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

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