6th August- The Third World as seen from the Saddle

Days 25 and 26 of the Old Legs Lockdown Tour

Yesterday’s ride through Mana Pools was epic, like Bear Grylls on a bicycle, although disappointingly, I didn’t get to use my Leatherman.

We saw leopard and painted dog, rode past elephants and eland, hippo and waterbuck, pronking impala too numerous to mention, stampeding herds of buffalo and zebra, plus a pack of angry squirrels. We also saw Crested Guineafowl, but still no Pel’s Fishing Owls.

We rode 75 km across Mana Pools from Chikwenya on the eastern boundary to Rukomechi on the western boundary, across the iconic flood plains and through towering cathedral mopane forests. We had to drag many fallen trees off the road so the vehicles could pass and crossed four dry river beds, and got stuck in two of them, because we can. It was my best day ever on a bicycle and I loved it. The day before, not so much.

The day before was 105 km from Mkanga Gate to Chikwenya, through the Chewore and the Sapi. Mike Scott is the ride boss in wildlife areas. I ride next to him with Carl and Mark tucked in behind, to stop them from riding too fast. We rode on the security road, a dreadful gravel surface with loose pebbles and rocks, requiring focus and concentration, placing me at a huge disadvantage. I was too busy imagining tsetse fly bites to focus. We had been warned the night before that we could expect tsetse flies on the morrow for sure. Imaginary bites hurt as much as real ones, or so I thought, until real life flies started biting, clouds and clouds of them.

Slow cyclists are not so fast food for tsetse flies and they feasted and gorged on us to their hearts content. Mike Scott got a tsetse inside his helmet, which is a bugger because you can’t even smack the thing. Although Zambezi tsetse are that tough, smacking just irritates them and gets them all riled up and annoyed. The tsetse in Mike’s helmet was nothing as compared to 15 other flies clustered on his black riding shorts, also feeding. If Mike had suffered a blood nose there and then, nothing would have happened. It looked like we had a bloody long day riding ahead of us, with the emphasis on bloody.

Luckily for me, I managed to stage a medical meltdown at 15 kilometers. What started out as a minor wobble in the loose gravel quickly progressed to a major wobble. I went red in the face, redder than my reddest underpants apparently, and fell off my bike, whence upon I vomited up my breakfast oats and lost interest in further proceedings. We were in the middle of nowhere, hours from Chikwenya and cellphone signal. I was loaded into Stuart’s car for evacuation to Chikwenya while Carl, Mark and Mike carried on riding, supported by Jenny and Vicky.

I slept most of the way to Chikwenya, wrapped up in jackets and jerseys because I was bloody cold and shivering in 30 degrees. I woke up feeling drained and with the hugest Fear Of Missing Out on the rest of the Tour. I asked Stu to let me get out the car and on my bike for 10 km so I could test my legs but looking to score some Dick of the Day immunity points with Jenny, Stu told me no way. By the time the others rode into camp, I was over the worst of my wobble. I’m putting it down to low blood pressure episode. Going forward, I am taking rehydrating seriously plus I am eating all my lettuce and vegetables. I know if I wobble again, I will be benched.
Thankfully we have 4 short riding days of 50 to 60 km in front of us, which will hopefully give me time to come right.

Carl, Mark and Mike rode 105 km that day. They said the first half on the loose gravel and in the tsetse flies was crap and tough, so much so that Mark thought about throwing in the towel. But the second half of the ride they said was the best ever, through the middle jesse and properly on roads less travelled. Jenny said the river crossings were stressful but she did good. I was so so jealous of the others. Alas.

We have been hosted by Wilderness Safaris at their Chikwenya and Rukomechi Camps, both offering up five star luxury and next level wildlife experiences with elephant mud baths and a lioness with cubs in the adrenaline grass right next to camp. Thank you, thank you, thank you Wilderness for making memories that last forever.

On the Dick of the Day front, I was nominated for up-chucking a perfectly good breakfast, while Mark chalked up his fourth award for dangerously dismounting from his bike in front of a moving vehicle, forcing Jenny to take evasive action and Vicky to bump her head on the windscreen. My nomination was cruel, Mark’s entirely justified.

Today we ride to Chirundu, the Kariba Gorge and beyond in search of Pel’s Fishing Owls and more adventure. We are riding 3200 km from Bulawayo to Bulawayo through Zimbabwe’s wildest bits to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. After 40 years of economic stupid, the generation that built our beautiful country have lost everything. Please help us help them by following the donate prompts on www.oldlegstour.co.zw.

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

Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

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