26th July – The Third World as seen from the Saddle

Day 15 of the Old Legs Lockdown Tour.

With wonderfully crisp blue skies and forever views, Sunday was a good day to be alive and on a bicycle, even if it had binding brakes.

We were supposed to ride up and over Tank Nek on Saturday but cold, grey and wet blew in overnight Friday and we woke up with rain hammering down loud on the Bailey’s tinroof. Rather than ride Tank Nek miserable, we made an executive decision to swap our next rest day in Nyanga for Saturday off in Chimanimani and wait for the blue skies as promised by the weather app.

Like a man with his soft top
Ferrari stuck in the garage, Carl Wilson was Mr Grumpy Pants at the thought of a day spent not riding. But it turned out to be exactly the right call. Our ride up and over Tank Nek in glorious weather is now up there as arguably the best day so far on Tour

We had to put the Isuzu’s through their paces to get out of Dombera Farm. Such is the damage wrought by Cyclone Idai, it took us well over an hour to negotiate the 6km road down from the Homestead to the farmgate yesterday morning. Stu Chapman got to moonwalk his Isuzu D-Max when he was dragged backwards by the trailer down a slippery slope with all four wheels spinning crazily. But eventually he was able to punch through. Our Isuzu D-Maxes certainly have been put through their paces and they’ve come through with colours flying.

Mark Wilson relished the early rest day at the Kriel house in Chimanimani Village and spent it in front of a fire with an icepack on his dodgy knee, teetering on the edge of suppositories, until Carl ventured an opinion that suppositories are best applied with braai tongs. If Carl was a doctor, he’d have the bedside manner of a vet.

Come time to ride on Sunday morning, Carl’s competitive testosterone sloshed and he was up the mountain like a scalded cat, determined to chase down Kevin Butler’s Strava King of Mountain title.

Thankfully my competitive testosterone all sloshed out during an Under 8 Egg and Spoon race in which I narrowly missed out on a podium position, after being bust for cheating with a not nearly surreptitious enough thumb. So I was able to poodle up Tank’s Nek slow enough to soak in the forever views.

The only black cloud in the blue skies came when I looked down upon the ruins of Charleswood Estates where Roy and Heather Bennet lived, loved, laughed and dreamed big. Alas.

I cemented my Slowest Rider on Tour status by riding Tank Nek with badly binding front brakes. The worst part of that was it gave Vicky the opportunity to launch into her beloved ‘Proper planning and preparation prevents piss poor performance’ lecture. But it was water off a duck’s back. It was a good day to ride slow.

Unfortunately it also gave me ample time to stress about my laundry strategy now in tatters. Because our rest days were planned neatly 6 days apart, I packed 6 pairs of padded ride shorts, plus 1 extra in case of elephant related accidents. But now our next rest day is in Buzz Charlton’s safari camp in the Lower Zambezi Valley, a massive 10 days away. I’m either going to have to resort to Jeremy Clarkson’s tried and tested backwards, forwards and inside out system of making underwear last longer, or I’m going to have to wash ride shorts as I go. Because Jenny will no doubt be involved in the decision making process, I’m guessing I’ll be going the laundry route. Alas.

After Tank Nek, we rode through Cashel 15 km past Mutambara Mission to our overnight camp in amongst rock kopjes and pristine Msasas. It is a beautiful piece of bush and I’ve just heard an early morning hyena calling out as I write at 04.00 a.m. this Monday morning.

We climbed 1200 metres yesterday but have somehow arrived back in Baobab country. The only explanation I can think of is there must have been some downhill bits that escaped me. Alas.

Our bird list is now 93 long, but still no Pel’s. Best on the list for me so far are my Pelicans and Grey Headed Parrots.

Jenny pulled level with Mark Wilson in the Dick of the Day stakes yesterday when Gary ratfinked on her for for putting a contract hit out on Vicky. Murder most foul is frowned upon on the Old Legs Tour

Today we ride into Mutare via the Zimunya Communal Lands on the penultimate leg of the Blue Cross. I look forward to handing over a thousand dollars to the Mutare SPCA. Then it is up to Mt Nyangani before continuing onto the Zambezi Valley on our best ever adventure. Follow us on www.oldlegstour.co.zw. We are riding to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners.

The Old Legs Tour would not be possible without the support of our sponsors. Thank you to Neil Hunt and all at Alliance Health. And big thanks to Andy Pattenden and the team at FX Logistics.

In closing a big shout out from Mike Scott to Monica, Ben and Fenn. Your dad is running like a 20 year old and having the best time of his life.

Enjoy, survive and pedal if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

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