24th July – The Third World as seen from the Saddle

Day 13 of the Old Legs Lockdown Tour.

Suppositories are indeed powerful muti. Mark Wilson injured his knee after riding a short distance with a right cleat incorrectly set this morning. I offered Mark suppositories from my job lot and he was back on his bike in a flash and a blur, accelerating away with alacrity.

We rode out of our overnight camp on the sports field at Musikavanhu School on time for about the first time on Tour. We are slowly getting our act together.

Slowly can also be used to describe my progress up Sally especially if prefixed with the word bloody. Sally is the name of the mountain we struggled up this morning, named in honour of one of the Blue Cross organizers in the early years who passed a few years ago. Sally the person was lovely, but her namesake mountain not so lovely, especially the first 16 km with the harshest gradients that started immediately we rode out of camp. They were a rude awakening. And worse than the gradient was the road surface of the road last graded during the rinderpest, now busted, broken, and strewn with rocks and boulders. Riding is all about rhythm and you can’t do rhythm whilst bumping over boulders. I think the IPhone algorithms that select my play list on a ride are influenced by road surface because it was Five Finger Death Punch all the way up. For the uninitiated, Five Finger don’t do love songs. Their songs are best sung along to after hitting your thumb with a hammer.

But the top of Sally when you eventually get there is very cool. This is my third time up Sally, but first time seeing the views. Normally I am too knackered to look at anything other than my front wheel. Carl forced me to enjoy the views. Carl is good muti that way. He told me we were looking down on the Serengeti but I think he had his directions all mixed up, plus I couldn’t see any wildebeests.

The descent off Sally was also pretty cool through huge pristine Msasa forests, and some other trees whose Latin names escaped me straight after Mike Scott said them.

On top of being cool, the descent down Sally was also bloody cold. We have bumped into a cold front and Chipinge was a chilly 15 degrees when we rode in. The road into Chipinge is punctuated with plenty of short sharp and brutal ascents to contend with. The temperature was back up to 40 degrees up those.

I think my training regime must be paying off. Normally I struggle into Chipinge in the mid to late afternoon. Today we rode in at lunchtime. We are styling in Chipinge with warm beds, hot showers and a raging fire, and a best ever delicious curry dinner, courtesy of hosts Nick, Vee and Megan Shaxton. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the hospitality, and for the avocados and bananas.

Unlike the weather, Competition for Dick of the Day is heating up. Mark and Gary risked reduced portions by nominating Jenny and Vicky for taking the scenic route on more than one occasion. The girls blame their Garmin. The ‘Where Are We’ icon on their Garmin in their Isuzu D-Max is an eagle. They say he is flighty bird, obviously migratory and prone to buggering off north for the summer just as they arrive at crucial intersections.

Mark was nominated for ignoring sound medical advice in the form of suppositories. Mike was nominated again for shoddy bike maintenance. His back bearings on his bike have also gone. Carl was nominated for boosting Amazon’s revenues by shopping hard like Grace Mugabe. In the end I was able to clinch the day’s award, nominated by Nick Shaxton essentially for being a finely tuned athlete and arriving in Chipinge in time to disrupt lunchtime snoozes.

Our next leg takes us into Chimanimani, 89 km via the Rusitu Valley with over 2000 meters of climb. Ouch. And more ouch if the forecasts for rain are accurate. We are riding from Bulawayo to Bulawayo to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. Please help us help them by following the donate prompts on http://www.oldlegstour.co.zw

In closing I’d like to thank and acknowledge our sponsors Global Sourcing Services and UFO Supplies. Thank you for support. Alan and Jaap – wish you guys were riding with us.

Until my next blog, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can

Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

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