25th July – The Third World as seen from the Saddle

Day 14 of the Old Legs Lockdown Tour.

We have been riding the Lockdown Tour for 14 days now but we are only one third of the way done, with two thirds of Zimbabwe left in front of us. On the map, we are level with Bulawayo where we started. Carl worries his dogs will bite him when eventually he gets home.

Day 14 from Chipinge to Chimanimani hurt with 96 kms with 1994 meters of climb
in 8hrs 27 minutes. I shifted into granny gear as I rode out of Chipinge and then spent the rest of the day looking for non-existent smaller gears. The day was brutal and I am glad it is behind us.

We rode out of Chipinge past broken, bust and derelict farms lying idle next to hugely large and productive corporate estates, planted to tea and coffee, avocado and macadamias, monuments to what might have and should have been. Alas. There is nothing that you cannot grow here.

We felt the love all day from bystanders on the side of the road. I don’t think they watch television much around here and in terms of entertainment, 4 old men on bicycles and 2 Isuzu D-Maxes is as good as it gets. I was cheered on by a very excited bystander on the side of the road. He shouted at me as I rode past. “Push, push. You are coming fourth. Well done, well done.”He was so happy for me, I didn’t have the heart to tell him there weren’t any other riders following.

Carl and I wear the same Garmin Fenix watches. They are very clever and tell us how many days we should rest before climbing back our bicycles again. Today Carl’s watch was telling him 14 hours, mine was telling me 6 days.

Chimanimani and surrounds got smashed by Cyclone Idai 3 years ago, especially the Rusitu Valley. We rode through a year ago and the trauma and damage was still in your face stark. A year on and there has been some healing.

Kudos to Bitumen World for fixing the roads around Chimanimani, including an almost highway along the bottom of the Rusitu Valley. It was an unexpected bonus and a pleasure to ride on. We were able to fairly whizz along, apart from on the uphill bits, of which there were many, as in all day.

No kudos though to those in charge of rebuilding housing. Nearly 3 years on from Idai, the poor people of Chimanimani are still living in tents. A tent in Chimanimani in winter is a cold place. Alas.

We have been hosted by the Bailey family, Mike and Lori and Alan and Claire on Gombeya Farm. Mike and Claire have given over their beautiful home to us and laid on the most delicious of meals. Thank you for hospitality above and beyond.

Idai dumped 1 meter of rain in 24 hours on top of Gombeya resulting in huge damage to the farm roads and infrastructure, washing away all the storage dams. That damage is still hugely evident on the ground but the Bailey family continue to face only forward. They are resilience personified. We wish them God speed.

My kitbag continues to sell off my kit for beer money. Along with the DSTV remote, my laptop cable and battery packs are now missing in action. I think I left the TV on cooking channel and worry that Ted the Parrot will have pulled out all his feathers by the time we get home, or worse still, learned how to cook broccoli.

Unlike the weather, the competition for Dick of the Day is heating up. Vicky pushed Jenny under the bus for leaving her Isuzu in drive during an emergency roadside wee stop. It is impossible to shield your modesty with a moving vehicle. But Mark Wilson seized the day and the overall lead by falling off his bike in glorious slow motion at a police roadblock, evaporating any street cred that might have been coming our way.

Tomorrow we climb 1200 meters up and over the iconic Tank’s Nek into Cashel. We will overnight in a bush camp just past Mutambara Mission.

We are riding around Zimbabwe to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. Please help us help them and follow the donate prompts on www.oldlegstour.co.zw

Until tomorrow, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can

Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

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