Run Wild; Lewa Marathon 2016

“I have been running 26km every week since March, in readiness for this marathon! Grueling is what the terrain was, and the sweltering heat didn’t make it any easier; thank heavens for the misting stations along the trail! I am tired to the bone, but hey, it’s all for a good cause!” Said Fred after finishing the Run Wild Run For The Wild 2016 Lewa Marathon.

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On the road from Nairobi, I traveled with a bunch of happy, singing Hashers all set to take part in a marathon that has made it to the world’s list of top ten ‘must do’ marathons. The Lewa Marathon is revered in the world of runners as one of the toughest marathons in the world! Knowing this, I figured that the pomp and dance the Hashers had was something in the lines of a war-dance conjured to imply courage as they forged forward to the war; The 2016 Lewa Marathon!

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There’s never a dull day in the Hash House Harriers movement!

Commitment to conservation of wildlife and its habitat in Kenya was hallmarked as the Lewa Marathon marked it’s 17th Anniversary; this time hosting over 1300 participants drawn from 28 countries all over the world. A growth in leaps and bounds from the 150 participants the marathon hosted in 2000, the inaugural year.

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The Safaricom Lewa Marathon is one of the major sporting events in Kenya and in the circles of runners all around the world. The energy of the event and its participants was almost tangible! As early as the first bird chirped to wake the world, runners could be seen pacing up and down their camps as they warmed up their muscles prior to the marathon. There are those that were to run the half marathon (21km) and the elite runners who would cover enter trail of the full marathon (42km).

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Early morning as the runners sponsored by MMC Africa Law get ready for the marathon

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The energy of the event and its participants was almost tangible!

The Lewa Marathon gave the spectators as well as the runners the exciting possibility of encountering wildlife on the trail. The picturesque landscapes were enthralling like snippets straight out of a Disney film! Like the proverbial bite and blow from a rat, I assumed the marathon was treacherous for the runners and the natural beauty of the Lewa conservancy was the reliever.

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Spectators were treated to picturesque landscapes as they cheered runners in the Lewa Marathon

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An ostrich stands vigilant at the Lewa Conservancy

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Mama rhino and child, out for a morning snack at Lewa

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Striped beauty of the zebra stands out in the Lewa plains

 

Young and old runners gave their best and pushed hard! Every pant, muscle cramp and foot sore being their symbol  of commitment to the spirit of wildlife conservation. Through the undulating dirt tracks cutting through the breathtaking Lewa Conservancy, runners sweat it out, with some running strong and others shuffling their feet with an aim to make it to the next water-point and eventually to the finish line.

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John Ruengo pushing hard. At 86 he is the oldest Kenyan marathoner.

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All terrain vehicles came in handy while moving from spectator point to the next

As I moved from one spectator point to the next, I was glad to have met one of the child competitors in the Lewa Marathon. The kids take part in a 5km race and are awarded medals on completion of the set distance.

“What is your name?” I asked the shy boy walking towards me with a medal dangling around his neck.

“Moses.” he replied in shaky voice. “I see you finished the race. What position were you?” I inquired.

“I don’t know. I am so tired, but happy that I got a medal.”

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Meet Moses. One of the finishers in the 5km Children’s race at the Lewa Marathon.

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Some ran strong while others shuffled on to the finish line

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Determination was written allover her face

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I will keep going, no giving up!

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Effective cooling; A runner goes though the misting station!

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A determined runner goes past other marathoners at the Lewa Marathon

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A 2013 Virgin London Marathon Finisher pushing to finish Lewa Marathon 2016

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“I have to keep going,” So James seems to tell himself.

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He entertained spectators as he asked for Tusker at every water-point

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Spectators cheered on the marathoners to the finish line

As Hal Higdon said, The pride in finishing a marathon is much greater than all the pain endured during the marathon! This was evidenced by the celebration from the various teams, after a grueling day on the trail. Closest to me was the team sponsored by  MMC Africa Law. After a few hours of cooling their heels at the Bunduz camp, it was back to party time!

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Finished the marathon, and had no energy to show off the medal

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Oh yes, we finished!

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The MMC Africa Law team celebrates after the Lewa Marathon 2016

I believe that many a runner will agree with me in saying that, Finishing a marathon is a state of mind that says anything is possible! To the runners in the Run Wild Lewa Marathon, the organizers, the sponsors of the various teams in the marathon, the journalists covering the event, the entertainers and the ever so kind spectators handing bottles of water and energy bars to the runners, we finished the marathon!

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Finishing a marathon is a state of mind that says anything is possible!

 

Important Info:

Event: Safaricom Lewa Marathon 2016

Location: Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Isiolo

Distance: 254km from Nairobi

Pictures & Documentary: Macharia Njuguna

Trip and Camp Organizer: Bunduz (Mukhtar Sidi)

 

On The Rocks.. (Rhino Charge 2016)

On the rocks is how I wanted my drink served after a long day out chasing after charge cars. On the rocks is where every competitor and spectator that made it to the Gauntlet found themselves. On the rocks is where I found my relationship with Safaricom degenerate to when I found out that the gauntlet was their guard-post, yet there was no network coverage!

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On the rocks at the Rhino Charge 2016 gauntlet!

“Should you ever go to your village and not connect to your Safaricom line, this is the guy to call.” That is how I had been introduced (on the eve of the charge) to the signal guru that Safaricom had dispatched to the Rhino Charge 2016 venue. As I paced up and down the gauntlet, I couldn’t help but wonder where and how he had lost his mojo. I later met him and he explained  in an embarrassed mumble, from underneath a Safaricom branded cap that; it was difficult to get network coverage at the gauntlet because it was smack in the middle of a depression. I walked away and stripped him of the title guru in four steps; a letter down with each step.

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Communication satellites at Longonot on our way to Rhino Charge 2016

Rhino Charge 2016 was set in the vast and picturesque Narok County, the home of the world renowned wildlife reserve; Masai Mara! As we drove there aboard Ki-Pumpum, I wondered what adventure the charge had in store for us this time around. Would I be able to get good shots? Is the terrain taunting enough for me to maybe get a shot of a charge vehicle toppling over several times and back on it’s four wheels? Would I be in a position to visit most guard-posts and spy on charge vehicles as they tore ravenously through the thick bush in a bid to win the top prize? I had to wait until the charge day to find out.

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Bunduz adventurers relaxing on arrival at the venue. Ki-Pumpum rests in the background.

For the past 27 years, why does a group of people get out into the wild to find a new trail where millions of shillings are torn away in the form of all-terrain vehicles that maneuver a 12 point circuit spreading over approximately 100km, in a duration of 10 hours? One would wonder. Year in, year out, why do spectators throng the often harsh environment to witness embellished vehicles clamor over rocks and tear through bush while driven by enthusiastically calculative crews that stop at nothing unless their vehicle is reduced to a heap of junk metal? As I retired to my safari chair right by the Bunduz camp bonfire, I watched spectators share their tales from the charge day that had just ended. As we braved the cold dark night of the Masia Mara, I quietly scrolled through the shots I had taken, and that’s when it all dawned on me; the spirit of the Rhino Charge is one charged with the resilience of a people committed to the conservation of the Kenyan wildlife, nature and catchment areas through the protection of mountain echo-systems. The spirit of the Rhino Charge will stop at nothing to see that conservation is upheld!

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No Bush Too Thick! No obstacle will stop the spirit of Rhino Charge

This year, the Rhino Charge raised Kshs. 139,000,000.00 for the Rhino Ark and Kshs. 4,400,000/- for the host community! Of note is that the top two fundraisers were indigenous Kenyan teams. Team Magnate Chargers and Car #23, led by Stanley Kinyanjui and Peter Kinyua respectively. In celebration of the success that Rhino Charge 2016 was, I made sure to bring you some shots of the action… 🙂

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Spectators follow the Rhino Charge from a vantage point

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Spectators look on as Car #36 clamors over a rock

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Rev up that rock!

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A runner leads Car # 42 out of a thicket

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A Masai Moran adorns Peter Kenneth a spectator in traditional regalia

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As they pondered the best route down

 

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The host community loved the show

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A Rhino Ark official looks on as Car # 40 maneuvers a rock

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Let that model pose not fool you. The ladies driving Car #19 had super skills!

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No lugga too deep!

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A spectator engrossed in the action packed gauntlet

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Through it all, and stopping at nothing!

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Just a scratch, let’s push on!

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There is only one way down this rock!

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A contortionist of a vehicle! SimTank #TeamChomz

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Team Frying Squad had spider looking modified vehicle

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Off to the next guard-post

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Go straight through that bush!

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Hang on, can I find a better route?

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Team mates hang on the side to stabilize Car #40 as they leave the gauntlet

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This is the winner of Rhino Charge 2016!

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Car #62 was the highest fundraiser towards Rhino Ark. They raised Kshs. 14,500,000.00

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Car #23 driven by Peter Kinyua raised Kshs. 11,000,000.00 towards the conservation efforts of Rhino Ark

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From the full adventure cooler box Stronger Simtank, refreshments flowed freely as spectators enjoyed.

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A charge car leaves the venue. It was time to say goodbye.

~MASH~

The Maralal International Camel Derby (26th Edition)

Mash (adventurewithmash.com) at the 26th International Maralal Camel Derby

Mash of adventurewithmash.com at the 26th International Maralal Camel Derby

I was meeting her for the first time. She had come all the way from the UK and her poise said that she was dying with the urge to explore Africa. She sat there patiently as the porters put together all the supplies we needed for the safari. Something about her demeanour said that she had been through the heat and came out a diamond. She had the confident face of a soldier that had survived battle and purred with the calmness of royalty. As I walked around her, something within me said I could trust her. Being from England, oozing confidence and courage, yet calm; I couldn’t find her a better nickname than Thatcher 🙂

 

Meet Thatcher, the newest addition to the Bunduz.com family :-)

Meet Thatcher, the newest addition to the Bunduz.com family 🙂 (Military Grade)

 

The fellows all set to cover 350km from Nairobi to Maralal

The fellows all set to cover 350km from Nairobi to Maralal

We drove Thatcher out into the night and we were well on our way to the Maralal International Camel Derby, an event that has been held in Samburu County for the past 26 years! This year, just like in the past this event was expected to draw attention from both the local and international tourists. The International Camel Derby is held in the small town of Maralal, the administrative headquarters of Samburu County which is a hive of cultural diversity as it is inhabited dominantly by the Samburu and sparsely by the Turkana, Pokot, Rendile and other Kenyan tribes.

The people of Samburu County

The people of Samburu County

350km later from Nairobi, we got to the Maralal town in the early hours of the morning having driven throughout the night. 122km of that stretch was of treacherous terrain, full of craters for potholes and finely sifted sand that blew up into a huge cloud of dust behind Thatcher as we drove down. She handled tough terrain with the ease of a tank on tarmac! She is a fine new acquisition to the Bunduz.com family!

A participant in the Camel Derby race

A participant in the Camel Derby race

The Camel Derby is an event held to celebrate the cultural diversity of the people of Samburu County as well as their way of life. The camel races are a central attraction of the Derby, but it would not be justice if the colour and pomp brought out by the traditionally clad people of Samburu went unnoticed!

A moran at the in his regalia at the Camel Derby main venue

A moran in his regalia at the Camel Derby main venue

The Bunduz.com crew set up camp for the adventurers who were on this trip at the Maralal Safari Lodge, an establishment located in the Maralal National Sanctuary. It was not odd to see zebras and antelopes grazing within and around the camp.

The beautiful Maralal Safari Lodge

The beautiful Maralal Safari Lodge

The 26th Edition of the Maralal International Camel Derby was dubbed ‘Sporting for Conservation, Tourism and Peaceful Cultural Interactions’ and the money raised would be channeled towards improving community conservancies in an effort to promote eco-tourism within the county. This made it a worthwhile undertaking as it coupled adventure with charity.

Tourists riding the single hump dromedary camels of Samburu

Tourists riding the single hump dromedary camels of Samburu

Early on the second day of the Camel derby, the adventurers woke up to a sumptuous breakfast prepared from the Bunduz.com ever ready kitchen. Nothing beats a full breakfast out in the open and by the pool. The adventurers especially those who were scheduled to race on the camels needed this tranquility to calm their nerves in readiness.

A camel whisperer

A camel whisperer

 

Security was tight at the 26th International Maralal Camel Derby

Security was tight at the 26th International Maralal Camel Derby

In the early morning hours, all the roads led to the Yare Safari Club which was the main Camel Derby venue. The grounds were full of people. The locals adorned in their traditional regalia freely mingled with the scores of tourists as they excitedly walked around the venue to witness all that was on show.

Morans discussing what to expect at the Camel Derby

Morans discussing what to expect at the Camel Derby

As the races began, the road was lined with cheering spectators as the camel riders and their handlers got ready at the starting line. As I clicked away on my camera, I felt the energy in the competitors and the crowd alike. This had the promise of an exciting event! The camels took off at a neck breaking speed with the competitors eyes all set on prize money. However, some camels were not as cooperative and had to be pulled or coerced to run at least half way through the set track. The crowd cheered the competitors on and it felt like we were in one big medieval arena, for a competition that took human brains, animal brute strength and endurance to win.

Spectators lined both sides of the road at the camel race starting point

Spectators lined both sides of the road at the camel race starting point

 

As the camel race began

As the camel race began

 

A head to head camel race!

A head to head camel race!

 

Spectators keenly following the camel race

Spectators keenly following the camel race

After the competition, winners and the losers alike were treated to a great show of cultural dances later in the evening. The morans and their women came out in their best of regalia, showing off the best that the Samburu County has to offer culturally. They sang and danced their hearts out as if conveying their gratitude for the success that the event was turning out to be.

Morans all set to do a traditional dance

Morans all set to do a traditional dance

 

Samburu ladies belting out a tune

Samburu ladies belting out a tune

 

Samburu youth in a playful dance

Samburu youth in a playful dance

 

What a beautiful traditional choir dressed in skin clothes!

What a beautiful traditional choir dressed in skin clothes!

 

A section of the audience enjoying the traditional dances

A section of the audience enjoying the traditional dances

We returned to the Maralal Safari Lodge with the Bunduz.com adventurers who were now quite tired from the events of the day. They were greeted with a warm dinner and as they ate away, the chatter was alive with heroic recounts of what each had been up to during the eventful day. Needless to say, most of us ended up by the ‘watering hole’ read bar, where we were entertained well into the late of night by a very able two-man band from South Africa as we downed bottles of whatever each of us fancied.

The very able two-man South African band

The very able two-man South African band

Tusker, the world's best beer from Kenya

Tusker, the world’s best beer from Kenya

A triathlon race was set for the final day of the Camel Derby. In this race, each team was expected to have three members. One would race on the camel; the other would cycle while another would run to complete the race. Bunduz.com crew and our friends from Warthog Expeditions took part in this race. The participants were very well coordinated, they all gave their best and had fun while racing for charity.

The Bunduz.com and Warthog Expeditions team!

The Bunduz.com and Warthog Expeditions team!

 

Mukhtar Sidi of Bunduz.com mounts his camel in readiness for the triathlon

Mukhtar Sidi of Bunduz.com mounts his camel in readiness for the triathlon

 

The triathlon team walks to the start line

The triathlon team walks to the start line

 

Camels speed off at the start of the triathlon race

Camels speed off at the start of the triathlon race

 

Sarah Reeves of Warthog Expeditions at the finish of the camel race. Henry is on standby to start the bicycle race in the triathlon.

Sarah Reeves of Warthog Expeditions at the finish of the camel race. Henry is on standby to start the bicycle race in the triathlon.

This is one event that I was very excited to attend. I had been to the Camel Derby way back in 2009 and I was glad to see how much the event had grown over the years! In the words of one local, “The Camel Derby is like early Christmas to the people of Samburu!”

Let's call our friends over to share in the fun!

Let’s call our friends over to share in the fun!

 

I made new friends at the 26th Camel derby in Maralal. Lydia the CEO of Tourism in Samburu County and Therese a fun loving tourist :-)

I made new friends at the 26th Camel derby in Maralal. Lydia the CEO of Tourism in Samburu County and Therese a fun loving tourist 🙂

I really can’t sum up all the beauty and fun that I witnessed in this tour documentary, but I certainly took shots that will give you a feel of it so that you can make sure to book your slot for the 27th Maralal International Camel Derby with Bunduz.com come  25th – 28th August 2016 😉

Look out for the next photos-post dubbed, A Hotbed of Cultural Diversity – Samburu

 

Event: The International Maralal Camel Derby (26th Edition)

Location: Maralal, Samburu County, Nothern Kenya

Photography and documentation by: Macharia Njuguna, @macharianjuguna

Adventure and safari organized by: www.bunduz.com