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

Day 6 of the Old Legs Lockdown Tour.

We camped in a stand of Fever Trees next to the Bubi River just before it joins the Limpopo River. Carl heard a Pel’s Fishing Owl calling late at night but never shared. Alas. But it is nice to know they aren’t extinct. The Pel’s Owls around the Bubi obviously commute to work because the river was as dry as a bone.

The iconic Crooks Corner where Zimbabwe, South Africa and Mozambique meet was 12 km off our track. I would have loved to tick it off, but have had to leave it on the bucket list for next time because we were chasing tails to get to Rossi Pools before elephant sundowner time.

Today’s leg from the Bubi to Gonarezhou was just 69 km and took 5 and a half hours. The first two hours of the ride, my knee went okay , but then we hit the first hill and I was back to being wounded knee. Carl adjusted the gradient of my saddle because it still looked to be practicing up hills. At first I thought that was job done but that turned out wishful thinking and every pedal stroke hurt like hell. I tried riding with my right foot out the cleat, pedaling with either the arch of my hoot or even my heel, and straight away the pain eased off. As did my average speed. Alas. But it meant that the geometry on my bike is wrong. I wished I’d paid attention to geometry at school.

The others started talking about me putting my bike on the back of the truck for a few days R&R as per the dreaded contingency plan. I ate Brufen for breakfast, faster acting then Diclofenac, and it worked, but not for long. Jenny added to the pain when she told me that at my rate of consumption, we’d run out of muti before the end of the Blue Cross.

Panicked, I asked if I could try Carl’s spare bike, a Scott Spark, with an extra large frame and 4 inches longer than my Trek. Long story short, the change of bike looks to have worked and I’ll ride the rest of Tour on the Scott or until a 100 mm extension stem arrives for my Trek, hopefully with the Mutare resupply.

I had ice packs on my knee for dinner plus Diclofenac as a night cap and as I type, my knee feels okay and good to go.

We have 3 days of not so hard riding in Gonarezhou ahead of us, all plus minus 70 km days.

The 15 km ride from the Park gate to Rossi Pools through thick bush at times gave us chance to practice our riding formation with spotter vehicle in front and the support vehicle tucked in right behind us, with Mike Scott calling the shots and setting the pace on the lead bike at between 18 and 20 kph.

So in terms of riding, the next 3 days will be relatively easy but jolly exciting. We didn’t see any elephants but saw plenty of recent signs. One elephant pooh heightens your senses, nonstop elephant poohs along the road equals sensory overload, especially in Gonarezhou where the elephants are notoriously cheeky.

We saw zebra, waterbuck, impala, nyala, baboon and a bunch of crocodiles in the Mwenezi River beneath our camp. Last night we were visited by a genet and a hyaena.

Hugo van der Westhuizen and his rangers have cobbled together an epic program for us. Tomorrow night we’ll camp in the middle of the Park at Malugwe Platform. On Sunday we’ll meet Hugo at Point 13 and he will ride with us past the iconic Chilojo Cliffs to a night stop possibly at a small pan somewhere in the middle of the Park, leaving us a Monday morning ride to Chilo Lodge for our first rest day. Jan Hart will leave us mid-morning Sunday to return to Harare. We’ll see him next for our Zambezi Valley resupply. Thanks Jan for taking time out of a busy schedule to assist.

In the Dick of the Day nominations last night, Mark Wilson displayed the survival instincts of a lemming when he nominated Jenny for possibly running out of jelly babies in the next week. The mother lode of jelly babies are still stuck in Bulawayo, which used to be the half way mark on our original route. Carl Wilson nominated Adam Selby, mostly because Adam wasn’t there to defend himself. Mike Scott was able to clinch his first Dick of the Day award by losing the non-bio degradable lid of his Stanley flask down the cliff in front of camp, shortly after giving us a lecture on littering, possibly placing whales and dolphins at risk.

The Old Legs Tour would not be possible without our sponsors. Thank you Heinrich and Francois and the team at Greenhouse Technologies in Johannesburg. And thanks Piet de Klerk and all at Autoworld Harare. We are loving the Isuzu D-Max. And we also love the other D-Max. I have no idea of what the plural of D-Max is.

Until my next blog, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can.

Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

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