Two weeks ago, my two legs carried me for thirty kilometers within Karura Forest. That was my longest walk in the forest. Today, I want my two wheel to similarly carry me through this forest. I want to cycle for at least thirty kilometers.
When my Growler purrs into Gate A parking lot, there is only one other car even although its already 7.15AM. A white car. If this was a Saturday or a Sunday, there would be an entire queue of cars idling impatiently as occupants peep out of windows, eager to dive into hours of fitness and serenity in the forest. That’s why I am now shifting my Karura days from weekends to weekdays. There are far fewer people during weekdays, which means that I get to have the trees and birds all to myself.
As has become the norm nowadays, I step out of the Growler to have my temperature taken by a Red Cross man. His red Red Cross jacket can be seen from a mile away. But his somber eyes can only be seen from up close. He turns around the temperature gadget so that I can see my temperature. 35.7. I wonder if he ever finds people whose temperatures are quite high. What happens to them? Are they told to turn around and seek treatment? Can you have high temperature without knowing that you have high temperature?
These questions ring in my mind as I drive through the gate, turn a sharp left and drive towards the parking. There is an empty spot in my preferred parking area on the right, though my lovely friend Sunshine prefers an area on the left where several trees provide a lovely shade for cars. She has a point, but old habits die hard, so I park in the empty slot on the right and proudly fish out my bike from the Growler’s belly. Since I bought new tires for the bike, I have only used it once, the previous Sunday 14th June. I feel like shouting out that my bike has new tires.
I initiate the running app, jump on the bike and start cycling away. The breeze whips my cheeks and I smile. I love these early riding moments when legs are still full of energy, before I have to force them towards a target. When I hit the Middle Track, it feels as if some invisible wings have attached themselves to my bike’s wheels and that the trees are actually cheering me on. I spot a Ugandan Greenheart that I have grown fond of and smile at it. I am not particularly sure why I like that specific tree, but it tugs at my heart.
Because the bike bridge over Karura river is flooded, I use the footpath bridge to cross over to the other side. Since my energy is still abundant, I cycle for half the distance up the steep trail. For the remaining half, I push my bike uphill. Pants slowly begin to emerge from my chest.
I have covered eight and a half kilometers, my running app informs me. That means I still have at least 22 kilometers to go. I sigh deeply and fold the sleeves of my dark blue windbreaker jacket. They are about two inches longer than my hands so they keep spilling over into my palm.
After five minutes, the uphill climb ends and I hop back to my bike. The saddle feels nice and firm beneath me. But the trousers am wearing today are rather baggy, which makes them unsuitable for biking. My usual biking pants were too dirty, so I had yanked them off earlier that morning after nearly ten minutes of internal debate.
I am now at Muhugu Trail. It is named after the muhugu tree, whose English name is Silver Oak. This section of the trail is rather rough, with roots competing with little gullies to crisscross the trail. Am enjoying rising from my saddle every time the wheels hurtle towards a particularly large root. A few months ago, I couldn’t do this. But now its a breeze.
I hear a rattling sound behind me and before I can register where its coming from, a cyclist fully attired in a helmet, black jersey and black cycling shorts flashes past me, as if am immobile. Man! This is disheartening! I think jokingly with a grin. But in reality, am inspired. After all, I have only been cycling for about a year. So with consistency, I will get there.
About two hours later, I romp back to The Growler, my beloved Subaru Forrester, and smile proudly as it pats me on the back. I had cycled for 32 kilometers, my longest ever.