10 August 2021 – The Third World as Seen From the Saddle.

Days 26 and 27 of the Old Legs Silverback Tour – From Nyakanazi to Muleba, a little town on Lake Victoria, Tanzania

Distance- 131 km
Climb – 1182 m
Time – 8 hr 36 min
Ave Heart Rate – 130 bpm
Max Heart Rate – 193 bpm.

I am blogging to you from a little hotel with a huge amount of bling, as in Las Vegas amounts of bling. The sheets on our 4-poster bed are louder than my shirts. The bed has more frills and pink ribbon than the Dick of the Day tutu. Our bathroom has a nine-way stainless-steel shower mixer, and a hole-in-the-floor toilet.

Our hotel boasts a restaurant. So after days of bush camping, we’re splashing out on dinner tonight. My menu choices are chicken, fish or goat. I’ve gone with fish, because you can’t hear fish scream when the chef runs faster than them. I have so gone off chicken, especially the sounds they make when the chef catches them and am so thankful no one ordered goat. If there’d been a vegan option on the menu, I’d have gone vegan.

Clearly television in this town isn’t up to much, because the town children have gathered at the hotel fence to watch us sit, stand, wash bikes, pack and repack cars, etcetera, etcetera, making us feel halfway between Kardashisns and performing seals. But the hotel is way better than our campsite outside the police station two nights ago, so all good.

You will remember we were camped under police guard to avoid the risk of being robbed by desperate Burundian refugees and/or Congo refugees and/or the refugees of any other failed states that have contributed to the human flotsam and jetsam of misery along the length of the Burundian border. It took us almost 4 hours with bikes on the Isuzus on the dust road from hell to flee the spillover poverty and misery from the failed states.

As soon as we hit the tar, we got back on the bikes and were able to get 38 kilometers of hard riding under our belts before our cutoff time of 15.30.

Gary was able to find us another splendid half-finished hotel complete with bling, including concrete statues of zebra, giraffe, buffalo, elephants and white swans in the little town of Nyakanazi. I say half-finished because the west wing of 4 bedrooms was complete and a thing of beauty, if you like Tanzanian bling, but the east wing was still a building site. Because it was better than camping outside the police station, we moved in. As did a huge of audience of children who gathered along the hotel fence to watch us go through routines.

Our accommodations on Tour have varied hugely. The building site was converted to the boys’ dormitory while the married couples styled in the west wing. Al, Ant and Vicky put their tents up in the car park.

We had dinner in the car park, seated amongst the concrete zebra, giraffe, buffalo, and elephants.

To give the watching children something to talk about, we played a variation of musical chairs at dinner, and stood up and moved one seat to our right at the count of three.

Whilst eating, we were treated to the spectacle of a real live bat hawk hunting his dinner in the sky just above us. It was my first time seeing a bat hawk. Man but he was slick, and the bats never stood a chance.

It was also my first time seeing palm nut vultures the next day as we rode from Nyakanazi down to Lake Victoria, or more like up to Lake Victoria. Who would have thought big lakes were up high in the mountains.

To make up for lost kilometers, Adam asked us to push hard today. He was targeting 130 plus kilometers with over 1200 meters of steep climb. Back on tar, we fairly flew up the hills. With 3 weeks under our belts, we are all fully fit now and riding strong.

We weren’t the only ones out there riding strong. A chap on an old one-speed Samson bike delivering a goat overtook me. He had the goat all trussed up like a chicken on his bike carrier. Shame, the poor thing was terrified and issued a plaintive bleat every time he went over a bump. It was the most dreadful sound and cut through my heartstrings. If I had the shillings, I would have bought the goat’s release. But I didn’t, so instead, I tried to ride away from the noise. Which the goat delivery guy took to be a challenge, and we diced for about 20 kilometers. I think the world’s first vegan might have converted whilst riding on a bike behind a goat delivery guy in Tanzania.

We were able to ride through the Bhiramulo National Park, which was an unexpected bonus. That’s where I saw the palm nut vultures .

The Park boasts lions, elephants, roan antelope, sitatsungas – a swamp antelope with long hooves, plus zebra and the other normal fare. I didn’t see any of those, but I did see my first troop of yellow baboon. As compared to the baboons we get in Zimbabwe, yellow baboons are huge with long, dense fur. They look very cuddly, apart from their teeth, which were also huge.

The two palm nut vultures followed us along the road for quite some kilometers, offering us a great sighting. I think the top of my sweaty bald head might look like a palm nut kernel when seen from above.

In terms of scenery, Tanzania is a stunning country, apart from the stretch of misery along the Burundi border. Today we rode alongside a massive range of sandstone cliffs that towered above us on our left for 90 kilometers non-stop. They were incredible. In Tanzania, I don’t think they’ve even been given a name.

We rode past lots of swamps, complete with huge stands of papyrus, but I didn’t see any shoebills. But I sense they are in front of me somewhere, and I remain poised to tick.

As we rode down to Lake Victoria, the population levels ramped up considerably. There are a lot of people that live alongside the Lake, small scale farmers growing bananas, rice, beans, maize, cassava, and even coffee. They are a happy people and we felt the love all day.

We rode up to several major intersections during the course of the day, well signposted with roads leading to north, south, east and west. I did not recognize the name of a single town or city. We are all a very long way from home and we got here on our bicycles.

The Old Legs Tour is riding from Harare to Uganda to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners.

A year ago one of our pensioners died after a foot amputation went horribly wrong in his kitchen at home in Harare, because he couldn’t afford the cost of admission to hospital. True story. We are riding to raise money enough to make sure that doesn’t happen again to another poor Pensioner.

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We have another big ride in front of us tomorrow, from Lake Victoria up to the Ugandan border. We will be sorry to leave Tanzania. It is God’s own country, apart from the bit next to Burundi.

Until my next blog from Uganda, enjoy, stay safe, and don’t order goat – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong – (although I’m seriously thinking about changing my name to something vegetable. )

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