28th July – The Third World as seen from the Saddle

Day 17 of the Old Legs Lockdown Tour.

The Old Legs mantra is Have Fun, Do Good and Do Epic. We left out the Have Fun bit on today’s ride.

I rode 90 km and climbed 2479 meters in 8 hours 44 minutes. That is slow even by my standards, mostly because I suffered a leaking bottom and had to pooh in the bush like a hippo 3 times before the Imodium took grip. Carl says I used to be full of shit but not anymore. I left my orange water bottle behind on my last emergency stop. I am bleak. I carried that bottle all the way to top of Kilimanjaro.

My bottom started leaking yesterday on our 70 km ride from our Whitewaters bush camp into Mutare. I told my legs it would be a half day easy day, but it turns out I was talking rubbish. There are no easy days on the Blue Cross.

During the course of the morning, somehow we managed to climb 1072 meters. We rode alongside a range of hills called the Himalayas today, they are like the Asian version just bigger.

Not being able to dare to fart all day on your bike is very restrictive and slows you down. The other thing that slowed me down was the weight of all the water I had on board, and the need to wee frequently.

Basically I blame my lack of bladder control on my nutritionist, Vicky Bowen. She pinched me at one of our roadside stops and said she wasn’t happy at the way my skin stayed standing. She said I was dehydrated and needed to drink more water. I told her that I wasn’t happy at having a nutritionist who goes around pinching people the whole time. At first I didn’t believe Vicky’s diagnosis but fact checked her on Google and unfortunately it is true story. I have chugged liters and liters of water since and now also worry about a distended bladder. I also worry that the doctor with no name whose friends call him Kevin will prescribe me further suppositories from afar.

Vicky’s grandchildren share her concerns about my performance. They have been monitoring our progress using Ezytrack’s Where’s Chicken Legs device on my bike. They phoned Vicky yesterday to ask her why I go so slow and why do I keep stopping?

I wish we’d put the Ezytrack device on Carl Wilson’s bike instead. Carl is easily the strongest rider I have ridden with. He captured the Strava King of the Mountain for the Tank Nek segment by more than 30 minutes. The previous best time was 2 hr 2 minutes. Carl crossed the line in 1 hr 29 minutes. I’m going to eat more lettuce going forward because clearly this vegetable diet works.

I was very proud to see that the Queen of the Mountain for Tank Nek also belongs to a pair of Old Legs. Kudos CarolJoy Church. Here’s wishing you were here.

Despite all of the above, we were able to arrive in Mutare before 1 o’clock. We booked into Anne Bruce’s Backpackers Lodge. Anne is the sweetest host and we so enjoyed our stay. She shares Carl’s soft spot for rescue dogs. Carl spent all afternoon cuddling and fussing over Anne’s new rescue puppy, Penny who was saved by Mutare SPCA from a life on the Chipinge dump after being abandoned by her previous owners, but not before they burnt one of her front legs off. Carl is bedside himself happy that we are riding this leg of the Lockdown Tour to raise money for the SPCA.

Brian and Lynne James came to the Lodge to present us with our Blue Cross medals and to let us sign the Blue Book. This year my sense of achievement was slightly premature. The thought of having to give my medal back was one of the things that kept me pedaling today.

Whilst in Mutare we had a glimpse of the real world. Government is expecting a massive spike in Coronavirus on July 31 and have imposed an unprecedented 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, not good news for a slow bike rider. Selfishly, I am so very glad that we are in our bubble riding around Zimbabwe, away from all the crap. Alas.

We started our ride today below Watsomba on the Mutare Juliasdale Rd. We spent the first 5 km of today’s ride dropping down below the bowels of the earth, not a good sign when you know the ride is ending at the highest point of Zimbabwe. We rode up towards Bonda Mission, with up being the operative word. Apparently the scenery that we rode through was stunning, dominated by massive granite edifices, huge towering things that make Domboshawa and Ngomakurira look like foothills. The scenery escaped me. The only thing I watched all day closely was my front wheel.

Because I stupidly had my GPS set out to 800 meters, so I was able to ride an extra 6 kilometers today, mostly up, by blundering off course twice. Jenny and Vicky were complicit for my second scenic deviation. They pulled up next to me in Isuzu One on one of the steeper inclines for a chat. While I was huffing and puffing and turning purple, Jenny asked me if I wanted an E-bike for Christmas. During the expletive laden banter that ensued, I missed a turning and blundered off into the middle distance.

In anticipation of the longest day in the saddle, I went with a double layer of padded shorts, which didn’t work too well for my leaking bottom and my bursting bladder.

I jettisoned my prescribed sunglasses today. They are making my eyes go wonky. I think maybe they should have been bifocals. I’d rather not see the things I hit, than see them clearly before hitting them anyway because I can’t judge distance.

I was happy to ride into flowering Wattles, even though they are an invasive species, because it meant that I was nearing the top of the mountain.

We crested the mountain into Juliasdale just in time to bump into the clouds and the mist rolling in. To try and keep the freezing cold at bay, I finished the ride with 3 layers, but froze nonetheless. I think I heard a penguin call in the mist, but Carl won’t let me add it to the bird’s seen list.

All the SPCA finish line flags, bunting and cheering spectators and supporters were missing from the top of the mountain today. In their place we had a herd of wildebeests watch us in, which was pretty cool. At 7 degrees with a windchill factor it was also bloody freezing.

Another reason my legs were so heavy today, I was riding with self doubt on board. I don’t know if this ride is bigger than me. After 18 days we’re not even halfway. Watch this space.

Thank you Helen Valentine a.k.a. Ryan Moss’s mom for baking us 2 buckets of yummy crunchies. The first bucket was emptied before we got to Juliasdale. And thank you to Ann Bruce for a delicious packed lunch.

Mike Scott was voted Dick of the Day for taking a 200 meter shortcut. He is now on 3 DOD’s, just 1 behind Jenny and her Garmin.

In closing Happy 13th Birthday to our granddaughter Jocelyn. We love you lots, and to prove it, I’m giving you my bicycle.

Tomorrow we ride down the mountain towards Nyamaropa and the Zambezi Valley beyond. We are riding to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. Please follow us on www.oldlegstour.co.zw

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

Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.

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