15th July – The Third World as seen from the Saddle

Day 4 of the Old Legs Lockdown Tour.

Today was all about the head wind. It is no small coincidence that both head and wind are four letter words. The expletive wind was in our faces from when we got on the bikes to when we got off 8 hours later with 90 km and 800 m of climb behind us. So much for the half a rest day we’d promised our legs. Alas.

Corrugations should also be a four letter word. They were especially harsh today, unrelenting from start to the finish, nonstop rumble strip all day. How Mark Wilson coped on his Titan hard tail I do not know. And at the rate he is losing weight, he has less meat on his bum than before. He had to take the Fanny Pack pouch he rides with in by several notches.

Scenery and views can lift and inspire when you are hurting on a bike, but all we got all day was bleak, bland and boring. The Mopane trees were stunted and dowdy today, as compared to yesterday, dull browns and greens instead of autumnal bronzes and golden yellows.

We spent the night in an oasis on Nottingham Estate on the banks of the Limpopo and it was wonderful. Ozzie, Bridget and Thebe the chef rolled out the red carpet for us. And also huge thanks to Paul Bristow on Cawood Estates for helping with trailer repairs and a fuel resupply, and 5 bags of delicious oranges.

Our average speed for the first 20 kms into Beitbridge and the head wind was a paltry 12 k.p.h. The soft surface under tyre didn’t help either. We shared the road with nonstop 30 ton trucks shipping out export quality citrus to the world. Their dust was a killer but it was nice to see productive commercial agriculture happening.

Beitbridge the town reminded us of why we choose to exit Zimbabwe through Plumtree these days. Beitbridge is dirty avaricious little town with no redeeming features, although the bush did get prettier the further we got away from it.

The Chilli Pepers and Kings of Leon loud in my headphones took the sting out of the worst of today’s ride. I offend the purists by riding with headphones but I so love pedaling to music.

I am lucky to have a pair of kinetics coaches on Tour in the form of Jenny and Vicky. They were able to analyze my riding style at length from the car behind and showed me in a video the serious and very evident flaws in my pedal technique. As compared to the other riders, my pedal stroke looks very uncool, all because my saddle was too low they said. If I raised my saddle just a centimeter, I would look cooler and go faster they said. Carl tried to interject. He pointed out to my coaches that my pedal stroke had got me to Kilimanjaro just fine, so don’t fix what isn’t broken, not unless you want messed up knees he said. In pursuit of improved efficiencies and cool, I decided to go with the experts. I raised my saddle a centimeter and by lunchtime was needing a knee transplant. During the lunch break, I fired my kinetics coaches and dropped my saddle. Vicky is disappointed and said if only I had stuck at it for another 1000 km, it would have come right.

Our night stop is another bush camp in a dry river bed about 60 km west of Beitbridge. We enjoyed the sounds of black backed jackals and cow bells, and the sounds of wood chopping from Stu Chapman and Mike Scott. You can tell Mike was with the Forestry Commission just by listening to him sleep. We never heard any Pels Fishing Owls and worry they may now be extinct.

The last 4 days have taken us through some beautiful and seldom seen parts of Zimbabwe. If you are looking for your next adventure holiday, please put Zimbabwe on your radar. We would be more than happy to share our tracks.

After the long day’s grind, Dick of the Day nominations around the fire were muted, plus things went smoothly for a change. I nominated my kinetics coaches for making crap up. Vicky nominated Carl for a long laundry list of offenses, and also because he nominated her the night before. After careful consideration and because the Dick of the Day necklace looks good on him, we voted for Carl, apart from me of course, because i have an alliance with Carl. I have forged alliances with everyone on Tour and would never vote against them.

Tomorrow we have another 90 km ride, most probably with corrugations, hopefully without wind, to another bush camp 40 km short of Gonarezhou. We received a copy of our permit letter yesterday so we will be able to enter the Park. I worry that my foghorn is missing in action in my kitbag. I also worry that Mike Scott rides faster than me. Mike is a professional guide and has replaced my foghorn as my first line of defense against carnivores and pachyderms. Watch this space for epic in spades to come.

The Old Legs Tour is raising money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. It would not happen without support from our sponsors. Thank you all at Selby Enterprises. You guys wrote the book on caring. And thank you Rory White and his team at Eaton and Youngs.

In closing a big shout out and lots of love to Jocelyn, Cailyn
and Colton. And please take Wallace for a walk for me.

Until tomorrow, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can

Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.

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