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

Day 10 of the Old Legs Silverback Tour – The Wildlife Camp, South Luangwa to Kalovia Bush Camp in the middle of nowhere.

Distance – 75 km
Climb – 157 m
Time – 7 hr 29 min
Ave Heart Rate – 103 bpm
Max Heart Rate – 161 bpm

Apologies for the break in transmission. We’ve been travelling on Zambia’s A105 highway for 4 days now, headed for Uganda. Apparently, according to Billy, the A105 is just like Route 66 back in the US, but just without any tar, without any traffic, no cellphone coverage, no Internet coverage, no road signs, no towns, no fuel stations, no sea views, no rural business centers like we get in Zim, no nothing.

I lied when I say no traffic and no fuel. In the last 4 days we’ve passed 5 cars, 6 motorbikes, and some other guys on bicycles and I did see a chap selling 500 ml plastic bottles of pilfered diesel.

This part of Zambia is about as remote and cut- off from the wide world as you can possibly get.

I’m blogging from the Kalovia Bush camp on the banks of the Luangwa River. It is 04.00 a.m. and there are hyena all around camp making a bloody racket. And to complete my African experience, last night I pitched my tent on top of a nest of carnivorous ants and they are just starting to wake up. I’m in the middle of my best adventure ever.

The Old Legs mantra is do good, have fun and above all, do epic. Epic is all about building memories that last forever. On our day 10 ride, we did epic in spades.

To set the mood music for the day, a passing pack of 5 wild dog pressed pause on their hunt to watch us start pedaling. Robbie Clifford, our guide for the next 3 days, said the 6th member of the pack was denning near by.

Robbie routed us through the Nsefo sector of the South Luangwa, which is the only part of the Park on the eastern part of the river. Nsefo means eland apparently.

We pedaled alongside a never ending vlei line watched by a solitary bull elephant and a small heard of zebra, disturbing large flocks of crowned crane. A massive herd of belligerent buffalo allowed us to use them as a backdrop for a photo session. Robbie apologized for not being able to show us the lion that were around, well fed lions judging by all the bones they’ve left lying around. I am very happy to forgive him.

Robbie had us ride through a massive forest of cathedral mopane, via a salt spring bubbling out of the ground in the middle of the vlei. The water was almost too hot to touch, certainly too hot for the animals to drink, and way too salty. Although the grass was loving it, and ditto the waterbirds. I wish I could have lurked in the hot waters like a hippo for a while but alas, time did not allow.

Today was my Eureka day. Eureka days happen on every Tour, normally between Day 5 and Day 10, when I realize that despite my sore bottom and aching legs, there is nothing I would rather be doing than enjoying adventures on new roads less travelled on my bike with best friends.

And then we hit the bloody sand. Deep sand is a four letter word on a bike and turns 20 kilometers into 50. I am particularly crap at riding in sand and am able to fall off often.

With impeccable timing, Jaime was able to fall off her bike in thick sand right in front of a Landcruiser full of tourists, eroding all of our street cred, and leaving me with no option but to also fall off, on account of the fact it is impossible to navigate thick sand on a bike whilst laughing. Even worse though, I was trapped under my bike like an upside down rhino beetle with my right foot still stuck in my cleat. The tourists thought we were mad and highly unlikely to make it to Uganda.

Despite the fact that there isn’t much deep sand on the German autobahns to practice falling off in, CJ quickly got the hang of it. I think she could be also be a natural.

Al rode with a patch over 1 eye today as per instructions from my eye doctor. Because we are both optically challenged, we thought it would be fitting if we blundered together at the back of peloton for the day. He said he would keep his eye on me and vice versa. It worked well. We are like a pair of binoculars. Al’s left eye works, as does my right one. I just wish the one eyed bastard would stop calling me Cyclops.

Yesterday we burst through the $116,000 barrier in terms of funds raised. And with nearly 2000 kilometers in front of us, we are hoping we can smash the 200 K barrier. We are riding 3000 kilometers to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners.

Wish us luck on today’s leg, 93 kilometers through the Luambe National Park, with the promise of sand, tsetse flies and angry elephants.

Until my next blog from another bush camp in the middle of nowhere, stay safe, enjoy and pedal if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.

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