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?

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,
Bradfield Branch
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.

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