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

Day 3 of the Old Legs Lockdown Tour.

The countryside that we rode through today was that good , I wished this was a 60 day tour. But thankfully my bottom, legs and common sense have prevailed and we’re sticking with 37.

But first up, a memo to Strive Masiwa, the people living between Tuli and Beitbridge haven’t got cellphone signal either, unless they subscribe to South African Cell C. Please fix.

I don’t think Tuli to Beitbridge residents can afford international roaming. They do it tough down here and are rock poor, as opposed to dirt poor. I think they’d give all the stuff they don’t own for a piece of dirt to plant crops into, although water might be a snag. Instead they grow goats, also a challenge. We didn’t see a blade of grass all morning, just rocks. But we didn’t see a skinny goat either, allowing me to assume goats eat rocks.

The Isuzu D-Max’s did tough today no problem. We gave them a proper workout with washed away roads and bridges and they came through with flying colours. The wash aways would suggest that it has rained here at least once. Should it rain again, we’re covered, literally. I found an umbrella and a rain coat in the the back of Isuzu One, but not my missing battery charger I was looking for. I think both Jenny and Vicky were Boy Scouts when they were girls. I also looked for our missing DSTV remote but I couldn’t find that either. Not surprising. After just 3 days, the backs of both trucks have been corrupted by my kitbag, but don’t swear as much. On the hateful subject of my kitbag, I think it has already started selling off my socks and underpants for beer money. Alas.

Today was an unexpected bonus. I had Tuli Circle to Beitbridge down as bland, boring and bleak, although not necessarily in that order. Instead I got forever Mopane Trees resplendent in their autumnal bronzes and russets, huge forests of Fever Trees and Ilala Palms, amid the Shashe River, a kilometer wide stretch of golden yellow sand, but with no water, so no Pels Fishing Owls either. But we did see Namaqua Doves, White Backed Vultures and a myriad of little brown birds with no names.

We enjoyed a very late breakfast of sandwiches and delicious Pizza from Pizzaz under some massive Fever Trees in a dry river bed. The trees were that old I looked for Rudyard Kipling’s initials carved in the trunks but couldn’t find them.

There was much excitement when we had to negotiate fallen down power lines blocking the road. Bikes were quicker than trucks today, so the cyclists were stuck there twenty minutes, waiting for the Support Team to catch up, so we could warn about the fallen power lines. Although I do think that Jenny and Vicky’s nature walks also contributed to the delay.

While we waited, we talked about propping the fallen power lines up with a long pole so the trucks could pass underneath but we were too scared in case they were live. We told Mike Scott that according to Old Legs Tour tradition, the new guy gets to deal with fallen overhead power lines, a Last In, First Out kind of thing. but he didn’t buy it.

We rode through the Shashe Irrigation Scheme today. In amongst hundreds of kilometers of rocks and the harshest poverty, the 3 massive pivots planted to export citrus were hugely standout. Commercial agriculture partnering and mentoring small holders has to be the way forward. Please take note President Ed.

Riding through new bush, Carl Wilson is little boy on Christmas morning excited, pointing at things like a Japanese tourist in Amsterdam’s Red Light District, oohing and ahing and scampering up hills to see what he can see next. It is quite refreshing, apart from the scampering up hills, which is quite annoying. Although
refreshing might be the wrong adjective in the context of a 110 km ride. It was bloody hot out today. They didn’t get the memo about winter down here. I will have to up my salt tablet intake going forward.

Carl goes up hills that fast, I am thinking about also becoming a lettuce only eater. Not that Carl is restricted to lettuce only. Allo Allo Restuarant in Harare prepared a dozen frozen gourmet vegan meals for Carl and he is loving them. The meals look that good I offered to swap some of my black jelly babies for a taste but Carl is refusing.

The road surface we rode on first up was better than expected, but with no shortage of uptulations. Uptulations as invented by Al Watermeyer are like undulations, but hurt legs more.

The road surface in the afternoon more than made up for that with viscous corrugations that reduced us to tuning forks, and loosened our fillings. I played the roll of sweeper again all afternoon, and all morning, hanging at the back ready to save stragglers and strugglers but again I didn’t see any. But I did see a herd of Impala and lots of Elephant pooh on the road. After 8 hours in the saddle, elephant pooh heightens your senses more than Red Bull.

After dinner, Gary gave us a slideshow of the photos he has taken so far. They are stunning and do the scenery we have ridden through justice. Check them out on Facebook and www.oldlegstour.co.zw. Please also follow the donate prompts while you are there. We are riding to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners.

The Old Legs Tour would not be possible without our sponsors. Today I would like to thank and acknowledge Andy Pattenden and his team at FX Logistics. And also thank you to Sean Lawler and all at Seapride Zimbabwe for all their help with our resupply logistics.

After 3 very long days back to back, I am well knackered. My watch has moved my recommended recovery time out to 5 days. So Carl has dialed Days 5 and 6 down to 80 kilometer days. They are both bush camps. We hope to arrive in camp just after lunch, turning long days into extra half rest days, badly needed with the Blue Cross looming large, 500 km with more than 10,000 meters of climb. Ouch.

Also looming large is Gonarezhou. We are all so very excited that we are riding through the Park, and not around it. And best news, we will ride through wildlife areas at the pace of the slowest rider, so Mike Scott can manage our wildlife encounters.

We have been joined by Jan Hart for the Gonarezhou legs. Jan brought our first resupply of fuel, food and jelly babies. So as to make room for all the food, I will have to up my jelly baby intake, but worry about sugar rushes that last until on midnight.

Until my next blog from a bush camp near Beitbridge, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can.

Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

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