Moshi the Gateway to Mt Kilimanjaro

I’m blogging to you from Moshi, the Gateway to Mt Kilimanjaro where we are resting up before we summit the world’s highest free standing mountain.

We rode into Moshi from our penultimate night stop at the beautiful Nduruma Polo Cub below Mt Meru outside Arusha. We slept in Out of Africa safari tents complete with Thomson’s gazelles and wildebeests grazing on the polo fields out front.,Our heartfelt thanks to Simon and Lorna Travers, Hugo Titley, and the other ex Zimbos for hosting us and helping us.

Fittingly our 2nd but last day was tougher than expected with just under a 1000 m of climb over 121 km. Stupidly I’d told my Legs that we were having a half day off.

Unfittingly we haven’t seen either Mt Meru or Mt Kilimanjaro yet, both remain cloaked in cloud. It’s like riding 27 days to the cinema to watch a movie only to have some guy with a big fat head sitting right in front of you. But we’ll have 6 days of up close and personal with the mountain when we start our ascent on Sunday.

Thank you for joining us on the Old Legs 2019 Tour. Below some stand out numbers -from very big to small.

100,000,000,000,000 – lest we forget, the One Hundred Trillion Dollar note was printed by the same stupid that completely wiped out the wealth, savings, pensions and dignity of our pensioners, the generation that built Zimbabwe, leaving them dependent on your charity.

100,000 dollars – the 2019 Tour fundraising target.

93,232 – the number of calories burnt by an average rider. This is equivalent to 12 cheeseburgers per rider per day

72,900- the number of pedal strokes per rider based on an average cadence of 90.

34,966 meters – the total height climbed

5895 meters a.s.l. – Uhuru Peak, the top of Mt Kilimanjaro

3500 – the number of old age Zimbabwean pensioners in need of ongoing help.

2940 kilometers – the distance ridden.

554 years- the combined age of the 10 riders on the Old Legs Tour.

350 dollars -the cost of 1 pensioner in a nursing home for 1 month.

162 km- our longest day

135 hours -the total time spent in the saddle, excluding rest stops.

100 dollars- the cost of a cataract operation

24 – number of riding days

21.83 kph -average speed on Tour.

12.9 kph -slowest day up the Kitulo Plateau.

0 a.k.a. Zero – what Zimbabwean pensioners have been left with after 19 years of stupid.

Thank you to Dave and Lily Smith, Mike Wheedon, Penny Kostler, Jenny Bending, Susan Scott Martin, Hilary Dominy, Zoe Flood and others too numerous to mention for their generous support on Just Giving. Please also help us. Go to In Zimbabwe, transfer to Bulawayo Help Network via their CABS Platinum Account number 1124733450 or their
Ecocash merchant number 139149.

Liam Philp and all at African Preserves have challenged other companies in Zimbabwe to match or better their $ 1000 pledge.

In closing I would like to acknowledge our sponsors. Without them, the Old Legs Tour would not be possible.
Thank you, thank you, thank you -,African Preserves, Selby Enterprises, FX Logistics, ProPay, Astee “de Nachtvlinder”, Spar, Irvines, Steel Warehouse, Faithwear, Round Table 23, Alliance Insurance, The Surrey Group, Topshaft Engineering, Mukuru, KFC, Ezytrack, Ilala Lidge, The Directory, ZIMFLEX, Marginpaar, Crystal Signs, UFO Supplies, Cropserve, My Cash, PHI Commodities, Dumile Beef, Evanthia Seeds & Plant, Prime Seed, Paragon Printing, OZ Import, Greenhouse Technologies. You guys rock.

Until the last blog from on top of the mountain – survive, enjoy and pedal if you can – Adam, Mark, Hans, Jaap, Nik, Dave, Alan, Alastair, CarolJoy, Jen,Linda, Sue, Reinier, Bill, Ryan, John and Eric a.k.a. the Old Legs Team.

I was the last rider on the road yesterday by a long way. I don’t want our adventure to end

I was the last rider on the road yesterday by a long way. I don’t want our adventure to end. I was also last because I hadn’t abluted in 3 days and was having to avoid any and all sudden movements, lest there be an accident. Just as well I’m not a bear because I have serious problems crapping in the woods. I have even bigger problems with busy long drops. I’ve been holding out for porcelain but Ryan has let me down badly these last 2 night stops. Alas.

We camped last night at a school in a village called Haneti. The kids were very hungry to learn with 12 and 13 year olds cramming in extra lessons until ten o’clock at night. It bodes well for Tanzania’s future.

We rode into a blanket of thick cloud first up this morning. I couldn’t see more than 10 meters in front of me and had to ride even slower than normal. I’m guessing the views were good because our first hill of the day was plenty steep enough.

Once we crested, it was downhill and or flat out for the rest of the 130 km day as we rode out on to the Masai Steppe, home of the Serengeti plains. Even I’d heard of those. It was all very exciting.

For the first 20 km we rode heavily populated areas with lots of intensive marketing gardening and busy market towns. The support vehicles foraged hard as we were running low on supplies. Without help from Ryan though. His ankle, hugely swollen and discolored, is not coming right despite compression and ice. We’re sending him into Arusha tomorrow to see a doctor.

Once out of the market gardens, we rode into thorn scrub with tall Ilala palms and only the odd lonely baobab, which look to have reverted back to short and stunted. I did see a flamboyant tree but he wasn’t a very good specimen.

Alan said I also almost saw a shoebill and a flamingo but he scared them off before I got there. Alan has a very good poker face and I rode with binoculars at the ready thereafter, just in case he wasn’t talking crap.

By the time we arrived at our breakfast stop, we were into proper thorn scrub, busy with bird life. There were plenty of suburb starlings which make our glossy ones look dowdy and plain by comparison. There were a lot of other birds that weren’t crows. There were lots of reported flamingo sightings because people have now tumbled to my distance vision being not so good.

Dave’s vision is also not so good because he and his stomach overshot the breakfast stop at speed and by some kilometers. He turned around and rode back with a worried look on his face in case Alan and Ryan had scoffed his breakfast. There are no flies on either Alan or Ryan. Linda and Sue gave us impromptu go go dancing lessons at breakfast. Ours is culturally diverse Tour and I’m learning a lot.

After breakfast, the thorn scrub opened up into dry open plains. We could see Lake Manyara to our left, home to the world famous lions in the trees and on our right, we had Tarangire National Park, the Elephants Paradise.

The wildlife share the Steppe with the Masai and their large mixed herds of cattle and goats, watched over by herd boys in their bright tartan shukas a.k.a. blankets. I’m wondering if the Masai bumped into tartan first or whether they borrowed it from the Scots. The Masai women also look cool with their elaborate white beaded necklaces and long, dangly earrings. The Masai are proud and slightly aloof but quick to smile and I like them a lot.

I rode slow and on my own at the very back, like a sponge, trying hard to soak up the sights and sounds of our last days in Tour. Apparently I almost saw hundreds of wildebeest and zebras standing right next to the road. I was however the only rider to spot a huge ex-hyaena next to road who’d been hit by a truck. I take some solace from the fact that hyaena with their camouflaged spots are harder to spot than big, dime a dozen wildebeests.

Riding on your own gives you time to reflect. Rather than stress about bad news out of Zimbabwe, I reflected on our nearly ended Old Legs Tour, both the good and the bad.

For anyone planning a similar adventure, my best things on Tour after my wife and in semi order are
i ) – porcelain toilet bowls
ii)- the Boskak 2000
iii) -my music. Frowned upon by the cycling purists, my music got me up all the hills on Tour. And Jack Johnson, the Chilli Peppers, Green Day and the Kings of Leon all help make long lonely roads less lonely
iv) – my little rear view mirror on my handlebars which allows me to see the make of truck I’m about to be run over by
v)- bum cream. I actually use milking salve instead of Sudocreme and have had zero mastitis problems either.
vi) lip balm and zinc oxide. After my legs, my bum and the rest of my body, it is my lips that have taken the most flack on Tour
vii) oral antibiotics and Nurse Linda. Having just re-read my list, Nurse Linda should be promoted well up the list.
viii) best friends and teammates, some old and some I’ve just met, both on the bikes and in the support vehicles. My teammates have been the very best and there isn’t one of them that I wouldn’t walk over broken glass for.

Thankfully my bad things on Tour list is much shorter – i) intravenous and intramuscular antibiotics, big syringes and bigger needles especially in the hands of Medic Adam ii) malevolent kit bags iii) and last but far from least, bad news from home.

We received a plea today from home that illustrates exactly how bad things are in Zimbabwe and exactly why we are riding our bikes from Harare to Mt Kilimanjaro. ‘Liz de Klerk’ aged 67 with diabetes has to have her left leg amputated in a hurry but can’t afford the US$ 6000 quoted by her surgeon whose small print on his copy of the Hippocratic Oath is obviously very small. Liz’s siblings now living in the UK have only been able to raise half the money needed and asked us for help. And for sure we will help, even if we have to keep on pedaling past Mt Kilimanjaro. Help us help Liz and others by going to In Zimbabwe, transfer to Bulawayo Help Network via their CABS Platinum Account number 1124733450 or their
Ecocash merchant number 139149.

Until tomorrow’s blog from Arusha, the gateway to Mt Kilimanjaro, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

This morning we rode out of our school yard campsite in Haneti

This morning we rode out of our school yard campsite in Haneti and pedaled north through Tanzania and her wide open spaces, empty vistas blah blah blah, blah blah blah, etc etc etc, blah blah blah. Tanzania certainly does go on a bit.

And then just before lunch, we started hitting hills, as in huge, big, bloody steep ones, which according to my vague recollections of Alastair’s previous nights’s briefing weren’t supposed to be there. I know I’m not the most focused person in Alastair’s briefings but I’m sure I would distinctly have remembered his use of the words huge, big, bloody and steep. Haneti had been at 1200 m a.s.l.
By the time we fell off our bikes for lunch, impossibly we were back up at 1650 m.

On the way to lunch, I saw what I’m sure will be my last baobab on the Tour at 1479 m a.s.l. And he wasn’t a skinny, scrawny stunted one, he was huge and massive.

Enough of the trees and back to the hills. At least after lunch would be better, I promised my poor aching legs. Apart from one last sharp steep climb that we could see ahead of us, the last 40 km to our night stop would be all down and or flat, surely. Given that happiness is the management of expectations, I should have just shut up. Alas.
My last sharp, steep climb turned out to be a false summit. When I got to the top and around the corner, there was more of the same ahead, just steeper. And so it went on, all bloody afternoon.

Very quickly, Dave was at the back and in trouble, bonking, his body shaking badly after calling on reserves of energy that weren’t there, this even after the lunch he’d just packed away. Dave makes a swarm of locusts look bulimic by comparison. Alastair, Renier and John nursed him home with bags and bags of sweets.

The last 40 km of the day took me 4 hours. The gradients were as harsh as any we struggled up in the Southern Highlands. Mostly I rode with Mark, Jaap and CJ., although rode could be a misnomer in that it implies some sort of forward momentum. Looking to cheat, I spent 5 minutes drafting behind a big truck before realizing it had broken down. At one point Mark was overtaken by a dung beetle reversing up the hill, rolling his breakfast, lunch and dinner ball of dung in front of him.

But way harder than the hills, the thing I struggled with most all afternoon long was the news from back home that after a welcome absence of 10 years, our piece of crap Zimbabwe dollar is back. We found out over lunch that the ZANU government have banned forthwith trade in US dollars and all other hard currencies. Fully in keeping with the stupidity contained therein, the Government Gazette announcing the banning of trade in US was on sale at a price of 2 US or 6 RTGS. And there was more stupid to follow. The Reserve Bank also announced an increase in their over night inter-bank interest rate from 15 percent up to 50, to guard against inflation. If Winston Churchill was a Zimbabwean, he would have said that all we have to fear is fear itself, and stupid.

We are riding from Harare to Mt Kilimanjaro to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwean pensioners. Now I can’t but feel we’ve spent the last 25 days farting against thunder. Alas.

But please continue to support us, nonetheless. Go to In Zimbabwe, transfer to Bulawayo Help Network via their CABS Platinum Account number 1124733450 or their
Ecocash merchant number 139149.

In closing, please spare a thought for our poor and stupid Minister of Finance whose family home is in Switzerland. How the hell is he going to be able to be able to pay for that going forward on a Zimbabwe dollar salary?

Until tomorrow’s blog from somewhere near Arusha, please survive, enjoy and pedal if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

I am fast running out of superlatives like vast, immense, massive, immense etc for Tanzania

I am fast running out of superlatives like vast, immense, massive, immense etc for Tanzania. Far apart also works. We rode 135 km from our swanky accommodations in Chiona to our less swanky accommodations in Haneti, we’re camping in amongst school buildings that were unfinished long ago. I think the noisy Muslim guy from the Mosque next door in Chiona has followed us here. Either that or he’s got an equally loud brother working here. He’s just set the village dogs off with his call to prayers.

Most of the village came to watch us set up camp. The Mullah and his wife were quite keen to use our shower curtain as a background for a selfie. Adam had to chase them off because Linda was showering at the time.

The countryside in between early morning and late afternoon varied from lots of bleak to lots of pristine woodlands up on top of a large range of hills. Apologies if I’ve overused the words lots of and large in these Tanzanian blogs but they fit. We rode through some more wetlands but still no shoebills. I worry they are extinct. Ditto genets. I passed another ex-genet squashed on the road. Not long after, I heard a fish eagle crying.

We met the support cars 50 km into the ride on the edge of Dodoma for a breakfast of French toast as supplied by a Jen, Linda and Sue and chapatis as foraged by Alastair. Alastair is the best forager. Left on his own in the bush, he’d put on weight.

We worried about getting lost on our ride through Dodoma so bunched up and rode as a group. But as it turned out there was nothing to worry about and we found the ring road around town easily. But to say we rode around Dodoma isn’t as cool as saying we rode through it, so we turned back and diverted off the ring road and rode through the busy hustle and bustle yet spic and span city centre. Tanzanians don’t do litter. The fusions of cultures were fascinating; Swahili and English; Christian and Muslim. The churches were all doing a roaring trade with Sunday morning devotions and we rode alongside a huge Corpus Christi procession through the streets.

I struggled after Dodoma in the wind and on the hills, but not the down hill bits, and mostly rode alone, with Jack Johnson and the Chilli Peppers loud in my ears. The song Black Betty also works good on hills. My failing legs got a boost by way of a hundred dollar cash donation received from Johan Viljoen, a South African living in Arusha. Thank you, thank you, thank you Johan.

Ryan fell off the trailer spectacularly whilst getting chairs down for our lunch stop and sprained his ankle badly. To provide him comfort, Jenny and Linda defrosted our frozen chicken dinner on his swollen ankle. Ryan is stressing that his ankle will still be crock come time to walk up Mt Kilimanjaro.

The end of our adventure is now getting close. I overheard Hans finalizing flight arrangements out of Arusha. Mark Johnson stood up on his bike every 5 minutes, hoping for a first glimpse of Mt Kilimanjaro on the horizon. Silly boy.

When she started training for the Tour back in November last year, Carol Joy registered on a Strava women’s monthly kilometers and climb challenge. Normally she places about 23000. This month she’s bounced up to 14th, in the world.

With just 5 days to go, we’re getting to the business end of Dick of the Day and everyone is on their best behavior. Dave was the only nomination, on trumped up, scurrilous charges. So we all voted for him. He now joins me, Ryan, Alan and Carol Joy on 2 awards. Only Jaap, Lunda abs Sue have yet to get on the board.

Please support us as we ride to Mt Kilimanjaro to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. Help us to help them. Go to In Zimbabwe, transfer to Bulawayo Help Network via their CABS Platinum Account number 1124733450 or their
Ecocash merchant number 139149.

Until tomorrow’s blog from somewhere else in the middle of Tanzanian nowhere, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can- Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

Today we rode from Migoli to Chiona

Today we rode from Migoli to Chiona. Put another way, we rode from somewhere just past the middle of nowhere to another place also in the middle of nowhere. After 22 days on Tour we are now about 2400 km away from home.

It sounds crazy but for the first time on Tour, today felt properly foreign. On all other previous days, there’s been something similar to back home; sights or scenery, the vegetation or the people, something. But on today’s ride there was nothing similar, other than the
baobabs , and even those were different. The baobabs that we rode through all day, thousands and thousands of them, are shorter, stumpier, somehow stunted as compared to baobabs back home. And the fruit pods are smaller and more slender. Maybe it’s a sub-species.

I saw different kind of birds today and was able to deploy my binoculars for the first time. First up, I saw some small yellow and black faced parrots, slightly bigger than a lovebird and with red beaks. Then I saw two different types of starling, a long tailed one but dirty grey in color and the other had a glossy head and tail but with a russet colored body. For the record, I didn’t see any shoebills, or crows. I did see a dead genet cat, squashed on the road. Predictably Alastair tried to forage it’s tail, but failed.

We rode alongside the Mtera Dam for most of the day, either we rode especially slow or it is a bloody big dam. Mtera is a hydroelectric dam.

From what I could see, they certainly don’t use the dam for irrigation. I don’t know what the people around here do for a living. Inside the 130 km that we rode today, there was zero sign of any farming, bar a very few small herds of cows and or goats. Having said that, Adam was able to forage bunches of small, black grapes to supplement the dinner table.

I guess it’s the people and their complete lack of English that make the place seem so much more foreign. Only the very odd person is able to speak English, I think. Their accents are very strong and hard to understand. Mostly we’ve had to resort to sign language. Alastair is especially crap at sign language and very quickly drags every conversation to his beard. If we were playing charades, I’d bust him for cheating.

We are less of a curiosity here than we were in Malawi and Mozambique and the people give us more space. As I write, the chap in the mosque across the road has just called everyone in earshot to prayers, even though it is still pitch dark outside.

We’re staying in another of Ryan’s funny little guest houses. I have no idea how he is able to find them, but he does, so far without fail. Normally we give Ryan a target distance for the day at lunchtime, depending upon how knackered we are, and he and Bill rush off to find us accommodation for the night. Tonight’s guesthouse is called Madalha’s, so most of us are able to feel a real sense of belonging. Madalha’s costs the equivalent of US 3.00 a night per person so as you can imagine it is quite swanky., apart from the toilet, which is of the hole in the floor variety. I am seriously considering constipation. Unlike the mosquitoes who are also staying here, of which there are many, we’ve gone with the bed only option.

For the second time on Tour, viva antibiotics. My finger is much, much better and the knuckles on my left hand are back.

Even though we’re technically in the middle of winter, it is bloody hot. We were at 700 m a.s.l. for most of the day, climbing up to 930 m after lunch. We’ll carry on climbing today and after reaching our target distance of 130 km, should finish up at about 1200 m a.s.l. We’ll pass through the town city of Dodoma late morning which should be interesting. I love riding through new places and almost put my neck out, gawking at all the sights and sounds.

The support guys are putting in some serious late challenges for Dick of the Day honors. With great reluctance, Bill handed over the DOD necklace last night to John MacDonald who was found guilty on trumped up charges. For fear of wee in my coffee, let it be known that I never voted for either of them. I’ll never vote for any member of the support team, especially Jenny.

We are riding to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s beleaguered pensioners. And with the economically stupid fully in the driving seat back home, they need help more than ever. Help us to help them. Go to In Zimbabwe, transfer to Bulawayo Help Network via their CABS Platinum Account number 1124733450 or their
Ecocash merchant number 139149.

Until tomorrow’s blog from the metropolis of Chimene, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong