses”, I am told for the 5th time in 2 days, choosing to pedal forward through the area asking the locals at every village on route about banditry, “I will find you a truck for the next 80 km”, the man with the world vision t-shirt kindly insists. Truck verses magic bicycle, always a tough decision for any circumstance that removes me from the bicycle I always see as a less appealing form of forward travel and always a plan B.
Hesitantly, wondering if perhaps the locals are just being a little overly cautious, I board the truck with 5 obliging jovial guys who are on a delivery south. We sit 5 a crossed in the cab truck as if 2 front seats are truly designed for a least a half dozen people. Pandemic is secured in the truck bed as we make our way forward down the bouncy road. The conversation is light hearted, welcoming and fun as we sweat all over each other and holler back and forth over the noisy racket of clanking truck metal and flying road rocks.
At a military check point, a metal security barricade is strewn a crossed the road. It is made of recycled metal bits that have been welded into sharp metal teeth. It is designed to puncture tires and/or stop all traffic for a routine security check. A man, I named Rambo joins us as we crawl over each other into every available seat space. There is always room for more, I think to myself as my shoulders fold over each other, my hips poke into the soft thighs of the guys who are pressed firmly into me like book ends. We are happily sharing each other’s personnel body space, odor and communal humidity.
Rambo is armed with a circa 1980 automatic weapon, his military green attire and large laced calf high black leather boots hop on board the truck with us and I am told by the laughing locals that are security just got better. Rambo cocks his gun, the noise is loud enough to capture everyone’s attention. I curiously peer down as our guard loads the ammunition clip securely into the weapon. He large strong hands firmly clasp the gun, on full alert he looks out the window, he tells me he is ready for anything. About 20 minutes later, Rambo turns into Rampunzle and falls fast asleep. His sweaty shiny head bops about as his loaded gun wobbles around about a ½ foot from my knees. This security problem may be a bit over rated, I laugh to myself as I bounce along wondering how a sleeping gun might help improve our safety in bandit country.
The seemly comfortable grinning man spilling over my right shoulder blade explains the road situation. There are several sections of road between Kalengmorok and Marich each about 5-10 km long that are known areas for banditry. The locals do not like to travel these sections. People from rival clans hide in the heavily forested sections of road and shoot from the canopy of Acadia trees at ongoing traffic, robbing local motorists of their riches. About 80 km later in the village of Marich, I jump off the truck and begin to pedal again. I wave goodbye to the truck load of make shift security personnel who are venturing south to Kitale. I will bounce into Kitale in about 3 days time, happy to arrive by pedal power with loads of elbow room. Stinking of my own sweat I will cycle through the Marich mountain pass on a safe road through Western Kenya heading towards the Uganda border.