Finally, after months and months of training and preparations, the Old Legs Tour to Mt Kilimanjaro is under way.

And what a send off we had today. Sponsored by KFC, organized by Oscar Bekker, Stu Chalmers and Round Table 23, we rode out of KFC Belgravia this morning with a hundred plus other riders – including the Herd and Cape Town comrades Bruce Fivaz and Neal Leach – who drove up all the way from Bulawayo to ride out with us. With live ZIFM broadcast, a huge crowd of friends, family and well wishers wishing us Bon Voyage , an aerial escort from Mel Cooper and the micro light club plus an Ace Ambulance, the ride was as close as we’ll ever get to Rock and Roll status.

I did my best to keep up with Callum van Vuuren, aged 9 and failed. Mike Garden rode with us as far as Glendale, others rode with us to Bindura and beyond. The Brotherhood of the Bike is a very cool thing.

Continental drift remains ongoing with Mt Darwin now further out of town than when last we rode there in March, and with more hills. I was well knackered by the time we rode into Child Future Africa orphanage, our home for the night, helped along hugely by the dose of flu kindly given to me by Ryan. Sharing is caring he told me. I’m going to vote Ryan for Dick of the Day until we get to Kili. I’m also going to overdose on Vitamin C, but not intravenously.

Tomorrow we push on to Mukumbura, our exit point from Zimbabwe. According to the song, it will be a long, long way.
Ryan will attest to that because he’ll be riding out of camp tomorrow morning on Gideon, our Made in China bike. Competition for Dick of the Day is that stiff, I’m thinking we should have gone with a tandem instead. Next up on Gideon is Reinier, mostly because Adam was a lawyer in a previous life.

It helps to pedal long distances if there is face to the cause you’re riding for. So on Friday we took our foreign riders, Hans, Jaap, Nik, and Carol Joy to meet some of the old age pensioners they’re riding to help.
We introduced them to Lennie who used to work on a farm in Centenary but doesn’t anymore because the government took the farm. After losing his job, Lennie was involved in a serious car crash and can’t work anymore. He now lives in a Rescue home and is entirely dependent on charity. Lennie had self affirmation messages written on his hand in ball point pen, there to remind him to be positive, and to be happy. From what I could make out in the time we were with Lennie’s self affirmations work real good. Lennie turned down the offer of extra blankets, because the blanket on his bed was only 20 years old and still keep him warm. Give them to someone else he said. I asked Lennie about the food at the Rescue home. He said it was very good. They even get meat once a week.

The foreign Old Legs also met Dennis. After 42 years of senior service in Tsetse Department and Problem Animal Control, Dennis receives a government pension equivalent to US$30 a month. It allows him to live in a tiny caravan with big holes in the floor and no electricity. To try and make ends meet, Dennis doesn’t eat on weekends. When he does cook, it is an open fire around the back because his gas bottle is both broken and empty. The only thing that Dennis did have in abundance was pride. He also turned down the offer of an extra blanket, because he’s already got one. Better to give it someone without a blanket, he said. I teared up but hid it because Dennis is a tough old guy. I promised myself that I’d go back later that afternoon to give Dennis a blanket and a gas bottle. But alas, I never made it back because I got all caught up in final packing. When I get back from Tour, for sure I will go visit Dennis.

On my way home,I saw a newspaper banner headline announcing a government deal to buy new weapons for the army. Why do the army need new weapons? Better to use that money to look after people, rather than shoot them.
To help us help Lennie, Dennis and others go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/oldlegstour. In Zimbabwe, transfer to Bulawayo Help Network via their CABS Platinum Account number 1124733450 or their Ecocash merchant number 139149. Monies donated help pensioners country wide

I struggle with packing. If I was a Red Indian, my tribe name would be ‘He Who Packs Like Crap.’

On the last Tour my Dewi decimal, alphabetical, colour coded kitbag packing system denigrated by day 5 into dirty kit,,very dirty kit and stuff I didn’t know I had or why I’d packed it. By the end, the inside of my kitbag was a bad place, like inner city ghetto bad.

This Tour I’ve gone with a compartmentalized packing system with sub-bags inside the mother kit bag for undies and socks, Arctic kit, ride shirts and shorts, dirty laundry, useful stuff, useless stuff, etc etc.
To allow the sub-bags to acclimatize I introduced them into the mother kit bag last week. It seemed to go well. Until last night when I went in search of pink racing socks to wear on the ride out of KFC (to counter Mark’s shaved legs) When I unzipped the mother bag, I found 3 of my sub bags playing poker in the corner, smoking. And my sock sub-bag now has a tattoo. When I asked if they’d seen my pink socks, they told me to piss off. I worry that my pink socks have been ostracized or worse. I also worry that Mark Johnson is involved.

No Swahili 101 tonight because Google Translate doesn’t work in Mt Darwin. Alas.

Until Mukumbura, survive if you can and pedal if possible.

Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

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