Mashatu – Biking in the Bush by Charlie Conner

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After flying airplanes, driving and walking we finally get to ride mountain bikes, one of my favorite modes of transportation when I want some adventure, exercise, and a slower if not safer pace.

This morning Anne, Mosa, (our guide) and I, set out for a ride around the DSC_1371area to see what we could find.  A very short distance from the electrified compound gate Mosa stops us for a briefing.  He tells us the equipment he is carrying:  water, rations, first aid kit, pump, and a Winchester .458.  On an earlier trip to Kenya when I inquired why this caliber, the guide responded “because we want to be on the winning team”.  I know from other inquiries that none of the guides I have come in contact with has ever had to use his firearm on an animal; it’s more of a 7kg. insurance policy.  We are instructed on hand signals and emergency procedures in case of conflict with wildlife.

DSC_1363 We learn that we are riding tubeless tires filled with self-sealing material that hopefully prevents flats in case of contact with thorns.  One of the most prevalent trees in this area are the acacia, which are full of thorns about 2” in length and as sharp as needles.  On the ground are plants similar to the goat heads I am used to from the pacific northwest.  I don’t think it would be possible to avoid multiple punctures outside the manicured walks inside the walls of Mashatu lodge where we are staying!    We learn that we will avoid trouble by riding in open territory where we can hopefully see animals in the distance and not get too close to those of most danger, elephant, leapord, and lion.  If we come in contact we are to use our bicycles as a shield from danger, kind of like the Seattle Police on May Day.  Those animals will hopefully be confused and stay behind the steel and rubber barricade.

DSC_1378 We ride single file on the single track along the Agate Kopje ridge, where we can see miles in all directions.  The ridge is covered in agates, crystals and assorted beautiful rocks, some with high iron and copper content.  Anne wants to bring a planeload for the fountain, but they belong here. Besides that, we are all bigger now after eating only 5 meals a day, plus a few snacks at cocktail hour. We don’t want to over gross our aircraft.  Oh, and what appears by the river but a lodge truck with mid morning tea prepared. It’s tough roughing it like this.

We see impala, baboon, crickets, eland and kori bustard, the world’s largest flying bird, which weighs in around 20 kg.  We encounter a heard of elephants and it’s time to deviate course to high ground.  Elephants have poor eyesight however they can feel vibration though the earth, best not to be noticed in close vicinity.   Only one tire goes flat.  We pump it up, the slime works, and we make it back just in time for another meal and a Mashatu Alligator (haircut).

Charlie Conner

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