Today was Alan’s 43rd birthday. To hang on to his claim of being middle aged, he now has to push through to 86

To celebrate, we sang him the happy birthday song and presented him with a stainless steel coffee mug with the Old Legs logo on it. Alastair gave Alan an extra special gift; a 30 kilometer long 1200 meter down white knuckle, roller coaster descent called Golomoti, all wrapped up with viscous switchbacks, sweeping curves, breathtaking views of Africa’s Rift Valley stretching away as far as the eye could see.

Before we started the descent, Al singled out the members of the A Team, Jaap, Hans and Alan for an extra safety lecture. Ride safe, he told them and with zero safety barriers, resist the urge to clock 80 k.p.h. plus.

I paid strict attention to Alistair’s clear and well enunciated warnings because I’m a wimp on a bike. I go down hills only marginally faster than I go up them. Plus my bike handling skills suck to a point where I have to come to full stop before I can deal with an itchy bum.

So I could only marvel at Alan’s bike skills and daring do as he whizzed past me at 40 kph plus on one of the sharp sweeping curves with the sheerest of precipices one handed whilst filming a multi-faceted instructional video on I) why you shouldn’t use cellphones whilst in charge of a vehicle II) the importance of paying strict attention to warning signs and III) how to turn your Camelbak into an airbag. I stopped marveling and commenced panicking when Alan’s bike stopped on a penny as soon as it hit a set of well signposted Rumble Strips. Alan continued on without his bike and, obviously pushing for maximum degree of difficulty points, did a two and a half pike with a half twist before landing flat on his back on his Camelbak, bursting it instantly. It all happened just twenty meters in front of me. Opting for the more traditional form of dismount whereby you stop the bike before getting off it, I rushed over to Alan who was clearly shaken by his high speed dismount and nominated him for not just Dick of the Day, but Dick of the entire Tour. Because Zimbabwe is a true democracy, we’ve posted Alan’s instructional video up on Facebook and invite you to watch it before voting. Please pay especially close attention to Alan’s Yeehah in the audio seconds before engaging with the rumble strips. With regards the video content, please do not try this at home, or worse still on top of a big, bloody mountain,

Once Alan had popped his dislocated shoulder blade back into position, making me nearly vomit, we suggested he put his bike on the trailer for the day or for the week, depending on what the Doctor at Mua Mission said. Alan said Hell No followed by some expletives, chewed down on a bucketload of Paracetamol and anti-inflammatories and climbed back on his bike and commenced peddling towards our night stop in Salima, 80 km away, in a world of pain. Hah, I said. If you think that’s pain, wait till your wife see’s the video.

Malawi is described as the warm heart of Africa, not only because it is bloody hot, but also because the people are so friendly. As we rode out of Dedza early this morning, a buxom lady rushed out of her house, blowing me kisses. Thinking about it now as I write, I think she might have been a prostitute.

But there were an absolute multitude of happy, friendly, smiling people thronging the Valley road, waving and welcoming us, whilst mostly asking for money. In amongst the happy, smiley multitudes were two absolute shits. The first was a five year old anarchist called Usain,
as in Bolt, who sprinted on to the road with his cohorts when he saw Alistair and I riding up and threw me with a rock. Alistair and I almost employed Alan Rheeder’s Express Stop and Dismount technique before setting off into the bush and through the village in hot pursuit of Usain and his cohorts. We were on 2 x 10 speed light weight frame mountain bikes, the anarchists were 4 and 5 year olds on foot. Alastair and I never stood a hope in hell of catching them.

When we’d finished laughing, Al and I resumed riding, just in time for another little miscreant, obviously a close friend of Usain, to rush out, pull his pants down and present us with a warm and welcoming Brown Eye.

As mentioned, there are an absolute multitude of people living in Malawi. The country has approximately the same population as Zimbabwe but less than a quarter of the area. There are almost as many churches and mosques as there are people, all competing for Malawian souls, although I’m guessing they’ve already all given up on Usain and his anarchists. And then there almost as many NGO’s and Aid Agencies, all frantically flat out erecting road side ‘What A Good Job We’ve Done’ billboards. Unfortunately from what I can see the most marked impact they’ve had on the people is their vocabulary. ‘I want money’ is easily the most commonly used phrase in Malawi. In NGO speak, Malawi must translate into bottomless pit. Alas.

That’s not to say we didn’t see incredibly hard working people. I started wilting badly in the Warm verging on Bloody Hot Heart of Africa after our lunch stop. We still had 40 km riding into the setting sun to Salima so Adam dropped back to draft me into camp. Adam had just dragged me up to 27 kph when the road in front of us was blocked by a guy riding a Gideon bike loaded to the hilt and beyond with 150 kegs of charcoal. How he was able to balance the bike and load, I have no ideas. And embarrassingly, I struggled to accelerate past him. Thereafter feeling tired felt out of place so I waited until I got into camp when no one was watching.

We had beers around the campfire, Alastair handed over the Dick of the Day necklace to Alan for his spectacular dismount already mentioned. Adam put in a stiff challenge by forgetting his passport in the secure lockup on top of his blanket in his room at Dedza. Adam knows how to play Dick of the Day and made a note of all those who conspired to vote against him.

We’re staying at Kuti Game Reserve, just outside Salima. It is a beautiful piece of pristine bush and is the perfect pit stop. The mosquitoes agree. Attracted by my delightfully lemon scented mosquito repellant, they’ve turned out in force and I lie here seriously worried about blood loss. If I get a blood nose tomorrow, I don’t think anything will happen. I am also forced to add global warming to my growing list of things to worry about and now know for certain that the ad agency executive who first penned the ‘Warm Heart of Africa’ phrase wasn’t hunkered down at the time in a Minus 20 Sleeping Bag, suitable for the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro. Temps inside my bag hit 90 Celsius last night and I think my underpants and their contents have melted. Alas.

I’ve received many enquiries about Molly’s puppies. We will be holding a Great Dane dispersal sale shortly, with details to follow although the words shortly and Great Dane should not belong in the same sentence.

Also following on from yesterday’s blog, thanks for all the offers to sponsor a rider per kilometer. When we get to Moshi, we’ll post our final confirmed mileage plus the payment options as follows –
https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/oldlegstour.
Or you can transfer to Bulawayo Help Network via their CABS Platinum Account number 1124733450 or via their Ecocash merchant 139149.
Monies raised will support pensioners country wide. The nicest sound an Old Legs rider can hear is the Kaching of the charities cash register.

Tomorrow we pedal 140 km from Salima to Nkhotakota Bay with the promise of our first swim in Lake Malawi. I wonder if Alan will do a belly flop?

Until then, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can, making sure to pay strict attention to road side warnings.

Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.

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