30th July – The Third World as seen from the Saddle

Day 19 of the Old Legs Lockdown Tour.

We are 19 days down with 19 to go. We have 1431 kilometers and 16047 meters of climb behind us. Small wonder my legs hurt.

I am 61 on my next birthday and am the oldest pair of Old Legs on Tour. Carl is 57 but no one has told him that. Carl can’t spell tired. Mike Scott is also turning 57 and needs to be singled out for special mention. Mike signed up for the Tour with just a week’s notice, having bought his bike in January. I think Mike was a Lister engine in a previous life. He is metronomic. Last but not least in the riding group is Mark Wilson, aged 33. Mark is a younger version of Carl.

In Isuzu One,we have Jenny and Vicky. If I wasn’t already married to Jenny I would ask her to marry me. And yes, that is a pathetic attempt to garner favour. Vicky is a force of nature and easily the busiest person in Tour, nonstop and always upbeat. Stu Chapman has the wheel in Isuzu Two. He is always looking to be of help and can normally be heard laughing, unless he is stuck in the bottom of a river. Also in Isuzu Two and behind the cameras is our eldest son Gary. Jenny and I are hugely proud of Gary and his photography. He has so captured the essence of this beautiful country. I am having the time of my life with my best friends.

We rode 104 km today from Nyanga North into Mudzi. The elevation profile as advertised by Garmin Base Camp was relatively flat with just 500 meters of climb for the whole day. But they glossed over a million uptulations, viscously horrible steep little inclines that made your speed bleed off on the way up to just 6 k.p.h.

Having jettisoned my prescription sunglasses because they make my eyes wonky, a flock of mopane flies flew into my right eye halfway down a steep and bumpy incline. My non-prescription riding sunglasses were last seen in the bottom of my kitbag, so I’m not likely to see them again in a hurry. Vicky saved the day and offered up her John Lennon sunglasses. She said they would make me look cool and help me score. Jenny is not so sure. I love Vicky’s sunglasses. They are almost rose tinted and make the music in my earphones sound more mellow, apart from Five Finger Death Punch. Carl said they look more like Yoko Ono’s glasses.

We had great adventure crossing the Ruenya River. It is a big river that used to boast a 13 span concrete bridge. It now boasts only a 7 span concrete bridge and a huge gaping gap in the middle.. Having recently converted the Save River into a car park for hours, we were understandably concerned about our ability to fjord streams and big bloody rivers, especially in the middle of nowhere. Long story short, we dropped tyre pressures and sailed through. We wasted the best part of an hour on the crossing but loved every minute, especially Carl.

What a huge piece of empty country we rode through in the morning session, just miles and miles of pristine bush, and kopjes and hills and mountains stretching away in every direction as far as the eye could see. And it was empty of people. The only traffic on the road were little 150 cc Chinese motorbikes ferrying people and cargo around the district. Some were pimped up with booming sound systems and even louder 7 tone hooters. The motorbikes and their cowboy pilots were all from Mozambique. The border around here is just a line in the sand that no one pays much attention to.

I dared to fart today and it felt good. I left my stomach bug in the side of the mountain in Nyanga next to my orange water bottle.

Temperatures in the afternoon sessions will be factor as we drop down into the Zambezi Valley. Two days ago we nearly froze to death at 7 degrees in mist and clouds in Nyanga. Today we overheated at 27 degrees in the sand at Kotwa.

Outside of our bubble, it would appear Coronavirus is wreaking havoc. On top of 6 to 6 curfews, we’re hearing stories about the internet being cut off, Perence Shiri dead, the First Lady in a car accident, ditto the Minister of Home Affairs. And all along people were saying it was just a flu.

Our bush camp home is under a huge Baobab tree at a school 20 km past Kotwa. Tomorrow we’ll ride across the Mazoe River towards the Zambezi Valley and our next rest-day. We are riding to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. Please help us help them. Our Lockdown Tour would not be possible without help from our sponsors. My thanks today go to Angus Melrose and Netrade and Tiny and Alison de Klerk and their team at Isuzu and Autoworld Harare.

In closing a big shout-out today from Stu to Tracey, Gareth and Kirsten, Brendon, Vicky, Georgie and Hayden. Please stay safe, love and miss you lots. And happy birthday Georgie for yesterday.

Until my next blog, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.

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