Pole Pole

The Swahili phrase Pole Pole means slowly slowly. It was first coined by a cyclist, on his way up up up the Kitulo Plateau. In case you haven’t noticed, up is the operative word in this sentence. Good Lord but we climbed today. If our ride today was a church hymn, it would be ‘Nearer My God To Thee.’

We left Rob and Petra Clowes’s lovely farmhouse at 8 o’clock, having treated ourselves to a lie in, because we were well knackered and also because Rob and Petra treated us to a scrumptious breakfast.

The ride down their long driveway was the only downhill bit we had all day. The rest was uphill all the way. Just as well because both front and back brakes on my bike have failed. Unless I can get them fixed, I’ll get to Mt Kilimanjaro well before the others, assuming there is some downhill between there and here.

My first 30 km were tough. I kept losing pressure in my new front tyre and had to stop and pump it up 3,671,141 times. At first we bombed it, until Adam and I ran out of bombs. And then it was the down to the track pump in the support vehicle. Reinier and John took turns helping me pump. Eventually to save time, I swapped my bike for the spare bike off the bike trailer. You can cue in the theme music from Jaws round about now because the spare bike is now fitted with Dave’s ex-saddle, the saddle that mortally wounded his bottom on the first few days on Tour. The saddle is like a brick but less comfortable. It is a huge pain in the arse and every pedal stroke hurt. How Dave dodged Dick of the Day for coming on a 4 week Tour on the saddle of death, I do not know.

Thankfully I only had to ride it plus minus 5 km to our breakfast stop where Dave was able to replace the rim tape on my punctured front tyre. Because I went to a technical school, I was able to supervise Dave and he did a real good job.

Thank God because after breakfast we rode on the worst dirt road up the longest, steepest up hill I’ve ever ridden. Had I ridden that on Dave’s ex-saddle, my bottom would’ve bled to death half way up. The road was absolutely terrible with rocks, ruts and corrugations, interspersed with ankle deep dust. It was impossible to find a rhythm and riding is all about rhythm, especially when you’re trying to ride up steep hills, some gradients as much as 18 percent.

We shared the road with an endless procession of motorbikes and 5 ton trucks, both ferrying goods and or passengers. Often, on the narrower section of roads, we had to get off our bikes to give them right of way. The motor bikes were all 150 cc street bikes, highly accessorized and with booming sound systems, piloted by maniacs. How they do not die plying their trade on that road, I do not know. Ditto the truck drivers. For the most part, they were really nice guys. I spoke with quite a few of them. The one chap and I passed each other more than 10 times. And every time, all I could smell was burning brakes, or the lack thereof. We rode through a crazy little town full of crazy bikers and truck drivers, well over 2000 m high up on the mountain side. It was straight out of the set of a Mad Max movie.

We summitted at 2800 m, well above the tree line, and only then were we able to appreciate the vastness of the Plateau. It stretched out in every direction, impossibly huge vistas as far as the eye could see. It’s not dissimilar to Nyanga and or Chimanimani, just way bigger, like times ten or more. And all covered in wild flowers, only very few of which were in flower. To come back when they’re in bloom is an absolute must, but this time in a car. My legs will kick me to death if I come back here on a bike.

I was helped up the mountain by The Script playing loud in my earphones. The lyrics of one of their songs called Superheroes jumped out at me. ‘Every day and every hour, turning pain into power.’ I listened to it over and over.

We’re camping on a dairy farm 2800 m high. I do not know why you would put a dairy farm this remote or up this high. I haven’t seen any cows. I think they all died in a blizzard. It is absolutely bloody freezing up here. In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned that I was looking forward to donning my thermal Arctic kit. Which was a snag. Because the roads took their toll on the support vehicle. Jen and Linda got horribly lost in the Disco Two and then punctured. Ryan had to go off to rescue them in Disco One. And then Reinier and John also punctured in the Patrol. Leaving us cyclists at the camp site with only the water bowser. We foraged for firewood and got a fire going, more smoke than fire but with some warmth. When eventually the vehicles arrived, we were frozen stiff. After a reunion with our kit, we got camp up in the dark. Somehow Jen and Linda got a delicious Spag Bol dinner out which we disappeared, before hitting our tents.
But before bed, we had to attend to the Dick of the Day nominations. Mark Johnson was nominated and deservedly so for forgetting his pillow at last night’s pit stop. Mark left Harare with 120 liters of kit but has lost most of that. We’re running a book on him arriving at Mt Kili stark bollock naked. I was the other nomination, cruelly nominated by Carol Joy, for eating my breakfast on a piano this morning and for spilling some scrambled eggs on the said piano. Sorry Rob and Petra but Carol Joy did clean up after me. Apparently defiling pianos is serious business and I walked with my 2nd Dick of the Day of the Tour. I should point out that Carol Joy is a pianist when not on her bike. Things are hotting up on DOD front with me, Ryan and Alan all on two DOD’s each.

And on the subject of hotting up, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned but it is bloody cold here. I’m typing this in my minus 20 sleeping bag, wearing two sets of thermals and a jersey, and still I’m cold. I bursting for a wee but haven’t dared go out for one, in case I do a Captain Oats and succumb to frostbite.

Old Legs is all about having fun, doing good and doing epic. And boy did we do epic today. We did it in spades, climbing well over 2000 meters, spending more than 9 hours in the saddle.

Please also help us to attend to the doing good bit 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.

Tomorrow is more of the same, just with more climbing, 2500 meters worth, but with way more downhill, which could be interesting with no brakes. Wish us luck.
Until tomorrow’s blog, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can

Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

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