16July 2021 – The Third World as Seen From the Saddle.

Day 2 of the Old Legs Silverback Tour – Guruve to Mashumbi Pools

Distance – 116 km
Climb – 537 m
Time – 7.38
Av Heart Rate- 121 bpm
Max Heart Rate -171 bpm

The first half of our ride from Guruve down into the Zambezi Valley was punctuated by some take -your breath -away downhill descents, entirely expected, and lots of viciously brutal climbs that I cannot elaborate on because a) they weren’t supposed to be there according route master Laurie Watermeyer’s briefing, and b) because there might be women and children out there reading this blog.

Laurie even went so far as to describe Day Two as a doddle. Laurie lied. It was plenty harsh. But it will still go down in the books as a damn good day in the saddle.

We rode through communal land for most of the morning. Village life in the Zimbabwe is so simple. People are friendly, quick to smile and so uncomplicated. It is utterly charming. Wash days in the rivers, cotton farmers busy in their lands, and happy even though they get paid a pittance for their crops, Happy kids having the best time playing with an old tyre instead of on the Internet.

I had a dice with 2 youngsters who were 2 up on a Buffalo bike, one pedaling, the other steering. It was a fair contest. I was old and knackered but on a fancy 12-speed bike. They were young and strong but were 2 up on a 30 kg bike. They were in the lead briefly but then they hit a speed wobble and had hit the brakes Fred Flintstone style I.e two size ten slip slops worn by the kid steering and slammed to the ground. He left two very impressive skid marks along the ground and a third one in his underpants.

The descent down the Zambezi Escarpment to the Valley floor was glorious, with exhilarating switchbacks, forever views a”as we dropped down through pristine woodland, including mopane trees turning gold through yellow through brown, and also others trees whose names escape me.

Mountain bikes were invented with descents like that in mind. Zimmerframes were invented for going back up the hill. Thank God we’re riding to Uganda and not back to Harare.

So I rode through Guruve and the Zambezi Valley today wearing a blue tutu. Which actually does nothing for your street cred would you believe? And because I share a Spotify account with Jenny, it gets worse. I was struggling towards the end of the ride courtesy of unexpected corrugations and sand, (Laurie told us it was tar all the way to the finish line ) and fired up the music on my bike volume ten to lift my spirits and to get my legs fired up for the last 20 km. Bummer. I was riding past a busy buisness centre at the time, full of youth lounging outside a bottle store, and instead of Five Finger Death Punch, the lounging youth got blasted with a cover version of Judy Garland’s Over The Rainbow, by a guy riding a bike wearing a blue tutu.

And whilst on the subject of the blue tutu, I was able to find out why ballerinas sit down when they wee.

Jaime rode in a world of pain today, unable to keep down any food or drink, courtesy of not taking enough electrolytes in on Day One. We tried to get her into the support vehicle, but she flat out refused, until she had 100 km under her belt. She is her father’s daughter.

To make up for leaving out the bad bits in the Day 2 briefing, Laurie has told us Day 3’s ride will have more teeth than a crocodile – 117 Kilometers from Mashumbi Pools to Kanyemba with 960 m of climb and all of it on harsh dirt and harsher corrugations with lashings of soft sand.

And it gets worse. Because there isn’t a bridge over the Zambezi at Kanyemba, we will be riding entirely unsupported for the next 2 days. Which means we have to ride with 220 kilometers worth of jelly babies in my backpack, plus ride clothes, etc, etc

And while the cyclist push on to Kanyemba to cross into Zambia by boat, the support vehicles will drive past Mana Pools, cross the border at Chirundu, having first collected Gary who will hopefully flown in from Botswana, overnighting in Lusaka before pressing onto find us at the Luangwa Bridge, unless of course Jenny’s Garmin takes them to the Copperbelt instead. Like I said, the logistics on this one are complicated.

We should have our first wildlife encounters tomorrow on the ride into Kanyemba , most probably with lion and elephants. We will ride in a group, arranged alphabetically, thankfully with E for Eric sandwiched in the middle behind A for Adam, A for Al and B for Bill and C for CJ and shielded from behind by Laurie, Marco, Mark and Fiona.
And also thankfully I am thin with no meat on the bone, and they aren’t.

At the evening briefing. Laurie presented me with yet another well dead serpent as in almost biltong that he found on the road and asked me to do my best to bring it back to life. He said he worries about diminishing reptile populations, but I think he was pulling my piss, or he wanted to see me fall off my bike again.

I told Laurie that should we see any dead lions or elephants playing possum on the road to Kanyemba, I’m not going near them either. They can stay dead.

Huge thanks to Laurie and Leonie Flanagan who opened their home to 16 pairs of Old Legs and the attendant chaos . Zimbabweans have to be the most hospitable people in earth. But their lambs not so much. Leonine’s lamb developed an instant hate for me and tried to head butt me to death. Clearly lambs find my pheromones irritating. I have since added lambs to the long list of animals to beware of on the road to Kanyemba.

For the record let it be known Al Watermeyer looks smashing in a blue tutu. And he’s also a crappy defense lawyer.

In closing , please say a prayer for Jenny’s mom very ill in Joburg with pneumonia . Get better soon Hester. We love you lots.

Until my next blog from the Zambezi River, stay safe, enjoy and pedal if you can –
Eric Chicken de Jong

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