Day 18 and 19 of the Old Legs Silverback Tour – From Nakonde, Zambia to Sumbawanga, Tanzania via the Tunduma border post, a town that makes Beitbridge look like a virgin.
CarolJoy’s Day 18 stats ( I was sat in the back of the car all day)
Distance- 113 km
Climb – 1006 m
Time – 5 hr 47 min
Ave Heart Rate – 135 bpm
Max Heart Rate – 192 bpm
First up a big happy birthday from Jenny and me to our daughter Veronica who has turned 21 yet again. Love you lots and miss you guys more.
I am blogging to you from the Holland Hotel in Sumbawanga, Tanzania which is 5 Star according to the sign outside, but inside not so much.
But with porcelain in the bathroom and the possibility of hot water on tap, and all over the floor because the plumbing leaks, plus the best view of a beer shop and a motorbike repair shop, it is way better than my tent in the pumpkin patch.
We crossed over from Zambia into Tanzania via the Tunduma border post which makes Beitbridge look like a virgin. Because of assorted ailments, I was gated from riding my bike and rode with Jenny and Linda in the lead Isuzu.
Driving through the border town was crazy hectic, straight out of a Mad Max movie set. On bikes, it must have been hectic times ten, and I suffered severe FOMO.
My day off the bike has confirmed to me that the hard yards on Tour get down by support. They don’t get to freewheel ever, not even on the down hill bits and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank and acknowledge Jen, Linda, Ant, Vicky, Russ and Gary who make the Old Legs Tour happen.
When they’re not driving, they’re planning menus, foraging for food, drinks, fuel, gas or spares, preparing meals, cooking meals, working out duty rosters, tracking Tour finances and donations received, administering medicines and plasters, finding stuff lost by every cyclist at the turn of a hat, and the list goes on and on, morning, noon and night.
The cyclists on the other hand get away with just pedaling their bicycles, even enjoying time off on the downhill bits, steering from time to time so as to avoid crashing, unless in sand where you crash anyway, and they get all the glory.
If only you knew, and now you do.
I’d like to pay quick tribute to the oldest and youngest members of support.
On the hard mornings on Tour, Ant Mellon wakes up feeling each and every one of his 70 years plus, but never complains, is always quick to laugh, never gets stressed to the point where I sometimes wonder if he has a pulse. Ant has to be the most laid-back and gentle man on earth.
Russ Dawson aged 29 has quickly become everyone Go To Guy on Tour to find, fetch, fix, carry anything and everything. I don’t know if he has pulse either. Russell can spell minimalistic. He has come on a 5 week overland Tour up through Africa with a yoga mat for a mattress, 4 pairs of shorts of which 3 are buggered and a rugby ball. Famously, when packing light on one of his first Tours, he broke his toothbrush in half so as to take up less room. If any readers out there have lost any stuff, please e-mail Russ on email@example.com
In amongst the chaos and bedlam that are Nakonde and Tunduma, the
one-stop border post on the Tanzania side was an oasis of officialdom, complete with officious officials. With help from our very expensive and attentive facilitator, the support vehicles were able to whistle through Immigration and Customs in only 6 and a bit hours. What fun.
According to John Hopkins University COVID 19 stats, Tanzania have lost only 21 people so far to the dreadful disease, plus their former President, but that number could be set to rise as outside of the border post buildings, there is zero signs of any mask wearing, hand sanitizing, social distancing or public awareness campaigns to be seen anywhere.
The Tanzanian government are fully up to speed though on the revenue potential of Covid19. 16 rapid tests and 3 vehicle sterilization and fumigations using a knapsack and detergent cost us a cool US $450.
But when it comes to keeping the travelling public fully informed, grossed out and panicked, even more on the ball is the Tanzania Atomic Energy Commission with their hard- hitting graphic campaign highlighting the risks, signs and symptoms of atomic radiation poisoning. Should Tanzania ever get atomic energy anytime in the distant future, her people will be fully aware of the risks involved.
Last word on Covid, it was so nice to see Tanzanian children at school and learning, unlike the poor kids at rural schools at home in Zim who have lost out on 18 months of their education.
For the first time I am feeling a long way from home. Zambia and Zimbabwe are same same in so many respects, but Tanzania feels properly foreign. They don’t do round huts, only square huts and houses, all with silver corrugated iron roofs best admired through sunglasses in the afternoon sun. If you are rich, you convert some of that wealth into a steeply pitched, complex roof with 16 or more different pitches, guaranteed to withstand any snowdrifts, should it ever snow in southern Tanzania.
And we haven’t seen any evidence of a formal retail sector. Every thing looks to be little corner stores next to informal bazaars next to hole-in-the-wall tuck shops. I think you can buy most everything you want, but just not in a supermarket or a mall.
Outside of the towns, the people look to be dirt poor with nothing, but happy nonetheless, especially the little kids, but I guess that applies to Zimbabwe and Zambia as well.,
The riders rode 30 km from the pumpkin patch to the border, suffering severe gale force headwinds the whole way, plus a barrage of tuk-tuks and motorbikes, trucks, busses and mayhem on the unbelievably busy roads, even though it was early Sunday morning.
The riders were quick through the border post comparatively, despite the efforts of the officious officials. Alas. I whimpered the loudest of all during the ‘up the nose’ rapid Covid test. The doctor who had arms long like a gibbon so he could get that swab right up there had to practically grab my head in a vice to stop me from using my reverse gears to crab away from him. When it comes to pain, I have more reverse gears than an Italian war tank. I think he called me a wimp In Swahili.
Once they were cleared and on the road, the riders fairly flew with the gale force winds now at their backs. Because Tanzanian insurance agents are slower than me on my bike, the support vehicles only left the border hours after the riders and we had to drive like the wind a.k.a. 50 kph in Tanzania to catch up. Bar early morning oats and a sandwich at the border, the riders had eaten not a single thing, apart from kilos and kilos of biltong, nuts, sweets and jelly babies. When eventually we found them, the riders had a joyous reunion, first with the food trailer, then with us.
Adam was enjoying the ride that much he asked us to push on for another 20 km before looking for a roadside bush camp.
Linda, Jenny and I were able to find a patch of bush behind a school with a roof but no walls. To thank the village elders for giving their permission to camp, we gave them a huge box full of school exercise books donated by Rank Wholesalers, and they thought Christmas had come early.
I had to wait on the side of the road for Gary and Vicky for an hour to show them the way home, and loved listening to a bunch of little kids aged 6 or less, laughing and giggling, playing a local version of Hide and Seek. They made me miss my grandkids. I wanted to give them a bag of sweets but could only find a half bag of peanuts. They shared them out peanut by peanut and there wasn’t room enough on their faces for the size of their smiles. God bless the kids in Tanzania.
Gary and Vicky had been foraging for drinking water. Because he is fluent in Swahili, Gary is able to walk into villages and say “Good Day, me your bucket my water please and thank you full.”
My Day 19 stats –
Distance- 134 km
Climb – 1417 m
Time – 8 hr 16 min
Ave Heart Rate – 127 bpm
Max Heart Rate – 171 bpm
Al and I were able to get back on our bikes today. I have been on an e’Pap diet for breakfast, lunch and dinner plus side servings of various antibiotics for two days now. I’ve seen what Carl Wilson can do on e’Pap and know that my legs are good to pedal.
We rode 134 kilometers from our bush camp to the edge of Sumbawanga, the bustling town that is the southern gateway to Lake Tanganyika.
Courtesy of the American government, we were able to ride on the most beautiful wide tarmac road complete with yellow lines and generous shoulders. That’s the Obama administration, not Donald Trump’s. Donald thought Tanzania was a shithole.
In the briefing, Alastair told us we would enjoy uptulations all day.
Uptulate is a word he invented on our 2019 Kilimanjaro Tour to replace the word undulate which typically suggests a pleasing mix of uphills and downhills. Alastair got that right. There are no downhills in Tanzania and for 134 kilometers, we climbed and climbed and climbed.
Before I get accused of exaggerating, in amongst the non-stop climbs there were 1 maybe 2 downhills that had riders applying brakes to avoid breaking the 50 kph speed limits, apart from me. I go down hills only marginally faster than I go up them.
On the ride I was able to redefine nervous tension as the bout of extreme flatulence you suffer as a result of Giardia towards the end of your 3 day bout of constipation brought on by Imodium administered to try and stave off the shittier consequences of the lurgy you suffered 4 days ago. I especially felt sorry for the people riding behind me. I think my extreme flatulence could also explain why Marco is so intent on riding at the front of the group.
We climbed over 1400 meters in 30 plus degree heat. I suffered in the sun courtesy of the tick bite muti Doxycycline.
Incredibly we rode past fields of sugar cane and bananas at 1600 meters above sea level. We also rode past herds of Ankole Watusi cattle holding their massive horns up high and proud. They make Texas longhorns look short.
We felt the love all day from Tanzanian men, women and children. They are so happy to see and meet a bunch of cray old Zimbabwean white guys pedaling their push bikes up through Africa for charity. Hate-sayers like Zuma and Malema and Mugabe who shout loud that there is no place in Africa for the white man should find a dark hole to crawl in to, and not come out. The spirit of Ubuntu is alive and well in Tanzania.
At the end of a very long day, we were very happy to arrive at the Holland Hotel, our lodgings for night. Under pressure and by accident the kitchen put out 20 meals for dinner instead of 16. I have never seen anything get disappeared as quickly as those 4 extra meals.
Tomorrow we ride down to the shores of Lake Tanganyika to marvel at cichlids, a brightly coloured, hard to spell variety of fish endemic to Lake Tanganyika. Until my next blog, stay safe, enjoy and eat lots of e-Pap – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.