Ride4Lions 2017 ~ Day 4

So there we were, with #Kilimanjaro towering sky-high in the south, and the magnificent green hills of the #Chyulu ranges at our backs. This was it: the final day of our Great Plains Conservation #Ride4Lions adventure, and I could hardly imagine a more perfect setting – anywhere in Africa – to top off THE #mountainbike stage tour of a lifetime.

The only problem was – before I could ride my bike – I had to hit the airways with @craigmillar, the legendary ‘Sky Cowboy of Kenya’. His yellow #PiperCub has apparently gained a certain level of notoriety for low passes close enough to blow-dry your beard (or potentially trim it), and I can tell you the big guy certainly did not disappoint.

I was hoping to get to see some game from the air, and set up a few photographs to show the riders within context to both the wild life and the incredible #GreatPlains landscape. I got that. I also got giraffe staring in through the aeroplane window, and an impromptu ‘water-skiing’ demo when we touched wheels on the surface of a small dam somewhere out amidst the acacia thickets.

Within 20min, Craig found a relatively – I use the word ‘open’ within it’s most loose sense here – stretch of ground, where he banged the Yellow Peril down onto terra firma to re-unite me with my Giant Bicycles South Africa bike. As luck would have it, this was right at the start of the whistling thorn section of the route, with a pretty good chance to bump into buffalo.

This added an edge to my early morning cadence as I whipped amidst the thorn trees, trying to search for bike tracks while simultaneously scanning the dense terrain for dagga-boys. Alls’ well that ends well, though, and I caught up with the group on the approach to the expansive (and rather juddery) approach to the ‘Dry Lake’, halfway into our final day stage.

We were now homeward bound, cranking onto the savanna thorn vedlt rising up towards the #ChyuluHills, as immortalised by Ernst Hemingway in his book, ‘The Green Hills of Africa’. All in all, after four days of solid wild riding in #kenya, I have to admit to feeling a bit like one of the old man’s literary characters.

We had survived the African savanna, brimming with dangerous beasts; had witnessed some of the largest living tuskers on Planet Earth; slept under the stars, to the sound of hyena and lion prowling the plains; and I can honestly say the essence of the Mother Continent had permeated my body, mind, and soul.

It was therefore with a sense of poignancy that I pedalled those last few kilometres to Ol Donyo Lodge, one of the impeccable Great Plains Conservation establishments set here within the vast wilderness that still characterises much of #Kenya. Of course there was a sense of achievement, and the exhilaration of the traditional #masai welcome transported us into a frenzy of air-jumping and back-slapping, but deep down I was already mourning the fact that I would soon have to leave this amazing country and it’s proud people.

One week on, I can honestly say that #Ride4Lions proved to be one of the most unique adventures of my life. Riding my #GiantXTC for four days along more than 200km of elephant trails – past #masai giraffe and long-necked gerenuk; portaging across near-impassable lava flow fields; pedalling amidst the fairytale stands of #mistforest … all of this makes for a #mountainbiking adventure I’ll never, ever forget.

If you’d like to know what this incredible #GreatPlainsFoundation charity event is all about, do yourself a favour and go check out www.greatplainsfoundation.com. Then join us for the 2018 event where you could become one of the riders raising funds – not only to conserve and expand habitat for lions – but also to ensure that this intricate ecosystem on the acacia-dotted plains of Kenya continue to thrive, and grow.

Entry will be limited to a few lucky riders from around the globe, and they will get to crank the vast wetlands of #Amboseli, lay fresh tracks at the foot of #Kilimanjaro, and finally submit to the sublime hospitality of the unmatched staff at #OlDonyoLodge. I am sure that, like me, you will leave here exhilarated, inspired and spiritually regenerated, with a yearning to return, to once again immerse yourself within this intoxicating landscape.

A huge ‘Thank You’ to the amazing team from @GreatPlainsCons for their superlative hospitality, and even more so for the life-changing #conservation work they do. It was a personal highlight to experience the mystery and magnificence of these ancient landscapes they protect and preserve, and I cannot wait to return next year.

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