Blog Entry Seventeen – D Day minus just 13 days.
Having spent three days pedalling up, down and around the Matopos Hills, I can see why there are so many dead people buried in them. And I’m thinking mostly they died of exhaustion by bicycle. Have just topped off my training for Cape Town with the Matopos Heritage MTB Challenge. Wow. What a ride.
Clearly Bulawayo cyclists have an aversion to roads. Every time we bumped into a nice stretch of smooth, perfectly usable road, our Garmin’s dragged us off back onto an obscure single track footpath, complete with boulders and rocks, deep sand and thorn bushes, gaping chasms and drop offs. And when we ran out of single track, my swine Garmin insisted on dragging me up monstrously steep and treacherous huge granite rocks a.k.a. dwalas, where even goats feared to tread. And for good reason. Ten minutes into the first day’s ride on the first dwala, the first rider was down and out with a broken collar bone and a dislocated shoulder. In sympathy for Lloyd, but mostly because I closed my eyes at a crucial juncture, I fell off my bike shortly thereafter. And when the dwala got too steep to ride, you had to push your bike, giving me insight as to how the Zimmerframe was invented. And then when things couldn’t get worse, predictably they did. We got to bits where you had to pick up your bike and carry it. Halfway up the last bit of brutal portage, I invented the disposable bike. Think it will catch on quick. At the end of the first day, my team mate Marco had more of his blood outside his body than inside.
The whole ride was all way more technical than I am used to. And I don’t do technical. I failed Wood Work and Technical Drawing at Allan Wilson with remarkable ease. The wrapping stayed on my Mecano set for years, ditto my Leatherman. Fast forward forty years to a technical Matopos single track and rocks and nothing’s changed. I still don’t do technical. First up I tried my very own ‘Slow like a Tortoise’ approach to obstacles but falling in slow motion is just as painful and more embarrassing. The white knuckles and Hail Mary approach didn’t work for me either. Again I think eyes closed might have contributed. Clearly I wasn’t going to make the end of the Heritage ride, let alone Cape Town. So Laurie Watermeyer took me under his wing, I think under strict instructions from Jenny. Laurie took the lead up yet another dwala, promising me adequate warning of obstacles to come. And true to his word, he fell down a hole, bike and all, less than a minute later and not 5 meters in front of me. I shouted down the hole to Laurie that verbal warnings would also work fine.
Three days, two hundred kilometres and lots of lumps, bumps, scratches and sore legs later, I’m sure I came close to breaking the Heritage hours in the saddle record. I’m prepared to put the blame entirely on the full bladder I was forced to drag around and over the hills on the first day. The organizers put huge effort into bringing us up to speed on the flora and fauna, the history and the geology that we were riding through. Our Day One track took us past the sacred Njelele Mountain, a massive granite kopje, and we were told we weren’t allowed to ring our bike bells and/or perform ablutions for fear of angering the gods and causing a drought. I paid attention and noted that Njelele Mountain was a big granite kopje. The next morning on the ride following Lance Armstrong’s advice, I’ve read his book eleven times, and took on board the requisite quantity of fluids. But what goes in must come out. But not near Njelele. And around every corner there lurked Njelele Mountain. It’s amazing how similar granite kopjes look when your eyes are swimming and you’re trying to peddle your bike with your legs crossed. Rusty the sweeper could see I was in trouble. I asked if we’d gone past Njelele Mountain because I was busting for a pee. He told me we done so 40 kilometres back. I obviously pleased the gods with my bladder control because it poured down on our last night, mostly inside our tent. Jenny and I woke up with wrinkly fingers and toes.
The Matopos Heritage ride was the best ride I’ve ever been on. Great scenery, great food and even better camaraderie and banter. And I can report back that my bum did just fine. Viva my gel saddle.
Riding your bicycle to Cape Town can earn you a certain amount of street cred. But Dave Whitehead has blown all of his before he starts with his choice of camping equipment. Dave will go through the Kalahari and beyond sleeping in a Disney Frozen tent and a Disney Frozen sleeping bag. Unless of course the predators get him. Can’t see a tent with pictures of Disney characters on the outside being predator proof. But Dave’s 3 year old daughter Aurora is thrilled with Dave’s camping purchases. We’re getting busy with the final touches. Courtesy of our sponsors Ezytrack, the ‘Where is Chicken Legs’ tracking device is on my bike and you can log on to www.oldlegstour.co.zw to see slow in action. Dave used it to fall asleep this weekend. The support vehicle and trailer go in to get branded with the sponsors’ logos this week. Bruce and Dave have crossed over to skinny tyres on their bikes and are more than happy with the results. I’ll do the same this week and hope to be able to go faster than slow. I met Neal Leach the 4th pair of Old Legs whilst in Bulawayo and he looked remarkably strong and ready to ride.
Raising awareness as to the plight of the Zimbabwean pensioners is an important part of our campaign. Alastair, Bruce and Dave spoke to the Hellenic Sixth Formers about the ride and why we are doing it. The talks are fun and very motivating. We are very happy to present to schools when we get back.
Carel Barnard, one of the pensioners that we are riding to support wrote us a very nice thank you note. He also asked me to help him find part time work. He says that 73 year olds are still fully functional. If anyone can help Carel, let me know.
Our first South African sponsors signed up this week. Welcome to Painted Wolf Wines of Paarl. We look forward to meeting you guys when we get to the Cape. The donations are starting to come in. We’re $5000 on the way to our $55,000 target. Our thanks go to Jaap Stelder, Corrice Butler, Elisabeth Perry, Vitterio Bongiovanni, Aaron Ngwerumi, Lindsay Blyth, Ashley Davidson, Diane Viljoen, Gillian Honeyman, Mark Johnstone, Brian Wilson and the Steel Warehouse team and Fawcetts. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
If you want to donate to our cause follow the donate prompts on our website or Facebook page or pay via Ecocash to 0782736879. Account name - Michael Carter or via transfer to Bulawayo Help Network, Account Number 0041087600345101, Bradfield Branch, Ecobank.
If you would like to make a donation outside Zimbabwe, go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/oldlegs2018tour
Until next week, enjoy and pedal if you can.