I had a best day ever in the saddle today. I left my flu behind in Tete and my legs came to the party for the first time on Tour. Viva antibiotics and vitamin C.
And also viva Jaap who had me pump my tyres up an extra bar plus he taught me a more efficient pedal stroke. Rather than pedal up and down, Jaap had me pulling back on the pedals with my cleats, creating a cyclical motion, like when you scrape dog shit off the bottom of your shoe, he said. And what a difference it made. Today was 158 kms big, with 1870 m of climb and not a single piece of dog shit on the bottom of my shoe at the end of it. Normally that ride would all but kill me but today it was Joie de vivre all day long.
The feel good started as we rode ten up and in single file across the Zambezi River on the old suspension bridge just as the sun was rising. It was epic, yet another best ever on a bike moment. Put it on your bucket list.
The scenery out of Tete is a bit on the bland side but the people are so interesting. We shared the busy road with coal truck after coal truck, their loads all destined for China. In a crazy economic oxymoron, riding into Tete from the opposite direction was a non stop steady stream of bicycles, loaded to the hilt and beyond with bags and bags of charcoal, as in tropical rain forests worth of charcoal. Fast forward twenty years and I can’t see too many trees being left standing. Maybe by then they’ll be able to cook on Electrite generated by coal. I can’t but think that Africa’s leaders are cocking things up hugely, for our children’s children.
95 kms into the ride and after lots of upulating, I still had enough left in my legs for my testosterone to slosh all the way up Grace, an aptly named bitch of hill. I launched my attack 2 km from what I thought was the summit, telegraphing it somewhat with a ‘Last one to the top is a rotten egg’ taunt. I should have gone with more pedal and less taunt because Adam chased me down just meters from the hill top finish. Hans and Alan placed third and fourth.
I more than extracted my revenge on Adam though in the General Knowledge Challenge Quiz. Adam scored a miserable minus 1116 points versus my winning score of 4 million and 7 points. Adam is crap at General Knowledge. He didn’t know Spiderman’s real name, he didn’t even know where my mother was born. The only question he got right was his granddaughter Savanna’s birthday.
On a roll, I was also able to win the coveted Dick of Day accolade by falling off my bike spectacularly right in front of a large group of spectators gathered to watch us lunch. I’ve learnt a lot from Nik Crash Bellwald.
My legs might be okay but my lips are knackered,burnt by sun. I’ve spent thousands on therapeutic lipsticks and balms and still my lips feel like they’ve been stuck in a microwave stuck on high. Even if I found my Fisherman’s friends , I wouldn’t be able to give anyone mouth to mouth. Alas.
The route today flirted with the Malawi border on and off all afternoon. At the top of Grace, we were able to stand with one foot in Malawi and the other in Mozambique while catching our breath. And it struck me then, like a shovel in the face, how far we’ve pedaled in just 6 days. I’m 750 kms plus into our 3000 kms best adventure ever and I don’t want it to end. When it does end, Mark Johnson is likely to be riding stark bollock naked. The ability to lose kit is very strong within him, which is strange because ordinarily he is an organized guy. I think he’s been corrupted by my kitbag.
Our campsite for the night is on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere, 115 km short of our border crossing into Malawi. The people around us are very poor and do things tough. We rode past a guy late this afternoon pushing his bike up a long steep hill, fully loaded with 6 x 25 liter water containers. That’s 150 kgs of dead weight on his bike and still he was able to smile.
And spare a thought for the poor Zimbabwean truck driver who has been broken down 3 km down the road for the last three weeks waiting for his boss back home to send money for repairs. Things move slowly in this part of Africa.
Happy to see our Zim flags flying as we rode past him into camp, he cheered us loudly from his bust truck.
Mod cons like TV and electricity haven’t made it to this part of the world yet, as evidenced by the 50 or more kids who gathered to watch us set up camp. I felt like a Kardashian.
I’m directing this next bit specifically at everyone out there who had or has a granny and or a grandpa i.e. you!
That we are 10 men with combined age of 555 years (for the purpose of this blog I’ve given CJ an honorary penis ) riding 3000 kms, climbing 34000 meters in 27 days to reach Mt Kilimanjaro, the world’s highest free standing mountain can be considered epic. Accept that I’m bound to have use my Leatherman more than once en route and our mission can safely be upgraded to dangerous. Surely all of the above is worthy of epic financial support. And even there we are able to offer huge value for money feel good. Sponsor us just 3 cents a km and the hundred bucks raised pays for a cataract op. Just 10 cents a km pays for a month in a nursing home for a pensioner. To help us make a difference, 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 139149.
In closing, I’d like to send hugs and kisses to my grandchildren Jocelyn, Cailyn and Coltan. I bet you guys wouldn’t have laughed at me when I fell of my bike.
Until tomorrow’s blog from Malawi, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.