I have a new reference point for hell on earth

I have a new reference point for hell on earth – the ladies / girls clothing section in the Pep Store in Musina on a hot day when the air cons aren’t working too good. And as evidenced by the 48 screaming toddlers in store with me at the time, I wasn’t the only one thinking hell on earth.

I was in Musina last week with Jenny and granddaughters Jocelyn and Cailyn in search of shoes, brooks and pajamas in pink and/or lilac for Jos and Cailyn plus comfortable but functional underwear, color optional, for 80 year old mom Bets.

Ordinarily that might sound not too tough a task until you get embroiled in the My Little Pony vs Barbie vs Hallo Kitty debate. And you don’t want to know how many variations of pink are out there. I’m thinking Henry Ford fine tuned his ‘They can have any color they want as long as it’s black’ strategy after a visit to a the pajama department in his local Pep Store.

My shopping experience was slightly tempered by my shopping companions. The Christmas Trees in the Musina Mall are modest by most standards but they had 5 year old Cailyn oohing and wowing. And 11 year old Jos had fingers and toes crossed hoping the Mall we were headed to had an escalator she could ride on. It takes not a lot to make Zimbabwean kids happy.

Not far behind Peps Store in the misery stakes was the passport queue on the SA side of the border. For Zimbabwean commuter shoppers, the SA queue is dehumanizing. They get treated like cattle with zero sign of Mandela’s much espoused spirit of Ubuntu. Alas. And given how much they spend in South African shops, you’d think SA officials would roll out the red carpets for Zim shoppers. I’m thinking the SA retail sector sponsored Mugabe’s destruction of Zimbabwe’s economy.

South Africans can rest easy at night knowing the black and white booms at their border posts are well protected. I counted 25 uniformed policemen seated in the shade zealously guarding the Musina boom. I can’t but think that maybe some of them should have been stationed under the innumerable ‘DO NOT STOP. HIGH CRIME ZONE’ signs dotted all along the highway into town.

Zimbabwe is a village. No one is a stranger, everyone knows everyone. As evidenced by our first night in SA spent at the Moreson hot springs resort. After 6 hours in the car and forever in Pep Store, we headed to the hot pool to lurk like hippos and unwind. There were 2 other families in the pool at the time, 1 belonged to Cailyn’s best Townsend Learning Centre buddy Jock and the other were a young couple Jason and Colette. After two minutes of shallow end conversation, it turns out Jason’s granny Thelma was my KG1 teacher and his dad Plug was my class mate at Alfred Beit and later my squad mate at Morris Depot.

Jock doesn’t swim too good so he asked me to give him a lift from the deep end to shallow end so he could play with Cailyn. Because he is the most lovable huggable kid in the world, I told Jock no problem. He hopped on my back and we headed towards the shallow end. Half way there with only my very pronounced center parting to look at, Jock asked me “Hey man, what did you do with the rest of your hair?” Jenny nearly drowned laughing.

As mentioned Zimbabwe is a village and every village has an idiot. Ours just released his first budget in parliament. Stand outs were an increase in traffic fine ceilings from $30 to $700 a.k.a. ZAR 10,000. Plus a proposed 5% cut in civil servant salaries. For a select few senior big fish civil servants, the pain of the pay cut will be eased by proposed duty free imports of motor vehicles. Watch this space for renewed street mugging by cops. Watch this space for the next big civil servant scam.

We were in SA to help Jenny’s Mom Hester celebrate her 80th birthday. It was a surprise party, made all the more special by kids, grandkids and great grandkids from far and wide.

Unfortunately we were also in Joburg for Black Friday which is when prices get slashed, triggering a shopping frenzy which I can only liken to the stampede triggered by news of a cooking oil delivery in Zimbabwe. For me Black Friday highlighted the disparity that exists between Zim and SA. How can one country have so much and the other so little? It really sucks. As did the many hours I spent in shops whilst in Joburg. Shopping was made all the more miserable by the shocking difference in prices. Medicines we pay US$ 62 for in Zim cost the equivalent of just US$ 4 in Jhb. Alas.

Moving on, I did enjoy the bike shops I went into. Mostly I just salivated, but I did replace my missing 5th favorite pair of ride shorts, stolen by Putin and/or Jeremy Corbyn, plus I bought a marvelous piece of technology called a Chain Checker. I can’t wait to ask the You Tube girl how to use it.

For the rest, our week in SA was best ever, catching up with family and best friends Mark and Merryn, Clive and Patrick and Jackie. I was also able to pay my respects to the Stanton family on the loss of their husband, father and grandfather Pete. RIP Pete, a giant of a man.

And then it was back to Zim with Cailyn providing the background music; the first two lines of ‘A little donkey on a dusty road’ over and over and over. In between Cailyn’s marathon Christmas carol recital, Jenny and I argued about whether to fill up with fuel in Musina or Beitbridge. Jenny wanted to play safe and fill up in SA whilst I was in favor of saving forex and swiping for fuel in Zim. Thankfully Jenny wins the arguments in our family because the fuel queues in Zim are back with a vengeance, longer and uglier than ever. Apparently the 100 million liters of fuel we borrowed from the kind ZANU sycophant a month ago is all long gone. Alas.

On to matters to do with cycling, which is what this blog is supposed to be about. Having checked my chain thoroughly and more than once, I got back on my bike for the first time in 3 weeks. I rode with Adam up Glen Helen Way, Foley John Crescent and Hoggerty Hill, twice. I should rather have gone Pep Store shopping in Musina.

Whilst I’ve been away, Adam has fallen in with a bad crowd, Carl Wilson and Joe Wright. Carl and Joe are training for the Cape Epic and invited Adam to join them. Adam maintains that Carl and Joe tried to kill him, on a mountain called Jesus, so called because it gets you up close to God. Going up Jesus, apparently Adam slowed up so much he was able to revisit the principles of falling off a bicycle.

Fast forward three weeks of near death by mountain bike, Carl and Joe and Adam is living proof that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. Wearing my new pair of performance enhancing sun glasses for my first ride back, I was quite cock a hoop, for about the first 5 kilometers and/ or minutes. Whence upon my performance enhancing sunglasses failed to kick in, fogging up instead through over exertion, thankfully blotting out the sight of Adam scampering up a sheer mountain with gay abandon, scant regard for gravity and the exuberance of a demented Klipspringer. I’ve decided to ask for a refund on my sunglasses. And alas, my story gets worse. Tomorrow, I’m joining Dave and Adam for a session of Carl and Joe vs the mountain. Please tell my wife I loved her lots.

Elsewhere around the world, other pairs of Old Legs are preparing for Mt Kili. Last weekend In Joburg, Al Watermeyer and Alan Rheeder were joined by 28000 other riders for their training ride a.k.a. the 94.7. Five hours later in 35 degree heat, Al can now confirm there are no down hill bits in Joburg. After the race, Al celebrated by having his shiny almost brand new 29 inch Merida stolen. A pox on all bike thieves. May their testicles get caught up in their chains.

In Germany, Carol Joy has bought a thing of beauty Trek Top Fuel 8 full suspension bike to ride to Mt Kili on. In Aussie, Mark Johnson racked up plus 200 kms through Noosa and other too pretty parts of Down Under on his brand new Trek. Not much riding in Switzerland this week though with our Old Legs Nik Bellwald recovering from a double hernia op. Get better Nik and back on your bike.

In closing and mostly because I’m grumpy about non-performing sun glasses, fuel queues and poor,poor Zimbabwe, I’m awarding Dick of the Week to the idiots behind the decision to build a shiny new Parliament building in the middle of nowhere, 25 kilometers out of town. I rode past the new busy Chinese building site yesterday and couldn’t but think that a new parliament is just what a country with no petrol and no drugs in the hospitals needs. What was wrong with the old Parliament? English are still making do with theirs and it’s hundreds of years old. I’m thinking Ed wants a new Parliament because the old one is within easy walking distance of tens of thousands of disgruntled citizens. Plus I’m hearing that a bunch of real estate around the new site was grabbed long ago by members of the Mugabe clan. And whilst on the subject, apparently Bob is not doing too good in Singapore. Bummer dude, hope it hurts.

Please support Round Table 23’s Jail and Bail at the Tin Roof this Friday in which Andrew ‘Gaspipes’ Morland, Leticia ‘Cadillac’ Campbell and 15 other villains get locked up and stay locked up until they raise their bails with all proceeds going to Old Age Pensioners. Dig deep and please support the best cause out there.

This week’s Swahili 101

Mimi kuwana kwa kuacha. Miwana ya miwana yangu ni wote imefungwa up – I have to stop. My sunglasses are all fogged up.

Kidogo Punda, kidogo punda, juu a vumbi barabara – Little donkey, little donkey, on a dusty road.

Until next week, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

If they handed out Oscars for over- loading, the winner would be a Zimbabwean.

If they handed out Oscars for over- loading, the winner would be a Zimbabwean.

Zimbabweans are the best over-loaders in the world and can get 5 tons on a 1 ton pick-up truck no problem. The height of overloaded trucks and trailers at Beitbridge is my barometer for economic knackederness. Currently the trucks and trailers are as high as ever I’ve seen them.
My road back from SA last week was full of them, intrepid Zimbabwean entrepreneurs settling sail from Hillbrow at 40 kph with 5 tons of groceries on their 1 ton pick-ups bound for Harare’s street markets. Perched right on the very top of the load normally is a kid’s bike and a garland of empty buckets, like some sort of Michelin star rating awarded for excellence in overloading. Unfortunately there is usually no room in the overload for spare tyres or breakdown triangles. Which is a problem because 5 tons on a 1 ton pick-up on silky smooth South African highways might be easy peasy but on the lumps bumps and potholes that are Zimbabwe’s roads, not so much. I counted 7 break downs cluttering just the Beitbridge – Masvingo stretch.

My sock drawer is a shocker. Stuff goes in there and never comes out, odd socks included. I wouldn’t be surprised if Amelia Earhart was in there somewhere. On a shock scale of 1 to 10, my sock drawer is a 14. On the same scale, driving the Harare – Beitbridge highway is a 27 – especially after a week on South Africa’s highways. The road is dreadful and the driving worse. Small wonder 80 plus have died on our roads in just the last 2 weeks. And in the amongst the carnage, our diligent police force guard their black white road block drums resolutely, pausing only to extract beer money from combi drivers. I’m guessing our crime stats on the theft of black and white road block drums are the lowest in the world. Thus my prestigious Knob of the Week award goes to Zimbabwe’s
policemen.

With just 6 months to go to the Mount Kilimanjaro ride, I’m starting to stress about my golf swing. Fully aware that my swing sucks worse than my puncture repair techniques, Al Watermeyer is organizing the inaugural Riders Cup golf challenge to take place on our Tete Rest Day. Hiking through the Mozambique bush in searching of my missing golf balls with an emphasis on plural doesn’t sound very restful to me. As. I peaked early in my golf career with my best ever round coming in just my second game. And since then it’s all been relentlessly down hill. With time to practice, I expect I’ll be especially crap come the Tete tournament. Already I feel sorry for my golf partner.

The other thing I need to brush up on for the Tour are my camping skills. Mostly we’ll be camping all the way to Kilimanjaro. So as soon as I got back from SA this week, Jenny and I packed up the tents and headed to Mana Pools with friends from Holland, Marcel Moerman and Maya van der Ham.

With temperatures nudging forty and the inland Pools all but gone, the pressure on the River belt was huge with hundred plus herds of buffalo, waterbuck and impala. I have no idea what they’re eating because there wasn’t a blade of grass to be seen for miles and the browse lines on the mahoganies have inched up beyond the reach of all but the eland and the kudu. With predators in close attendance, camp filled up every night with edible animals looking for refuge in amongst the tents. Everything was on edge and we saw a grumpy old buffalo bull in camp have at a passing hippo, just because.

Stand outs for me on the trip were a pack of 17 wild dogs, watching hundreds of crocodiles in Long Pool gorging on barbel and massive flocks of Lilian lovebirds, resplendent in their vivid greens, peaches and pinks. If I’d painted them in art class, I’d have been flunked out for being over busy with the palette. Not that I’m a painter. My art medium of choice has always been plasticine. But I don’t do lovebirds, just snakes. My angry snakes are especially good, ditto my scared ones and my reclining ones.

And on the subject of snakes, we took two to Mana Pools to guard the tents against marauding baboons. The snakes, fully reticulated, highly venomous made in China wooden cobras, one brown and one green, were a red hot tip from Phillipa Marrett. Once I’d positioned them in their most aggressive pose next to the tents, we were able to go on game drives with complete peace of mind. Alas. As it happened, baboons travelled from the far side of Mana to laugh at our snakes. And when they’d finished laughing, one of the brutes ripped a new entrance and a new exit in our tent, bypassing the cable ties I’d cunningly and strategically placed on any and all zips, and spent a leisurely afternoon snoozing on our stretchers and rummaging through our kit. He especially enjoyed the contents of Jenny’s medicine chest and my toiletries bag. Because he scoffed a job lot of Enos and Citrosoda, a big box of paracetamol with vitamin chasers, my suspect is a healthy well vitamined brute with fully functional digestive and urinary tracts and no headache. On the bright side, I don’t think he tried on my underpants or my underarm and thankfully the Enos didn’t kick in whilst he was still in the tent. We’ll get by just fine without the purloined medicines because Mana remains the best muti ever. For sure God adds on to your life any time you spend there.

We have pairs of Old Legs all over the world training hard for the Mt Kilimanjaro Tour. In Germany Carol Joy ventured onto new paths through glorious autumn foliage, enjoyed her second puncture in seven years and didn’t enjoy the last 40 km of a 71 km trip in the pouring rain with puddles in my shoes. She cycled 190 km and ran 30 km. In Malawi, Al notched up some back to back 50 kms, through stunning scenery as training for next week’s Joburg 94.7. In the Netherlands, Jaap ventured above sea level on his bike as often as possible. He’s supplementing his training with two speed skating sessions in the week, building his legs. In Switzerland, Nik continues man down with the flu. Back in Zim Dave, Bruce and Adam look to be averaging between 20 and 40 km daily. I’ve been more strategic in my training and bought a pair of of performance enhancing sun glasses and expect to be able to ride faster and further when eventually I do get on my bike.
Which better be pretty soon. After receiving the following plea from one of the residents of Borradaile Trust, Marondera, I wish we could start pedaling tomorrow.

“I am writing this with a very heavy heart and it’s a plea to the world out there.
We are part of a beautiful community in a beautiful area called Borradaile Trust Retirement village in Marondera Zimbabwe.
Just recently the Trustee Board had to increase the rent and levy by quite a margin and this has brought fear to all of us, as we are not able to meet this demand and some have already said they’ll have to leave but have no where to go.
So my plea to anyone out there to please help keep the residents here and to support them in anyway you can.
My husband and I have been there and know what it feels like to be in dire dire straights when we lost our farm.
My heart goes out to all here at the Trust and therefore, if there are any good Samaritans out there, please please help keep these these people here at the Trust otherwise they’ll all have try and find cheaper accommodation which is, at their advanced years, not possible.
In the past the local commercial farmers kept the Trust going but, as you all know, that has dwindled and it’s of great concern.
Many thanks for reading my plea and may God bless you all.”

For those living outside Zim, please can you forward this plea for help to any and all Service Organizations like Rotary, Round Table are Lions who might want to adopt an old age home and help it through our current crisis. It is really bad and set to get worse.

If you’d like to donate please go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/oldlegstour and follow the prompts.
Or you can transfer to Bulawayo Help Network very a their CABS Platinum Account number 1124733450. Or you can transfer to their Ecocash merchant number 139149. Please note that Bulawayo Help Network are the receiving agency and donations received are directed country wide.

In closing, this week’s Swahili 101-
Madhubuti hapana nyani zilizopita hii hatua – Strictly no baboons allowed past this point.

Jhadharini yo nyoka- Beware of the snake.

Until next week, enjoy and pedal if can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

This week has flummoxed me. Is it a good thing or a bad thing to live in a country where a single 2 lt bottle of cooking oil can bring you joy?

This week has flummoxed me. Is it a good thing or a bad thing to live in a country where a single 2 lt bottle of cooking oil can bring you joy? Jenny scored a case of cooking oil last week and gave our maid a bottle and she had an ear to ear smile for a week.

I’m writing this blog from South Africa. I’m here to learn how to graft avocados. Worse luck, I’m also here to shop, for things we can’t buy or can’t afford to buy at home.
Since my whole life, SA has been my shopping centre of last resort. As a teenager, my shopping list was one thing long – Levi blue jeans without which a fourteen year old pimpled youth cannot be cool. Fast forward forty years and hell’s bells, my shopping list is now fully 3 pages long.

Today I started shopping in the chemist. Sleeping tablets, the entire alphabet of vitamins with a bunch of extra B ones, a job lot of anti inflammatories, headache pills of which we also need many, blah, blah,blah, on and on for a whole page. And then into the supermarket for two pages of stuff – cereal, oats, cat food, dog food, tinned fish, coffee instant and the other stuff, tea bags including green, mint, chamomile, lemon, mint and every other conceivable flavor but not Tanganda,blah, blah, blah, blah. Right in the middle of the list lurked plain, white flour. A reasonable request I thought, until I started looking for it. I found cake flour, self raising flour, brown flour, whole wheat flour, brown rice flour, rye flour but not a bag of plain white to be seen. Strewth. It’s enough to drive a man to drink. So I went to the bottle store for beer, whiskey and wine, red and white. But before that, first back to the chemist for a family pack of hemorrhoid ointment. Because what a pain in the arse supermarket shopping is.

Somewhere between the pet food aisle and sweets and biscuits, I wished a pox on former Presidents Mbeki, Motlante and Zuma for making me drive 800 kilometers to shop. I especially wished a pox on them for the plight of the Zim pensioners who can’t afford to pop down South to shop.

At any time in the last 20 years, SA could’ve closed Zimbabwe’s taps and brought Mugabe to heel. Vorster did it to Smith so it’s not like the precedent isn’t out there. But worse than doing nothing, SA’s former presidents were complicit in propping Mugabe up for 20 years.

Eventually after forever, I got back to my B & B and the nice professor in the room next door saw my number plates and complained to me about the Zimbabwean crime wave in the town he lives in. I bit his head off super quick. I told him you can’t live in the land of plenty of milk and honey and do, say, and see nothing whilst your fool neighbor in the shack next door plays with matches and paraffin. His flames will surely burn you too.

And beware SA because for sure we’re fiddling with matches again. About the only commodity not short in Zimbabwe anymore, for now anyway, is fuel. But only because some ZANU sycophant leant Zim a hundred million liters of fuel. With another billion liters to come over the next 12 months. There’s that word Strewth again. Who the hell lends a government 9 naughts worth of petrol? Where does his money come from and has he paid his taxes? And how the hell are we going to pay him back? Alas. Our government are running the country like a tuck shop. Except tuck shops always normally have cooking oil.

Please, please take note Donald. 15000 soldiers can’t keep the hundred million shit-holers out. Better to invest some of your billions and trillions in also draining their shithole swamps.

My training hit a snag this last week when my body sent out a memo for the third time in the recent past. Once on the last day of the Blue Cross, and again on my last two 40 kilometer plus rides. Apparently I have a something called an I.T.B. which is latin for the sinew that runs down the outside of the leg and it can be bloody sore if you overuse it. Runners get it, as do cyclists apparently, including me. When it flares, every pedal stroke burns like a bugger, almost bad like frostbite. A 40 km limit is a problem when you’re riding to a mountain 3000 kms distant. According to my You Tube health consultant, the only way to fix my ITB is by contorting into unnatural positions that allow me to sniff my bum up close for extended periods of time. While I struggle with a cure that is worse than a sore sinew, in the interim bucket loads of inflammatories.

Along with my ITB, my technical shortcomings also continue to pain hugely. And amuse. For Adam anyway.

That Captains Scott and Oates perished of frostbite loomed large throughout my entire childhood, the same frostbite you can get from accidentally screwing up a CO2 bomb the wrong way whilst dealing with a puncture. And having gone to Allan Wilson Technical High School, I’m fully acquainted with how easy it is to get clockwise and anti-clockwise all cocked up. So when I punctured early into our Saturday morning 80 km ride, I went with the pump route first. Pumping is more tiring than riding, and slower. That we were less than 20 km into the ride and I was pumping the same tyre for the third time, got Adam stressing that our Saturday morning ride was going to turn into an afternoon and evening one as well. So he told me to just bomb it. Damn the expense he said, he had a job lot of CO2 bombs in his backpack. Which got me stressing, because a job lot of frostbite is a lethal dose, ask Oats and Scott, and also because I’m really crap at CO2 bomb dispensing. Adam started laughing as soon as I started with my Lefty Loosey, Righty Tighty recital. And under that kind of pressure, obviously I cracked and the deadly jet of CO2 whooshed every where, apart from in the tyre. Forewarned by a sneaking suspicion that I might cock up, I screamed, not like a girl but more like Oats or Scott, and flung the CO2 bomb dispenser far away before losing any digits. Whence upon Adam laughed and laughed and laughed. When eventually he finished laughing, he gave me another bomb and told me again to just do it. So I did. And bugger me if I didn’t cock it up yet again. More screams, more near death by frostbite and more laughing, lots more laughing. It’s enough to make a grown man cry. I’m thinking about going to Allan Wilson and asking for my school fees back.

Elsewhere, other Old Legs also struggled. In Holland, Jaap chased down 102 km and at least a dozen e-bikes. In Germany, Carol Joy managed just 45 km in bitterly cold weather, and failed to catch a single e-bike. She is asking for advice on how to avoid toe frost bite. Adam told her to keep well away from me when I’m punctured. In Switzerland, Nik continued on with the flu. He has spent his down time plotting a rigorous start up training course for us all to follow.  Easily the most productive Old Legs was Mark Johnson in Australia. On his new sexy Trek, Mark clocked up 200 km in the saddle for the week and plans to step it up to 250 km. His forthcoming adventure has attracted the attentions of the local press so the Old Legs Tour is almost famous. We’re sending the paper case studies highlighting the plight of Zim pensioners.

Whilst on the subject of their plight, to donate please go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/oldlegstour and follow the prompts.
Or you can transfer to Bulawayo Help Network very a their CABS Platinum Account number 1124733450. Or you can transfer to their Ecocash merchant number 139149. Please note that Bulawayo Help Network are the receiving agency and donations received are directed country wide.

Dave Whitehead has worked long and hard on our shiny new thing of beauty Old Legs Tour website and it should be unveiled this week. Thank you Dave.

Very excitingly, we’ve chosen our route up Mt Kilimanjaro. We’ve opted for the six day up Rongai route. We’ll be joined on our epic up hill walk by Graeme Fleming, Kevin Shadwell and co. They’ll have an unfair advantage over the rest of us. Being golfers, they get to walk lots and lots and more, especially Kevin, Graeme tells me.

In closing – this week’s Swahili lessons

  • Kuwa na wewe kuonekana nyeupe unga? – Have you seen any white flour?
  • Unaweza wewe kushinikiza kitoroli yangu? – Can you push my trolley?
  • naweza mimi azima joto nguo yako? -Can I borrow all your warm clothing?

Until next week, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can

Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

Adam Selby and I flew the Old Legs flag at Saturday’s Round Table 23 MTB ride in Domboshawa. Unfortunately not too many people saw the flag because we flew it at the very back of the peloton.

Adam Selby and I flew the Old Legs flag at Saturday’s Round Table 23 MTB ride in Domboshawa. Unfortunately not too many people saw the flag because we flew it at the very back of the peloton.

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The 45 km track, mostly single track through hills and kopjes, demanded focus and concentration, placing Adam and I at an immediate disadvantage. Before we knew it, we’d turned 45 kms into 50.

Being selfless, I’m prepared to blame Garmin for some of the extra distance and Adam for the rest. My GPS spent the first 30 km of the ride zoomed out to 200 meters, allowing us to blunder off track countless times. But our biggest diversion happened early in the ride when Adam still had vim and vigour. My chain came off half way up a viscously steep kopje and whilst I was getting it back on, damn tricky things chains, Adam charged off two kms in the wrong direction. I find it very hard to shout Adam loudly whilst having zero breath.

But the view from the very top of the kopje that Adam dragged us up was splendid and we could see for miles and miles. We could also see the other riders, tiny like ants, on the right track way below us. Alas.

Just after we eventually got back on track, we noticed how hot it was out. Round about then Adam also noticed that not only had he lost his water bottle, he’d also punctured his Camelback bladder and had zero water as a result. And then he punctured his front wheel, twice. No problem. He had a CO2 bomb in his saddle bag. Which was a problem. His saddle bag was in his cupboard at home. No problem. I was able to lend Adam a bomb.

By now we’d gathered an audience of otherwise bored spectators. Because they’d never seen advanced puncture repair technology in action before, we set out to impress them, but mostly amused instead. I should have paid more attention during advanced technology lectures at Allan Wilson. I still get clockwise and anti-clockwise mixed up when opening and closing CO 2 bombs. Which can cause frostbite if operated without due care.
For Margie Wilson, riding with us at the time, mostly rolling her eyes, Kilimanjaro must have seemed an awfully long way away.

I lost track of time on the ride, easy to do when you’re stop starting and riding oh so slowly. But I only realized exactly how slow when a kid greeted me Good Afternoon. I stopped to correct him on his grammar, by then I was looking for any and all excuses to stop, and told him Good Morning was a more appropriate greeting. Not when it’s after 12, he told me. Crap. No wonder I was knackered. I’d been riding for 5 hours.

By the time we got in, everything had been packed up and everyone, bar a just in case search party, had gone home. My two granddaughters were also there to cheer me over the line. The short one was bitterly disappointed in my finishing position. She’s been told repeatedly over the years that her grandfather was faster than two speeding bullets.

Thankfully towards the end of the ride, Adam and I had picked up a struggling straggler who we nursed home, so we had a semi good excuse. As we rode in, the straggler asked us forgo the sprint finish so we could ride in together. From the back, Adam told us he was sprinting.

But what a great ride it was. Really, really tough, very technical in places, way more than I’m used to, the ride took us through some achingly beautiful countryside. I find achingly such an apt cycling adjective. Thank you Alan Winterton for the track. Thank you to Patrick Mallon and the Security Shop for the generous sponsorship and all the prizes given out long before we got in. Thanks also to Mark Wilson for the bike service vouchers. And huge thanks to the men of Round Table 23 who do so much good for so many, having a bunch of fun in the process. My biggest thank you goes to all the riders who braved the fuel shortage and humped out to Domboshawa in huge numbers to support Round Table 23’s Old Legs ride. From the Old Legs team, thank you, thank you, thank you.

For me the ride served as wake call that with just six months to go to Mt Kilimanjaro, I need to get serious about training. I need to ride out of my comfort zone. Comfortable rides aren’t going to get me ready for 2900 kilometers and 36000 meters of climb up through Africa. I’m going to need to hurt more on the bike. So I don’t hurt later.

But at least I did better than I did on the same ride a year ago. Back then I managed to get lost in the first 5 minutes, ending up the only rider riding the 50 km loop anti clockwise. After riding on my own for hours, when eventually I bumped into other riders coming from the opposite direction, I gave them a practical demonstration on the need to uncleat at slow speeds, busting ribs and my bike in the process. When my bike gave up the ghost a few kms after my slow motion crash , I limped on pushing my bike, unfortunately in completely the wrong direction. I got back hours later with my bike on the roof rack of the car that eventually saved me. So at least there has been some improvement.

Which is unfortunately more than I can say about Zimbabwe. Although I did find a coke on my home from the ride, so eat your heart out North Korea and Cuba. But the waiter who served me the coke told me to hold off on the celebrations, it was the last of some old stock. But for the fuel queues and no beer, Zimbabwe would be enough to drive a man to drink, Alas.

Apparently the shortages of everything imaginable currently biting are all to do with ongoing turf wars within ZANU PF. According to social media, the General who runs the fuel cartels and currency black markets in his spare time is putting the squeeze on Ed by closing taps because he wants the top job. God help us if that happens. Never in my life did I ever want to cheer a crocodile on. Zim is Game of Thrones, just with more ugly bad guys.

I very glad to introduce you to our Australian Old Legs, Mark Johnson. Mark is 58 years young, born in London, ex Zimbabwe, now living on the Sunshine coast, in Australia.
Mark spent a short time at Ellis Robins studying wine, women and bad music before headmaster Mike Whiley loosed him on the world by expelling him aged 15 for excesses. Mark went on to complete his studies at the University of Life and hasn’t looked back.

Mark cleverly married Sue and raised Bradley and Holly in Zimbabwe, before leaving for greener pastures in 2004. Alas. Australia’s gain, Zimbabwe’s loss.

Mark started riding way back when Adam Selby persuaded him to enter a triathlon. On Adam’s part, it was a good friend thing to do, bar the slight snag that Mark had never learned how to to swim. Mark doggy paddled his first event, went on to learn how to swim properly and has since competed in many events, including 3 Blue Crosses.
With Andrew Walsh and Pete Musto, Mark also paddled the length of Kariba in 3 m kayaks and survived.

Mark was an avid but very jealous supporter of the Old Legs 2018 Tour to Cape Town and signed up for the next tour before we even started planning. Mark says he feels privileged to be joining such a fantastic group of like minded individuals to help raise funds for the older generation through ZANE. There are many ex- Zimbabweans living in Australia that are lucky enough to call Australia home, but a big part of Mark’s heart is in Africa. Mark hopes his friends in Australia will get fully behind his efforts to fund raise for the needy in Zimbabwe.

If any people living in Australia reading this see Mark training on the hills in Queensland, please wind your windows down and tell him to pedal harder, dammit.
Impressively Mark managed to rack up 230 km this last week. He is very excited about the imminent arrival of his brand new Trek EX8 29er.

In Holland Jaap recovered from a week long UK pub crawl by riding up his hill 5 times. He found that the old guy on the e-bike who terrorized him last week actually lives on top of the hill.
Meanwhile in Switzerland, Nik Bellwald celebrated the first snow fall of the season, 1 meter of the white stuff, by catching the flu.
On the other side of the world, Bruce Fivas celebrated no snow fall in Bulawayo by also catching flu.

Please donate to our worthy cause ZANE: Zimbabwe A National Emergency by using one of the following options-

Go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/oldlegstour and follow the prompts.

In Zimbabwe you can transfer to Bulawayo Help Network very a their CABS Platinum Account number 1124733450. Or you can transfer to their Ecocash merchant number. Please note that Bulawayo Help Network are the receiving agency and donations received are directed country wide.

Please join us at 18.30 pm on 1st November 2018 at Sorellas when the Old Legs Team will talk about the Cape Town adventure past and the Kilimanjaro adventure to come.

My thanks this week go to Craig Hinde and the team at Top Shaft Engineering who have come on board as corporate sponsors of the Old Legs 2019 Tour. Without companies like Top Shaft, we Old Legs wouldn’t get out the starting blocks.

In closing this week’s Swahili
Adam, ingekuwa wewe kamakwa kununua badhi maji?
Adam, would you like to buy some water?
Adam, fanya wewe unatakakwa kukodisha yangu pampu?
Adam, do you want to rent my pump?
Adam, I si kukubali Zim Dollars,
Adam, I don’t accept Zim Dollars.

In closing, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can.

Eric Chicken Legs de Jong