I am fast running out of superlatives like vast, immense, massive, immense etc for Tanzania

I am fast running out of superlatives like vast, immense, massive, immense etc for Tanzania. Far apart also works. We rode 135 km from our swanky accommodations in Chiona to our less swanky accommodations in Haneti, we’re camping in amongst school buildings that were unfinished long ago. I think the noisy Muslim guy from the Mosque next door in Chiona has followed us here. Either that or he’s got an equally loud brother working here. He’s just set the village dogs off with his call to prayers.

Most of the village came to watch us set up camp. The Mullah and his wife were quite keen to use our shower curtain as a background for a selfie. Adam had to chase them off because Linda was showering at the time.

The countryside in between early morning and late afternoon varied from lots of bleak to lots of pristine woodlands up on top of a large range of hills. Apologies if I’ve overused the words lots of and large in these Tanzanian blogs but they fit. We rode through some more wetlands but still no shoebills. I worry they are extinct. Ditto genets. I passed another ex-genet squashed on the road. Not long after, I heard a fish eagle crying.

We met the support cars 50 km into the ride on the edge of Dodoma for a breakfast of French toast as supplied by a Jen, Linda and Sue and chapatis as foraged by Alastair. Alastair is the best forager. Left on his own in the bush, he’d put on weight.

We worried about getting lost on our ride through Dodoma so bunched up and rode as a group. But as it turned out there was nothing to worry about and we found the ring road around town easily. But to say we rode around Dodoma isn’t as cool as saying we rode through it, so we turned back and diverted off the ring road and rode through the busy hustle and bustle yet spic and span city centre. Tanzanians don’t do litter. The fusions of cultures were fascinating; Swahili and English; Christian and Muslim. The churches were all doing a roaring trade with Sunday morning devotions and we rode alongside a huge Corpus Christi procession through the streets.

I struggled after Dodoma in the wind and on the hills, but not the down hill bits, and mostly rode alone, with Jack Johnson and the Chilli Peppers loud in my ears. The song Black Betty also works good on hills. My failing legs got a boost by way of a hundred dollar cash donation received from Johan Viljoen, a South African living in Arusha. Thank you, thank you, thank you Johan.

Ryan fell off the trailer spectacularly whilst getting chairs down for our lunch stop and sprained his ankle badly. To provide him comfort, Jenny and Linda defrosted our frozen chicken dinner on his swollen ankle. Ryan is stressing that his ankle will still be crock come time to walk up Mt Kilimanjaro.

The end of our adventure is now getting close. I overheard Hans finalizing flight arrangements out of Arusha. Mark Johnson stood up on his bike every 5 minutes, hoping for a first glimpse of Mt Kilimanjaro on the horizon. Silly boy.

When she started training for the Tour back in November last year, Carol Joy registered on a Strava women’s monthly kilometers and climb challenge. Normally she places about 23000. This month she’s bounced up to 14th, in the world.

With just 5 days to go, we’re getting to the business end of Dick of the Day and everyone is on their best behavior. Dave was the only nomination, on trumped up, scurrilous charges. So we all voted for him. He now joins me, Ryan, Alan and Carol Joy on 2 awards. Only Jaap, Lunda abs Sue have yet to get on the board.

Please support us as we ride to Mt Kilimanjaro to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. Help us to help them. Go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/oldlegstour. In Zimbabwe, transfer to Bulawayo Help Network via their CABS Platinum Account number 1124733450 or their
Ecocash merchant number 139149.

Until tomorrow’s blog from somewhere else in the middle of Tanzanian nowhere, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can- Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

Today we rode from Migoli to Chiona

Today we rode from Migoli to Chiona. Put another way, we rode from somewhere just past the middle of nowhere to another place also in the middle of nowhere. After 22 days on Tour we are now about 2400 km away from home.

It sounds crazy but for the first time on Tour, today felt properly foreign. On all other previous days, there’s been something similar to back home; sights or scenery, the vegetation or the people, something. But on today’s ride there was nothing similar, other than the
baobabs , and even those were different. The baobabs that we rode through all day, thousands and thousands of them, are shorter, stumpier, somehow stunted as compared to baobabs back home. And the fruit pods are smaller and more slender. Maybe it’s a sub-species.

I saw different kind of birds today and was able to deploy my binoculars for the first time. First up, I saw some small yellow and black faced parrots, slightly bigger than a lovebird and with red beaks. Then I saw two different types of starling, a long tailed one but dirty grey in color and the other had a glossy head and tail but with a russet colored body. For the record, I didn’t see any shoebills, or crows. I did see a dead genet cat, squashed on the road. Predictably Alastair tried to forage it’s tail, but failed.

We rode alongside the Mtera Dam for most of the day, either we rode especially slow or it is a bloody big dam. Mtera is a hydroelectric dam.

From what I could see, they certainly don’t use the dam for irrigation. I don’t know what the people around here do for a living. Inside the 130 km that we rode today, there was zero sign of any farming, bar a very few small herds of cows and or goats. Having said that, Adam was able to forage bunches of small, black grapes to supplement the dinner table.

I guess it’s the people and their complete lack of English that make the place seem so much more foreign. Only the very odd person is able to speak English, I think. Their accents are very strong and hard to understand. Mostly we’ve had to resort to sign language. Alastair is especially crap at sign language and very quickly drags every conversation to his beard. If we were playing charades, I’d bust him for cheating.

We are less of a curiosity here than we were in Malawi and Mozambique and the people give us more space. As I write, the chap in the mosque across the road has just called everyone in earshot to prayers, even though it is still pitch dark outside.

We’re staying in another of Ryan’s funny little guest houses. I have no idea how he is able to find them, but he does, so far without fail. Normally we give Ryan a target distance for the day at lunchtime, depending upon how knackered we are, and he and Bill rush off to find us accommodation for the night. Tonight’s guesthouse is called Madalha’s, so most of us are able to feel a real sense of belonging. Madalha’s costs the equivalent of US 3.00 a night per person so as you can imagine it is quite swanky., apart from the toilet, which is of the hole in the floor variety. I am seriously considering constipation. Unlike the mosquitoes who are also staying here, of which there are many, we’ve gone with the bed only option.

For the second time on Tour, viva antibiotics. My finger is much, much better and the knuckles on my left hand are back.

Even though we’re technically in the middle of winter, it is bloody hot. We were at 700 m a.s.l. for most of the day, climbing up to 930 m after lunch. We’ll carry on climbing today and after reaching our target distance of 130 km, should finish up at about 1200 m a.s.l. We’ll pass through the town city of Dodoma late morning which should be interesting. I love riding through new places and almost put my neck out, gawking at all the sights and sounds.

The support guys are putting in some serious late challenges for Dick of the Day honors. With great reluctance, Bill handed over the DOD necklace last night to John MacDonald who was found guilty on trumped up charges. For fear of wee in my coffee, let it be known that I never voted for either of them. I’ll never vote for any member of the support team, especially Jenny.

We are riding to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s beleaguered pensioners. And with the economically stupid fully in the driving seat back home, they need help more than ever. Help us to help them. Go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/oldlegstour. In Zimbabwe, transfer to Bulawayo Help Network via their CABS Platinum Account number 1124733450 or their
Ecocash merchant number 139149.

Until tomorrow’s blog from the metropolis of Chimene, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

I couldn’t watch as Adam prepped his needle

I couldn’t watch as Adam prepped his needle. Good Lord but 10 cc is a lot. As he zeroed in on one of my veins with needle poised, I asked Adam when last he’d applied an injection intravenously. 

“Don’t worry. It’s all under control. Left arm or right arm?”
“Maybe go with the left. The guy yesterday did the right arm. When last did you give one, Adam?”
Adam told me “Don’t sweat it. It’s just like falling off a bicycle, you never forget how.”
“When, Adam?”
“About forty one years ago” said Adam as he made a move on one of my veins. My veins are big, almost bigger than my arms.
“Oh.”
Rather worryingly, Adam ignored his own advice and commenced sweating. The needle slipped into the vein. Apart from intense pain, I never felt a thing. Instantly, a boiled egg haematoma popped up.
“Shit.”
“How about you try my right arm? It worked for the guy yesterday.”
“Good idea.”
There was no need to apply a tourniquet. Already my veins were bulging alarmingly. “Shit.” Again, another boiled egg haematoma. Adam upped his sweat output to buckets. “Let me try another one.”
“Ok.”
“Good. We’re in.”
“Ok”
“Shit. We’re not in.”
“Ok.”
“How about we go intramuscular instead?” Adam asked.
“Ok.”
Adam applied pressure to the plunger oh so gently but going in, the 10 cc of muti thudded into my buttock, subtle like a croquet mallet. Apart from squealing like a girl, I remained brave throughout.
Two down, just twelve intravenous antibiotics to go. What fun.

“How about we look for a clinic or hospital this afternoon to give me the next jab?” I asked Adam conversationally.
“ Great idea.” Impossibly, Adam looked more drained than me.

Jaap and Adam nursed me on the 50 km ride from the Farm House to Iringa. My finger wasn’t throbbing as bad as it had the day before. Maybe the antibiotics were working. Mostly I rode one handed but still the back of my hand had swollen alarmingly by the time we stopped for breakfast outside Iringa. Adam checked in by phone with his doctor friend in Zimbabwe. The increased swelling wasn’t good. Worse case scenario, I could lose a finger or worse, apparently. Better to have an ultrasound soonest, said the doctor. While the other riders pushed on through Iringa, Adam and I headed for the Iringa hospital.

Iringa is a pretty town perched high up on a hill, about the size of Mutare but busier and much neater with zero garbage and litter. Eventually we found the hospital. Signage in Tanzania is in Swahili only,,which is a snag for lazy English speakers. The hospital was busy busy. Before I could have an ultrasound, I needed to register. Which was again a snag because the queue for registration was a hundred deep and not moving. And I still had another 90 km to ride.

Enter Dr Faith, resident physician and nice person, just as I was leaning towards pushing on towards our night stop regardless. We told her what the ride was about, etc, etc. Dr Faith looked at my hand, made a phone call and told me to wait. She’d asked a surgeon to come and have a look.

Dr Mwashambwa arrived, looking like he’d just stepped off the golf course. Straight away, he zeroed in on the cut on the finger which by now was looking angry, red and swollen. Whilst I was trying to translate ‘Local anesthetic please’ into Swahili, he stuck me in the finger with a scalpel and a bucket of pus gushed out. Instant relief . And even more relief when he told Adam better to move from intravenous antibiotics to oral ones for the rest of the Tour.

I rode the rest of the 90 km of the day’s ride with a huge sense of relief. All was good in my world again. I love Tanzania and her people.

I especially love the countryside and the changes in vegetation we’ve ridden through. After Iringa, we rode into thorn scrub, sort of like the bush you get riding into Bulawayo. And then just as that was getting boring, we bumped into the most amazing escarpment, thick with trees, none of which were flamboyants or jacarandas. I did see a mukwa tree which made me think of home. Just as we started dropping down the escarpment to Mtera Dam below, I saw my first baobabs, short, stunted and looking cold and out of place at 1250 meters a.s.l.

The further north we get, the more Masai we see. Impossibly tall, haughty and with legs like mine, they are a very impressive people. The words ‘legs like mine’ and ‘impressive’ sound weird in the same sentence. I like the Masai a lot. But for their spears and swords, I’d hug it up with them.

Somehow Ryan and Bill found us the funniest little guest house in Migoli, a tiny spot on the map,misspelled by Google Maps. The guest house is all bling with shiny tiles and hole in the floor toilets. Adam and I raced the sun to get there, arriving at 18.15 with 151 km on our Garmins. We’ve dropped down to 700 meters from 1800 in Iringa. That means we’re going to have to climb back up again but we’re not too fussed. The hard yards of the Southern Highlands are behind us.

A huge shout out to the Zim community here in Tanzania. They’ve shown us the love. While I was being poked and prodded, the rest of the Old Legs played golf at the Mafinga Club. Huge thanks to Peter and Shanna SJ, Janet Sanders, George and Jane Bottger, Jason and the list goes on, for your hospitality and for supporting our cause.

Back home in Zim pressure is building like the pressure in my finger. 18 hour power cuts are taking their toll. Staff at Zimra, the state revenue collection agency, have apparently asked if they can pitch tents at the office because they can’t afford rent or transport anymore. Some thing has to give. Here’s hoping it bursts like my finger, and all the dirty pus comes out so the healing can begin.

Help us help Zim’s beleaguered pensioners by going to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/oldlegstour. In Zimbabwe, transfer to Bulawayo Help Network via their CABS Platinum Account number 1124733450 or their
Ecocash merchant number 139149.

Until my next blog from somewhere near Dodoma, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

Tanzania truly is a beautiful country, God’s own

After God finished making all the lumpy bits in Southern Tanzania, I’m guessing he rested there for a bit. Riding through it on a bicycle, Tanzania truly is a beautiful country, God’s own.

When first we started planning our route months ago around my dining room table, places like Njombe, Makete and Makambako were just hard to pronounce names of places I’d never heard of. And now I’m riding through them, dodging tuk tuks and trucks in amongst busy markets and bazaars. On the map they’re just inches apart, on the bike they’re hours and days apart, hours and days spent marveling at the unfolding scenery.

I rode through some stunning wetlands yesterday. I stopped to look for a shoebill stork but couldn’t see any. I’ve humped a pair of binoculars in my Camelbak all the way from Harare to look for shoebills, but so far the only new bird I’ve seen is a Grey Headed Parrot at Mukumbura. And lots and lots of crows.

And what a place Tanzania is to farm. If I were thirty years younger. It has all the fertile soil in the world, planted out to either potatoes or tea, bananas or avocado or macadamias or timber plantations that go on and on and on, stretching away in every direction as far as the eye can see. This place just doesn’t stop. You get to the top of a hill, of which there are many, and there’s more of the same in front of you. And with hardly any people. The population pressure is way, way lower than neighboring Malawi.

Happiness is the management of expectations is one of Al Watermeyer’s many expressions. Either he has a book full of them or he makes them up. At our evening briefing before leaving our campsite outside Njombe, Al said he thought the day’s ride would be about 140 km with not too many hills. Normally Al is able to give us exact distances but because we had to tweak our route after fleeing the Kitulo Plateau and because we couldn’t get onto the internet at Njombe, we had to rely on Al’s plus minus estimates. Still knackered from Kitulo but with a rest day coming up, 140 km we were sort of happy with, especially if there were no hills involved.

To make the day more challenging, Adam rode the first 20km with his back brakes jammed on. Silly boy. We had the kindest of tail winds for the first 50 km. Mark Johnson actually had to slow down for some traffic policeman manning a 50 kph speed trap.

Alas. When we got to Makambako, it turned out to be 10 km further than Al’s estimate. Our 140 km day had just turned into a 150 km day. And then our happy tailwind turned into a viscous side wind as we turned towards Iringa. But thankfully the Dutch wrote the book on riding in and with the wind. Jaap organized our peloton so as to protect the inside riders from the worst of the wind and we still flew along. But 10 guys riding at speed in a close formation, taking turns at the front and moving clockwise, is nervy stuff, especially when one of them is me.

I was especially wobbly on my bike yesterday. 10 days ago whilst trying to unscrew something, I deftly used my Leatherman to cut the middle finger on my left hand,. Because it was a deep cut, Ryan doused it liberally with wound powder which stung like buggery. Unfortunately the wound powder didn’t work too good and 3 days ago my finger started aching. I meant to ask Adam to look at it but didn’t.

And by yesterday morning, ny finger was that swollen, I couldn’t get my ride glove over it. And by the time we got to Makambako, it was throbbing, amplifying every lump and bump in the road, of which there were many. Oh what fun, especially the rumble strips, of which there were more than many.
By the time we hit 100 km, my finger was that sore I was having to ride one handed, which up hills and over rumble strips is zero fun. And the only brake I could apply was my front one. Then we found out from one of the support vehicles that Makambako to the Farm House was actually 114 km. Our ride had just ballooned out to 164 km, our longest day on the Tour. By the time, I rode into the Farm House, my finger was fat like a sausage,angry, inflamed and bloody sore. But my finger aside, I was pretty pleased at how I’d gone. We all were. All of us have now ridden into peak fitness.

It was too late to see a doctor about my finger so I self medicated with beer and I was able to get some sleep. My whole hand was fat like a baseball catcher’s mitt with mumps when I woke up.

Before going off to find a doctor, I had to pay Dick of the Day penance by riding a lap on Gideon. Jenny managed to fall off Gideon on her lap but with no one watching. We had to ride without Gideon’s WWII helmet because Ryan has managed to lose it. I think my grandmother bequeathed me the helmet in her will. Or I bought it at the St Johns Fair. I can’t remember which.

When eventually i saw a doctor, she said I have cellulitis. Which I think means the infection is into the bone. I couldn’t hear her properly over my whimpering. With the lowest of pain thresholds and a vivid imagination, i’ve met Maltese Poodles who whimper less than me. The doctors has prescribed a 7 day course of intravenous antibiotics, times 2 per day. Which is fourteen injections over the next days. I don’t think we’ll be riding past that many clinics or hospitals in the next week, so enter Adam the medic.

To swat up on his intravenous injection techniques, he last gave one 40 years ago in the army, Adam came with me to the hospital in nearby Mafinga to watch me get my first 10 cc injection, and to video it, so he has a point of reference to watch for the next week, morning and evening. But mostly I think Adam took the video so he can laugh at the ‘Oh My God, How Big Is This Roller Coaster?’ expression firmly fixed on my face throughout. Check the video out on Facebook.

I’m so not looking forward to the next week. Adam is.
And it gets worse. We’re receiving medical advice from afar. I listened to Adam’s call to a doctor back in Zim on speaker phone with horror. Apparently if the swelling on the back of my hand gets any worse, my hand will need to be lanced, from the palm side, with either a needle or a scalpel, taking care to avoid ligaments etc, so as to release the build up of pus. Rather too eagerly for my liking, Adam started asking lots of questions like what size incision, etc, etc. Thankfully the doctor on the other end of the line said better we get it done by a surgeon or a doctor at a hospital.

Already the first antibiotic injection is working. My hand is less swollen.
We’ll see how we go tomorrow, and the days after. I am determined to finish the ride and to climb the mountain afterwards. But I am also rather keen on not having my finger amputated. Thankfully I’ve got Adam, Jenny, Linda and the doctor from afar watching out for me.

I need to tell you about my Tanzanian hospital experience. It was good, real good. The nurse and doctors who gave me my tetanus and intravenous injections attended to me professionally and quickly, with smiles on their faces and apart from the cost of the cannula, the treatments were free. What’s up with that, President Ed? How come there are drugs for free in Tanzanian hospitals but no drugs at all in Zimbabwean ones? We’ve ridden through 3 other African countries and have not seen potholes, fuel queues, cash shortages, forex shortages, shortages of bread or shortages of anything. If you can’t do the job President Ed, better to stand aside for someone who can. You’re messing up our lives and we only have one.

One of the downsides of my sore finger is that I was not able to go play golf with the rest of the Old Legs team at the Mafinga Club, hosted by Janet Sanders and other members of the local community. Alas. As I write this at 23.00 the golfers are still not home yet from the golf and the curry dinner so I guess I won’t be the only one in pain on tomorrow’s ride.

The local community have been so good to us. Our host at the Farm House, Rick Ghaui, drove Alan literally hundreds of kilometers yesterday in search of bearings for his back wheel.

We are now 17 on Tour. Sue Johnson flew into Iringa yesterday to join us for the last week, to make sure Mark doesn’t lose anymore kit.. Mark quickly washed his pillowcase in the dam at Njombe before Sue arrived. I’m surprised he hasn’t been riding with the pillowcase stuck on his face it was that dirty.

From here to our end destination, the Kili Golf and Wildlife Estate between Arusha and Moshi, we’ll be adlibbing when it comes to night stops. We have 835 km left to ride in 7 days. If anyone knows of any schools or clinics or farms etc that we can camp at, please let us know.

As I re-read this blog, I’m struck by the enormity of the task we’re close to achieving. We’re 10 riders, some of us in our sixties and seventies, and we’ll have ridden 2900 kilometers, climbing over 30,000 meters in just 27 days. But the enormity of our task is dwarfed by the enormity our cause. Back home, our poor pensioners are again being reduced to nothing, for the second time in ten years, by sheer economic stupidity. Help us to help them. Go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/oldlegstour. In Zimbabwe, transfer to Bulawayo Help Network via their CABS Platinum Account number 1124733450 or their
Ecocash merchant number 139149.

My next blog will come to you from somewhere on the other side of Iringa. Until then, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.

A delightful little lake outside a little town called Njombe

I am blogging to you from a delightful little lake outside a little town called Njombe. I’m not supposed to be here. We should still be up at 2800 plus meters at the Kipengere National Park but we were forced to make a strategic withdrawal from the Kitulo Plateau, beaten by the road and the mountain.

The sharp shale shards that made up the road surface took their toll on the vehicles with 4 punctures, 1 shredded tyre, 1 busted rim and a busted tow hitch on one of the trailers on the drive in.

We tried to fix the punctures in camp but bust the tubeless repair tool in the process. At 07.00 the next morning, the Dairy Farm pointed us to a Mr Fix It guy down the road and we set off wrapped up with 4 layers but still bitterly cold. 2800 m up is a stupid place for a dairy farm.

One of the Land Rovers punctured yet again on the way to Mr Fix It. We were only able to get back on the crappy road again well after 10 o’clock, with 98 km ride and 2500 m of climb in front of us. Renier and John went ahead in the Patrol to the next little town to look for more tyre plugs, for just in case, leaving us with just the 2 support vehicles.

By lunchtime we’d only knocked off 38 km. The hills were too steep and my legs were broken from the day before and I ended up walking half of them. Our night stop, Igumbilo Farm, just 60 km away but back up at 2800 meters, was starting to look impossible.

We couldn’t be riding in the dark again so we cobbled together a Plan B. We’d send all 3 support vehicles ahead to the night stop, to off load before coming back with the bike trailer to find the riders on the road. Alas. Plan B didn’t work too good.

Igumbilo Farm up at 2800 meters is impossibly remote, without cellphone signal and a dreadful access road and the vehicles only got there as it was getting dark.

Meanwhile back on the road, the cyclists lost their shape and their legs and we splintered into 2 groups. The B Team, consisting of 7 riders, stopped riding at 5 o’clock, still 30 km short of our night stop. We took refuge in a road side pub full of hookers, loud music and cold beers to await uplift. Ahead of us Team A had decided to try and push on to the stop. Silly Team A.

After 3 beers, Team B moved to Plan C. The support vehicles had only just found the night stop and it would be hours before the vehicle would be able to uplift us. So we hired a 1.5 ton truck and a taxi to ferry us up to the farm. Alastair and I went in the truck with the bikes. It started getting bitterly cold but luckily our truck’s engine was overheating so we were warm like toast inside.

Somehow we managed to find Team A on the side of the road and in the dark just 18 km short of the farm. Kudos to them for a huge ride.

The last vehicle with the bikes arrived at Igumbilo Farm after 9,utterly knackered and exhausted. Thankfully we didn’t have to set up camp as David and Joyce Moyers has opened up their home to us and we arrived to a roaring fire and hot showers.

We had a quick reset. Our next leg to Kipengere National Park involving 109 km of bad roads and 2000 m of climb clearly wasn’t going to happen, not without dead cyclists and dead support vehicles. With David’s help, we plotted Plan D involving a new route down to Njombe and decent roads. I say down, but we still climbed 1200 meters getting there.

All’s well that ends well. Ryan and Bill went ahead to find us a camp site next to a delightful dam. They were also able to get the tow hitch on the trailer fixed. A delicious dinner around the campfire has worked wonders and we’re good to go for our last 140 km to our next rest day at the Farm House at Kisolanza. Thankfully, not too many hills involved apparently. Wish us luck. And please support us by
going to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/oldlegstour. In Zimbabwe, transfer to Bulawayo Help Network via their CABS Platinum Account number 1124733450 or their
Ecocash merchant number 139149.

In closing, I need to acknowledge Jenny’s efforts to make sure the Dick of the Day necklace was kept in the family by forgetting her toothbrush at Igumbilo Farm. Joyce and David drove 30 km down the hill to return it to her.

The next blog will be from Kisolanza outside Iringa. Until then survive, enjoy and pedal if you can. Eric Chicken Legs de Jong