I’m sure the words Alas and Wow are used more often in the third world, than in the first. We used both words a lot in August.

Sept 9 2018

Alas was our go to word in the aftermath of our just ended elections which, if reduced to a video game, would be like Grand Theft Auto but not quite as subtle. But enough of the depressing stuff.

Wow was the word heard most often on our family beach holiday to Vilanculos, Mozambique. Neither Jocelyn nor Cailyn had ever seen the sea before and both were beyond excited. With long white beaches and crystal clear waters and zero shopping malls, Vilanculos is the perfect family beach destination and fully deserving of every Wow it got.

Looking back though, I now realize that I possibly screwed up in my choice of bed time story subject matter. On the first night I told them the story of the Death of Ginger Arbuthnot, an enthralling tale in which 13 school friends went to the beach but only 12 came back. Ignoring the pleas and warnings from his classmates, Ginger went on to the beach after dark to make sand castles by moonlight. And then the crabs got him. His last words, clearly heard by the rest of us cowering in our beds, were ‘Aargh The crabs have got me.’ All we found of Ginger the next morning was a scrap of his Speedo and his plastic bucket.

I thought it was a pretty good adlib storyline but Jocelyn spent days 1 and 2 like Chicken Licken on the beach waiting for the sky to fall on her head. But come day 3 and no death by crabs yet, she got much better.

Until the Lion Fish. We went snorkeling off one of the islands off the mainland. It was the first time we’d managed to coax Jocelyn into the water where big crabs live just in time for a Lion Fish to go swimming past her goggles. Don’t touch it, a man nearby warned her, because it is poisonous enough to kill every man, woman and child in Uzbekistan. Jenny screamed through her snorkel ‘Grannies and kids first’ and crabbed out of the sea backwards, fast like Usain Bolt. It took another 2 days to get Joce back in the water after that.

But for the rest it was too good. I went for long walks on the beach with Cailyn during which we debated the demerits of orange, blue, green, yellow and red versus pink. Pink rules OK apparently. I told Cailyn my favourite colors were black, grey and brown. She told me I was weird.

Jenny wouldn’t let me take my bike to Mozambique. So I tried jogging instead. Jogging is an extreme form of exercise for people without bikes. It’s painfully slow and boring. I even had old ladies collecting mussels in big sacks overtaking me. I don’t think jogging will catch on as a sport.

And then alas, it was time to go back to the real world. On our way home, Joce asked if we could pop into SPCA Mutare to meet Spongey, the stray puppy she was asked to name before the Blue Cross. Hats off to Ange, Simba, William and the rest of the Mutare SPCA Team. The kennels were spotless, the dogs were all well fed with tails wagging. For sure those dogs feel the love every day. But they’re all looking for real homes, especially Spongey.

By the time we got back to Harare, most people were over the worst of the post election blues. President Ed will be the man for next 5 years. I hope that Nelson gets his head around that and focuses on becoming a positive and effective opposition, making sure the MDC town and city councils are well run and the best in the country. And then we can try harder in 2023.

There is a bunch of feel good around Zim at the moment. Kirsty Coventry is our new Minister of Sport which hopefully means we’ll have a national cricket team selected on merit and who get paid on time. We now have a very clever banker running the Ministry of Finance instead of a recycled fat cat politician, which will hopefully translate to cash money in the bank instead of fat cat pockets. The worst of the roads in Harare are being resurfaced for the first time in years. Even on the farms, good stuff is happening. On my Saturday morning rides through the Mazoe Valley, we’re riding past shiny new center pivots, one after the other.

On Running Dog we’ve whitewashed all the farm buildings for the first time since 2000 and we’re flat out busy in the Nursery with a massive avocado seedling order for a commercial farmer who now feels he can plan ten or twenty years ahead, as opposed to just as far as next Thursday.

And we’ve pressed the button on the Old Legs 2019 Tour.. But instead of riding our bicycles a long way to a flat mountain, we’re going to ride them a long way to a pointy mountain.

On June 01, 2019 the Old Legs Tour will ride from Harare to Mt Darwin and then on to Mukumbura (once home to the world’s largest minefield and the world famous Mukumbura Surf Club). And then across the border into Mozambique, up to Tete, then into Malawi riding up the length of the Lake, into Tanzania to Iringa, Dodoma and Arusha, avoiding traffic by riding on the roads less travelled where possible. And once we’ve reached the tall pointy mountain a.k.a. Mt Kilimanjaro, we’ll walk up it for 5 days, down for 2 days and that will be yet another truly excellent mid-life crisis done and dusted. And along the way we hope to raise in excess of $100,000 for Zimbabwe’s beleaguered old age pensioners.

There will be 8 pairs of Old Legs pedaling this year, Bruce Fivaz, Dave Whitehead, Al Watermeyer, Adam Selby and me from Zimbabwe, plus Carol Joy Church from Germany, Jaap van Staaveren from Holland and Nik Bellwald from Switzerland. We’ve had to cast our net wider for this year’s tour in search of bike riders who haven’t heard Dave Whitehead’s one and only joke,

The combined age of the Old Legs on tour in 2019 will be an impressive 465 years. We’ll have 2 support vehicles manned by Jenny, Linda Selby and hopefully Ant Mellon plus Ryan Moss from Rebel Media behind the camera. For the ascent up the mountain, we hope to be joined by Graeme Fleming and co.

We’re still to finalize the route but it will be +/- 2500 kilometers with a staggering 23000 meters of elevation gain. Our route through Southern Tanzania is especially harsh and will have us climbing 7444 meters in just 260 kilometers. Ow!!

To prepare for the Tour, I’ve started training under the most arduous of conditions. This morning I rode with the mother of all hang overs, courtesy of Stu Chalmers. Stu would have been proud of my riding with no hands skills. Sore heads feel better if cradled with both hands whilst riding over the bumpy bits.

Riding whilst hanging over is horrible. But about 10 minutes into the ride, as I was riding past a sprawling informal settlement a few kilometers from Running Dog, a man holding a small child waved me down furiously. When eventually I stopped, more to do with tatty reactions than forward momentum, the man rushed up holding his child and asked me if I was DeJongo. Wondering what the hell I’d done wrong, I told him I was indeed. And then he told me he had to stop me because his 3 year old son Clever wanted to meet DeJongo. The Third World and especially Zimbabwe are the coolest places in the world to live.

Until next blog, enjoy and pedal if you can.

Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

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