23rd July – The Third World as seen from the Saddle

Day 12 of the Old Legs Lockdown Tour.

We are riding from Bulawayo to Bulawayo to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. Our first rest day could not have come sooner for my legs. We had to ride out of Gonarezhou in cars not bikes because of cheeky elephants. My legs were relieved, as were my heightened senses, suffering vertigo after 3 days of pedaling through Gonarezhou.

Adam Selby was less relieved. He met us on our way out the Park, having driven 500 km from Harare to ride with us on the last stretch out of Gonarezhou. Adam was supposed to ride the Lockdown Tour but can’t because of the four letter word work commitments.

The main reason for Adam and Linda’s surprise visit was to deliver spare parts for my bike in the form of a 100 mm stem extension for my handlebars, and Diclofenac suppositories for my inflamed knee, prescribed by a doctor who will remain nameless, although his friends call him Kevin, who thinks I should be awarded Dick of the Decade for adjusting my saddle at the start of a 3200 km Tour. As penance, rather than 100 mg suppositories, he prescribed 2 x 50 mg suppositories daily with strict instructions to insert as close to the pain as possible. I am hoping and praying the stem extension works.

To exit the Park we had to negotiate river crossings across the Runde and the Save. Stu Chapman reveled in the fact that his Isuzu has a snorkel. On the second crossing over the Save River, Stu reveled in his snorkel for two hours after drowning his Isuzu and the trailer in the sand at the bottom of the river bed.

With scant regard for Land Rover’s reputation, Adam plunged into the Save to save Isuzu Two and also got stuck. Eventually Chilo Lodge came to our rescue with a Unimog and a tractor, but not before my toes went all wrinkly in the water. Let it be known that getting stuck was all down to human error. The Isuzu D-Max had plenty of muscle to power through. Stu was duly awarded Dick of the Day for turning the Save River into a car park.

Our rest day was spent in 5 star comfort and stunning surroundings at Chilo Lodge. The morning was spent cleaning river sand out of cars, trailers and wheel bearings. Then we practiced re-packing. We hope to have packing down to a fine art by the time we get back to Bulawayo.

In the afternoon, because of dates changed yet again, we had to rearrange logistics for the Zambezi Valley, Kariba, Vic Falls etc.

We were also able to watch elephants swimming in the river below the lodge, plus crocodiles lunching on a waterbuck, and a magnificent leopard who sauntered past in full view as though he owned the place. You need to put Chilo Lodge on your To Do list.

With Adam, I also took my bike on a 20 km test ride, to test my bike stem extension. Straight away the extended length felt right and the twinge in my knee stayed in my head. I think an entirely rational fear of suppositories also helped.

I’d forgotten how beautiful it was to ride through the bush around Chilo. We rode past lots of elephant pooh, but no elephants. Adam said the 20 km ride was worth the 10 hour round trip.

We woke in the dark at 5 a.m.to prepare for the first day of our Blue Cross, to Mt Nyangani from Zimbabwe’s lowest point at the confluence of the Save and the Runde, and now even lower thanks to Stu’s excavation efforts with the Isuzu.

The first day was 113 km on rough, tough dirt with a daunting 1250 m of climb. It was our first real climb of the Lockdown Tour and I worried how my knee would go. As it turned out, my mojo and I had the best day ever on the hills on my beloved Trek.

My kinetics coaches in the car behind are cock a hoop that they called my geometry problems on my bike right. Vicky and Jenny are now working on fixing my dietary and wardrobe shortcomings, and my air drumming techniques. I tend to air drum when listening to Green Day and the Kings of Leon on hills. They have got me on a bicarbonate of soda and lemon supplement. I am resisting Vicky’s wardrobe suggestions and will not wear ballet tight shorts, even if they make me more aerodynamic. And I am happy with my air drumming as is.

Carl and Mark were especially strong on the hills and Mike Scott and I only saw them briefly ahead in the distance, from time to time. And whenever I saw Mark, he was practicing his wheelies. The exuberance of youth is very annoying.

Mike Scott’s Scott suffered mechanical failure when his steering stopped steering, courtesy of seized bearings in his handlebars. He was hard on himself for not greasing them before the Tour. I did’t even know there were bearings inside handlebars. Mike finished the ride on Mark Wilson’s spare bike, a 27.5 inch Titan with almost Fat Boy tyres.

Panic set in today as we left Chilo without any beer. Beer forms an integral part of my rehydration strategy. We tried to hard to forage as we drove. We flirted with the Mozambique border for a big chunk. Stu and Gary found a bottle stocked with Mozambiquean 2 M beers but couldn’t buy them because we didn’t have empties. They were charging in SA Rand and or US Dollars but I think that store was actually in Mozambique. Mozambique and Zimbabwe look very similar, apart from the fact Mozambique doesn’t have a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, I’m guessing because they don’t have a coronavirus spike looming on 31stJuly. Later, back in Zimbabwe, we were able to buy some Castle Quarts, also priced in US Dollars and or Rand. They work on exchange rate of 20 to 1 but won’t accept Zim Dollars, mostly probably because their times table doesn’t go that high.

The only people prepared to transact in Zim Dollars were the cotton farmers we stopped to talk to. They were busy loading their harvest. A big bale of cotton I was told was worth 8000 Zim Dollars a.k.a. US$ 100 and falling. I was told good farmers can expect 10 bales per hectare but mere mortals average closer to 3 or 4. Which is a lot of work for not a lot of return.

I was very pleased to see a new cash crop in the area in the form of sesame. We rode past 40 kilometers of non-stop sesame today. I hope they get paid in US dollars for their sesame crops. The people who live around here are very nice, happy despite having not a lot and deserve a break.

We felt like Kardashians all day long when kids rushed out on to the road to wave at us and cheer us on. It was very cool.

We are camping on a sports field at a Primary School. The school has been closed for months because of coronavirus. I feel sorry for the children who won’t get much education this year. We were able to present the Headmaster a box of books and toys, courtesy of the Cave Toy Store in Borrowdale. When I get back to Harare, I am going to try get them some more books and stationery.

We have included the Blue Cross on our Lockdown Tour to help raise money for the Mutare SPCA. The Blue Cross is their primary fundraising event but it looks like it might not happen because Zimbabwe has once again gone into hard arsed lockdown. Please help us help them and follow the donate prompts below.

Thank you to all at the Surrey Group. And thank you to Vinnie Verspreek and his team at Summer Flora. Without your generous support the Old Legs Tour would not be possible.

In closing, happy birthday to my sister Irene in Holland.

Today we climb 2200 meters over a hill called Sally on our 59 km ride into Chipinge. Ouch. Wish us luck. Until tomorrow, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can.

Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.

Cabs account Blue Cross Mutare SPCA A/C 1004599471
If you would like to make a donation from outside Zim, please contact Lynne James on mutarelynne@gmail.com

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