Pedalling to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe SPCA

The Third World as seen from the saddle -8th of August 2019.

Old Legs Tour – pedalling to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe SPCA.

This blog is coming to you from a tent on a school sports field 108 km from Zimbabwe’s lowest point. Hats off to Dave Riley and the SPCA team for putting the camp together. Today was the first day of the bike version of the 2019 Blue Cross. There were just 9 bikes lined up in the sands of the Sabi River at the start line at one of Zimbabwe’s most iconic bike rides from Zimbabwe’s lowest point to her highest. We ride to raise money for the SPCA. The ride is truly epic and is deserving of better support. Please note there are 364 days until the start of the 2020 edition. Dave Coltart and the Lounge Lizards in Bulawayo, Oscar Bekker, Adam Selby and other Herd members and Stu Chalmers – please accept this invitation and or thrown down gauntlet to join us next year. Doctor’s notes citing a fear of hills will not be accepted. A fear of hills is not a recognized medical condition.

Thankfully the walking version of 2019 edition has been better supported with a field of 44. Mostly walking in relays, the pedestrians left the day before us. With the likes of Mark Hook and Sean Lawler in their ranks, I worry that they won’t leave us any beer in Chipinge. Fluid replacement and carbo loading are very important for us high performance cyclists.

I’d forgotten how much I love the bush in and around Mahenya. I saw a forest of fever trees which was cool. Ditto a forest of flowering aloes. And Sabi Stars in full bloom, but not a forest of them, just a few.

The fauna wasn’t too dusty either. Our sundowners in the dry sandy river bed with Brian and Lynne James were made more memorable by a small herd of elephants also enjoying their sundowners. Patrick and Terry Miller spent the night at Chilo Lodge and were kept awake all night by warring hyaena and lions right outside their room. The only animal sounds that I heard in our campsite just down the road were hippos snoring. There were more animal encounters on our ride out this morning. Alastair showed me a wildebeest right next to the road. I also saw a buffalo in the thick bush right next to the road. Alastair and I slowed right down and hugged the furthest side of the road as we inched around the Big Five animal, giving it bucketloads of respect. Laurie rode passed and told us it was actually a black cow.

I had a less happy reunion with the bloody road which took us 108 km through the Mahenya Reserve up along the Mozambique border towards Chipinge. A year on, the road is way more lumpy, bumpy and knackered than I remember it. I also don’t remember the 1100 meters of climb. The filters in my memory bank work just fine.
The road surface alternated between harsh sharp rocks and thick deep tyre grabbing sand in between. My wrists took flack as did the Nissan Patrol. We’ve picked up a dreadful knocking sound in the engine where something has worked loose on all the lumps and bumps. Prince Edward and Churchill boys respond to dodgy engine noises by turning their car radio up louder but my Allan Wilson education shone through and I’ve fixed the loose cowling with putty and cable ties. I’ll start the car in the morning with fingers crossed.,

It was the sun that did the most damage though with the midday mercury nudging 35 degrees plus. I think the aforementioned wildebeest died of heat stroke, ditto the mad dogs and Englishmen of which we saw not a single one, apart from Patrick. Laurie reckoned today was an 8 litre day in terms of fluid replacement. How these poor villagers around here will make it through to the first rains in November I do not know.

There is not a lot of entertainment on offer here in Mahenya, as evidenced by the rapturous welcome we receive from excited children from villages along the route. Our average speed today was a paltry 16 km and still we got cheered on by kids the whole way telling us that we can do it, we can do it. It is about the only time I’ll ever feel like Chris Froome,

As expected, the Dick of Day race was very competitive with some sterling efforts. But in the end, it turned out to be a two horse race – Alastair vs Patrick. Patrick put in an early trot by falling off in the sand after just the first 20 meters. He was trumped though by Alastair who fell off in the same sand before he even got to the start line. Alastair upped the ante by leaving his new and expensive Camelbak behind at one of our water stops, despite the 35 degree heat. I risked heat exhaustion and certain death riding back to fetch it. Alastair now owes 17 bags of jelly babies. Patrick made a bold last move by killing a scorpion just after it stung him on the wrist when he got into camp. We reminded him this is an SPCA event and he can’t be going around killing animals. I don’t think it was a fatal sting because so far Patrick isn’t dead.

Today we push through to Chipinge up and over the dreadful Sally- a dreadful bitch of a hill with 1200 m of climb in the first 17 km. Wish us luck.

RIP Alastair Lubbe – Allan Wilson old Boy and a good soldier gone too soon.

Until the next blog from Fiddlers Green in Chipinge, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.

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