Thursday morning with the pensioners

There were 2 standout crimes committed in Zim last week. A gang of fraudster robbers headed up by a boss know as the Guvernor bust into the Reserve Bank and thieved 8 billion US, replacing them with toilet paper a.k.a. Treasury Bills and a fictitious 4 letter currency called RTGS. The gangsters were aided and abetted in their Ponzi scheme by the commercial banks of Zimbabwe who have forgotten how to spell fiduciary and think it’s ok to hand over the hard earned deposits of their clients in return for a promise on gilt edged toilet paper.

The other stand out crime was committed by a villain posing as a journalist who was terrorizing the streets of Harare with a camouflage umbrella.

The long arm of the law pounced – on the journalist. Unfortunately his camouflage umbrella didn’t work too good ‘cos the police saw him coming nonetheless. They seized him and handcuffed him and bundled him off to the magistrates court for a dose of justice. People not being able to see you coming would be an excellent punch line for a camouflaged condom advert, but I digress.

On a roll, the police promptly went out and also arrested Africa’s top Trade Unionist for visiting Zimbabwe whilst belonging to an international Trade Union but I think that’s all part of international charm offensive preceding an appeal for hundreds of million dollars in food aid for the 5 million people currently under threat from a drought related but mostly incompetence big hungry looming.

Meanwhile and despite a public confession in the media by the Guvernor, the Ponzi scheme fraudsters remain at large, and are hard at work ramping up inflation, all because of a perk of the job called arbitrage. Here’s how it works.
You set retention levels for exporters i.e. ceilings on how much of their US dollars export earnings they’re allowed to keep. For example gold miners get to keep 55%, tobacco farmers get to keep just 30%, etc, etc. The Reserve Bank get to keep the rest, paying miners and farmers out for the forex they’ve put into the pot in fictitious RTGS dollars that aren’t worth the paper they’re not printed on. And because the Guvernor is greedy and so as to get a second bite of the apple that got away, he’s introduced a handy 30 day Use It or Lose It rule.

Now how to use your forex to best advantage if you’re the Guvernor? Thanks to arbitrage, the last Guvernor was able to retire to a modest 80 bedroomed mansion complete with Olympic sized swimming pool and helicopter landing pads after just 10 years on the job. Or do you spend it on consumables like petrol, diesel and medicines? Decisions, decisions.

Knee jerk reactions to the RTGS Ponzi scheme abound. Government have increased import duties by 300%, whilst gold deliveries have fallen off by 50%. The Telecommunications sector agreed to a 50% wage increase whilst the Banking sector screwed their workers for just 42%, despite the big bucks they’ll be making. Oh what fun we’re having in the Third World, for the second time in 10 years.

Dave and I spent Thursday morning visiting some of the most affected victims of the Ponzi mugging, the pensioners we’re riding to Mount Kilimanjaro to help.
Lynne Taylor from Pensioners Aid took us to meet Robbie, who after 12 years as a BSAP policeman and 22 years as a Manager in the Parks Department with the City Council is supposed to survive on a pension of 80 RTGS paid only every 3 or 4 months. Robbie’s quarterly pension will buy him +/- 44 loaves of bread, and that’s before the inflation mentioned above kicks in. But for Pensioners Aid who look after his rent, his food, his medicines for his chronic diabetes, Robbie would be in a very bad place. Because of time pressure, we could only spend 15 minutes with Robbie but I’ve promised to go back to look at his garden. Robbie has the greenest fingers and his tiny garden is his pride and joy. He said our too short 15 min visit made his whole week.

Next we went to visit Carel, Martin and other old friends at the Salvation Army hostel in Braeside. When we visited them a year ago just before our Cape Town ride, Martin, a doctor in a previous life, when told of our intention to ride bikes to Cape Town told me I really needed to see a doctor.

Back then, Braeside looked tired like some of it’s residents. Fast forward a year and what a difference. Braeside has a new lease on life, courtesy of Major Mubaiwa and his wife, Major Mubaiwa. Braeside 2019 is spic, span with happy people, like Carel who’d enjoyed fresh scones for tea the day before. We only met Mrs Major Mubaiwa, she was in the kitchen working on the week’s menu with a volunteer from Pensioners Aid. Mr Major Mubaiwa was scouring Mbare for spare parts for the men’s toilet cistern valve. They couldn’t buy new because the hostel that looks after 60 pensioners had just 60 RTGS dollars in the cash box to see them through the rest of the week.
Because we were looking hungry, Mrs Major gave Dave and I a pair of delicious cooked mealies, fresh from the garden. I’m going to swop the mealies for vegetable seedlings, provided by Seedling Express, one of our corporate sponsors.

People like Robbie need help more than ever. If you have an hour or 2 to spare in your busy week, adopt a pensioner and visit them every week and talk. The old folk we met are all suffering most from loneliness. If you’re connected to a school, get your kids to adopt a pensioner as a Pen pal like the kids at Open Minds, so they can spread the love and show they care.
And if you are financially able, please 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 borrowed a leaf out of Adam’s High Intensity Interval Training book this week. Unfortunately I didn’t pay much attention whilst reading. HIIT, a 4 letter acronym, centers on bouncing your heart rate up and down like a yo-yo, by sprinting and then not sprinting. That I don’t have a heart monitor was a minor detail and I launched into my first encounter with HIIT on my stationary bike, Root Canal. My first session wanted me to warm up gently for ten minutes,followed by 4 minutes 50 seconds in Zone 2, followed by 10 seconds sprinting, repeated over and over for an hour. I almost nodded off reading the instructions. What was sprinting for 10 seconds going to prepare me for? I’m riding to Mt Kilimanjaro not Lake Chivero. So I decided to up the ante. 5 minutes in Zone 2 where ever the hell that was, followed by 10 minutes of flat out sprinting.

Al Watermeyer once explained the Theory of Relativity to me as thus. 10 minutes with your hand on pretty lady’s breast is fleeting whilst the same ten minutes with the same hand on a gas burner goes on forever. And then there’s 10 minutes sprinting on Root Canal. Towards the end of the first sprint session, I was sprinting fast like Brexit, sounding like a barber sucking in air from Gokwe, sweating fluids that I hadn’t even drank yet, trying to remember back to my last episode of Grey’s Anatomy what the signs and symptoms of heart attacking were, all, whilst trying manfully hard not to vomit. Good Lord. A muscle in my face that I didn’t know I had started cramping. Then the cramp got cramps. I looked like a vibrator and my toes wrinkled like they’d been in the bath for an hour. The moral of the story is stick to the script and don’t do heart rate training without a heart rate monitor.
Saturday’s training ride went marginally better. Adam and I rode 125 kms down the Mazoe Valley and out on forgotten dirt roads that used to be tar in a previous life ,towards Concession and Glendale. Adam rode in front of me, mostly because I still looked like vomiting. But I was sort of able to keep up.
We’d never ridden that way before so it was new and beautiful countryside, apart from a 20 km stretch of once bush that was in the process of being dug up by illegal gold miners. It was like something out of the Wild West. Which was a snag because by then I was fixating on a cold Pepsi but we didn’t want to risk a pit stop in one of many roadside shebeens.
Alas. What was once the breadbasket of Africa has now been reduced to maze of muddy holes in the ground full of desperate people, digging.
Moving on to positives, around the world other Old Legs are busy training. In Lesotho, on top of a mountain that looks to be higher than Kilimanjaro, Alan Rheeder gave his mother and me grey hairs with a video of his heart stopping descent. Not far from there, Al Watermeyer finally hit the coast at Baviaanskloof en route to the Cape Argus. Enjoying the first sun in forever Carol Joy is smashing personal bests on Strava across Germany. It’s all coming together.

In closing , this week’s Swahili 101.

Wewe ni chini kukamatwa kwa sababu I hawezi mwavuli yako! – You’re under arrest because I can’t see your umbrella.

Kushiriki ya upendo. Kupitsha a mstaafu! – Share the love. Adopt a pensioner.

Until next week, dig deep, survive and pedal if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

I have a new reference point for hell on earth

I have a new reference point for hell on earth – the ladies / girls clothing section in the Pep Store in Musina on a hot day when the air cons aren’t working too good. And as evidenced by the 48 screaming toddlers in store with me at the time, I wasn’t the only one thinking hell on earth.

I was in Musina last week with Jenny and granddaughters Jocelyn and Cailyn in search of shoes, brooks and pajamas in pink and/or lilac for Jos and Cailyn plus comfortable but functional underwear, color optional, for 80 year old mom Bets.

Ordinarily that might sound not too tough a task until you get embroiled in the My Little Pony vs Barbie vs Hallo Kitty debate. And you don’t want to know how many variations of pink are out there. I’m thinking Henry Ford fine tuned his ‘They can have any color they want as long as it’s black’ strategy after a visit to a the pajama department in his local Pep Store.

My shopping experience was slightly tempered by my shopping companions. The Christmas Trees in the Musina Mall are modest by most standards but they had 5 year old Cailyn oohing and wowing. And 11 year old Jos had fingers and toes crossed hoping the Mall we were headed to had an escalator she could ride on. It takes not a lot to make Zimbabwean kids happy.

Not far behind Peps Store in the misery stakes was the passport queue on the SA side of the border. For Zimbabwean commuter shoppers, the SA queue is dehumanizing. They get treated like cattle with zero sign of Mandela’s much espoused spirit of Ubuntu. Alas. And given how much they spend in South African shops, you’d think SA officials would roll out the red carpets for Zim shoppers. I’m thinking the SA retail sector sponsored Mugabe’s destruction of Zimbabwe’s economy.

South Africans can rest easy at night knowing the black and white booms at their border posts are well protected. I counted 25 uniformed policemen seated in the shade zealously guarding the Musina boom. I can’t but think that maybe some of them should have been stationed under the innumerable ‘DO NOT STOP. HIGH CRIME ZONE’ signs dotted all along the highway into town.

Zimbabwe is a village. No one is a stranger, everyone knows everyone. As evidenced by our first night in SA spent at the Moreson hot springs resort. After 6 hours in the car and forever in Pep Store, we headed to the hot pool to lurk like hippos and unwind. There were 2 other families in the pool at the time, 1 belonged to Cailyn’s best Townsend Learning Centre buddy Jock and the other were a young couple Jason and Colette. After two minutes of shallow end conversation, it turns out Jason’s granny Thelma was my KG1 teacher and his dad Plug was my class mate at Alfred Beit and later my squad mate at Morris Depot.

Jock doesn’t swim too good so he asked me to give him a lift from the deep end to shallow end so he could play with Cailyn. Because he is the most lovable huggable kid in the world, I told Jock no problem. He hopped on my back and we headed towards the shallow end. Half way there with only my very pronounced center parting to look at, Jock asked me “Hey man, what did you do with the rest of your hair?” Jenny nearly drowned laughing.

As mentioned Zimbabwe is a village and every village has an idiot. Ours just released his first budget in parliament. Stand outs were an increase in traffic fine ceilings from $30 to $700 a.k.a. ZAR 10,000. Plus a proposed 5% cut in civil servant salaries. For a select few senior big fish civil servants, the pain of the pay cut will be eased by proposed duty free imports of motor vehicles. Watch this space for renewed street mugging by cops. Watch this space for the next big civil servant scam.

We were in SA to help Jenny’s Mom Hester celebrate her 80th birthday. It was a surprise party, made all the more special by kids, grandkids and great grandkids from far and wide.

Unfortunately we were also in Joburg for Black Friday which is when prices get slashed, triggering a shopping frenzy which I can only liken to the stampede triggered by news of a cooking oil delivery in Zimbabwe. For me Black Friday highlighted the disparity that exists between Zim and SA. How can one country have so much and the other so little? It really sucks. As did the many hours I spent in shops whilst in Joburg. Shopping was made all the more miserable by the shocking difference in prices. Medicines we pay US$ 62 for in Zim cost the equivalent of just US$ 4 in Jhb. Alas.

Moving on, I did enjoy the bike shops I went into. Mostly I just salivated, but I did replace my missing 5th favorite pair of ride shorts, stolen by Putin and/or Jeremy Corbyn, plus I bought a marvelous piece of technology called a Chain Checker. I can’t wait to ask the You Tube girl how to use it.

For the rest, our week in SA was best ever, catching up with family and best friends Mark and Merryn, Clive and Patrick and Jackie. I was also able to pay my respects to the Stanton family on the loss of their husband, father and grandfather Pete. RIP Pete, a giant of a man.

And then it was back to Zim with Cailyn providing the background music; the first two lines of ‘A little donkey on a dusty road’ over and over and over. In between Cailyn’s marathon Christmas carol recital, Jenny and I argued about whether to fill up with fuel in Musina or Beitbridge. Jenny wanted to play safe and fill up in SA whilst I was in favor of saving forex and swiping for fuel in Zim. Thankfully Jenny wins the arguments in our family because the fuel queues in Zim are back with a vengeance, longer and uglier than ever. Apparently the 100 million liters of fuel we borrowed from the kind ZANU sycophant a month ago is all long gone. Alas.

On to matters to do with cycling, which is what this blog is supposed to be about. Having checked my chain thoroughly and more than once, I got back on my bike for the first time in 3 weeks. I rode with Adam up Glen Helen Way, Foley John Crescent and Hoggerty Hill, twice. I should rather have gone Pep Store shopping in Musina.

Whilst I’ve been away, Adam has fallen in with a bad crowd, Carl Wilson and Joe Wright. Carl and Joe are training for the Cape Epic and invited Adam to join them. Adam maintains that Carl and Joe tried to kill him, on a mountain called Jesus, so called because it gets you up close to God. Going up Jesus, apparently Adam slowed up so much he was able to revisit the principles of falling off a bicycle.

Fast forward three weeks of near death by mountain bike, Carl and Joe and Adam is living proof that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. Wearing my new pair of performance enhancing sun glasses for my first ride back, I was quite cock a hoop, for about the first 5 kilometers and/ or minutes. Whence upon my performance enhancing sunglasses failed to kick in, fogging up instead through over exertion, thankfully blotting out the sight of Adam scampering up a sheer mountain with gay abandon, scant regard for gravity and the exuberance of a demented Klipspringer. I’ve decided to ask for a refund on my sunglasses. And alas, my story gets worse. Tomorrow, I’m joining Dave and Adam for a session of Carl and Joe vs the mountain. Please tell my wife I loved her lots.

Elsewhere around the world, other pairs of Old Legs are preparing for Mt Kili. Last weekend In Joburg, Al Watermeyer and Alan Rheeder were joined by 28000 other riders for their training ride a.k.a. the 94.7. Five hours later in 35 degree heat, Al can now confirm there are no down hill bits in Joburg. After the race, Al celebrated by having his shiny almost brand new 29 inch Merida stolen. A pox on all bike thieves. May their testicles get caught up in their chains.

In Germany, Carol Joy has bought a thing of beauty Trek Top Fuel 8 full suspension bike to ride to Mt Kili on. In Aussie, Mark Johnson racked up plus 200 kms through Noosa and other too pretty parts of Down Under on his brand new Trek. Not much riding in Switzerland this week though with our Old Legs Nik Bellwald recovering from a double hernia op. Get better Nik and back on your bike.

In closing and mostly because I’m grumpy about non-performing sun glasses, fuel queues and poor,poor Zimbabwe, I’m awarding Dick of the Week to the idiots behind the decision to build a shiny new Parliament building in the middle of nowhere, 25 kilometers out of town. I rode past the new busy Chinese building site yesterday and couldn’t but think that a new parliament is just what a country with no petrol and no drugs in the hospitals needs. What was wrong with the old Parliament? English are still making do with theirs and it’s hundreds of years old. I’m thinking Ed wants a new Parliament because the old one is within easy walking distance of tens of thousands of disgruntled citizens. Plus I’m hearing that a bunch of real estate around the new site was grabbed long ago by members of the Mugabe clan. And whilst on the subject, apparently Bob is not doing too good in Singapore. Bummer dude, hope it hurts.

Please support Round Table 23’s Jail and Bail at the Tin Roof this Friday in which Andrew ‘Gaspipes’ Morland, Leticia ‘Cadillac’ Campbell and 15 other villains get locked up and stay locked up until they raise their bails with all proceeds going to Old Age Pensioners. Dig deep and please support the best cause out there.

This week’s Swahili 101

Mimi kuwana kwa kuacha. Miwana ya miwana yangu ni wote imefungwa up – I have to stop. My sunglasses are all fogged up.

Kidogo Punda, kidogo punda, juu a vumbi barabara – Little donkey, little donkey, on a dusty road.

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

If they handed out Oscars for over- loading, the winner would be a Zimbabwean.

If they handed out Oscars for over- loading, the winner would be a Zimbabwean.

Zimbabweans are the best over-loaders in the world and can get 5 tons on a 1 ton pick-up truck no problem. The height of overloaded trucks and trailers at Beitbridge is my barometer for economic knackederness. Currently the trucks and trailers are as high as ever I’ve seen them.
My road back from SA last week was full of them, intrepid Zimbabwean entrepreneurs settling sail from Hillbrow at 40 kph with 5 tons of groceries on their 1 ton pick-ups bound for Harare’s street markets. Perched right on the very top of the load normally is a kid’s bike and a garland of empty buckets, like some sort of Michelin star rating awarded for excellence in overloading. Unfortunately there is usually no room in the overload for spare tyres or breakdown triangles. Which is a problem because 5 tons on a 1 ton pick-up on silky smooth South African highways might be easy peasy but on the lumps bumps and potholes that are Zimbabwe’s roads, not so much. I counted 7 break downs cluttering just the Beitbridge – Masvingo stretch.

My sock drawer is a shocker. Stuff goes in there and never comes out, odd socks included. I wouldn’t be surprised if Amelia Earhart was in there somewhere. On a shock scale of 1 to 10, my sock drawer is a 14. On the same scale, driving the Harare – Beitbridge highway is a 27 – especially after a week on South Africa’s highways. The road is dreadful and the driving worse. Small wonder 80 plus have died on our roads in just the last 2 weeks. And in the amongst the carnage, our diligent police force guard their black white road block drums resolutely, pausing only to extract beer money from combi drivers. I’m guessing our crime stats on the theft of black and white road block drums are the lowest in the world. Thus my prestigious Knob of the Week award goes to Zimbabwe’s
policemen.

With just 6 months to go to the Mount Kilimanjaro ride, I’m starting to stress about my golf swing. Fully aware that my swing sucks worse than my puncture repair techniques, Al Watermeyer is organizing the inaugural Riders Cup golf challenge to take place on our Tete Rest Day. Hiking through the Mozambique bush in searching of my missing golf balls with an emphasis on plural doesn’t sound very restful to me. As. I peaked early in my golf career with my best ever round coming in just my second game. And since then it’s all been relentlessly down hill. With time to practice, I expect I’ll be especially crap come the Tete tournament. Already I feel sorry for my golf partner.

The other thing I need to brush up on for the Tour are my camping skills. Mostly we’ll be camping all the way to Kilimanjaro. So as soon as I got back from SA this week, Jenny and I packed up the tents and headed to Mana Pools with friends from Holland, Marcel Moerman and Maya van der Ham.

With temperatures nudging forty and the inland Pools all but gone, the pressure on the River belt was huge with hundred plus herds of buffalo, waterbuck and impala. I have no idea what they’re eating because there wasn’t a blade of grass to be seen for miles and the browse lines on the mahoganies have inched up beyond the reach of all but the eland and the kudu. With predators in close attendance, camp filled up every night with edible animals looking for refuge in amongst the tents. Everything was on edge and we saw a grumpy old buffalo bull in camp have at a passing hippo, just because.

Stand outs for me on the trip were a pack of 17 wild dogs, watching hundreds of crocodiles in Long Pool gorging on barbel and massive flocks of Lilian lovebirds, resplendent in their vivid greens, peaches and pinks. If I’d painted them in art class, I’d have been flunked out for being over busy with the palette. Not that I’m a painter. My art medium of choice has always been plasticine. But I don’t do lovebirds, just snakes. My angry snakes are especially good, ditto my scared ones and my reclining ones.

And on the subject of snakes, we took two to Mana Pools to guard the tents against marauding baboons. The snakes, fully reticulated, highly venomous made in China wooden cobras, one brown and one green, were a red hot tip from Phillipa Marrett. Once I’d positioned them in their most aggressive pose next to the tents, we were able to go on game drives with complete peace of mind. Alas. As it happened, baboons travelled from the far side of Mana to laugh at our snakes. And when they’d finished laughing, one of the brutes ripped a new entrance and a new exit in our tent, bypassing the cable ties I’d cunningly and strategically placed on any and all zips, and spent a leisurely afternoon snoozing on our stretchers and rummaging through our kit. He especially enjoyed the contents of Jenny’s medicine chest and my toiletries bag. Because he scoffed a job lot of Enos and Citrosoda, a big box of paracetamol with vitamin chasers, my suspect is a healthy well vitamined brute with fully functional digestive and urinary tracts and no headache. On the bright side, I don’t think he tried on my underpants or my underarm and thankfully the Enos didn’t kick in whilst he was still in the tent. We’ll get by just fine without the purloined medicines because Mana remains the best muti ever. For sure God adds on to your life any time you spend there.

We have pairs of Old Legs all over the world training hard for the Mt Kilimanjaro Tour. In Germany Carol Joy ventured onto new paths through glorious autumn foliage, enjoyed her second puncture in seven years and didn’t enjoy the last 40 km of a 71 km trip in the pouring rain with puddles in my shoes. She cycled 190 km and ran 30 km. In Malawi, Al notched up some back to back 50 kms, through stunning scenery as training for next week’s Joburg 94.7. In the Netherlands, Jaap ventured above sea level on his bike as often as possible. He’s supplementing his training with two speed skating sessions in the week, building his legs. In Switzerland, Nik continues man down with the flu. Back in Zim Dave, Bruce and Adam look to be averaging between 20 and 40 km daily. I’ve been more strategic in my training and bought a pair of of performance enhancing sun glasses and expect to be able to ride faster and further when eventually I do get on my bike.
Which better be pretty soon. After receiving the following plea from one of the residents of Borradaile Trust, Marondera, I wish we could start pedaling tomorrow.

“I am writing this with a very heavy heart and it’s a plea to the world out there.
We are part of a beautiful community in a beautiful area called Borradaile Trust Retirement village in Marondera Zimbabwe.
Just recently the Trustee Board had to increase the rent and levy by quite a margin and this has brought fear to all of us, as we are not able to meet this demand and some have already said they’ll have to leave but have no where to go.
So my plea to anyone out there to please help keep the residents here and to support them in anyway you can.
My husband and I have been there and know what it feels like to be in dire dire straights when we lost our farm.
My heart goes out to all here at the Trust and therefore, if there are any good Samaritans out there, please please help keep these these people here at the Trust otherwise they’ll all have try and find cheaper accommodation which is, at their advanced years, not possible.
In the past the local commercial farmers kept the Trust going but, as you all know, that has dwindled and it’s of great concern.
Many thanks for reading my plea and may God bless you all.”

For those living outside Zim, please can you forward this plea for help to any and all Service Organizations like Rotary, Round Table are Lions who might want to adopt an old age home and help it through our current crisis. It is really bad and set to get worse.

If you’d like 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.

In closing, this week’s Swahili 101-
Madhubuti hapana nyani zilizopita hii hatua – Strictly no baboons allowed past this point.

Jhadharini yo nyoka- Beware of the snake.

Until next week, enjoy and pedal if can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

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