The good, bad and ugly in our ride around the world

Wamuyu Kariuki and her husband Dos Kariuki during their round the world trip.

Photo credit: Pool | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The trip was never short of adventures and really scary moments.
  • In Malawi, Dos was harassed by military personnel for close to an hour as they were having lunch.

Dos and Wamuyu Kariuki were keen to become the first black Kenyans and Africans to go round the world on motorcycles. On July 3, 2018, they left Nairobi for what was expected to be a three-year conquest.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic struck and they had to put a halt to their trip. By this time, they had reached the central American nation of Panama; having ridden their bikes from Kenya to South Africa before flying to Argentina and riding all the way up through South America.

The trip was never short of adventures and really scary moments. In Malawi, Dos was harassed by military personnel for close to an hour as they were having lunch.

“I didn’t have my spectacles on and was browsing my phone by holding it right up across my face. I had no idea that straight ahead of me was a military man trying to solicit the services of a prostitute. He claimed that I was taking a video of him and took my phone,” says Dos.

Dos and Wamuyu Kariuki in Antarctica during their attempt to go around the world in three years that was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Photo credit: Pool | Nation Media Group

Another military officer joined them and went through Don’s phone. Even though they found nothing, they kept asking him to show them the folder he had diverted the video to. As soon as the military officers let them go, the couple left without even finishing their meal.

Cool Waters hostel

They brought the incident to the attention of their host at Cool Waters hostel, who happened to be a red beret and parachute instructor with the army. She said she would complain to the squad’s general, but the couple didn’t want to have the matter escalated for fear of being victimised.

“We left very early the following morning because we didn’t want to be singled out. Our bikes were the only BMWs in the area. Military roadblocks are so many in Malawi and we would freak out whenever we got to them,” says Dos.

As they reached the border between Malawi and Zambia, they decided to try bush rat (boiled or roasted), a local delicacy that was being sold on the roadside. Not feeling adventurous enough, they stopped a bicyclist and offered to buy him one just to see how the rats are eaten. He bit the rat in half, from the abdomen upwards, and continued chewing.

“We got the boiled ones. They didn’t look good, though. The rats are eaten whole – bones, fur and all – and they have no meat on them whatsoever. How they were prepared just made them look like they were decaying,” says Wamuyu.

They decided against having some.

The couple have one fight that is still going on – who among them was the second Kenyan to set foot on Antarctica’s snowy grounds. The first Kenyan to do so, the late Doris Mwenda Kendi, had been to the southern continent after winning a trip with 2041 Antarctica International Expedition in March 2015.

A troupe from Parara Puru, Panama. 

Photo credit: Pool

“During the snow-showing, I’m the one who got out of the boat first – you had to be assisted out and it was the ladies who were leaving first,” says Wamuyu.

“But I assisted you off the boat,” says Dos.

Wamuyu still insists that, among the guests on the trip, it was the women who were let off the boat first. The argument is not settled.

The lowest temperature they experienced was during a snowfall that got to minus 15 degrees.

“It didn’t feel very cold because the ship was heated. When you get there, that’s when you realise that you won’t be staying outside. We would spend most of the times in our pyjamas. The only times it was really cold was when you went to the deck during the night and when it was windy,” says Wamuyu.

Dos and two other passengers once decided it would be funny to strip down to their underwear and salute the captain while on deck. The captain, who was a sport, came out from the bridge and saluted back. Dos also got to take a dip in minus-three-degree water.

Locals in Peruvian national costumes in a park in Lima, Peru. 

Photo credit: Pool

“It was just a quick dip but it felt like pins and needles. You feel numb afterwards; that water was cold. But there was an old man who dipped totally naked,” says Dos.

The trip was also eventful in South America. Because of their limited Spanish comprehension and communication, sly Uber drivers in Argentina would drive them through toll roads instead of the toll-free ones. This would be factored in the trip, but the drivers would ask the couple to pay at the payment points. The Argentinian Peso was also very strong and money was draining fast out of their pockets.

They used the famous Remis taxis but for some reason, they thought the cab driver was the same person every time.

Waiting lounges

“We couldn’t tell the difference, honestly. I would get mad because every time I sent them a message and told them to pick us up from Maria, they would always ask for the address. I once asked ‘How come you keep asking me to send you this location’s pin all the time?’ but the driver didn’t respond as he could see we were foreigners. One day as we were coming from a mall, we saw ‘Remis Offices’ and that’s when we realised it was a company,” laughs Wamuyu.

The taxi services have ‘stages’ or waiting lounges in high business areas and you pay at the cashier then wait for a taxi to pull up and drop you at your destination.

In Lima, Peru, the couple was hosted by a celebrity couple on their 17th floor AirBnB apartment.

“First thing, the address they had set up was wrong,” says Wamuyu.

The man told them he was not the one they were looking for. They stopped a passer-by, who asked for their host’s number, after which he got the correct directions.

“Can you imagine this guy hailed a taxi and told us to follow him to the place? He called the owner and made sure he was taking us in before he finally went his way,” says Dos.

It had seemed like the host had changed his mind about hosting the two after realising they were actually black people from Africa, and being tired and dirty from the gruelling ride wasn’t helping either.

“The host, Diego Geminez, had asked us to reschedule the dates but we told him we were too tired. We had not washed our gear for more than a year because laundry places would not accept to clean them. So, after sweating a lot, we would really stink,” admits Wamuyu.

However, the host’s girlfriend, Claudia Ramirez, had no problem with taking them in. Turned out Diego is German and Argentinian while Claudia is Colombian. The couple’s experience in Argentina had some racist moments. They were constantly asked if they were in the country for domestic work.

But after having a drink with the couple later, they became really close and the hosts took the Kariukis to the best sushi restaurant in Lima. When Dos asked Claudia for her Instagram handle, he was shocked to find out she had more than 900, 000 followers and Diego was a former international football player. They even ended up staying three more days without paying at the AirBnB.

Slamming back

That’s when they came across the scariest experience of their travel.

“I woke up startled, wondering why Dos was shaking so hard. Then I saw the wardrobe doors opening and slamming back continuously. That’s when I realised there was an earthquake going on. I woke Dos up and asked him to start praying. I went to the toilet three times and peed each time. People were stopping their cars and getting out while screaming. We could see the building swaying so much, and I got on Twitter and wrote that we were going to die. After about a minute, the earthquake stopped.  The tweet trended in New Zealand and I was getting inboxes from CNN and news agencies in Switzerland to talk about the experience. But once they found out we weren’t Peruvian, they pulled the interviews,” says Wamuyu.

Traumatised by the experience, the couple left Lima when aftershocks persisted for a few days.

The couple also talks about having had to pay a ‘toll’ to tribes around the Amazon jungle in Ecuador due to the perils that might lay there. Elevations on the roads are ridiculously steep drops or climbs, and sometimes you would need the help of locals to help you climb the pebbled inclines. Only four-wheel-drive vehicles are found in these areas.

“It rains all the time! It can get hot during the day, when the sun is out for a few hours, and then it just starts raining. It rains so much that it seems like it’s even raining in the tunnels as the water seeps through their walls. There are also waterfalls almost everywhere – big  and small – as you’re riding down the road,” remembers Wamuyu.

Residents of  Parara Puru, an indigenous city in Panama, which Dos Kariuki visited during their attempt to go round the world in three years. The trip was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Photo credit: Pool

Wamuyu came back to Kenya last December to participate in a women’s biking event, while Dos toured Panama. He visited the native village of Parara Puru in Panama City. She joined her husband in January this year.

The couple landed back in the country on August 19, but after a hellish time trying to get a flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, US.

“We had to get a chartered flight from Nicaragua to Miami, US. We had booked our tickets back to Kenya with Emirates in Nicaragua.

“The email told us that we had to get tested for Covid-19 and that negative results would come out within 96 to 120 hours of the flight.

“We had to cancel the flight three times because they weren’t taking rapid test results. One of the staff gave us a ‘top secret’ document and we managed to get the test done but through the help of a Tanzanian who worked at the outsourcing company that was testing at $100 per person after registering at $100. The dates they wrote on the test results were August 14 for Dos and 13 for me. They told me I was time-barred,” says wamuyu.

‘Top secret’ document

She caused a ruckus and threatened to go live on social media and report what was going on, saying she would post the ‘top secret’ document. That’s when they were allowed to board the plane.

After getting to Kenya and finishing their quarantine period, they went to visit Wamuyu’s sister, who was about to give birth.

They also went with their two children to Elementaita for a week. They have an apartment on Naivasha Road. They spend most days in the house either looking for opportunities online and planning what next for them or visiting new restaurants that came up while they were away as well as having friends over.

Dos is looking for jobs in Finance, but Wamuyu feels like she will probably just look into setting up a business.

“At my age, and having gone through three jobs in 18 months before finally leaving to travel for two years, it will take a very good deal to get me back in employment. Right now I’m doing the helmet-safety campaign as I try to work on some of my other ideas,” she says.

The Kariukis had planned a bike ride-out to Mombasa to pick their bikes, which had been transported through sea as they were leaving Panama.

Since all containers are required to be brought to the inland part in Nairobi by  the government, the two have instead planned a biking event to Maasai Mara from November 6 to 8, which will include a hot air baloon ride, two  game drives, and a sun-downer.

trajula@yahoo.com