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
Not so long ago, the only thing short in Zimbabwe were dwarves, but not anymore.
It’s been tough in Zimbabwe this week, like sticking your head in the washing machine but with less clarity. Forever ago last Monday, our bogus local electronic currency wobbled hard, mostly because the Reserve Bank was out buying every US dollar to be had on the black market to pay for fuel. Not surprisingly the rate bounced from almost two to one up to six and beyond. Whence upon all hell broke.
Fuel queues lengthened with a vengeance. I’m guessing the queues into hell are similar but just without taxis pushing in. People rushed to find open supermarkets to spend worthless money before it became even more worthless.
Smirnoff vodka prices took the panic in panic buying to whole new levels when they bounced from $24 to $95 in just two days. Ditto the guy in the supermarket queue behind me who bought a job lot of condoms. Looking at his trolley contents, I couldn’t but think of the state of our poor, poor economy.
A friend caught in the middle of painting his house saw his paint price shoot up from $20 a tin to $40 to $120 in a week, same paint, same shop. Always awake to marketing opportunities, I tried to kick start rumors of an impending cabbage seedling shortage but alas, I don’t think panic buying extends to brassica seedlings.
To put Zim into perspective, there were 3 countries on earth last week where you couldn’t buy a coke, and Zim was one of them.
Throughout the week, all I could think about were our poor, poor old age pensioners who are least equipped to duck, dive and survive economic stupidity. And now twice in ten years. I can see we Old Legs are going to be riding to distant mountains in distant lands for years to come.
Moving on to more positive things, instead of training, mostly I quaffed, caroused, wined and dined all week long. In so doing, I may well have contributed to the looming beer shortage. But I had no choice because our house was like a train station with friends coming and going all week long.
One of our visitors was Jaap van Staaveren, out from Holland to practice feeling tired on a bicycle in Africa and also to launch the Old Legs 2019 Tour at the Hortiflor, an international investment exhibition showcasing Zimbabwe’s Horticultural Industry. The launch was a great success and the Old Legs Tour received great exposure. As did the Horticultural Industry, even though the key note speaker insisted on using comrade and investment in the same sentence, an oxymoron if ever I heard one.
Another visitor was Claudia Waller, a bicycle adventurer riding from Lusaka to Chimanimani and Nyanga, one up with her wardrobe, tent and kitchen on board the coolest old bike I’ve ever seen. Claudia, the ultimate in free spirits, rode SA to Tanzania and Kenya in 2015 with zero Lycra. I cornered Claudia for advice on our upcoming Mt Kili ride and she told me to just enjoy.
Claudia’s visit guilted me back into the training saddle. Because they say it is good to train under arduous conditions, I rode with a hangover and a headache too big for my helmet whilst exuding 40 percent proof toxic sweat. I don’t know who they is, but I now hate them. My target for the week is 160 km. Alas.
The Old Legs adventure continues to build. After following our Cape Town tour, one of Jenny’s dearest friends from a lifetime ago, Mary Latham is planning to walk 900 kms across the UK over several legs between now and June 2019 under the Old Legs banner to raise monies for ZANE. Please follow Mary, support Mary or even better still, join her if you can. Watch this space for details.
I am happy to introduce our South African pair of Old Legs –
Alan Rheeder is 42 years old, and while living in Johannesburg at present he was born and bred in Zimbabwe. Alan left Zimbabwe to study at Rhodes University in the mid nineties and after a 4-year degree in Fine Art Photography he returned to Zimbabwe for a short period. The lure of his South African girlfriend (now wife) and the economic situation in Zim made staying there very difficult, so with a heavy heart he left to start a life in South Africa in 2001. Alan has a wonderful family with wife, Sandy and two sons, Daniel & Jonathan.
Alan only started cycling in 2014 as a necessity to compete in a triathlon he had entered, but has really come to love cycling in the years since. Although fairly new to cycling he has been involved in various endurance sports for some years. Alan’s original love was always running, and over the years he has completed many marathons as well as many ultra marathons, including 2 x Comrades Marathons and 2 x Two Oceans Marathons. He has also competed in many other events including Half Ironman triathlons, and many multi-stage events for trail runs, MTB races and canoeing.
When Alan became aware of the second edition of the Old Legs Tour he knew he had to be a part of it, not only because it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to cycle through Africa, but also because of the plight of the Zimbabwean pensioners. Like many others, Alan’s parents are victims of the catastrophic collapse of the Zim Dollar and the effect it has had on people’s pension funds. Alan immediately contacted David Whitehead, an old school friend and a co-founder of the Old Legs Tour, and begged to be part of the second edition.
He feels, while the ride from Harare to Kilimanjaro is a truly daunting prospect, it promises to be a once in a lifetime experience and he is extremely honoured and excited to be a part of this great initiative.
I’d like to acknowledge the following sponsors this week. Andrew Brown and all at Ilala Lodge, Vic Falls. Willie Ranby and the Prime Seeds team, Jaap, Tjeerd, Floris and Jans at UFO Supplies in the Netherlands and Keith Bell and all at Crop Serve. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve thanked each of you in the past. And now again. I’d also like to thank Matt Linford at Crystal Signs for our splendid promo banners and last but not least, Paragon Printers for all their help.
I am happy to report that donations are incoming. Thank you all. Your help could not have come at a better time.
To donate please use one of the following options-
Or transfer to Bulawayo Help Network, Account Number 0041087600345101, Ecobank Zimbabwe Ltd, Bradfield Branch
Or Ecocash to Bulawayo Help Network merchant code number 139149.
This week’s Swahili 101-
Unaweza I kulipa kwa hiyo in Zimbabwe Dollars? – Can I pay for that in Zim dollars?
Tafadhali kuacha kuchecka – Please stop laughing.
Fanya wewe unataka kununua a kabichi mbegu? – Do you want to buy a cabbage seedling?
In closing, please join us at Sorella’s at 18.30 on November 1st to hear us make stuff up about our forthcoming Mt Kilimanjaro adventure.
Until next week, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can.
Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.
The Old Legs cause took on a face this week. I’m going to call her Barbara. Based on her date of birth, Barbara is supposed to be a pensioner. But she isn’t. Because her pension got wiped out in the hyperinflation years. And plus she has to support her parents, now in their eighties, whose pensions also got wiped out by Mugabe’s stupid economics.
And so Barbara still goes out to work, despite a debilitating and incurable auto immune disorder. And alas, this story gets worse. Barbara’s eighty plus year old Mom also has to go out and work to support Barbara because Barbara’s salary doesn’t even begin to cover the costs of Barbara’s medication. Catch 22, Zimbabwe style.
Barbara contacted me this week to ask if I could help get her registered with one of the pensioner charities we support. She did her best to fly a brave flag, describing herself as being blessed but I could pick up on her terror at the prospect of Hyper Inflation Round Two.
I told Barbara no problem, of course I could help. I trotted off to see Pensioners Aid. Who told me they would do an assessment interview soonest. But they also told me Barbara and her parents will have to join a thirty or more waiting list until more donations land. If I could, I would fast forward the Mt Kilimanjaro ride to tomorrow.
Like so many others. Zim closed in on me big time this week. Barbara’s story, prices doubling and then some in a week, fuel queues, not being able to buy my son’s medication, stock outs of basics like cooking oil and bread, and on and on and on. So I had no option but to go to Mbare and buy yet another very loud flower shirt. I have a quaint theory that if you dress like you are on holiday, sometimes you feel like you are on holiday. But it is starting to wear thin and the neighbors are complaining about my noisy cupboard.
President Ed, if you are reading, please fix all of the above soonest, or at least build me a bigger cupboard for more shirts. And also please take down your election billboards offering up promises of stable currencies, a properly good health sector, blah, blah, blah before you get bust for false advertising.
The other thing that gets me over the lumpy bits in life is helping others less fortunate. Please try it, it is good muti for the soul. And it sets us apart from the bad guys.
This week, I’m happy to introduce you to another pair of Old Legs – Adam Selby, husband to Linda and proud father of 2 grown children and 3 grandchildren.
Adam writes – “I’m a 1958 model so am celebrating entry into official old age . I like to believe 60 is the new 40 – but I’m told 9pm is the new midnight. Training for this trip certainly makes that true!
I’ve worn many caps through an exciting career living and working in Zimbabwe but the core business, and what still makes very day a new experience, is supply of fruit and vegetable locally and exports to Europe, Asia and Australia.
The lure of riding to Kilimanjaro is too exciting an opportunity to refuse. To be able to raise money for a great cause is just icing on top- I hope we make it to see the icing on the mountain.”
I got back on my bike after a three week hiatus for runny tummy and Mana Pools. Adam and I peeled off from the rest of the Herd on Saturday morning to pedal up Pig Hill. On our way up foothills that weren’t there three weeks ago, Adam renamed Pig Hill Expletive Pig Mountain. But that didn’t stop him from scampering up it like a startled Klipspringer. Startled Klipspringers are annoying. Small wonder they’re endangered. When I got home I asked Google if it was petulant to wish a puncture upon a Klipspringer and he said yes but also entirely warranted.
Whilst on subject of training, I can confirm that hell will freeze over and pigs will fly on the 10th of October. After riding his bike an average of 41 km every single day for the last 401 days, Dave Whitehead has decided he’s not going to ride every day anymore. He says he doesn’t want to be regarded as obsessive.
But what’s actually happened is Google told him that very fit people are more prone to suffer altitude sickness on Mt Kilimanjaro than less fit people. Dave’s fear of altitude sickness is now almost as developed as his fear of being eaten by lions whilst on his bike, a fear born in the Kalahari. I say almost because I felt compelled to point out to Dave that the man eating lions of Tsavo live just next door to Kilimanjaro. Poor Dave now also stresses about developing a tummy because he’s not riding every day anymore. Lions love tummies.
I would like to acknowledge our first corporate sponsors of the Old Legs 2019 Tour- Alan and Eric York from Dumile Beef, Stuart and the team FX Logistics team, Arjan, Bruce and all at OZ Import and Zimflex, Graeme Murdoch at PHI Commodities, Pro Pay, Selby Enterprises and the management and staff of The Directory. Thank you, thank you, thank you for making a difference.
Please support our cause by going to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/oldlegstour.
In Zimbabwe you can transfer to Bulawayo Help Network, Account Number: 0041087600345101, Ecobank, Bradfield Branch
Or you can use Bulawayo Help Network’s Ecocash merchant number 139149.
Funds raised will help pensioners across the width and breadth of Zimbabwe.
This week’s Swahili lessons-
Ni sisi karibu huko bado? – Are we almost there yet?
Funga up na waka pedaling- Shut up and keep pedaling.
In closing, I’d like to say Happy Birthday to my granddaughter Cailyn. She told me she’s turning five next week tomorrow. For her birthday, I’m giving her my dirty bike to clean. Cailyn’s best thing in the whole world is cleaning stuff. Me and Cailyn are a match made in heaven.
Until next week, enjoy and pedal if you can
Eric Chicken Legs de Jong
What is a man to do when he wakes up of a morning in Mana Pools and his third favourite pair of shoes, the ones with rubber soles with leather uppers that were if not hand made then were certainly made by a person in a factory in Indonesia, aren’t outside his tent where he left them?
Having seen herds of benign herbivores lolling about all over the Park chewing cud, first up I was prepared to blame Jeremy Corbin. Then I remembered seeing a Slavic looking guy with size ten feet earlier in the day. So I added Putin and his Russians to my list of suspects. But as it turned out, my third favourite shoes were eaten by a discerning hyaena. Alas.
Unfortunately I have to blame Jenny for my loss. Leaving my interestingly odoured shoes outside our tent was my 32nd wedding anniversary present to Jenny. It was the least I could do as once again our big day snuck up on me surreptitiously. I know we got married on a Saturday but our anniversary keeps popping up mid-week.
As always, Mana Pools was special. I don’t think spring got a look in there this year and the temperatures have taken a shortcut to 40 degrees plus. The surface waters are drying up fast and as a result, the game was very visible and out in the open. The campsites along the river were busy all day and into the night with all sorts of animals, especially elephants. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many different herds of elephant before. At sunset on the one day at Mana mouth, we were treated to the spectacle of several herds of elephants stampeding through clouds of dust in different directions. I don’t know what set them off. Probably they picked up on the rumour that Jeremy Corbin was in town.
On our second but last day in Mana, a tourist was tragically gored to death next to the camp by an elephant cow protecting her calf. Alas. It was the harshest possible reminder that the African bush and the animals in it are dangerous and deserving of our respect.
To get in and out of our camp we had to ford a swollen river which wasn’t there in the middle of the rains in January. Because my four wheel driving skills are right up there with my ability to spell brocoli, it was nerve wracking stuff, each and every time. The rivers are way up in the driest part of the year because the new South Bank hydro electric scheme is now fully operational and using up a bunch of water. Which means more power and less power cuts. I only mention this because I’m desperately seeking positives to report back on.
There weren’t many positives in my Third World this week. President Ed contributed to one of them. Standout resplendent in his many caloured scarf, in his address to the UN General Assembly and the world, President Ed broke with tradition by not blaming Britain, the US and every other western nation for the financial pooh that we are in in. That was refreshing and good. And then on the side lines of the General Assembly, he reportedly took chutzpah to a whole new level when he offered Donald a golf course site in Vic Falls. I do like chutzpah so I’ll put that down as a plus.
In the last of the positives for this week, when they got back from New York with begging bowls empty, President Ed’s finance team fronted up to our financial predicament and announced a raft of belt tightening measures to be forced down our throats. Taking muti when you’re sick is a good thing.
But thereafter there was nothing but bad, with President Ed in the middle of it all. First up, his keepers of the coin laid out for all to see the reasons we’re in the crap. Starting with the fact that our government borrowed a.k.a stole 10 billion dollars from the local market, as in you and I, in the last 5 years. Too easy, they just went in and hoovered up cash from the banking system, leaving behind bollocks IOU Treasury Bills. And it gets worse. They hoovered up our hard earned US dollars and they’ve replaced them with some bogus, fictional crap electronic currency, a currency that they haven’t as yet got the balls to even give a name to.
In the big wide world of Trump and friends, 10 billion might not sound like a lot. But in the context of the Zim economy, it is a huge number. Total market deposits sit at just 9 billion. And they’ve borrowed / stolen 10 billion. To flog this to death, government local debt In 2013 when Tendai Biti was in charge of petty cash, sat at 200 million. That’s now bounced to 10 billion, in just 5 years. And 5 billion of that debt a.k.a. swag got racked up in the last year alone. 1 Billion of it went to fund military and civil servant pay increases awarded in the month before the elections would you believe. Good belt tightening men.
And then impossibly it gets even worse. Social media is awash this week with pictures of a US$ 1,5 million Bugatti Veyron, the world’s most expensive super car, purportedly imported by one of President Ed’s sons. Again, good belt tightening men.
To give my rant context, exactly this kind of stupid, just 10 years ago, completely eradicated our wealth and reduced our pensions to zero. Exactly this kind of stupid is why we have to ride to Mt Kilimanjaro next year to raise money for the pensioners, a generation who built our country and who now have nothing. And it’s happening all over again.
Elections you can rig, but economies not so much. Apparently we’re dead in the water unless we get a bail out from the West, specifically the US. Our only hope is that when and if they do bail us out, they attach big time strings, like fiscal and electoral reforms twenty years overdue. Here’s hoping.
One of the nicest things about living in Zimbabwe is that people are mostly gentle, tolerant and forgiving of others. So I was hugely saddened at the barrage of hatred and vitriol directed at a gay school teacher at an upmarket private school this wheel because of his sexual orientation. Because he is gay, he received death threats, directed at him and his pets. I just cannot get my head around that. We’re in the 21st Century and people of substance are out there threatening to kill a man’s poodle , and him, because he’s gay. I have nothing but contempt for the gutter press who started the whole thing but threatening to out the teacher because of his sexuality. In a country where the President’s son’s $ 1.5 million super car doesn’t make the papers, how the hell does a private individual’s sexuality become a news item? I hope and pray the police prosecute the people behind the death threats but I doubt.
I don’t know the teacher but people who do tell me he is a credit to his profession and the school he used to teach at. I’d like to apologize to him for all the bigots out there. And if ever he wants to ride a bike and talk rubbish at the back of a slow peloton, give me a shout.
But enough of the depressing stuff. I’m happy to introduce to you our 2nd oldest pair of Old Legs- Al Watermeyer. Al writes –
I was born in Mutare in March 1949 (a vintage year to be sure – have you ever met a dud?). I hated riding my bike to school every day and was delighted to give it to our cook when I finished at Prince Edward School. I made a firm promise I would never ever ride a bike again – but in 2010 my brother and Ant Mellon shamed me into a Blue Cross and an Argus and I have spent a fair bit of time in the saddle since then. I take credit for helping Eric get the bike bug by gently helping him enjoy the first few days of a Blue Cross – although after he broke the bike I had lent him, had soiled the loo roll I lent him, and then coughed in his dust as he sped up to the Nyangani car park, that credit felt like a double edged-sword. 2019 is the year I turn 70 and I am keen to finally come of age – a 2700km ride from Harare to Kili fits the bill perfectly. And if that ride helps us get in a bunch of money for the needy in Zim, it’s nothing short of a double bonus.
We’ve all but finalized our route up to Kilimanjaro and will be riding 2900 kilometers over 24 ride days. Because 120 km a day often on dirt is a very long way on a bicycle, especially if you’re blessed with chicken legs, I’ve started my training sort of in earnest. I’ve researched how best to go about my training regime. Apparently you don’t train for a fight with the big school bully by going out and fighting big bullies. You train by picking on smaller kids first. Accordingly, I’m going to sneak up on my distances, gradually, starting with 100 kms a week, then 150 kms, then 200 kms, eventually building to 350 km a week for the last two months before the off. Consequently, I expect I will be bloody tired come the June the 1st.
Bruce has adopted a different approach. He’s parked his bike and is mostly swimming to build up strength in his legs, and also in case we encounter swollen rivers on our way up north. But I’ve seen what crocodiles do to wildebeests in swollen rivers where we’re going and won’t pack my speedo. I’ll rather wait for the rivers to become un-swollen.
Our fund raising platforms are now up and running. Please support our cause by going to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/oldlegstour and follow the prompts.
In Zimbabwe you can transfer to Bulawayo Help Network, Account Number: 0041087600345101, Ecobank,
Or you can use Bulawayo Help Network’s Ecocash merchant number 139149.
Funds raised will be spread evenly amongst pensioners across the width and breadth of the country.
In closing, apologies for the rant. Next week, more bike stuff and less depression, I hope. Until then, enjoy and pedal if you can.
Eric Chicken Legs de Jong
Al and what’s left of 3rd favourite shoes.