Just 4 weeks and the 2019 tour kicks off

In just 4 weeks the Old Legs 2019 Tour kicks off- 2819 kms in 27 days -climbing 31786 meters in the process- which is the same as climbing Everest once a week for 4 weeks. And then when we get to Moshi at the base of the mountain, the hard yards start with a 4 day footslog up the world’s high free standing mountain, to Uhuru Peak.

To train for the 72 km arduous hike, Jenny and I took granddaughters Jos and Cailyn to Disneyland Paris. Talk about overkill. By my reckoning, I walked 960 kms in our 5 days in Paris, mostly humping 960 kgs on my back. I wore my Mt Kili boots to break them in and am now 4 inches shorter than when I started.

In the process, I had the best time ever. Ditto our grandkids. Talk about sensory overload. And that was just in the airports getting there. Escalators that went on forever, elevators that talked, self flushing loos and auto start taps. I heard Cailyn shout ‘Wow’ a dozen times in Joburg airport alone.
We had to hustle and bustle to catch our connecting flight to Amsterdam, we took the scenic route to Paris. Halfway to Terminal A, conveniently situated on the other side of Johannesburg, Cailyn asked me “Where we going Eric?”
“To Holland,Cailyn”
“Are we walking there?”

Wearing winter coats older than themselves with hand-knitted beanies and keeping a watchful eye out for crocodiles in the Disneyland ponds and lakes, our grandkids were standout. My best was the Rock and Roller coaster with Jos, with Aerosmith playing at volume 10, drowning out her screams. For kids, Disneyland has to be the happiest place on earth.
Cailyn was impressed with the technology on display, especially the landline telephone in our hotel room. “Why don’t we have those in Zimbabwe, Eric?” I couldn’t answer her.

After Disney, we hit the Alps with friends Nicole and Sterre Pronk – so the kids could play in snow and so I could ride up the iconic Alpe d’Huez, a mountain that gives you a crick in the neck looking up and vertigo looking down. I’d never seen such a big steep hill. Neither had Jenny, so she decided better she follow me in the car, in case I didn’t make it up. While I was riding, Nicole and Sterre would take the kids to play in the snow up on top of the mountain. So that we could synchronize watches, I asked Oliver, the bike rent guy, how long he thought it would take me to ride up the hill. He told me fast guys do it in an hour, slow riders in 3. To play safe, Nicole and I arranged to meet up top in 4 hours. Cailyn decided watching me go purple in the face would be more fun than playing in the snow and rode shotgun with Jenny.

The road from the valley below up to the top of Alpe d’Huez has 21 switchbacks, with the first 6 being the steepest with gradients of 11%. Oliver told me to start off slow, which is like telling Donald Trump to pat himself on the back.
The switchbacks allow you to break the mountain down into segments, none of them worse than the Ugly Sisters we train on back home. I rode within myself and got to the top in 1 hour 20, feeling rather surprised. After a congratulatory beer, then we played in the snow. I now know that dragging grandkids around on sleighs is far more knackering than riding up mountains.
After the snow, we hit the beach with the Pronk family and a Belgium bottle store with 2000 different brands of beer. In my next life, I want to come back as a Belgian beer drinker.
The weather was perfect for both activities, although we got into the water only as far as our toes. I needed more than my new arctic sleeping bag to swim in that sea. We rode through the Belgium countryside on funny bikes with handlebars

that curled back and made you feel like you were riding an armchair. We rode on the TGV, the French bullet train. To mess with Dave Whitehead’s head, I switched my Strava on and blitzed a 20 km training ride in just 4 minutes, topping 278 kph. Nelson Chamisa dreamed about a bullet train for Zimbabwe in the run up to the last elections and was ridiculed by many. Coming from a country that currently has zero train service, a bullet train seems a marvelous idea. And if France can have bullet trains, why can’t we?

We also went shopping in a ginormous camping shop for the winter kit I’ll need to summit Mt Kilimanjaro. I bought thermal underwear enough and arctic sleeping bags that will allow me to get bloody hot in freezing conditions.

Whilst shopping in Europe, the Third World seems an especially dreary place. By comparison, prices are for free with a million brands of everything to choose from. From what I could see the only thing people queue for in Europe is to get onto rides at Disneyland and in traffic to get to the beach when the weather is perfect. And the biggest thing that Europeans worry about is a tsunami of Third Worlders in search of greener grass and the good life. Alas.
And small wonder.

In the 2 short weeks while we were away, prices in Zim have gone crazy. The price of bread has shot up from $2.00 a loaf to $3.50, toll fees have gone 400%, etc, etc. I’m too scared to look at the big stuff. Rumors abound that the Generals, alarmed by the winds of change blowing across the Sudan and Algeria and bleak with Ed’s inability to rig the economy, are set to pull the rug on him. And with the likes of Mengistu Haile Miriam as their advisor in chief, God help those of us who who have to carry on calling Zimbabwe home.

Moving on to matters more positive, Adam has just been sponsored a dollar a kilometer. The $2900 he’ll raise will pay for 29 cataract operations. Or 8.2 club foot correction programs. Or antibiotics for 600 pensioners for a week. That has to be the best value for money feel good out there. And with 10 of us in the peloton, with your help, the Old Legs Tour is in a position to do a whole bunch of good. To sponsor one of us, go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/oldlegstour and follow the prompts. In Zimbabwe, transfer to Bulawayo Help Network via their CABS Platinum Account number 1124733450 or their Ecocash merchant number 139149. Monies donated help pensioners country wide.

And a big well done to Mary Latham who is walking the UK to raise money for ZANE. Mary walked a 25 miler in Windsor last weekend, bringing her total miles walked for the year to 400. All monies raised by Mary go to ZANE. Follow Mary on Facebook. Better still, support her on http://www.justgiving.com/Marylu220?utm_id=121

Training wise, things are happening. In Holland, Jaap endured 145 km of cobblestones on the Paris -Roubiax a.k.a. the Hell of North. The next week he rode the 150 km Amstel Gold Race with 2000m of climb with steepest gradient of 22%. I think Holland imports hills from France especially for the race. Hans our other Hollander is in hospital recovering from a hernia op.

Nik is back on his bike in Switzerland training hard after a recent illness. Adam and Mark’s internet coach is happy with where they are at fitness wise and has shifted them to minimum fatigue maintenance program through to June 01. Judging by Strava stats, Dave looks to be getting stronger, ditto Alan, ditto Carol Joy. Al Watermeyer’s training regime is slightly more laid back. He’s looking to the Harare to Mucumbura leg for final conditioning.

With regards me, to make up for 2000 Belgium beers, I’ve got to play catch up again and have planned another 2 weeks of High Intensity Interval Training but this time with a heart rate monitor. It is a very clever thing that tells me with a single glance of the wrist whether I’m alive or not. Watching your heart rate is mostly therapeutic, like watching fish in a tank. I say mostly. The other morning my watch told me my heart rate slowed to just 36 beats per minute in deep sleep. That sort of feedback first up in the morning is enough to get your heart racing. 36 bpm has to be close to dead. According to Google, I’m either suffering from something called Bradycardia or I’m fit.

In closing, some bad news. Last week, support team member Gayle Arnold took a tumble whilst on a family holiday, breaking an arm and fracturing her femur & pelvis.She’s stuck in bed in Athens. Hope you get well soon Gaylo.
In closing, a huge shout out to the Pronk family and friends for generous donation received.

This week’s Swahili 101.

Kupata bora hivi karibuni Gaylo!! Na Hans!!Get better soon Gaylo!! And Hans!!

Mamba wanapo wote maji, hata in Disneyland!!- Crocodiles are present in all water, even in Disneyland !!

Until next blog, survive and pedal if you can.

Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

Not a lot of bike riding this week, mostly because of my bottom

Not a lot of bike riding this week, mostly because my bottom, along with the rest of me, is now officially stressed, as evidenced by a rather painful, embarrassing and hard to spell ailment of the bottom that manifested after day 1 of last week’s Tour to Mavuradonha. Alas.
And even more stressful than the ailment itself is the thought of Frank having to peer up my bottom before attending to the said ailment. Frank, my doctor, is a cool guy who wears cool shirts and plays the guitar and peering at my bottom should be excluded from his version of the Hippocratic Oath.
But even more stressful than subjecting Frank to an up close view of where the sun don’t shine is the thought of pedaling all the way to Mt Kilimanjaro with an ailing bottom. Alas. Woe is me. And outside of fuel queues, worthless money and all the normal Zim dross, the root causes of my bottom problem; Molly’s biological clock and Steve Hanke’s misery index.

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Molly is our three year old dog whose biological clock is ticking loudly. Jenny is desperate for Molly to have pups before we get her fixed. So how does puppy love get to be so stressful I hear you ask. The thing is Molly is Great Dane cross Horse. And where do you find a boy one of those??The pressure first started a year back when we borrowed a young stud called Hamlet for Molly’s second season but alas, Hamlet knew not what to do.
Pressure mounted as Molly’s third season loomed large, as did Wallace our Wheaton Scotty pup, when ever we weren’t watching. But thankfully he wasn’t up to the task. Great Scotts as a breed wouldn’t have worked out too good.
Under pressure, I scrolled through my network and emerged with Alfie, a Great Dane cross an even bigger Horse. We collected him last week. I have a deep seated fear of dog fights and panicked when I saw the size of Alfie. We got him in the car only just. Alfie is huge, 3 or 4 inches taller than Molly with teeth to match. What if Molly and Alfie got stuck into each other at first sight? As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about because Alfie is a gentle soul and it was love at first sight. Although the remnants of our flock of chickens would be hard pressed to describe Alfie as gentle. As soon as he got out the car Alfie thought he was in dog heaven, sex on tap and fast food chicken.
Alfie’s sense of direction was such though that Molly’s head stands a greater chance of falling pregnant than the rest of her.
Oh what fun we had. The Hound of the Baskerville has nothing on Alfie. Molly’s boudoir is outside our bedroom window and we were able to hear Alfie serenade Molly, mostly by howling romantically in her ear, every ten minutes throughout the night. Strewth
And then the next morning when I was at my lowest ebb, Steve Hanke hit me and my bottom with the news that we now live in the World’s second most miserable country.
Hanke, renowned John Hopkins University economist and Eddie Cross alter ego, has just released his Top 10 Misery Index. Based on inflation and unemployment stats, Hanke has Zimbabwe coming second only to Venezuela. (That Venezuela achieved top spot despite having the world’s largest oil reserves has to put their man Maduro in line for the coveted ‘Stupidest Leader’ award.)
I was surprised to see South Africa sneaking in at number 7, especially given their abundance of God given resources.
Come blame game time, Zim and Venezuela are lucky though because we can point fingers at US sanctions where as the South Africans will have to carry on blaming Apartheid, before eventually moving on to Zuma and the Guptas.

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I can tell you though there remains a hell of gap between 7th and 2nd on Hanke’s Misery Index. I left Jenny to chaperone Alfie and Molly and fled to SA on a quick business trip. The difference between 2nd and 7th is huge. With petrol and diesel on tap and highways without potholes, SA looked more like milk and honey than a Top 10 basket case. Just 2 days there watching farmers farm, planting tree crops they’ll only harvest in years to come was such good muti for me. But in between being jealous, I worried for South African friends. Elections loom large in May and in the battle of the election poster on the 2 hour drive between the border and Tzaneen, Julius Malema was a hands down winner. If ever Julius got voted in, he’d beat Hugo Chavez in a stupid contest. God help Africa.

But en route to the border, I was pleased to see Zimbabwe is finally playing some catch up by upgrading the Beitbridge – Harare highway. But I wasn’t pleased for long. I hit the first over zealous speed hump on the detour outside Chivu real hard. I saw the second speed hump coming, up until I jammed on brakes. Whence upon my tool box careered across the boot, striking the knob of my fire extinguisher in the process and I spent the next 20 km driving along in a thick, acrid and very non-flammable fog. I couldn’t pick up hitch hikers for the rest of the trip because I looked like the guy in the dandruff advert, just without the hair.

We’ve got less than 8 weeks to go until we start riding our bikes to Mt Kilimanjaro to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. To help us help them, go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/oldlegstour and follow the prompts. In Zimbabwe, transfer to Bulawayo Help Network via their CABS Platinum Account number 1124733450 or their Ecocash merchant number 139149. Monies donated help pensioners country wide.

This week’s Swahili 101-

Lakini ni heshima yangu Alfie na mapenzi wewe heshima Molly in ya asubuhi? –
But are your intentions honorable Alfie and will you respect Molly in the morning?

In closing, at the very opposite end of my stress spectrum is 5 year old granddaughter Cailyn who quizzed me on Wednesday. “Hey Eric, are we doing the Blue Cross this year?”
“For sure we’re doing the Blue Cross, Cailyn.”
“I don’t know if we should” she said looking worried.
“Why?”
“Because they told us at school today that Jesus died on the Blue Cross.”
(For those not in the know, the Blue Cross is a SPCA charity bike ride from the lowest point of Zim to the highest that me, Jenny, Jos, Cailyn and others ride every August.)

Until next week, avoid the stress and the speed humps and pedal if you can

Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

My benchmark for low

A lifetime ago, provided you’re 27, best friends of mine came to work in Zimbabwe on a 2 year Dutch government contract as doctors at a mission hospital outside of Harare. They weren’t there long when an abandoned baby was left at the hospital. The baby had nothing. Rather than let him lie in the maternity ward naked, my friends bought him some diapers and clothing. That first night the expectant mothers in the maternity ward stole the little baby’s clothing. So my friends bought the little guy more nappies. Which alas on night 2, also got stolen. On night 3, my friends took the little guy home and he got to keep his clothes. When I heard the story, I was hugely angry at those expectant mothers, stealing from a kid who had nothing, and hugely disappointed and they remain my benchmark for low. The kid deserved better.

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In much the same way, angry and disappointment kicked in again last week with a side order of disgust when relief aid got highjacked by ZANU in Chimanimani. For me, it soured an amazing heart warming response to the biggest weather calamity in decades which saw so many with so little give so much. And then the fat cats came along and hung their political hats on the generosity of others. Alas. I now have a new benchmark for low. The poor, poor people of Chimanimani deserve better of their politicians.

Ditto the poor, poor people of Mberengwa on the other side of Zimbabwe. Last week their MP forced nursing staff at a local clinic to hand back donations of badly needed medical supplies including beds, mattresses, bandages and medicines because they were donated by a son of the community born at the clinic 44 years earlier and now a staunch member of the MDC. The nurses didn’t want to hand back the badly needed medical supplies. They’ve been recycling bandages forever. It took CIO fear factor to make them.Alas. The people of Mberengwa deserve more from their politicians than fear, disappointment and recycled bandages.

And all of the above against a backdrop of the big hungry that is just months away when 1 in 3 i.e. 5 million Zimbabweans will require food aid and charity.

Before moving onto things more positive, a positive footnote to my opening story. The little naked kid with nothing was adopted by my friends and is now 27 and currently serving as a soldier in the Dutch army.

In less than 2 months, we set out for Mt Kilimanjaro on our bicycles. To see if our legs and logistics are ready or not, we staged an Old Legs Mini Tour this last weekend which took us from Harare to the Mavuradonha Wilderness on the edge of the Zambezi escarpment by way of Mt Darwin and Centenary – 290 kms with almost 3000 m of climb in 2 days. We were eight in the riding group including Old Legs members Alastair, Dave, Adam, plus Alan Rheeder all the way from Joburg and me all the way from Mt Hampden plus Laurie Watermeyer, Fi Semper and Vincent Oldenbroek. Manning the vehicles complete with our fully equipped kitchen trailer and our shiny new bike trailer were Jenny, Linda, Bill Annandale and Sarah Chapman.

Predictably, our well oiled machine ran out of oil in the first hour of the first day. Worried that he’d ride slower than the rest, Alastair said he’d start peddling an hour and a bit earlier and we’d catch him in time for breakfast before Bindura. Unfortunately Alastair woke up in a panic after oversleeping, asked Laurie to drop him off 20km into the ride and set off faster than a speeding bullet to catch us up. Which was a great plan apart from the fact that we were behind him because we also got off to a late start. Consequently Al got to the breakfast stop 2 hours before the breakfast cooks. On a roll and feeling strong, Al decided not to wait and to push on solo and unsupported. He eventually arrived at our Mt Darwin overnight stop three and a half hours ahead of the rest of the group. Because he’s a mate, I ate Al’s breakfast bacon and egg roll for him. It was very tasty.

Our first night stop was at Child Future Africa orphanage 10 kms before Mt Darwin – currently home to 10 orphans ranging in age from 4 to 18. We were able to donate a bunch of stuff to the kids including clothing, school materials, food and sweets. The kids played us a thank you concert on marimbas and mbiras . The stand out performer was a little guy called Takudza who was rock and roll good. Takudza tutored Dave as best he could for 10 minutes but got nowhere and was forced to pronounce Dave as being utterly rhythmless. I would pay Dave good money to not play.

To be an orphan in Mt Darwin is about as vulnerable as you can get. But the kids we met at Child Future Africa were happy, safe and secure in their refuge home. We’ll be staying there again on our first night on the Mt Kilimanjaro Tour. Please check them out on the Internet and help if you can.

Day two of our mini Tour was huge with 150 km and 2000 m of climb. Luckily the weather was kind with cool, overcast conditions… for about the first 15 minutes. Thereafter it was bloody hot – as in wilting baobab hot. Adam was living proof that Churchill boys did not learn about electrolytes in science class and rode without. He started running out of oomph early in the ride and tried to compensate by jettisoning any and all superfluous weight including the breakfast he’d just eaten. How he carried on for another 5 hours and 90 kms up a million hills and mountains I do not know. But he did, losing 6kgs in the process. If he keeps that up by reckoning he’ll weigh minus 54 kilos by the time we get to Mt Kilimanjaro.

Bar Adam’s dietary whoopsie, we were all pretty happy with where we are in terms of our training targets. Ditto Mark Johnson who replicated our ride on the other side of the world in Australia. Alastair was especially pleased, grinning like Donald Trump when he found out he wasn’t Russian and flaunted his extra weight on every downhill, whizzing past at annoyingly high speeds.

We rode through some achingly beautiful bits of Zimbabwe on the ride, achingly being a very apt cycling adjective. Scenery seen at 20 kph on a bike is way better than from a car. Sarah was the Tour cameraman and did the scenery justice. Check out her album on the webpage and Facebook page. Riding down the main road through Mt Darwin for me was epic. Ditto down the escarpment at Mavuradonha. We rode past failed crops all day long, a stark reminder of the big hungry to come. That so many of the failed crops were next to big dams full of water was an even starker reminder of the stupidity of fast track land reform.

The best thing about riding through the communal lands is the people you meet. We met a dreadlocked young tobacco farmer delivering his crop by Scotch cart. I met a fashion aficionado walking along a dusty road, arm in arm with his girlfriend, wearing his very bold ‘I Love Vaginas’ tee shirt. Without exception the people were friendly and very interested in our Old Legs Tour.

Jenny, Linda and Bill excelled and as a riding group we wanted for nothing on the road. I think that I might actually have put on some of the weight that Adam lost.

We ride to help Zimbabwe’s pensioners. If you would like to donate go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/oldlegstour and follow the prompts. In Zimbabwe, transfer to Bulawayo Help Network via their CABS Platinum Account number 1124733450 or their Ecocash merchant number 139149. Monies donated help pensioners country wide.

I’m happy to introduce our last member of the support team – Bill Annandale. An educator by profession with a passion for entrepreneurship, Bill will add gravitas and value to the Old Legs Team. His hobbies include keeping mildly active, preferably on a boat with a rod. “God didn’t call us to be comfortable, He called us to take new ground. The scary place is where we grow.” (Joel Osteen)

In closing this week’s Swahili 101:

Mimi Kwenda kucheza wewe muziki isipokuwa wewe kulipa mimi kumi dola! – I’m going to play you music unless you give me ten dollars.

Jaribu hii mio. Hiyo inafanya kazi. Lakini si tamaa juu viatu yangu. – Try this diet. It works. But don’t vomit on my shoes.

Until next week, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can- Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

Photos – the cutting edge of fashion, on the way to weighing minus 54 kilos, tobacco farming Zim style, a bike and a bus and beautiful Zimbabwe.

The Best And The Worst of Cyclone Idai

Cyclone Idai brought out the best in Zimbabweans this last week. Miracle Missions in Harare were huge and loaded up 36 trucks of relief aid donated by the people of Harare. And that same story is playing out in other towns and cities across Zimbabwe. People with so little have given so much. The stand out for me in a long week full of stand outs was the little Ambuya who walked 17 km from Mbare to Highlands because she didn’t have bus fare to drop off her sack full of pots for the poor people of Manicaland.

Unfortunately Idai also brought out the worst in some. Ed was late in arriving for the disaster having gone to Abu Dhabi and left early by rented Airbus for quick trips to Angola, Bulawayo and South Africa. His sofa got priority over emergency supplies-aid distribution was delayed by a day so he could photo bomb the handover. And now we’re hearing that you need a party card to get to the front of the food queue. Against the backdrop of of 5 million Zimbabweans needing food in the months to come, God help Zimbabwe ‘cos chances are Ed won’t.

When I was a kid, my friend went to America on a Rotary Student exchange scheme and we got an American kid in his place. My friend learned peanut butter and jelly and the American kid learned sadza. My guy came back having learned lots and taught even more. The swap was a good thing and made the world a smaller place.

Accordingly I’d like to suggest a leadership swap with maybe New Zealand – as in we get Jacinda and the Kiwis get Ed. Jacinda so impressed with her handling of the Christchurch mosque massacres. She healed her country’s hurt with love and empathy, she acted decisively to deny the gunman the notoriety he craved and in just one week banned semi automatic weapons so it doesn’t happen again.

With more stormy weather heading Zim’s way, most of it man made, we sure could do with someone up top who can spell empathy. I appreciate that the swap might be a bit of hard sell in New Zealand but our man is good. He plays a good game of golf in a cyclone, as mentioned moves with his own sofa and in very, very nice airplanes and he has a fetching gap in his front teeth. And not to mention Zimbabwean leaders are long lasting and durable, we got 38 years out of the the last one which can only save a country a fortune in buisness cards and office door plaques.

It all makes a man want to get on his bicycle and ride somewhere far away. Speaking of which,we’ve got our big training ride this weekend -280 kms over 2 days from Harare to Mount Darwin and onto Mavuradona with 3000 meters of climb in October like heat – it should be interesting. Al Rheeder is coming up from Joburg to ride with us for the first time to help test legs and logistics. We’ll put our shiny new gas showers to the test plus the new improved 10 bike trailer complete with luggage compartment big enough for 16 big bits of luggage. And on the other side of the world, so as not to feel left out, Mark Johnson is going to replicate our ride in Australia.

Huge thanks to Mark Strides in RSA for donating a bike maintenance and cleaning stand, to J Mann and Company for inputs for the trailer and to Brian and Shawn from Steel Warehouse for helping yet again with inputs for the trailer. Steel Warehouse gives and gives and gives like my hero Gogo from Mbare.

Elsewhere the City of Harare announced they were suspending their plans to ration water because they’ve run out of water, Donald’s not a Russian and Brexit is definitely on, possibly, sort of, unless it isn’t. Better to laugh than cry.

I’m happy to introduce Old Legs Team member Gayle Arnold, ex- Masvingo, ex -Chinoyi, and now living in Ascot in the UK since 2003. Gayle is excited about the forthcoming Old Legs adventure. And how cool is this? Gayle’s daughter Kiera will meet the Team in Arusha and will walk up the mountain with us.

If you would like to help Zimbabwe’s pensioners go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/oldlegstour and follow the prompts. In Zimbabwe, transfer to Bulawayo Help Network via their CABS Platinum Account number 1124733450 or their Ecocash merchant number 139149. Monies donated help pensioners country wide.

In closing, this week’s Swahili 101

Hey wewe Porter- kuweka kitanda yangu juu huko!! Hey you porter – put my sofa over there!!

Mungu baraka Gogo- asante, asante, asante!! – God bless Gogo, Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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

On the left Old Legs Team member Gayle Arnold and in the right my best ever Gogo from Mbare who gave us lessons in giving.

Cyclone Idai

No bike riding this weekend courtesy of Cyclone Idai which smashed into Zimbabwe on Thursday last week with 31 dead so far and 100 plus missing. Chimanimani has been especially hard hit, having received near a meter of rain in the past few days and still counting. Spare a thought in your prayers tonight for the surviving kids, the nuns and the priests of St Charles Lwanga Secondary School cut off by rock and mudslide damage, currently awaiting rescue by the army.

I can still remember when Chimanimani was hammered by Cyclone Eline 19 years ago. Roy Bennett’s efforts to help his community back then during and after Eline were huge. He won people’s hearts and later their votes and the rest is history. Alas.

Let’s hope government’s disaster response post Idai is better than their response post Eline. Nineteen years after it was washed away, the Chipinda Bridge, a major arterial route serving a huge community, is still washed away and in the rains, the community on the other side of the river can only access the wide world by canoe and or non-motorized ferries. The half a bridge is now something of a tourist attraction, a monument to the opposite of progress.

Idai wasn’t the only disaster that touched Zimbabwean hearts this week. The country was moved by a pediatrician’s impassioned plea to her Minister of Health to intervene in the collapse of the health sector. She tells him of a child’s chemo treatment interrupted because the hospital ran out of syringes. She tells of doctors who can’t operate for want of gloves and drugs, even running water and electricity. She tells him of an operating theatre gutted by fire that still hasn’t been cleaned up or repainted two months on. She tells of the million lists submitted to the Ministry of Health and thousand doors that have been knocked upon but so far no one’s listening, there’s no urgency, no prioritizing of resources. In response, he the Minister can be heard grunting sympathetically. And he also blames illegal US sanctions for the collapse of our health system.

Elsewhere the government continued busy, dragging their well travelled begging bowl from country to country. Undeterred by January’s largely unsuccessful trawl of Kazakstan, Belarus etc, last week they hit the region. Despite reports in the Herald to the contrary, Botswana said they weren’t going to be lending us 600 million. Stung by the rejection, Zim next turned to South Africa, upping the ante to 1.2 billion. Cyril said he couldn’t help with the full request but said he could help us with 55 million, to re-equip and retrain our Police force. And for re-equip, read water canons and new baton sticks. I wonder how many syringes or pairs of surgical gloves you could buy with 55 million?
I’m thinking the government should try Swaziland next for a loan. Their king flies everywhere by private jet so they must be loaded.

And whilst on the subject of prioritizing foreign currency spend, judging by the imaginative spin coming out of Harare this week, Zimbabwe’s newly appointed US PR firm must already be hard at work, writing scripts, earning their one and a half million dollar pay check. The RBZ Governor said that continued fuel queues across the country could be attributed to an expanding economy. He also told the same Parliamentary Committee that the RTGS Dollar could fall below 2.5 to 1. No shit, Sherlock? Just maybe the 3.5 to 1 sweet deal he offered miners last week gave him some insight as to which way the currency might go.
But his side kick the Minister of Finance obviously never got that memo. On the same day on the other side of town in a radio interview, he said the country’s newly introduced RTGS dollar was set to gain more value on the back of ongoing fiscal reforms, blah,blah, blah. I guess Harare looks pretty good when seen from the window of your suite on the top floor of the Meikles where you live out of a suitcase because your family home is still in Switzerland. I wonder how many syringes you could buy with the cost of a night in a suite at the Meikles?

On to things more positive. Welcome to the 10th and final member of our peloton, 59 year old Dutch Judge Hans Steenberghe. In his motivation letter Hans told me that as a Judge his job is to stand up for justice and equality for all. He said Zimbabwe’s on going struggle for the same resonates deeply with him. When he’s not a Judge, Hans is on his bike pedaling on the flat on skinny tyres. Hans is no stranger to charity bike rides, having founded ‘Stichting Bergverzet’ with like minded friends. Check them out on the internet. Hans is looking forward to pedaling 3000 km across Africa to raise money for Zimbabwe’s pensioners.

We are also joined by John MacDonald , who’ll be driving one of the support vehicles. John writes “As an award winning cyclist ( John won the prestigious ‘Rider who spent most time in the Sun’ award on the 2018 Blue Cross) I was delighted to be asked to join the Old Legs expedition. I am sure all the riders were delighted at my decision to rather drive a support vehicle than slow up the peloton.” John is getting lots of practice feeding the hungry. John and his wife are currently hand rearing 500 flamingo chicks rescued from a dried out pan in Kimberley.

Debate is raging within the peloton about what tyres to use on the Tour. The riders from the First World are leaning towards tyres with tubes and slime whilst the Third World riders are all going tubeless, no
question. Watch this space.

To mess with Dave’s head, I sometimes leave my Strava on in the car, especially on hills. To mess with his head even more and because he stressed about lions all the way through the Kalahari on our way to Cape Town, I’ve told him Tanzania is full of lions that climb trees, mostly so they can see approaching cyclists. I also told him Tsavo of man eating lion fame is next door to Kilimanjaro. Dave is especially stressing because he’s got more meat on him than me.

If Al Watermeyer goes with the same riding kit he wore on the Argus, then my money’s on him being the rotten egg last into Moshi. So as to avoid being mistaken for a Venezuelan, Al wore a Zim flag shirt and carried a full sized Zim flag on the back of his bike. On the 30 km from Muizenberg to past Simonstown , his oversized Zim flag conspired with the 40kph head wind to successfully reduce his speed on the flat to a paltry 8kph, allowing him to only narrowly avoid a personal worst. But he says his interaction with several thousand Zim supporters along the course more than made up for the extra toil.

In closing, I’m happy to report that friends of mine who want to remain nameless have adopted 88 year old Mr Dilly, a former Customs Officer now living at the Toc H Hostel. Mr Dilly doesn’t have any known relatives and his pension never survived 2008 hyperinflation. Mr Dilly wasn’t doing too good after the kind folk who used to look after him left the country. But thankfully they passed the baton to my buddies and Mr Dilly is back being looked after again. They sorted his wardrobe out, they give him food – he especially likes Bovril, they’ve given him books, sorted him out with a new mattress, etc,etc. I’m also very proud to tell you that Mr Dilly’s benefactor is an Allan Wilson old boy. A challenge to any PE old boys out there, if ever you are near Toc H with time on your hands, pop in and visit Mr Dilly. What he likes most of all is company and a chat.

You can also help pensioners like Mr Dilly by going to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/oldlegstour and following the prompts. In Zimbabwe, transfer to Bulawayo Help Network via their CABS Platinum Account number 1124733450 or their Ecocash merchant number 139149. Monies donated help pensioners country wide. We bust through the £3000 barrier on Just Giving this weekend. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of those who donated.

In closing, this week’s Swahili 101

I unataka ya mvua ingekuwa kuacha! – I wish the rain would stop.

Until next week, survive and if you can, enjoy whilst pedaling

Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

Al doing 8 k.p.h. In Cape Town, Hans Steenberghe, bathing in potholes, election promises and other crap.