This week has flummoxed me. Is it a good thing or a bad thing to live in a country where a single 2 lt bottle of cooking oil can bring you joy?

This week has flummoxed me. Is it a good thing or a bad thing to live in a country where a single 2 lt bottle of cooking oil can bring you joy? Jenny scored a case of cooking oil last week and gave our maid a bottle and she had an ear to ear smile for a week.

I’m writing this blog from South Africa. I’m here to learn how to graft avocados. Worse luck, I’m also here to shop, for things we can’t buy or can’t afford to buy at home.
Since my whole life, SA has been my shopping centre of last resort. As a teenager, my shopping list was one thing long – Levi blue jeans without which a fourteen year old pimpled youth cannot be cool. Fast forward forty years and hell’s bells, my shopping list is now fully 3 pages long.

Today I started shopping in the chemist. Sleeping tablets, the entire alphabet of vitamins with a bunch of extra B ones, a job lot of anti inflammatories, headache pills of which we also need many, blah, blah,blah, on and on for a whole page. And then into the supermarket for two pages of stuff – cereal, oats, cat food, dog food, tinned fish, coffee instant and the other stuff, tea bags including green, mint, chamomile, lemon, mint and every other conceivable flavor but not Tanganda,blah, blah, blah, blah. Right in the middle of the list lurked plain, white flour. A reasonable request I thought, until I started looking for it. I found cake flour, self raising flour, brown flour, whole wheat flour, brown rice flour, rye flour but not a bag of plain white to be seen. Strewth. It’s enough to drive a man to drink. So I went to the bottle store for beer, whiskey and wine, red and white. But before that, first back to the chemist for a family pack of hemorrhoid ointment. Because what a pain in the arse supermarket shopping is.

Somewhere between the pet food aisle and sweets and biscuits, I wished a pox on former Presidents Mbeki, Motlante and Zuma for making me drive 800 kilometers to shop. I especially wished a pox on them for the plight of the Zim pensioners who can’t afford to pop down South to shop.

At any time in the last 20 years, SA could’ve closed Zimbabwe’s taps and brought Mugabe to heel. Vorster did it to Smith so it’s not like the precedent isn’t out there. But worse than doing nothing, SA’s former presidents were complicit in propping Mugabe up for 20 years.

Eventually after forever, I got back to my B & B and the nice professor in the room next door saw my number plates and complained to me about the Zimbabwean crime wave in the town he lives in. I bit his head off super quick. I told him you can’t live in the land of plenty of milk and honey and do, say, and see nothing whilst your fool neighbor in the shack next door plays with matches and paraffin. His flames will surely burn you too.

And beware SA because for sure we’re fiddling with matches again. About the only commodity not short in Zimbabwe anymore, for now anyway, is fuel. But only because some ZANU sycophant leant Zim a hundred million liters of fuel. With another billion liters to come over the next 12 months. There’s that word Strewth again. Who the hell lends a government 9 naughts worth of petrol? Where does his money come from and has he paid his taxes? And how the hell are we going to pay him back? Alas. Our government are running the country like a tuck shop. Except tuck shops always normally have cooking oil.

Please, please take note Donald. 15000 soldiers can’t keep the hundred million shit-holers out. Better to invest some of your billions and trillions in also draining their shithole swamps.

My training hit a snag this last week when my body sent out a memo for the third time in the recent past. Once on the last day of the Blue Cross, and again on my last two 40 kilometer plus rides. Apparently I have a something called an I.T.B. which is latin for the sinew that runs down the outside of the leg and it can be bloody sore if you overuse it. Runners get it, as do cyclists apparently, including me. When it flares, every pedal stroke burns like a bugger, almost bad like frostbite. A 40 km limit is a problem when you’re riding to a mountain 3000 kms distant. According to my You Tube health consultant, the only way to fix my ITB is by contorting into unnatural positions that allow me to sniff my bum up close for extended periods of time. While I struggle with a cure that is worse than a sore sinew, in the interim bucket loads of inflammatories.

Along with my ITB, my technical shortcomings also continue to pain hugely. And amuse. For Adam anyway.

That Captains Scott and Oates perished of frostbite loomed large throughout my entire childhood, the same frostbite you can get from accidentally screwing up a CO2 bomb the wrong way whilst dealing with a puncture. And having gone to Allan Wilson Technical High School, I’m fully acquainted with how easy it is to get clockwise and anti-clockwise all cocked up. So when I punctured early into our Saturday morning 80 km ride, I went with the pump route first. Pumping is more tiring than riding, and slower. That we were less than 20 km into the ride and I was pumping the same tyre for the third time, got Adam stressing that our Saturday morning ride was going to turn into an afternoon and evening one as well. So he told me to just bomb it. Damn the expense he said, he had a job lot of CO2 bombs in his backpack. Which got me stressing, because a job lot of frostbite is a lethal dose, ask Oats and Scott, and also because I’m really crap at CO2 bomb dispensing. Adam started laughing as soon as I started with my Lefty Loosey, Righty Tighty recital. And under that kind of pressure, obviously I cracked and the deadly jet of CO2 whooshed every where, apart from in the tyre. Forewarned by a sneaking suspicion that I might cock up, I screamed, not like a girl but more like Oats or Scott, and flung the CO2 bomb dispenser far away before losing any digits. Whence upon Adam laughed and laughed and laughed. When eventually he finished laughing, he gave me another bomb and told me again to just do it. So I did. And bugger me if I didn’t cock it up yet again. More screams, more near death by frostbite and more laughing, lots more laughing. It’s enough to make a grown man cry. I’m thinking about going to Allan Wilson and asking for my school fees back.

Elsewhere, other Old Legs also struggled. In Holland, Jaap chased down 102 km and at least a dozen e-bikes. In Germany, Carol Joy managed just 45 km in bitterly cold weather, and failed to catch a single e-bike. She is asking for advice on how to avoid toe frost bite. Adam told her to keep well away from me when I’m punctured. In Switzerland, Nik continued on with the flu. He has spent his down time plotting a rigorous start up training course for us all to follow.  Easily the most productive Old Legs was Mark Johnson in Australia. On his new sexy Trek, Mark clocked up 200 km in the saddle for the week and plans to step it up to 250 km. His forthcoming adventure has attracted the attentions of the local press so the Old Legs Tour is almost famous. We’re sending the paper case studies highlighting the plight of Zim pensioners.

Whilst on the subject of their plight, to donate please go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/oldlegstour and follow the prompts.
Or you can transfer to Bulawayo Help Network very a their CABS Platinum Account number 1124733450. Or you can transfer to their Ecocash merchant number 139149. Please note that Bulawayo Help Network are the receiving agency and donations received are directed country wide.

Dave Whitehead has worked long and hard on our shiny new thing of beauty Old Legs Tour website and it should be unveiled this week. Thank you Dave.

Very excitingly, we’ve chosen our route up Mt Kilimanjaro. We’ve opted for the six day up Rongai route. We’ll be joined on our epic up hill walk by Graeme Fleming, Kevin Shadwell and co. They’ll have an unfair advantage over the rest of us. Being golfers, they get to walk lots and lots and more, especially Kevin, Graeme tells me.

In closing – this week’s Swahili lessons

  • Kuwa na wewe kuonekana nyeupe unga? – Have you seen any white flour?
  • Unaweza wewe kushinikiza kitoroli yangu? – Can you push my trolley?
  • naweza mimi azima joto nguo yako? -Can I borrow all your warm clothing?

Until next week, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can

Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

Adam Selby and I flew the Old Legs flag at Saturday’s Round Table 23 MTB ride in Domboshawa. Unfortunately not too many people saw the flag because we flew it at the very back of the peloton.

Adam Selby and I flew the Old Legs flag at Saturday’s Round Table 23 MTB ride in Domboshawa. Unfortunately not too many people saw the flag because we flew it at the very back of the peloton.

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The 45 km track, mostly single track through hills and kopjes, demanded focus and concentration, placing Adam and I at an immediate disadvantage. Before we knew it, we’d turned 45 kms into 50.

Being selfless, I’m prepared to blame Garmin for some of the extra distance and Adam for the rest. My GPS spent the first 30 km of the ride zoomed out to 200 meters, allowing us to blunder off track countless times. But our biggest diversion happened early in the ride when Adam still had vim and vigour. My chain came off half way up a viscously steep kopje and whilst I was getting it back on, damn tricky things chains, Adam charged off two kms in the wrong direction. I find it very hard to shout Adam loudly whilst having zero breath.

But the view from the very top of the kopje that Adam dragged us up was splendid and we could see for miles and miles. We could also see the other riders, tiny like ants, on the right track way below us. Alas.

Just after we eventually got back on track, we noticed how hot it was out. Round about then Adam also noticed that not only had he lost his water bottle, he’d also punctured his Camelback bladder and had zero water as a result. And then he punctured his front wheel, twice. No problem. He had a CO2 bomb in his saddle bag. Which was a problem. His saddle bag was in his cupboard at home. No problem. I was able to lend Adam a bomb.

By now we’d gathered an audience of otherwise bored spectators. Because they’d never seen advanced puncture repair technology in action before, we set out to impress them, but mostly amused instead. I should have paid more attention during advanced technology lectures at Allan Wilson. I still get clockwise and anti-clockwise mixed up when opening and closing CO 2 bombs. Which can cause frostbite if operated without due care.
For Margie Wilson, riding with us at the time, mostly rolling her eyes, Kilimanjaro must have seemed an awfully long way away.

I lost track of time on the ride, easy to do when you’re stop starting and riding oh so slowly. But I only realized exactly how slow when a kid greeted me Good Afternoon. I stopped to correct him on his grammar, by then I was looking for any and all excuses to stop, and told him Good Morning was a more appropriate greeting. Not when it’s after 12, he told me. Crap. No wonder I was knackered. I’d been riding for 5 hours.

By the time we got in, everything had been packed up and everyone, bar a just in case search party, had gone home. My two granddaughters were also there to cheer me over the line. The short one was bitterly disappointed in my finishing position. She’s been told repeatedly over the years that her grandfather was faster than two speeding bullets.

Thankfully towards the end of the ride, Adam and I had picked up a struggling straggler who we nursed home, so we had a semi good excuse. As we rode in, the straggler asked us forgo the sprint finish so we could ride in together. From the back, Adam told us he was sprinting.

But what a great ride it was. Really, really tough, very technical in places, way more than I’m used to, the ride took us through some achingly beautiful countryside. I find achingly such an apt cycling adjective. Thank you Alan Winterton for the track. Thank you to Patrick Mallon and the Security Shop for the generous sponsorship and all the prizes given out long before we got in. Thanks also to Mark Wilson for the bike service vouchers. And huge thanks to the men of Round Table 23 who do so much good for so many, having a bunch of fun in the process. My biggest thank you goes to all the riders who braved the fuel shortage and humped out to Domboshawa in huge numbers to support Round Table 23’s Old Legs ride. From the Old Legs team, thank you, thank you, thank you.

For me the ride served as wake call that with just six months to go to Mt Kilimanjaro, I need to get serious about training. I need to ride out of my comfort zone. Comfortable rides aren’t going to get me ready for 2900 kilometers and 36000 meters of climb up through Africa. I’m going to need to hurt more on the bike. So I don’t hurt later.

But at least I did better than I did on the same ride a year ago. Back then I managed to get lost in the first 5 minutes, ending up the only rider riding the 50 km loop anti clockwise. After riding on my own for hours, when eventually I bumped into other riders coming from the opposite direction, I gave them a practical demonstration on the need to uncleat at slow speeds, busting ribs and my bike in the process. When my bike gave up the ghost a few kms after my slow motion crash , I limped on pushing my bike, unfortunately in completely the wrong direction. I got back hours later with my bike on the roof rack of the car that eventually saved me. So at least there has been some improvement.

Which is unfortunately more than I can say about Zimbabwe. Although I did find a coke on my home from the ride, so eat your heart out North Korea and Cuba. But the waiter who served me the coke told me to hold off on the celebrations, it was the last of some old stock. But for the fuel queues and no beer, Zimbabwe would be enough to drive a man to drink, Alas.

Apparently the shortages of everything imaginable currently biting are all to do with ongoing turf wars within ZANU PF. According to social media, the General who runs the fuel cartels and currency black markets in his spare time is putting the squeeze on Ed by closing taps because he wants the top job. God help us if that happens. Never in my life did I ever want to cheer a crocodile on. Zim is Game of Thrones, just with more ugly bad guys.

I very glad to introduce you to our Australian Old Legs, Mark Johnson. Mark is 58 years young, born in London, ex Zimbabwe, now living on the Sunshine coast, in Australia.
Mark spent a short time at Ellis Robins studying wine, women and bad music before headmaster Mike Whiley loosed him on the world by expelling him aged 15 for excesses. Mark went on to complete his studies at the University of Life and hasn’t looked back.

Mark cleverly married Sue and raised Bradley and Holly in Zimbabwe, before leaving for greener pastures in 2004. Alas. Australia’s gain, Zimbabwe’s loss.

Mark started riding way back when Adam Selby persuaded him to enter a triathlon. On Adam’s part, it was a good friend thing to do, bar the slight snag that Mark had never learned how to to swim. Mark doggy paddled his first event, went on to learn how to swim properly and has since competed in many events, including 3 Blue Crosses.
With Andrew Walsh and Pete Musto, Mark also paddled the length of Kariba in 3 m kayaks and survived.

Mark was an avid but very jealous supporter of the Old Legs 2018 Tour to Cape Town and signed up for the next tour before we even started planning. Mark says he feels privileged to be joining such a fantastic group of like minded individuals to help raise funds for the older generation through ZANE. There are many ex- Zimbabweans living in Australia that are lucky enough to call Australia home, but a big part of Mark’s heart is in Africa. Mark hopes his friends in Australia will get fully behind his efforts to fund raise for the needy in Zimbabwe.

If any people living in Australia reading this see Mark training on the hills in Queensland, please wind your windows down and tell him to pedal harder, dammit.
Impressively Mark managed to rack up 230 km this last week. He is very excited about the imminent arrival of his brand new Trek EX8 29er.

In Holland Jaap recovered from a week long UK pub crawl by riding up his hill 5 times. He found that the old guy on the e-bike who terrorized him last week actually lives on top of the hill.
Meanwhile in Switzerland, Nik Bellwald celebrated the first snow fall of the season, 1 meter of the white stuff, by catching the flu.
On the other side of the world, Bruce Fivas celebrated no snow fall in Bulawayo by also catching flu.

Please donate to our worthy cause ZANE: Zimbabwe A National Emergency by using one of the following options-

Go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/oldlegstour and follow the prompts.

In Zimbabwe you can transfer to Bulawayo Help Network very a their CABS Platinum Account number 1124733450. Or you can transfer to their Ecocash merchant number. Please note that Bulawayo Help Network are the receiving agency and donations received are directed country wide.

Please join us at 18.30 pm on 1st November 2018 at Sorellas when the Old Legs Team will talk about the Cape Town adventure past and the Kilimanjaro adventure to come.

My thanks this week go to Craig Hinde and the team at Top Shaft Engineering who have come on board as corporate sponsors of the Old Legs 2019 Tour. Without companies like Top Shaft, we Old Legs wouldn’t get out the starting blocks.

In closing this week’s Swahili
Adam, ingekuwa wewe kamakwa kununua badhi maji?
Adam, would you like to buy some water?
Adam, fanya wewe unatakakwa kukodisha yangu pampu?
Adam, do you want to rent my pump?
Adam, I si kukubali Zim Dollars,
Adam, I don’t accept Zim Dollars.

In closing, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can.

Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

I share a house with an evil, carnivorous parrot called Ted.

I share a house with an evil, carnivorous parrot called Ted. Ted is grey on the outside and black on the inside. His tail feathers are blood red, mostly mine. Bad luck for me, he favors O Positive. Ted’s best thing in the evenings is hunting me down. When he’s not busy with that, mostly he sits on a perch outside his cage, crapping. To protect the parquet flooring, we put old newspaper down. When I was picking up the papers this morning, through the parrot crap, I saw a list of Presidential promises made not too long ago, including modern, affordable healthcare for all, free for cancer patients. In the real world outside, you can’t buy even the most basic of medicines, unless you’ve got a stash of US cash. In future maybe I’ll get Molly the Great Dane to also drop bombs on the old papers. That way, I won’t be able to read the crap.

Whilst on the subject of bombshells, yesterday Zimbabwe was told via a tatty Facebook post put up our new Minister of Finance’s new spokesperson that 4 top Reserve Bank officials had a billion Bond dollars printed elsewhere, shipped into Mozambique by the plane load, smuggled across the border and then used them to buy US cash to supplement their pensions. The 4 officials have been suspended, pending investigations. Not so long ago, I would have taken the actions against them as a positive. But spinning your head round looking for positives where there aren’t any, gives you pain in the neck. Alas. ( And in a Stop Press, apparently the bust is all part of ongoing turf wars amongst the chefs.)

Social media in Zimbabwe also gives me a pain in the neck. My fuel queue chat group is depressing, ditto my Medicines chat group, ditto my farming chat groups that now mostly center on fertilizer and chemical stock outs.

I shouted loudly for Zimbabwe against Bangladesh on Sunday but alas,we still came second. During the game I couldn’t but notice that the Zim cricket team is sponsored by a cooking oil company on the one sleeve and a cement company on the other. That neither product is freely available on the shelves, makes me somehow doubt that foreign investors are going to rush in and save us. So who will?
If the Chinese bail us out, all that’s happened is they’ve forward bought the gold and minerals yet to be mined by our children’s children.

The Brits would love to bail us out so they can have someone to trade with post Brexit, and because they like President Ed, especially now that their reporters have finally learnt how to pronounce his surname. Ditto to a lesser extent the Europeans.

But they can’t bail us out because of US sanctions. So the only man who can save us is Donald Trump. Who unfortunately seems to be a tad preoccupied fighting the Chinese, the Russians, the Germans, the Mexicans, the Canadians, Hilary and the Democrats, kneeling footballers and a porn star called Stormy. Who won last week’s Twitter war. Donald called her Horse face, she came back at him with ‘Game on, Tiny’.

So rather than wait for Donald to shift his attentions to a shithole not far from Namibia, better Zimbabweans fix their own mess.

Moving on, there are pairs of Old Legs in training all over the world for the ride to Mt Kilimanjaro. In Australia, Mark Johnson mostly worked on his sprint finish, courtesy of an attacking magpie who mistook Mark’s head for a shiny object. In Germany, Carol Joy racked up 100 km and 1500 m of climb last week before falling foul of a tummy bug. Meanwhile in Holland, Jaap found a hill to climb only 26 km from his house, and climbed it 4 times, getting overtaken by 75 year old on an electric bike in the process. On the Sunday, Jaap rode another 45 km and managed to get above sea level 4 times.
This week our man in Switzerland, Nik Bellwald racked up a 250 km in the week, bringing him to 12000 km for the year, including an incredible climb total of 135,000 meters.

Nik was born in 1954 and is married with 3 children, 2 grandchildren. A retired banker, Nik’s hobbies include family, travelling, reading and cycling, lots and lots of cycling. He has affinity to Zimbabwe and supports a local medical charity and is now riding for Zim pensioners. He’s looking forward to making new friends on the Tour. I fully expect Nik to get to Kilimanjaro before me.

Alan Rheeder is doing the hard yards on the bike daily in Joburg.
But things in Zimbabwe however were less productive. Bruce and Dave are both missing in action. Al Watermeyer had business in Bulawayo last week and conscientiously packed his bike, his helmet and 2 pairs of Lycra shorts so he could pound the Matopos hills on the weekend. Unfortunately he forgot to pack the wheels of his bike and arrived with a frame. As for myself, rather than ride, I borrowed Adam Selby’s flu for the week and languished on my death bed.
Free of the flu, Adam rode 40 km to laugh at me on said death bed and then went fishing on Kariba, catching 10 fish before breakfast. Adam can’t spell empathy but he can spell cruel.

But from this week on, I will start taking things seriously. Starting with the Round Table 23 Domboshawa ride on Saturday with all proceeds going to the Old Legs Tour. Pick your distance -15 km, 30 km or 45 km plus a 2 km ride for kiddies. Please join us.

And please also join us at Sorella’s at 18.30 on November 1st to hear us make stuff up about the Cape Town Tour and our forthcoming Mt Kilimanjaro adventure.

If you would like to donate to our worthy cause, use one of the following options-
Go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/oldlegstour and follow the prompts.
Or in Zimbabwe you can transfer to Bulawayo Help Network via their CABS Platinum Account number 1124733450. Or you can transfer to their Ecocash merchant number. Please note that Bulawayo Help Network are the receiving agency and donations received are directed country wide.
Follow us on Facebook or on www.oldlegstour.co.zw but pleased be warned, paint dries faster than we ride.

In closing, this week’s Swahili lessons.
I haja a hositali. I ni vujadamu. Parrot yangu kidogo mimi. –
I need a hospital. I’m bleeding. My parrot bit me.
Kuruka Ted mbali, wewe bure-
Fly away, foul bird, you’re free.
Mchezo juu Vidago-
Game on, Tiny

Until next week, stay sane, survive and pedal if you can.

Eric Chicken Legs de Jong