17th July – The Third World as seen from the Saddle

It is 04.00 and this blog is coming to you from the banks of the Bubi River just 2 kilometers from the South African border.

Day 4 of the Old Legs Lockdown Tour. We caught our first glimpse of South Africa and Mozambique whilst enjoying a best ever bean salad at yesterday’s lunch stop as chosen by Jan Hart, on the edge of an unexpected plateau. (I thought the world would be flat around here.) Just three days ago on a small hill at a breakfast stop, we looked out over Botswana. Africa is a small place on a mountain bike.

We had a wind holiday for the first 2 hours of yesterday’s ride, but then turned south, back into the dreaded head wind on and off for the next 4 hours. It wasn’t nearly as harsh as the day before, but still good for flying kites.

The wind was the least of my worries. I was afflicted by another four letter word; my knee. I was wounded knee all day, because I stupidly adjusted my saddle height the day before in search of improved kinetics, and then 4 times again yesterday, desperately looking for my old and comfortable riding position, pissing some tendon in my right knee off in the process. Until then, I didn’t even know I had a tendon in my knee. When I found out how sore sore tendons can be, panic set in and I even started playing with the saddle gradient, earning a deserved Dick of the Day award and another bollocking from Carl for trying to fix something that wasn’t broken. Alas. Until I reinvent my riding stance, I’m going to be popping diclofenacs with gay abandon and am thinking about asking them for sponsorship.

The bush we rode through before lunch was pristine, well treed, mostly Mopane, some Leadwoods, Syringas and Tambutis, but no flowering Jacaranda or Flamboyants. Riding with Mike Scott, my knowledge of trees has come on in leaps and bounds. Previously, I had no idea that Leadwoods, Syringas and Tambutis look exactly the same.

In anticipation of continued corrugations, Mark’s bottom persuaded him to abandon his hard tail in favour of his 27.5 inch Titan soft tail with almost fat boy tyres.

I reported yesterday that Mark was losing weight. It turns out he was telling fibs, part of his elaborate plot to illicit extra rations from the kitchen. And it worked. Jenny and Vicky have cooked us up a storm at each and every meal and Mark has sniveled double helpings. I am hoping to curry favour by rat-finking on Mark’s conniving, so that I get his extra rations instead.

Apart from the aforementioned trees, the bush was practically empty . If we saw one person an hour it was a lot. And when we did see someone, they were wearing a coronavirus mask, more through fear of fines I think, than fear of falling ill. I felt sorry for the kids. With schools closed and zero cellphone reception, please take note Strive, their education will have come to an absolute grinding halt. Alas.

And speaking of grinding halts, 85 km took me 7 and a half hours yesterday. Sorry to anyone out there following us on the Internet using the Ezytrack tracking device on my bike. We have to pick up the pace tomorrow to get to our night stop early. We are camping at Rossi Pools which overlook the Mwenezi River, one of very few permanent water sources in Gonarezhou National Park. If we arrive after lunch, we will bump into elephants rushing to enjoy their sundowners.

We are so so excited at the opportunity to ride through arguably Zimbabwe’s premier wildlife area, from south to north over the next 3 days, camping at Rossi, Borehole Number 10 and Chipinda Pools en route to Chilo Lodge for a rest day and the start of the Blue Cross.

Mike Scott, a Pro Guide when not on his bike, takes over from Carl as ride captain in the wildlife areas and gave us the daily briefing after dinner. Jan Hart will be the lead scout vehicle with Gary and his cameras on the back, ready to deploy his hazards at first sight of Elephants, Buffalo or Lion. The riding group will tuck in behind Jan, between 30 and 50 m depending on dust and thickness of bush. Jenny and Vicky will follow right behind the riders in Isuzu One, so we can leap on top of the roof rack in a hurry in the event of a very close encounter. Stu Chapman will bring up the rear in Isuzu Two, leaving himself lots of room should he have to reverse out with the trailer. Mike told us the animals will have right of way and we will give them all the room they need. Watch this space for 3 days of epic.

Impossibly our vehicles are more fully loaded than when we started. I think Jenny and Vicky have been shopping. And I think they’ve hidden all the extra crap they’ve bought in my kit bag. I can’t wait for our first rest day at Chilo so we can try reintroduce some semblance of order. I also want to look for our missing DSTV remote.

Thank you Jos and Cailyn for taking Wallace for a walk yesterday. Please try take him every day.

Today I would like to acknowledge E’Pap and Arenel who are feeding us on Tour. Thank you for delicious and nutritious.

And in closing, please raise a glass to Mark Wilson’s grandfather who passed away yesterday in Missouri, USA. RIP Pappa Lobebgula.

Until tomorrow’s blog from Gonarezhou, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

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