Daring Kenyans push bodies to limit

Mr Ali Said

Mr Ali Said rode more than 10,000 kilometres from Sweden to Kenya on a motorbike.

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • Some Kenyans are venturing far outside the box to get their rush of adrenaline.
  • Mr Ali Said, a 37-year-old, who rode more than 10,000 kilometres from Sweden to Kenya on a motorbike.
  • Mr NPeter Naituli, a 22-year-old has climbed Mt Kenya more than 40 times. And he keeps going back.

This is not about 1,000 ways to die, but it entails a couple of dangerous ways you can push your body to the limit. 

From exposing the body to the elements by climbing mountains barefoot to dicing with death on a skateboard down a steep slope on a busy road, some Kenyans are venturing far outside the box to get their rush of adrenaline, whether that is in a local adventure or miles away in another continent. 

One recent addition to the list is Mr Ali Said, a 37-year-old, who rode more than 10,000 kilometres from Sweden to Kenya on a motorbike.

Mr Said, who hails from Malindi, Kilifi County, began that journey on August 15 and reached Kenya on October 5 to a rousing welcome. 

“I was received by more than 150 bikers around Kenya and a police escort,” he said.

Below, we look at Mr Said and other Kenyans who have engaged in daring activities recently

Ali Said: Riding across 16 countries

“The truth is that I do not fear anything besides God,” Mr Said tells the Sunday Nation.

He knows that trotting the globe on a motorbike is a risky venture but bucket lists have to be ticked. In his latest ride, he did not even have a life insurance cover. That’s what defines Mr Said.

“I do have a normal accident and bike insurance,” he says.

He has been into motorbike adventures for more than a decade. He calls them “exciting unknown risks”. Every year, he travels to different parts of Kenya and he says he has visited all 47 counties.

But the Sweden-Kenya ride wasn’t a walk in the park.

“I had an accident a month before I started my trip. Someone changed lanes and I bumped into his car and broke my collarbone. It happened in Spain and was rushed to Madrid for surgery,” Mr Said narrates. “I had Schengen Insurance that covered all the medical costs while I was in Madrid.”

This did not hold him back. His trip had to go on. 

“The tour was on my bucket list as an adventure biker. I had to live it and I am glad I did,” he says.

He had tense moments in Ethiopia and Sudan as he neared home.

“In Sudan, I was held at gunpoint (at one point). A police officer pointed a gun at me and he was ready to shoot if I did not stop. It was at night I had not noticed the police car,” Mr Said recalls. “The officer opened all the bags to see if I had carried any weapons. They checked my documents and I was good to go. That was not pleasant.”

“On my way to Bahir Dar, a small city in Ethiopia, the road was full of an army with lots of machine guns that I have never seen before. It was a bit tense for me and I just felt I needed to get out of that country. What I can say is that Sudan and Ethiopia were a bit rough on my adventure trip,” he adds. 

Abuga Aroni: Skateboarding downhill

Abuga Aroni, a skateboarder whose speciality is downhill skateboarding.

Abuga Aroni, a skateboarder whose speciality is downhill skateboarding. He uses a longer skateboard than the usual ones and a number of protective tools.

Photo credit: Pool

Skateboarding in itself looks dangerous. You move at a high speed while standing on something you are not attached to. 

As if that isn’t dangerous enough, 26-year-old Abuga Aroni has taken matters downhill, literally, by mastering the art of skateboarding down steep slopes.

Downhill skateboarding, his speciality, involves riding down a steep slope as fast as possible while keeping the board under control. 

His highest speed stands at 85 kilometres per hour (kph) but he usually cruises at 55kph. According to Skateboarders HQ, the average speed of a skateboard is usually anywhere between eight and 19kph. 

Abuga uses a longer board than what most skateboarders use because a longer wheelbase makes riding more stable at higher speeds. 

“I enjoy doing this because it is challenging for me. I started in 2016 when I was studying aviation technology with pilot studies at the University of Leeds in the UK,” he says. “My parents think it is quite dangerous but they trust me and know that I am responsible and make sure I am safe.”

He covers himself in heavy protective gear such as a helmet, gloves, a back protector, and knee and elbow pads as he glides down hills mostly on roads with few cars. He also films his rides to see what he needs to work on and improve. 

Mr Abuga regularly posts his longboarding content on his Instagram page, downhill254, where he shows the precision required to participate in extreme sports, including how things can go south.

To gain speed, he squats and manoeuvres in certain positions to make him streamlined. He also uses his hands to make swift turns. 

In one video, he collided with a boda boda rider ferrying goods as he was riding downhill, sending both of them sprawling to the ground.

“It was very scary but I walked away with minor injuries due to the protective gear. We were filming for a movie and many people came to watch us. I tried to keep skating but the pain was too much. I had a bone bruise on my little toe and I also had a concussion from the accident. Despite this, I wanted to keep going,” says Mr Abuga.

Peter Naituli: Climbing mountains barefoot

Peter Naituli is a mountain climber, guide and trainer

Peter Naituli is a mountain climber, guide and trainer who has climbed Mt Kenya more than 40 times. 

Photo credit: Pool

This 22-year-old is a mountain climber, guide and trainer who has climbed Mt Kenya more than 40 times. And he keeps going back.

This, however, is not the surprising bit of his story. In January 2020, Peter became the first climber to reach Point John, a point at Mt Kenya 4,883 metres above sea level, without any rope or shoes.

He documented his journey in a film dubbed Cold Feet that was showcased at the London Mountain Film Festival and the Dutch Mountain Film Festival and won awards in both.

“I climb mountains and big cliffs not just to make a living but also to spread the appreciation of our outdoor spaces amongst fellow Africans. When we learn how valuable these places are, it gives us the incentive to preserve them as they are,” he says.

Mr Naituli considers himself to be an extreme athlete rather than an adrenaline junkie.

“I became consistently involved in rock climbing and mountaineering because I was naturally athletic and enjoyed the combination of calculated risk with such a physically intense activity,” he says.

Dos and Wamuyu Kariuki: A bike ride across the world 

Dos and Wamuyu Kariuki

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

This couple made headlines in 2018 with the news that they had spent Sh25 million in preparation for a bike ride across the world.

They planned to traverse Africa and then head to the Americas before vrooming to Australia, Asia, Europe then and back to Kenya through Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.

They did start their trip but the Covid-19 pandemic changed their plans radically. In mid-2020, they were stuck in Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua in Central America, due to the travel restrictions aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus.

By then, they had cruised from Kenya to South Africa and then flown to South America before heading to Argentina.

“We left off our trip in Nicaragua, Central America after travelling the world for 2.5 years, covering 20 countries on our motorcycles and backpacking through five countries,” the couple tells the Sunday Nation.

“Covid changed the world as we knew it for travellers and backpackers. But given the resources and time, we definitely would go back and finish our trip. Let us see what the world has to offer,” they add.

Travelling that far and for that long on a two-wheeled machine is a big risk. The Kariukis had taken life insurance and had also insured their bikes in preparation for any eventualities. 

“Insurance is a huge element when it comes to adventure travel,” said Mr Kariuki.

Through their travel, they have come face-to-face with what it means to have a lowly-ranked passport.

“Kenyan passport holders have to get so many visas to access the world. The government can and should facilitate relationships with more countries for tourism and work opportunities as the policies are old and have not been reviewed for so many years,” Mr Kariuki adds.

Mrs Kariuki says the trip taught her that humans are nicer than it is often perceived.

“It was amazing experiencing the real world as opposed to the stereotypes and perceptions. There is a huge difference between what we read and watch on TV and the reality on the ground. Kwa ground, vitu ni different. Kwa ground, there is love and humanity,” she says. 

Stephen Wamalwa: Pulling trucks, tossing keg containers like they are pillows

Stephen Wamalwa

Stephen Wamalwa, a weightlifter and a former rugby player. He has participated in a number of "Strongest Man" competitions since 2016. 

Photo credit: Pool

Many watched wrestling shows on TV for entertainment, but the interest 31-year-old Stephen Wamalwa gave the shows was beyond cursory.

He admired the likes of the Undertaker and Big Show, and this placed him on the path to weightlifting, a sport that can leave someone’s bones broken or even crush someone in case a weight turns against its carrier.

“I was motivated by those guys,” he told Carol Radull in an interview last month.

He would also come across TV shows for the “World’s Strongest Man” competition and he was all the more inspired.

He played rugby in secondary school and after college until a friend told him about a strong competition in the estate. It entailed carrying water containers and running with them. He participated in it and he won.

It was in 2016 that he heard of the “Kenya’s Strongest Man” competition and he decided to try his hand. This is a competition where people take turns in carrying various weights and flipping tyres among other things to see who has the strongest build.

He didn’t take long before he became the winner of the “Kenya’s Strongest Man” competition.

He tells the Sunday Nation that his high is the winning part.

“When you win, definitely there is prize money, and there is the next stage,” he says.

Last month, he was in South Africa to compete in an Africa-wide strength competition, where he emerged tops.

The competition entailed pulling a truck, tossing keg containers, lifting sandbags, and lifting large and spherical rocks, among other activities.

Mr Wamalwa said in a previous interview that contrary to popular belief, competitors in the strength competitions do not use steroids. The strength, he said, comes from practice and diet. He noted that he eats five times a day.

“It’s all about discipline and training. Then diet matters a lot: high protein and also carbs,” he tells the Sunday Nation.

Married and with one child, Mr Wamalwa is targeting global glory in strength competitions.

“Regarding the November competition (in South Africa), which we are hoping and praying that we will take part in, if you happen to appear on the podium, definitely you will get a ticket to compete in Ohio in March next year,” he says.

He also notes that it took some time for his parents to accept the discipline he had chosen.

“At first, it was so challenging, whereby my parents would see that I’d gone for a weightlifting competition and say, ‘This is not the kind of thing we want our son to be.’ But later, when I won some titles, it’s when they accepted that I’d already made the decision,” he said.

Reporting by Elvis Ondieki, Sylvia Muia and Farhiya Hussein