14th July – The Third World as seen from the Saddle

Day Two of the Old Legs Lockdown Tour.

This blog is coming to you from the banks of a very sandy river on the edge of the Tuli Circle, we are camping in communal land, per kind favour of Headman Ncube. As I type at 04.00 I can hear the night sounds of Africa; cow bells, roosters crowing and dogs barking. In town, the dogs would be annoying but not out here. Which is weird. Out here, they sound pretty cool. Mostly the dogs are barking at the black-backed jackals that have been calling around our camp all night, also pretty cool. I was hoping to hear a Brown Hyena but didn’t. But that’s okay because all is good in my world.

The tone for the day was set early this morning when I received a phone call from the Chief Superintendent who vetted our security clearances when we applied to take the Tour through the National Parks. He told me our permit is ready for collection and we are good to ride through the National Parks and Wildlife areas. We are all hugely upbeat and excited at the prospect of taking epic to another level in the likes of Gonarezhou, Matusadona and Chizarira where not too many other bicycles have been before, not that we were down before.

Being a Professional Guide, Mike Scott will take charge through the wildlife areas. I’ve decided that he can have all my black jelly babies going forward, provided I don’t get eaten or stood upon. If I do, the black jelly baby offer becomes null and void. I’m hoping I ride past a lawyer’s hut today so I can get all of that done up in a legal agreement with T’s crossed and I’s dotted. If I do find a lawyer, for sure he’ll ask me to pay in rand. We rode 108km today from Gwanda to Fort Tuli today and have not been able to buy a single thing using Zim Dollars. Even NetOne airtime was priced in South African rands, Net One being the government cellphone company. The people around here are dirt poor but not looking to get any poorer. I told them to stop panicking because Eddie Cross says the economy is back in a good place and Zim dollars are peachy again but they are doubting him.

Despite having nothing, the people here are quick to smile and laugh and we shared the love all day.

The first 70 km of today’s ride from Gwanda to Guyu was on good tar, opened by Mugabe in 1989. After yesterday’s slog on every road other than the Old Gwanda Road, riding on tar today was a breeze and a blessing. 9 hours plus in the saddle took it’s toll on my legs. According to my watch, I broke my personal record for my fastest 40 km ever. At the end of the day’s ride, my watch also suggested 4 days rest would be appropriate, but that’s not happening, because I’m having another best adventure ever.

I was able to cause confusion and panic today. When people asked me where we are going, I answered Bulawayo. Shame, the one poor chap chased after me to tell me I was riding in completely the wrong direction. I told him I was taking the scenic route. Scenic routes are the coolest. I love them.

Riding out of Gwanda this morning, we fairly flew along. Carl organized the peloton to shield me from the worst of a robust headwind. We worked out a simple communication system using our bells. One ring for speed up, two rings for slow down any many, many rings means expletive expletive slow down. We should have used foghorns instead of bells. Carl never heard my bells and disappeared. He is properly a Cape Epic kind of bike rider, able to spell competitive despite having gone to Vainona, and not happy unless he is red lining at 190 b.p.m. At times today, I worried that he was going to nod off.

And also very cool, on one of our brief flirtations with cellphone coverage today, I found out that we as the Old Legs Tour have been able to source an oxygen making machine for the Farm Family Trust. They asked us if we can help last week and thankfully we can. They do hugely good work and that we are able to help is exactly why we pedal bicycles. Thank you for helping us help them.

I am sure that Gwanda to the Tuli Circle a car would be boring and bland but at 20 k.p.h on a bike, it was stand out good. Little sentinel kopjes kept watch over us, small granite outcrops towering over the scrub acacia, baobabs and candelabra trees, and the funkiest little cactus plants ever. Vicky got spiked when she stopped to admire them.

The Tuli Circle is steeped in history. The shape of the circle was determined by the arc of the guns defending the Fort. I got huge kick knowing out of knowing that I was riding the same road that Rudyard Kipling and Baden Powell, Jameson and Rhodes had followed one hundred and twenty years earlier. I also got a kick out of riding past the turnoff to Sun Yet Sen. I so wish we were riding through it but can’t afford the extra 160 km.

After the holiday on the tar, it was back to slog and grind on 40 km of some of the worst bone jarring corrugations I have ever ridden. My man bits took such pounding that were I to father anymore children, they would be born very mixed up.

I spent the day sweeping at the back of the peloton for stragglers and strugglers, but thankfully encountered none. After 2 days riding, our legs are getting the hang of this. I think mine will come right by the time we reach Tsholotsho.

I spotted a Spotted Eagle Owl which wasn’t difficult because it was in the middle of the road and I almost rode over it. I claimed it for the Birds Spotted list but Carl disallowed it. He said dead birds don’t count. Which is a pity because it was a wonderful specimen. We also saw Mousebirds, Hornbills, Rollers and some horribly lost Hadedas from Joburg abs were horribly lost, but no Pels Fishing Owls, because rivers around here don’t do water.

Using threats of wee in the coffee and or reduced portions, the Support Team are normally able to enjoy a certain degree of Dick of the Day immunity but both Gary and Stu can now be considered as serious contenders for the overall title. On a first day spent horribly lost because we didn’t use our GPS’s correctly, Gary threatened to take lost to a whole other level by losing his GPS on the side of the road where it spent the night. Fortunately, a very honest security guard found it and returned it in morning. Stu earned his Dick of the Day nomination by rewarding the Guard for his honesty above and beyond with a Dendairy chocolate milk. Stu and Gary spent the rest of the day further cementing their DOD lead by losing stuff off the back of their truck. They are now both considered to be low hanging fruit.

Please follow us today as we ride 105km from the Tuli Circle to Nottingham Estates on the banks of Kipling’s great grey green greasy Limpopo River. We are riding to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. We help us help them and follow the donate prompts on www.oldlegstour.co.zw

Until my next blog, survive and enjoy if you can

Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

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