Riding is all about rhythm but rhythm is impossible if you’re lumping and bumping over boulders

We rode up Sally the mountain today – 17 km and 1200 m of straight up climb on the tattiest roads imaginable. Riding is all about rhythm but rhythm is impossible if you’re lumping and bumping over boulders. 

For those of you who haven’t met her yet, Sally replaced the infamous Barbara on the Blue Cross route 3 years ago. She’s tougher, higher, way more pretty and way more epic. And as compared to last year, for me Sally had way more teeth this year – mostly because I didn’t have access to my granny gears. The teeth on my small chain gear started getting chewed up somewhere on the way to Tanzania but finally called it quits on Sally’s foothills. I also now know that granny gears were first invented by a cyclist with big gears only on his way up a mountain. I punctured for the second time on the way up Sally. Thankfully Laurie happened along to assist. Having attended a technical school, I was able to supervise the repairs and credit to Laurie, he did a good job .

When I get home I think I’m going to invent the concept of preventative maintenance where stuff gets fixed before it gets bust. And if it works, I’ll rent the concept out to people like President Ed and his Minister of Roads.

On the positives, I’m riding on a new gel saddle. It is that comfortable, I almost nodded off a few times on the ride.
And man it was pretty today. The Brachstygia forests up top of Sally were pristine, albeit near impossible to spell.
Margie especially loved the ride on her shiny new Giant Trance and we saw only the back of her head briefly. Ditto Viv Knott and Jerry from Alaska whose surname escapes me. Jerry is a doctor from America on the last year of a four year stint in Zimbabwe and he is like a sponge trying to soak it all in. He’s absolutely loving the Blue Cross. At the back of the peloton, Patrick honed his falling off his bike skills.

Jenny and I lost both stretchers off the roof rack on top of Sally despite the fact that they’d been tied down securely by moi, using a combination of sheep shanks and reef knots. The first time we noticed they were missing was when I unpacked the roof rack on arrival at Fiddlers Green. Because the prospect of sleeping on the floor sans stretchers is at the very far and opposite end of the Happy wife Happy life spectrum, recriminations flew, mostly in my direction with Jenny heaping all the blame on my sheepshanks and reef knots. I tried valiantly to divert some of the blame on to her driving and President Ed’s road maintenance skills but I didn’t get a look in.
Thankfully Ian Ridell drove up with both stretchers having happened upon on them on the side of the road in the middle of the bush in the middle of nowhere. So all’s well that ends well. Except I’m still in the crap and in line for a Dick of the Day nomination. An irrational fear of unfair DOD nominations is exactly why the Pope never got married in the first place.

The crappy roads continue to take their toll. First Laurie’s trailer got bust and now the sub-tank on the Patrol is US. Which is a snag because our strategic fuel reserves are stored in the sub-tank. I offered to try a fix the problem with my Leatherman but Jenny worries I’ll die of blood loss in the process. We’ve arranged to buy fuel in Mutare but we wait with bated breath to see if we get there. For those of you not living in Zimbabwe you need to know that fuel stations in Zimbabwe no longer sell fuel. Alas.

We’re camping tonight at Fiddler’s Green. The photos on the wall tell a story of happier times back when polo was still played at Fiddlers. Roy Bennett is up on the wall, young, smiling and happy, before he got persecuted for standing up. Alas. There’s no shortage of derelict farming districts in Zimbabwe but I think Chipinge is stand out the most forlorn. The empty lands that we rode through looked miserable and neglected instead of busy and productive. Alas.

Myrana and Alwena served up the best ever Babotie for dinner followed by best ever melt in your mouth meringues. I managed to amuse when my cramps got cramps. In a clear violation of his Hippocratic Oath, Jerry the doctor found them especially funny. And then afterwards I got mugged at Dick of the Day awards on a bunch of trumped up and trivial charges – failing to tie down stretchers properly, for not being adept at puncture repair, for eating all the black jelly babies, trying to solicit sympathy through cramps etc, etc. I worry about the state of our democracy in Zimbabwe.

We’re riding the Blue Cross to raise money and awareness for the SPCA. If you can, please donate –
– Blue Cross (Mutare SPCA)
account number -1004599471
CABS Mutare Branch. Their Ecocash merchant number is 33423.

Tomorrow we ride to Chimanimani through the Rusito Valley. It will be our first monster climb day with over 2000 meters of up. We’ll come face to face with the destruction that Cyclone Idai wreaked a few months back. Rather than try and grind up in big gears only on my bike, Laurie is lending me a go faster carbon framed Anthem.

Until my next blog from Chimanimani, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.

Pedalling to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe SPCA

The Third World as seen from the saddle -8th of August 2019.

Old Legs Tour – pedalling to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe SPCA.

This blog is coming to you from a tent on a school sports field 108 km from Zimbabwe’s lowest point. Hats off to Dave Riley and the SPCA team for putting the camp together. Today was the first day of the bike version of the 2019 Blue Cross. There were just 9 bikes lined up in the sands of the Sabi River at the start line at one of Zimbabwe’s most iconic bike rides from Zimbabwe’s lowest point to her highest. We ride to raise money for the SPCA. The ride is truly epic and is deserving of better support. Please note there are 364 days until the start of the 2020 edition. Dave Coltart and the Lounge Lizards in Bulawayo, Oscar Bekker, Adam Selby and other Herd members and Stu Chalmers – please accept this invitation and or thrown down gauntlet to join us next year. Doctor’s notes citing a fear of hills will not be accepted. A fear of hills is not a recognized medical condition.

Thankfully the walking version of 2019 edition has been better supported with a field of 44. Mostly walking in relays, the pedestrians left the day before us. With the likes of Mark Hook and Sean Lawler in their ranks, I worry that they won’t leave us any beer in Chipinge. Fluid replacement and carbo loading are very important for us high performance cyclists.

I’d forgotten how much I love the bush in and around Mahenya. I saw a forest of fever trees which was cool. Ditto a forest of flowering aloes. And Sabi Stars in full bloom, but not a forest of them, just a few.

The fauna wasn’t too dusty either. Our sundowners in the dry sandy river bed with Brian and Lynne James were made more memorable by a small herd of elephants also enjoying their sundowners. Patrick and Terry Miller spent the night at Chilo Lodge and were kept awake all night by warring hyaena and lions right outside their room. The only animal sounds that I heard in our campsite just down the road were hippos snoring. There were more animal encounters on our ride out this morning. Alastair showed me a wildebeest right next to the road. I also saw a buffalo in the thick bush right next to the road. Alastair and I slowed right down and hugged the furthest side of the road as we inched around the Big Five animal, giving it bucketloads of respect. Laurie rode passed and told us it was actually a black cow.

I had a less happy reunion with the bloody road which took us 108 km through the Mahenya Reserve up along the Mozambique border towards Chipinge. A year on, the road is way more lumpy, bumpy and knackered than I remember it. I also don’t remember the 1100 meters of climb. The filters in my memory bank work just fine.
The road surface alternated between harsh sharp rocks and thick deep tyre grabbing sand in between. My wrists took flack as did the Nissan Patrol. We’ve picked up a dreadful knocking sound in the engine where something has worked loose on all the lumps and bumps. Prince Edward and Churchill boys respond to dodgy engine noises by turning their car radio up louder but my Allan Wilson education shone through and I’ve fixed the loose cowling with putty and cable ties. I’ll start the car in the morning with fingers crossed.,

It was the sun that did the most damage though with the midday mercury nudging 35 degrees plus. I think the aforementioned wildebeest died of heat stroke, ditto the mad dogs and Englishmen of which we saw not a single one, apart from Patrick. Laurie reckoned today was an 8 litre day in terms of fluid replacement. How these poor villagers around here will make it through to the first rains in November I do not know.

There is not a lot of entertainment on offer here in Mahenya, as evidenced by the rapturous welcome we receive from excited children from villages along the route. Our average speed today was a paltry 16 km and still we got cheered on by kids the whole way telling us that we can do it, we can do it. It is about the only time I’ll ever feel like Chris Froome,

As expected, the Dick of Day race was very competitive with some sterling efforts. But in the end, it turned out to be a two horse race – Alastair vs Patrick. Patrick put in an early trot by falling off in the sand after just the first 20 meters. He was trumped though by Alastair who fell off in the same sand before he even got to the start line. Alastair upped the ante by leaving his new and expensive Camelbak behind at one of our water stops, despite the 35 degree heat. I risked heat exhaustion and certain death riding back to fetch it. Alastair now owes 17 bags of jelly babies. Patrick made a bold last move by killing a scorpion just after it stung him on the wrist when he got into camp. We reminded him this is an SPCA event and he can’t be going around killing animals. I don’t think it was a fatal sting because so far Patrick isn’t dead.

Today we push through to Chipinge up and over the dreadful Sally- a dreadful bitch of a hill with 1200 m of climb in the first 17 km. Wish us luck.

RIP Alastair Lubbe – Allan Wilson old Boy and a good soldier gone too soon.

Until the next blog from Fiddlers Green in Chipinge, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.

Moshi the Gateway to Mt Kilimanjaro

I’m blogging to you from Moshi, the Gateway to Mt Kilimanjaro where we are resting up before we summit the world’s highest free standing mountain.

We rode into Moshi from our penultimate night stop at the beautiful Nduruma Polo Cub below Mt Meru outside Arusha. We slept in Out of Africa safari tents complete with Thomson’s gazelles and wildebeests grazing on the polo fields out front.,Our heartfelt thanks to Simon and Lorna Travers, Hugo Titley, and the other ex Zimbos for hosting us and helping us.

Fittingly our 2nd but last day was tougher than expected with just under a 1000 m of climb over 121 km. Stupidly I’d told my Legs that we were having a half day off.

Unfittingly we haven’t seen either Mt Meru or Mt Kilimanjaro yet, both remain cloaked in cloud. It’s like riding 27 days to the cinema to watch a movie only to have some guy with a big fat head sitting right in front of you. But we’ll have 6 days of up close and personal with the mountain when we start our ascent on Sunday.

Thank you for joining us on the Old Legs 2019 Tour. Below some stand out numbers -from very big to small.

100,000,000,000,000 – lest we forget, the One Hundred Trillion Dollar note was printed by the same stupid that completely wiped out the wealth, savings, pensions and dignity of our pensioners, the generation that built Zimbabwe, leaving them dependent on your charity.

100,000 dollars – the 2019 Tour fundraising target.

93,232 – the number of calories burnt by an average rider. This is equivalent to 12 cheeseburgers per rider per day

72,900- the number of pedal strokes per rider based on an average cadence of 90.

34,966 meters – the total height climbed

5895 meters a.s.l. – Uhuru Peak, the top of Mt Kilimanjaro

3500 – the number of old age Zimbabwean pensioners in need of ongoing help.

2940 kilometers – the distance ridden.

554 years- the combined age of the 10 riders on the Old Legs Tour.

350 dollars -the cost of 1 pensioner in a nursing home for 1 month.

162 km- our longest day

135 hours -the total time spent in the saddle, excluding rest stops.

100 dollars- the cost of a cataract operation

24 – number of riding days

21.83 kph -average speed on Tour.

12.9 kph -slowest day up the Kitulo Plateau.

0 a.k.a. Zero – what Zimbabwean pensioners have been left with after 19 years of stupid.

Thank you to Dave and Lily Smith, Mike Wheedon, Penny Kostler, Jenny Bending, Susan Scott Martin, Hilary Dominy, Zoe Flood and others too numerous to mention for their generous support on Just Giving. Please also help us. Go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/oldlegstour. In Zimbabwe, transfer to Bulawayo Help Network via their CABS Platinum Account number 1124733450 or their
Ecocash merchant number 139149.

Liam Philp and all at African Preserves have challenged other companies in Zimbabwe to match or better their $ 1000 pledge.

In closing I would like to acknowledge our sponsors. Without them, the Old Legs Tour would not be possible.
Thank you, thank you, thank you -,African Preserves, Selby Enterprises, FX Logistics, ProPay, Astee “de Nachtvlinder”, Spar, Irvines, Steel Warehouse, Faithwear, Round Table 23, Alliance Insurance, The Surrey Group, Topshaft Engineering, Mukuru, KFC, Ezytrack, Ilala Lidge, The Directory, ZIMFLEX, Marginpaar, Crystal Signs, UFO Supplies, Cropserve, My Cash, PHI Commodities, Dumile Beef, Evanthia Seeds & Plant, Prime Seed, Paragon Printing, OZ Import, Greenhouse Technologies. You guys rock.

Until the last blog from on top of the mountain – survive, enjoy and pedal if you can – Adam, Mark, Hans, Jaap, Nik, Dave, Alan, Alastair, CarolJoy, Jen,Linda, Sue, Reinier, Bill, Ryan, John and Eric a.k.a. the Old Legs Team.

I was the last rider on the road yesterday by a long way. I don’t want our adventure to end

I was the last rider on the road yesterday by a long way. I don’t want our adventure to end. I was also last because I hadn’t abluted in 3 days and was having to avoid any and all sudden movements, lest there be an accident. Just as well I’m not a bear because I have serious problems crapping in the woods. I have even bigger problems with busy long drops. I’ve been holding out for porcelain but Ryan has let me down badly these last 2 night stops. Alas.

We camped last night at a school in a village called Haneti. The kids were very hungry to learn with 12 and 13 year olds cramming in extra lessons until ten o’clock at night. It bodes well for Tanzania’s future.

We rode into a blanket of thick cloud first up this morning. I couldn’t see more than 10 meters in front of me and had to ride even slower than normal. I’m guessing the views were good because our first hill of the day was plenty steep enough.

Once we crested, it was downhill and or flat out for the rest of the 130 km day as we rode out on to the Masai Steppe, home of the Serengeti plains. Even I’d heard of those. It was all very exciting.

For the first 20 km we rode heavily populated areas with lots of intensive marketing gardening and busy market towns. The support vehicles foraged hard as we were running low on supplies. Without help from Ryan though. His ankle, hugely swollen and discolored, is not coming right despite compression and ice. We’re sending him into Arusha tomorrow to see a doctor.

Once out of the market gardens, we rode into thorn scrub with tall Ilala palms and only the odd lonely baobab, which look to have reverted back to short and stunted. I did see a flamboyant tree but he wasn’t a very good specimen.

Alan said I also almost saw a shoebill and a flamingo but he scared them off before I got there. Alan has a very good poker face and I rode with binoculars at the ready thereafter, just in case he wasn’t talking crap.

By the time we arrived at our breakfast stop, we were into proper thorn scrub, busy with bird life. There were plenty of suburb starlings which make our glossy ones look dowdy and plain by comparison. There were a lot of other birds that weren’t crows. There were lots of reported flamingo sightings because people have now tumbled to my distance vision being not so good.

Dave’s vision is also not so good because he and his stomach overshot the breakfast stop at speed and by some kilometers. He turned around and rode back with a worried look on his face in case Alan and Ryan had scoffed his breakfast. There are no flies on either Alan or Ryan. Linda and Sue gave us impromptu go go dancing lessons at breakfast. Ours is culturally diverse Tour and I’m learning a lot.

After breakfast, the thorn scrub opened up into dry open plains. We could see Lake Manyara to our left, home to the world famous lions in the trees and on our right, we had Tarangire National Park, the Elephants Paradise.

The wildlife share the Steppe with the Masai and their large mixed herds of cattle and goats, watched over by herd boys in their bright tartan shukas a.k.a. blankets. I’m wondering if the Masai bumped into tartan first or whether they borrowed it from the Scots. The Masai women also look cool with their elaborate white beaded necklaces and long, dangly earrings. The Masai are proud and slightly aloof but quick to smile and I like them a lot.

I rode slow and on my own at the very back, like a sponge, trying hard to soak up the sights and sounds of our last days in Tour. Apparently I almost saw hundreds of wildebeest and zebras standing right next to the road. I was however the only rider to spot a huge ex-hyaena next to road who’d been hit by a truck. I take some solace from the fact that hyaena with their camouflaged spots are harder to spot than big, dime a dozen wildebeests.

Riding on your own gives you time to reflect. Rather than stress about bad news out of Zimbabwe, I reflected on our nearly ended Old Legs Tour, both the good and the bad.

For anyone planning a similar adventure, my best things on Tour after my wife and in semi order are
i ) – porcelain toilet bowls
ii)- the Boskak 2000
iii) -my music. Frowned upon by the cycling purists, my music got me up all the hills on Tour. And Jack Johnson, the Chilli Peppers, Green Day and the Kings of Leon all help make long lonely roads less lonely
iv) – my little rear view mirror on my handlebars which allows me to see the make of truck I’m about to be run over by
v)- bum cream. I actually use milking salve instead of Sudocreme and have had zero mastitis problems either.
vi) lip balm and zinc oxide. After my legs, my bum and the rest of my body, it is my lips that have taken the most flack on Tour
vii) oral antibiotics and Nurse Linda. Having just re-read my list, Nurse Linda should be promoted well up the list.
viii) best friends and teammates, some old and some I’ve just met, both on the bikes and in the support vehicles. My teammates have been the very best and there isn’t one of them that I wouldn’t walk over broken glass for.

Thankfully my bad things on Tour list is much shorter – i) intravenous and intramuscular antibiotics, big syringes and bigger needles especially in the hands of Medic Adam ii) malevolent kit bags iii) and last but far from least, bad news from home.

We received a plea today from home that illustrates exactly how bad things are in Zimbabwe and exactly why we are riding our bikes from Harare to Mt Kilimanjaro. ‘Liz de Klerk’ aged 67 with diabetes has to have her left leg amputated in a hurry but can’t afford the US$ 6000 quoted by her surgeon whose small print on his copy of the Hippocratic Oath is obviously very small. Liz’s siblings now living in the UK have only been able to raise half the money needed and asked us for help. And for sure we will help, even if we have to keep on pedaling past Mt Kilimanjaro. Help us help Liz and others by going to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/oldlegstour. In Zimbabwe, transfer to Bulawayo Help Network via their CABS Platinum Account number 1124733450 or their
Ecocash merchant number 139149.

Until tomorrow’s blog from Arusha, the gateway to Mt Kilimanjaro, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

This morning we rode out of our school yard campsite in Haneti

This morning we rode out of our school yard campsite in Haneti and pedaled north through Tanzania and her wide open spaces, empty vistas blah blah blah, blah blah blah, etc etc etc, blah blah blah. Tanzania certainly does go on a bit.

And then just before lunch, we started hitting hills, as in huge, big, bloody steep ones, which according to my vague recollections of Alastair’s previous nights’s briefing weren’t supposed to be there. I know I’m not the most focused person in Alastair’s briefings but I’m sure I would distinctly have remembered his use of the words huge, big, bloody and steep. Haneti had been at 1200 m a.s.l.
By the time we fell off our bikes for lunch, impossibly we were back up at 1650 m.

On the way to lunch, I saw what I’m sure will be my last baobab on the Tour at 1479 m a.s.l. And he wasn’t a skinny, scrawny stunted one, he was huge and massive.

Enough of the trees and back to the hills. At least after lunch would be better, I promised my poor aching legs. Apart from one last sharp steep climb that we could see ahead of us, the last 40 km to our night stop would be all down and or flat, surely. Given that happiness is the management of expectations, I should have just shut up. Alas.
My last sharp, steep climb turned out to be a false summit. When I got to the top and around the corner, there was more of the same ahead, just steeper. And so it went on, all bloody afternoon.

Very quickly, Dave was at the back and in trouble, bonking, his body shaking badly after calling on reserves of energy that weren’t there, this even after the lunch he’d just packed away. Dave makes a swarm of locusts look bulimic by comparison. Alastair, Renier and John nursed him home with bags and bags of sweets.

The last 40 km of the day took me 4 hours. The gradients were as harsh as any we struggled up in the Southern Highlands. Mostly I rode with Mark, Jaap and CJ., although rode could be a misnomer in that it implies some sort of forward momentum. Looking to cheat, I spent 5 minutes drafting behind a big truck before realizing it had broken down. At one point Mark was overtaken by a dung beetle reversing up the hill, rolling his breakfast, lunch and dinner ball of dung in front of him.

But way harder than the hills, the thing I struggled with most all afternoon long was the news from back home that after a welcome absence of 10 years, our piece of crap Zimbabwe dollar is back. We found out over lunch that the ZANU government have banned forthwith trade in US dollars and all other hard currencies. Fully in keeping with the stupidity contained therein, the Government Gazette announcing the banning of trade in US was on sale at a price of 2 US or 6 RTGS. And there was more stupid to follow. The Reserve Bank also announced an increase in their over night inter-bank interest rate from 15 percent up to 50, to guard against inflation. If Winston Churchill was a Zimbabwean, he would have said that all we have to fear is fear itself, and stupid.

We are riding from Harare to Mt Kilimanjaro to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwean pensioners. Now I can’t but feel we’ve spent the last 25 days farting against thunder. Alas.

But please continue to support us, nonetheless. Go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/oldlegstour. In Zimbabwe, transfer to Bulawayo Help Network via their CABS Platinum Account number 1124733450 or their
Ecocash merchant number 139149.

In closing, please spare a thought for our poor and stupid Minister of Finance whose family home is in Switzerland. How the hell is he going to be able to be able to pay for that going forward on a Zimbabwe dollar salary?

Until tomorrow’s blog from somewhere near Arusha, please survive, enjoy and pedal if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong