Tag Archives: Kenya

Antibiotics? Don’t those kill off all the good bacteria as well?

Arusha Hospital

Arusha Hospital

The most common phrase I received from people after visiting a hospital in Arusha and determining I have(had?) a parasite and being prescribed some antibiotics. The other question that was common as people notice Im not feeling well is: “Are you taking re-hydration salts?”.

My health trial began when we crossed the border into Kenya. I plodded along through rough days in Kenya and early part of Tanzania. Arusha is the mental halfway point if not the actual halfway by our route. The tour has a 3 day break where most riders go on a safari. I checked into a nice hotel and slept for 3 days, only emerging for my first experience with health care in Africa.

Summary of Visit

Cab Ride


(Skipped Queue)






Lab Results




Pharmacy Pricing





Stumble Back to Hotel and bed for 2 more days

The receptionist at the hotel pointed me toward a private hospital because he warned against going to a public hospital. It was an experience. Upon getting guided by a cabby to the right window, I prepaid to see a doctor. At this point not knowing the process I went to the exam room they named, likely ignoring a long queue of people waiting, and sat for 30 minutes waiting for the doctor. We talked as best we could and he prescribed a number of tests in the lab. I than went to the lab and learned I must pay at the cashier in advance, so I go back to wait in line for the cashier, who seems to be waiting for something but I don’t know quite what. Back to the lab and the tests.

Here is where a bit of trepidation begins as drawing blood in Africa raises some media induced nervousness as well as my own extreme dislike for needles. The lab guy was very helpful. Another wait on a bench outside the lab for test results.

I than am sent back to the doctor, this time I am informed of the queue, so I sit in another queue for a relatively small time as the doctor sees each patient. On average each person is in the physician’s office for 2 minutes. Once my turn arrives he tells me a diagnosis and starts writing a prescription. At this moment, police rush in with a small boy who was bleeding, very injured, and I would guess quite shocked to be staring at a muzunga as he is pushed through the door by cops. That ended the consultation.

I stood in line for the pharmacy now. Thinking I have figured this system out, I grab someone and make sure I don’t need to prepay for this and determine I am in the right line. This line is all about defense, at any opportunity people will jump ahead of you, As a woman in checkout line said to me in Nairobi “If you don’t say anything, nothing will happen”. So, I’m aggressively guarding my spot and telling queue jumpers to get to the back of the line. I finally get to the window, the pharmacist than hands me a bill and says I must pay the cashier, I plead with him to fill the prescription so I don’t have to get back in this same aggressive line once more but my tourist charm is having no effect, so back to the cashier and round two.

Eventually, I dizzily stumbled out of the clinic. Trudged down the road back to my hotel for all day sleep sessions with only breaks for food.

So much for that safari.

A Tale of Two Years

I’m catching up on news from the relatively cushy confines of Nairobi. Drinking a latte and eating a binge level amount of food in a mall the could just as easily be Highland Park Illinois instead of Nairobi Kenya. Only days ago, I was rationing toilet paper and hunting for bottled water and Dairy Milk bars in villages.

With the stream of news, I see that the Texas Hill Country 600 is happening this weekend in what appears to be terrible, wet conditions. Best of luck to all the racers. Exactly one year ago I was in Texas doing that event to kick off my season of racing. Shifra suggested I compare San Antonio to Nairobi, instead Im going for a more meandering comparison of the events and some reasons why I’m crossing Africa and later the US.

As Ive had a few more years doing long distance races, I found that signing up for an early season race helped keep me motivated over the dark winter months to stay on the road, trail and/or the computrainer. For a number of years, the Sebring 24 hour race filled that slot. Its been a good routine. The Texas Hill Country 600 was a nice switch and brought me back to an area of the US that I love.

Last year however, was the first time where I felt like it was that, a routine. Beyond Texas, I was doing the same loops in the same places and it made me consider why I loved riding a bike and racing. I started biking for fun and transportation and than for travel. Later I was introduced to racing long distances and being a competitive sort, became hooked on racing.

Ive found I miss the days of riding across a new country just to experience new things, rather than getting that one extra lap or saving another 10,20,30 minutes. 2012 is my attempt to reconcile the two mindsets. Race, but do it in places that I would love to slowly pedal through and if the motivation turns from racing to tourism, so be it.

There are some similarities between the Texas Hill Country 600 and this section of the Tour d’Afrique.

  • Early in the year – It never fails, I always feel unprepared for the early races. I don’t think it matters much how many miles I have logged.
  • Hot and Dry – Apparently not this year, but last year it seemed quite hot and dry as I was climbing some of those hills in the heat of the day.
  • Terrain – Rolling hills and a fair amount of sand
  • Seemingly collapsed buildings in small towns that are left standing and in some cases still in use. This is very similar. Small towns in Texas have burned out buildings or collapsed roofs that they leave standing. Similarly in Ethiopia.
  • Animals Ive never seen before – Texas had the hundreds of small deer at night. Africa has, well everything: baboons, monkeys, warthogs, many new birds, camels of course, and more to come.

Differences are more extreme.

  • Time – Length of the race in total (very long long – 4 months), the length of each days stage (very short relatively), and the completely different view of time in Africa well described by Ryszard Kapuściński in The Shadow of the Sun “Time appears as a result of our actions, and vanishes when we neglect or ignore it. It is something that springs to life under our influence, but falls into a state of hibernation, even nonexistence, if we do not direct our energy toward it.”
  • Separation – originally my thought was isolation, but it isn’t really isolation as I am spending most every day with a group of 40+ people, but it is the separation from friends and family that makes the race unique.
  • Comfort and Convenience – While a 600K race is hardly comfortable, it is when compared to bush camps, baby wipe showers, water shortages, and no spare parts. Last night I walked into a convenience store for the first time in 2 months and it was overwhelming.
  • Follow vehicle – I definitely miss the support of my crew and getting a cold bottle of Infinit, Coke or a Turkey Wrap (Thanks to everyone who has sat in that vehicle or waited between loops over the years – Shifra and Carmichael at Texas last year )

Some Photos From Low Bandwidth Days

For more than a week I was unable to post any photos from Southern Ethiopia and Northern Kenya.

Lunch In Ethiopia

Lunch In Ethiopia - Everywhere we stopped a crowd would gather to watch the traveling show

Ethiopia Bush Camp

Ethiopia Bush Camp

Flowers On the Edge of The Gorge

Flowers On the Edge of The Gorge - Someone called them Desert Roses. Are They?

Beers On The Edge of The Gorge

Beers On The Edge of The Gorge

Kali Protectives Helmet

I'm wearing helmets from Kali Protectives this year.

Talent Pharmacy

Who knew it was a matter of just finding the right pharmacy.

Ethiopia into Kenya – So Long and Thanks for all the …

I’m wide awake in a hot tent in the desert of northern Kenya. Unable to sleep, dirty, tired, sore, hoping for a rain shower like last night that cools down the evening to comfortable temp. My stomach gurgling as my body and antibiotics do battle with a final stomach bug manifested the last night in Ethiopia. Wondering when Ill have to run to the hill, since one hill behind the campsite is the only cover for a bit of privacy on this wide open desert of lava rocks. Its described as desert and the heat bears that out, but visually it bears a great deal in common with the midwest plains of the US. Wide expanses and shimmering waves of heat showing on the horizon.

It has been a week of ups and downs as I finished racing in Ethiopia with one of my best days. I felt strong all day and suspected I was on my way back. In the night the trouble began. Barely able to stand up, I managed to get some bike clothes on. Jon and Jurgen packed up my tent. I set off figuring it would only be worse to sit in a truck all day.

The ride to the border was the longest day I can recall. 20kmh was a struggle and each pedal stroke slow and labored. Jon, Jurgen, Jay, and Rosalyn spent most of the ride with me even though it was so slow. Due to my dragging, we arrived at the border just as Ethiopian immigration closed for lunch, forcing a two hour wait at bar nearby. Even sprite was difficult to swallow. I did my best to sleep in a chair as a local hounded me to convert money with him.

I am only just able to eat again, grabbing the blandest food items I can manage from the very limited options. The water supply has taken on a disconcerting taste since Yabello, that causes me to get queasier with each swallow, but I have to drink more. The last 2 nights I managed to stock up on bottled water, but today I was forced back to the truck water. The hot afternoon’s post ride entertainment was trying to figure out some sort of masking agent to allow me to drink. Sports drink mix? No, even worse. Powdered Milk? Yes, but tough to drink in quantity. Tea? possibly. Emergency shipment of Infinit? If only.

Tomorrow’s stage is one that is notorious in the TDA history for knocking out riders. The “road” is a terrible minefield of fist sized rocks, gravel, and trenches dug in by years of trucks flinging down the same tracks. Passengers hanging to the top. It isn’t really riding so much as persevering abuse. It is a mandatory race day, but for me Ive clicked over to survival for these stages as my body and these roads teach me I’m not invincible. In past years half the riders get on the truck. Some because they cant take the poor conditions, some due to the inevitable crashes and falls that occur. Even today, many riders came in with bleeding knees, elbows, and shins from low speed crashes trying to find some smooth bit through the rubble.

Let’s see about that sleep again.