I was the last rider on the road yesterday by a long way. I don’t want our adventure to end

I was the last rider on the road yesterday by a long way. I don’t want our adventure to end. I was also last because I hadn’t abluted in 3 days and was having to avoid any and all sudden movements, lest there be an accident. Just as well I’m not a bear because I have serious problems crapping in the woods. I have even bigger problems with busy long drops. I’ve been holding out for porcelain but Ryan has let me down badly these last 2 night stops. Alas.

We camped last night at a school in a village called Haneti. The kids were very hungry to learn with 12 and 13 year olds cramming in extra lessons until ten o’clock at night. It bodes well for Tanzania’s future.

We rode into a blanket of thick cloud first up this morning. I couldn’t see more than 10 meters in front of me and had to ride even slower than normal. I’m guessing the views were good because our first hill of the day was plenty steep enough.

Once we crested, it was downhill and or flat out for the rest of the 130 km day as we rode out on to the Masai Steppe, home of the Serengeti plains. Even I’d heard of those. It was all very exciting.

For the first 20 km we rode heavily populated areas with lots of intensive marketing gardening and busy market towns. The support vehicles foraged hard as we were running low on supplies. Without help from Ryan though. His ankle, hugely swollen and discolored, is not coming right despite compression and ice. We’re sending him into Arusha tomorrow to see a doctor.

Once out of the market gardens, we rode into thorn scrub with tall Ilala palms and only the odd lonely baobab, which look to have reverted back to short and stunted. I did see a flamboyant tree but he wasn’t a very good specimen.

Alan said I also almost saw a shoebill and a flamingo but he scared them off before I got there. Alan has a very good poker face and I rode with binoculars at the ready thereafter, just in case he wasn’t talking crap.

By the time we arrived at our breakfast stop, we were into proper thorn scrub, busy with bird life. There were plenty of suburb starlings which make our glossy ones look dowdy and plain by comparison. There were a lot of other birds that weren’t crows. There were lots of reported flamingo sightings because people have now tumbled to my distance vision being not so good.

Dave’s vision is also not so good because he and his stomach overshot the breakfast stop at speed and by some kilometers. He turned around and rode back with a worried look on his face in case Alan and Ryan had scoffed his breakfast. There are no flies on either Alan or Ryan. Linda and Sue gave us impromptu go go dancing lessons at breakfast. Ours is culturally diverse Tour and I’m learning a lot.

After breakfast, the thorn scrub opened up into dry open plains. We could see Lake Manyara to our left, home to the world famous lions in the trees and on our right, we had Tarangire National Park, the Elephants Paradise.

The wildlife share the Steppe with the Masai and their large mixed herds of cattle and goats, watched over by herd boys in their bright tartan shukas a.k.a. blankets. I’m wondering if the Masai bumped into tartan first or whether they borrowed it from the Scots. The Masai women also look cool with their elaborate white beaded necklaces and long, dangly earrings. The Masai are proud and slightly aloof but quick to smile and I like them a lot.

I rode slow and on my own at the very back, like a sponge, trying hard to soak up the sights and sounds of our last days in Tour. Apparently I almost saw hundreds of wildebeest and zebras standing right next to the road. I was however the only rider to spot a huge ex-hyaena next to road who’d been hit by a truck. I take some solace from the fact that hyaena with their camouflaged spots are harder to spot than big, dime a dozen wildebeests.

Riding on your own gives you time to reflect. Rather than stress about bad news out of Zimbabwe, I reflected on our nearly ended Old Legs Tour, both the good and the bad.

For anyone planning a similar adventure, my best things on Tour after my wife and in semi order are
i ) – porcelain toilet bowls
ii)- the Boskak 2000
iii) -my music. Frowned upon by the cycling purists, my music got me up all the hills on Tour. And Jack Johnson, the Chilli Peppers, Green Day and the Kings of Leon all help make long lonely roads less lonely
iv) – my little rear view mirror on my handlebars which allows me to see the make of truck I’m about to be run over by
v)- bum cream. I actually use milking salve instead of Sudocreme and have had zero mastitis problems either.
vi) lip balm and zinc oxide. After my legs, my bum and the rest of my body, it is my lips that have taken the most flack on Tour
vii) oral antibiotics and Nurse Linda. Having just re-read my list, Nurse Linda should be promoted well up the list.
viii) best friends and teammates, some old and some I’ve just met, both on the bikes and in the support vehicles. My teammates have been the very best and there isn’t one of them that I wouldn’t walk over broken glass for.

Thankfully my bad things on Tour list is much shorter – i) intravenous and intramuscular antibiotics, big syringes and bigger needles especially in the hands of Medic Adam ii) malevolent kit bags iii) and last but far from least, bad news from home.

We received a plea today from home that illustrates exactly how bad things are in Zimbabwe and exactly why we are riding our bikes from Harare to Mt Kilimanjaro. ‘Liz de Klerk’ aged 67 with diabetes has to have her left leg amputated in a hurry but can’t afford the US$ 6000 quoted by her surgeon whose small print on his copy of the Hippocratic Oath is obviously very small. Liz’s siblings now living in the UK have only been able to raise half the money needed and asked us for help. And for sure we will help, even if we have to keep on pedaling past Mt Kilimanjaro. Help us help Liz and others 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 tomorrow’s blog from Arusha, the gateway to Mt Kilimanjaro, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

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