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

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