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World Ploughing NZ - Championships in Kenya 2017

Hello everyone and greetings from the Kenyan Highlands for my 1st report.

We have been here for over a week, so it is time to send you a report on our African adventure.

We are now resident in the Cathay Hotel in Nakuru, altitude 1800m.

I will go back to the beginning;

Alison and I and Ian and Jenny left NZ on Friday night 8th of November. A direct flight to Dubai. We had 2 days and nights there doing a city tour and hooning around the desert in a Toyota Landcruiser with about 40 other vehicles.

Dubai, an interesting place and full of contrast. 50 years ago it was a little village beside a creek. It is an amalgam of what was 7 independent Arab States that came together to be known as the United Arab Emirates. Got started on the back of oil revenue and is surging ahead with a huge amount of construction and as a financial hub. However, the old has not been entirely lost and on the river are 100’s of coastal traders, wooden and no more than 30mtrs long that shift goods all around the region.

We caught up with Colin and Vicky, Bob and Malcolm in the transit lounge at the airport. The flight to Nairobi was about 5 hrs.

We stayed one night in town and then the guys headed to Nakuru. Vicki, Jenny and Alison stayed in Nairobi with Kathy, the wife of a world board member from Norway for a further 5 nights. There to take in a one-day safari, a giraffe breeding facility where they are rescuing an endangered breed, an elephant orphanage, to the home, now museum of Karen Blixen, author of the book “Out of Africa” and the markets etc.

We, the NZ Team stayed 4 nights at the University complex about 35 minutes out of Nakuru City which has a population of more than 1.5million.

The whereabouts of containers is an issue for everyone. Fortunately, ours turned up the next morning and by midday had been unloaded.

We had to wait another day for unofficial practice ground to be available.

We used that time to rent a twin cab Toyota well sided ute which is ideal for carrying tool boxes, strike poles, spare plough wheels and as it turned out, diesel for the tractors. There is none available on site.

Those who were here in 95, and perhaps there is now only Bruce and John, will recall the tractor park being at a farm workshop area well down the farm. This year because of security concerns it is in the workshop/garage sheds area in the university complex meaning it is a 50 minute tractor trip each way on a very rough road. The grader has been in but ideally needs to have another go at it.

We’ve got away to a good start with practice and to date only the Austrians have ploughs in the ground.

They have chosen to come with steel boards and have a 3 furrow reversible. Needless to say they are and will likely continue to struggle.

Malcolm’s engineering skills are a huge asset to the team.

We have adopted into the team a young Kenyan guy, Alex, who is keen to help. Presented him with a team cap yesterday. His job at the university is as a vehicle washer. 28 years of age and quite badly deformed in both legs from a child hood accident, but he gets about well and has been an absolute gem in helping us with his local knowledge. We reward him for his efforts so feel we adding to the local economy and, in particular, to what will be a very modest family income. Alex, “we need a clean 20 ltr container to take fuel to the tractors.” A short while later he returns with someone with 2. We take one at a cost of 250 shillings. He is the envy of many. Others have asked for caps and boots and a job like Alex has.

Exchange rate; 1000K shillings = NZ$14

Many shipping containers are yet to turn up. It is a 4 day round trip to the port of Mombasa on the East coast. A local freight company has the contract using the same trucks.

Bob, who knows the Irish guys well light heartedly suggested that they could rent our tractors and ploughs on a night shift to get their practice plots done. Their, also light hearted, response, I cannot print here!!!

It will be great site but a lot has yet to be done. They are late with the harvest because of rain. The harvest process is rather laborious. Two smallish Claas and John Deere harvesters do that job and then empty their load onto covers on the ground. The women then bucket the grain into big jute sacks, the guys stitch up and then throw onto the back of trucks.

What we have observed is that there is nothing even or flat about the land to be ploughed. As part of the recent cultivation process a big ripper was used and the following cultivation was minimal. So there is ripper ridges and troughs and wheel marks all through it. Hence a 3 furrow reversible is not the plough to have here.

Other observations;

Although we are close to the equator the altitude means it is not excessively hot except for about 4 hours in the middle of the day. The evenings and early mornings are very pleasant. The locals feel the cold. I have yet to see a male in shorts and have seen very few young women in what we would consider a summer dress. Longs or long dress with heavy upper garments are the rule. We have even seen puffer jackets being worn.

The traffic is chaotic but we have learnt quickly. To date we have only had one motor cyclist run into the back of us--at a stop sign. Probably because the locals don’t normally stop!!!

In this town motorcyclists and tuk-tuks are everywhere and available to rent. Bikes at 50 shillings for anywhere in the town and tuk-tuks for 100s.

Livestock are also everywhere including on the roadsides and on the traffic islands. They seem to be very street wise. We witnessed a herd of cattle coming around a busy roundabout. They were more orderly than the local motorists!!

Although we have had our challenges this is an experience that none of us would have missed for anything. To date we are all thoroughly enjoying it so long as you apply the adage and attitude that “this is Africa.”

Alan Wills

NZ Team Manager


Hello everyone. My second report from the highlands of Kenya.

  • All unofficial practice finished on Friday afternoon and we are now all part of the WPO programme.
  • We finish practice on Friday with a few runs for each plough in a stubble plot. Both ploughs have been putting up good bold 13” furrows and I can report there is a degree of satisfaction as to where we are at this stage.
  • Ploughing in Kenya creates a level ploughing field for everyone. It is different and there are issues around steel boards, new plastic boards that haven’t been run in. The arrival of containers, fitting provided tractors to ploughs and the availability of narrow wheels have provided challenges for most teams. It would be fair to say some countries took the logistical issues too lightly. Your NZ Team arrived early, as did our container, so we have been able to concentrate on what it takes to get 2 ploughs going well.
  • Malcolm soon found that a couple of Bob’s mole boards had changed shape during the journey. Probably because of the heat in the container. Those 2 boards now have a steel band full length along the top. That steel band was twisted in the shape that Malcolm wanted. Another board of Bob’s had become almost convex in the middle. To put that right took Bob right out of his comfort zone but his comment to Malcolm was do it. A 3mtr length of 4x2 was located as was a gas torch. The 4x2 was rammed on its edge into the head stock, and with a strop attached to the other end and a pillar it was twitched up with the ratchet as Malcolm applied heat to the board. Suddenly, the offending bulge went back the other way. The pressure was left on over night and when released in the morning everyone was happy with the result. The board though, does carry a burn scar.
  • One of the challenges this week will to get the skimmers going more effectively. The unofficial grassland practice had a good sward of reasonably long grass. Fairly tough wiry stuff a bit like fescue. Our observations are that the official practice and the match plots won’t be as challenging in that respect.
  • During the week Alison, Jenny and Vicki went to a Tortoise sanctuary just out of Nakuru. A tortoise is land based as against a turtle which lives in the sea. The job of the sanctuary was to return injured Tortoises to health, protect them from a loss of their environment and to encourage them to breed. The girls were told that the eldest tortoise was a female, 379 years old and going through menopause!!
  • Saturday and Sunday were bus trip days. Saturday was a 10-hr round trip. We were taken to Lake Bogoria to the north. Once there, we headed out around to side of the lake. Pink Flamingo were every where but because the lake was running at a high level the tar sealed road was under water. The alternative high-level road was very rough and steep. Progress to the end of the lake was slow but once there we were able to see some boiling hot water pools-- a la Rotorua. On the return trip one of the 20 seater buses punctured a transmission oil reservoir so we had to abandon that vehicle and spread those passengers amongst the other 8 buses.
  • Sundays trip south, climbing to an altitude of 2350mtrs to a resort town and plenty of souvenir sellers. Spent some time in the Rift Valley which stretches from Israel to South Africa. It is a significant piece of geography in the African Continent. To find out more google it. Only away 7 hours and back by 4.30.
  • The people we have met are very welcoming and positive
  • The women in particular, are always immaculately dressed. Blues and Reds seem to be favoured colours.
  • There are very few speed restriction signs on the roads. They do however use judder bars or bumps as they are known here to slow down traffic. Buses and trucks are restricted to 80 kms /hr.
  • We have seen very few women in the drivers seat. I can recall seeing only 2 in the week we have been in this town

Until next time.

Alan Wills

NZ Team Manager


Hello everyone. A quick report from Highlands of Kenya.

We are now well into the official WPO program. Ian and Bob have completed 3 days of practice with just a half day today because of the official opening at 4pm.

The church service was at the Catholic Cathedral involving 1.5 hrs.

The site is taking shape with the static display areas filling with tents and machinery.

Unfortunately, from a ploughing perspective the site is drying out quickly. We are hoping that the competition ploughing area which is on another lower level will continue to hold good moisture, but the grassland practice area has been going back by the day.

  • The last rain fall was just before we arrived and there is a period of 4 hours each day which is particularly hot and often with a breeze. The early mornings a quite fresh and the hotel reception staff are often clad in blankets when we go down for breakfast at 6 am. Remember we are within an ace of the equator and at 6000 feet above sea level.
  • Ian & Malcolm have put a lot of time in to getting his front furrow skim to work better. By the end of yesterdays practice they seem to have solved the issue.
  • The plough inspection team have advised Ian that the disc on his steel land wheel is deemed another coulter meaning it needs to be removed. We have done that, and Malcolm has made up another fitting to help him with the siting of his front furrow width from the tractor.
  • Stubble ploughing tomorrow so our time here is quickly ending

A nice story to finish with: Yesterday morning Malcolm and I were making up a fitting for Ian. There is a young lady who is doing a mechanic apprenticeship at the workshop where we were working. We have come to know her well. Her given name is Purity, but because of her smile and an abundance of good looks and positive personality we call her “Perfect”. Even in workshop overalls!!! When we told her that, she just smiled. Any way she came rushing in to where we were working and asked Malcolm if she could borrow his cap. I noted she had a huge smile on her face as she rushed out of the workshop. When Perfect returned the cap about 20 minutes later she told us she had just done an interview with a newspaper journalist and wanted the NZ cap for the photo!!


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