Thunderbirds are go. The Old Legs Silverback Tour is departing Harare for Uganda on July 15 as per plan. Apparently, according to Garmin, it will be the fourth country on our left, and we can’t miss it. I have no idea how we’ve pull this one out the bag, but we have.
And the timings have been perfect. After a week of watching South Africa burn, I am so glad that we’re getting on our bikes and escaping civilisation.
For almost my whole life, South Africa has teetered on the edge of the First World with their shining light constitution, go faster economy and shiny shopping malls. And then along came Jacob Zuma. Zuma is everything bad about Africa politics personified, greedy and stupid to the point where he didn’t have enough fingers and toes to count the billions he stole.
And then when after years of dodging jail, after years of state capture, he finally ends up behind bars, on a teaser sentence of 15 months for contempt of court, but instead of celebrating the rule of law, his mindless minions, and any other idiot out there looking for free 58-inch televisions and every other appliance out there have been on a frenzied orgy of looting and burning all week long, with the cameras of the world watching on.
I watched with shock, horror, disgust and anger but mostly sadness as South Africans in their tens of thousands stripped, looted, pillaged and burnt their local shopping malls. Moms and pops joined in the frenzy with kids in tow, uniformed cops, anyone and everyone who could pick up a television set or a fridge or a bicycle, live chickens, live goats, nothing was off limits. I could only stomach ten minutes of watching. The journalist in front of the camera seemed mildly amused by the spectacle of an idiot fool of a looter trying to force a 58-inch television into the 40-inch boot of his compact and rather insistent that hunger, unemployment and being previously disadvantaged were contributory causes of the chaos. Bollocks. The thieves I saw carrying out fridges and freezers on their heads looked to be extremely well fed, bordering on obese. And previously disadvantaged doesn’t wash when the getaway vehicle is a brand-new Mercedes Benz licence plate NUR32896 being a driven by Kearsney College old boy by the name of Mabuso Maloi from Botha’s Hill. For those who don’t know Kearsney College is South Africa’s most expensive day school at 200 K per annum. And who knows whether his father is proud or ashamed or angry with his son for getting caught on camera. Power to social media which allows you to name and shame looters like him. He should’ve been shot. Shot looters are better deterrents than mildly stunned one.
With South Africa now fair square in the Third World, Mandela must be weeping in his grave, with Verwoerd shouting ‘I told you so’ loudly in his. And I so worry that Cyril hasn’t got the balls to end the nightmare. Alas. Cry the beloved country.
Apologies for the rant but I’ve spent all week stuck in front of the television stressing and worrying about friends and loved ones in South Africa. I am so looking forward to escaping television and the internet for the next four weeks, focusing every day on the eight hours in the saddle in front of us, worrying instead about my bottom and the state of the legs, suffering up hills so I can enjoy the new views waiting for us on top, not to mention shoebill storks, chimpanzees and gorillas. Al Watermeyer has told me I can expect to see whole flocks of shoebill storks, to the point where they’ll be quite bothersome. He said it would like straight out of that Alfred Hitchcock movie.
And on the subject of bothersome, my eye is good to go, bar a few stubbornly undissolved stitches. I ride with my eye doctor’s blessings, and about two litres of eye drops and ointments. My eyes will surely be the most lubricated on Tour. I’m hoping there is a prize for that.
We’re also riding with God’s blessing. Father Apostolos of the Greek Orthodox Church took time out on his brief visit from Crete to come out to Komani to bless the Old Legs Tour, including all the bicycles, cyclists, cars and trailers. He had such a presence, like he’d stepped straight out of the Old Testament, and we were all very moved by him. I now feel like the Blues Brothers on a mission from God.
We also received blessings from Kirsty Coventry, the Minister of Support. In a letter, Kirsty told us God speed and wished us luck on the road to Uganda and has to whom it may concern to give us help where they can. Thank you, Kirsty.
As you can see from the two examples above, when I wrote earlier that I didn’t know how we’ve pulled this Tour off, I was lying. I know exactly how. The Old Legs Silverback Tour is happening only because of perennial good guys like Crop Serve and PHI Commodities, Dumile Beef and Netrade, Greenhouse Tech and Autoworld, Express Flowers and Africa Preserves, Alliance Health and National Tested Seeds, Selby Enterprises and Waterwright, Lions Den Butchery and Road Hunters, FX Logistics and Netafim, Fawcetts Security and Byson UK, Fresh to Go and Ilala Lodge, Fivet and Hunyani, IClick and Powerspeed, the Mdala Trust and Round Table 23, Propay and Total Property Solutions, Inamo and the Meat Market, the Surrey Group and Selby Enterprises ,
The last of international contingent arrived on the weekend, CarolJoy Church from Germany, almost without her bike and possibly without her Yellow Fever certificate, and Billy Prentice from California. Huge kudos to them and to Rus Dawson from North Macedonia, Pop.2.077 million for flying in from around the world at great personal expense (Old Legs team members cover their own travel costs, visas, booze, any accommodation upgrades from camping and all tourist stuff like the gorilla trekking) so they can sweat 8 hours a day in the saddle for a month to raise money for the pensioners. And over and above that, Adam tasked each of us with raising $10,000 in donations personally.
Billy brought some of his donations in kind in the form of hearing aids which he applied for under a US grant and spent Tuesday at Fairways helping old folk hear again for the first time in a long time. Huge thanks to all at Whizear for their assistance with the audio clinics. Whizear do huge good in Zimbabwe.
Old Legs was also able to spend some of the donations received helping a very loyal 65- yearold black carer in Bulawayo who has been a Godsend to one of our pensioners for years, nursing her and showing her kindness and compassion like she was family. This week the carer needed an emergency leg amputation. The pensioner couldn’t afford the cost of the operation, neither could the carer. But what goes around, comes around. Bulawayo Help Network were able to find half, and the Old Legs was able to help with the balance. And should any of this blog go anywhere near the South African politicians responsible for the apocalypse now playing out in South Africa, like the Zuma’s, both senior and junior, like Carl Niehaus, like Ace Magashule, that is how Ubuntu is supposed to work. We all live in the same village, and we’re supposed to have each other’s backs. Politicians are supposed to build, not burn.
The Old Legs 2021 Team assembled for final briefing on Tuesday. Fine humans each and every one of them, and best company to share a best ever adventure with, although they made my eyes lubricate when they presented Jen and I with a stunning oil painting by Penny Webster depicting a scene from our 2020 Lockdown Tour. Thank you, CJ for arranging, and huge thanks to Penny for your beautiful painting which now has pride of place in our home. But please, can I ask why you painted a scene where I was off my bike walking? But also thank you for making my calves bigger.
Until my next blog which will come to you from Guruve, which is 123 km from our start point with 1222 m of climb, please stay safe, be kind, and enjoy, pedalling if you can –
Eric Chicken Legs de Jong