26 September 2020- The Third World as Seen From the Saddle.

Virtual hot air in New York, African Skimmers, good jokes and the Lockdown Tour continues.

In just over 5 weeks, the Lockdown Tour Part Two begins. CJ Bradshaw, Bruce Badge Fivaz, Dave and Diedre Simpson and Ryan Moss will ride out of Durban KZN in the general direction of Lambert’s Bay on the west coast, via every mountain and uphill in Lesotho and South Africa. They will pedal 24000 km and climb a staggering 34000 metres, which is Everest times four, to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. Looking at the attached map of CJ’s route, you will see that the Prince Edward syllabus skimped over Archimedes’s observation that the short distance between two points is a straight line. CJ attended Prince Edward.

CJ is ride captain for the South African Lockdown Tour. This is his first long bike ride, so he asked me for advice. Drawing on experiences gleaned from 3 Tours, I was able to be very helpful. I told him don’t try talk James Herriot books with Bruce, just because he’s a vet, because he hasn’t read them. And also, don’t ask Bruce to try and fix dead dogs on the road, because he won’t. But you can ask him for advice on how to aim true when doing a number two on the long drop, because he’s good at that. I was also able to suggest to CJ he doesn’t try and keep up with Dave and Diedre, because they look properly fast, especially Dierdre on her pink Pyga. Better to tell them you’ve decided to ride at the very back of the peloton to sweep for stragglers and strugglers, because sweeper sounds more noble than slowcoach. I told him don’t let Ryan fly his drone under trees because drone propellors are breakable and expensive. And don’t ask Ryan to climb any mountains on foot, because he’ll quickly break his ankle. Finally, I was also able to tell CJ that black jelly babies taste better than red ones, and oranges ones, and yellow ones, and green ones, although they all also taste pretty good.

To date the Old Legs Lockdown Tour has raised US$129 K for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. Our combined target is US$ 200K. Please help CJ, Bruce, Dave, Dierdre and Ryan smash that target by following them and the donate prompts on www.oldlegstour.co.zw and Facebook. It will be epic.

Because I was hoping to do more than just follow them, I’ve been riding on my stationary bike a.k.a. Root Canal. I can’t be riding on my Trek because the soap opera that are my eyes continues. I’m going in for my third eye op next Wednesday to reattach the retina in my left eye. Which means another Covid test on Monday. This will be the third time a doctor with the reach of a gibbon has explored the inner recesses of my head with a swab the size of a mop, rearranging my memory banks in the process. I used to think the Battle of Hastings was fought in 1066, but now know it happened in 1666, but will be able to further update you on Tuesday.

But I digress. Back to my stationary bike. Because I can’t find my headphones, I took pain on top of pain to a new level this last week by watching the Virtual United Nations General Assembly whilst on Root Canal.

Brazil’s Bolsonaro was first up and blamed the media for fanning the flames of the Amazon fires, and said the Brazilian farmers chopping the Amazon rain forests down respect the best environmental legislation on the planet. Because he was speaking in Portuguese, I can’t but feel that maybe his translator cocked the translation up.

Donald Trump was up next and spent most of his speech blasting China, blaming them for Covid 19, and for polluting the oceans and the world, and for over-fishing, which could explain why I never caught any fish in Kariba over the weekend but more of that later. You felt that Trump could have gone on for hours and hours blasting China, but only spoke for less than half his allotted 15 minutes because he knows his target market has a short span of attention. Because of those time constraints, Trump never mentioned China poaching pangolins or mining coal in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park and Australia’s aboriginal heritage sites.

Stung by Trump’s accusation, China’s President Xi pledged a pittance of 50 million dollars towards the UN Covid Response Plan and with a straight face, also promised that China would move swiftly to becoming carbon neutral by 2060, by investing in conservation (apart from pangolins, rhinos, elephants, rats, bats, snakes, frogs and any other species that might either be edible or help you pitch a tent in your pants) and preserving the environment by going green and protecting resources, (apart from Hwange National Park and the aboriginal heritage sites mentioned above), by joining hands and uphold values of justice, equity, democracy and freedom, (unless of course you are a Uyghur or from Hong Kong). Apparently, China will continue to help Africa develop on a win-win basis. (In which China gets all the minerals and wildlife in return for wonky stadiums, state of the art hydroelectric turbines that generate half the electricity for double the water, military colleges and AK47’s, and a Chinese Shopping Mall full of Zhing Zhong toys and consumer goods that will break less than a month after Christmas.)

France’s Emmanuel Macron went on and on and on, essentially about France filling the world vacuum left by Trump’s America first policy, almost putting me to sleep, which is no mean feat considering I was on my stationary bike. I think Macron horse-traded with Trump for his unspoken minutes.

Vladimir Putin told the world don’t panic because he’s rolling out a Covid 19 vaccine which he’s called Sputnik V, but never mentioned Novichok. And on a more serious note, Boris Johnson took aim at Amazon’s Alexa, likening her to a giant, dark thundercloud louring oppressively overhead, waiting to burst. I do like Boris. He once described Jeremy Corbin as a benign herbivore.
Zimbabwe’s President ED was resplendent in his signature winter scarf for his UN speech, despite 30-degree temperatures outside. Mostly ED protested the illegal sanctions imposed on him and +/- 80 others. Despite the aforementioned more than once illegal sanctions, he said Zimbabwe was making huge progress stabilizing prices, with major infrastructural projects ongoing, including roads and bridges, and said his administration continued decisive in entrenching Constitutionalism, democracy and the rule of law, including the protection of property rights, (apart from Martin Grobler’s farm which got grabbed two weeks ago, and apart from MDC MP Joana Mamombe now back in jail for 2 weeks so government doctors can assess the anxiety disorder she claims to be suffering after being arrested for being abducted from a police station in June and raped and tortured by suspected security agents.)

True story on the major infrastructural projects though. Just last week in Chipinge, Government officials officially opened a wooden footbridge in a ceremony full of pomp, fanfare ribbons, scissors. And move over every American prison, because Zimbabwe is also going to start making number plates soon, instead of importing them. Which will slash costs to US$45 down from US$80. Because I studied economics at Allan Wilson, I have to ask why we don’t import US$10 number plates from South Africa.

President ED was able to set UN translators to scrambling when he slipped the word deleterious into his speech. It means harmful or damaging, so he was most probably referencing coal mining in Hwange, or maybe Novichok.

Outside of United Nations politics, Jenny and I went to Kariba to help Adam and Linda Selby celebrate their 38th Wedding Anniversary. Adam tried to teach me everything he knows about catching small fish and squeakers, which is a lot, but failed. He said I lack focus. But like Trump, I’m prepared to blame my inability to catch fish on Chinese over-fishing. Adam also showed me around the night sky, obviously at night. I forget the names of the constellations I saw, but they looked like a butterfly, a Spitfire and a sqwonk Stealth bomber, apparently.

I am happy to report that my right eye is like new after the cataract was removed and allowed me to enjoy sunsets, elephants and African skimmers twice as much. The bird app on my phone says there are just 1000 African skimmers in Southern Africa, and we saw 4 of them. The best thing we saw all weekend though was the African Parks anti-poaching helicopter hard at work. In partnership with National Parks and Wildlife, African Parks, a non-profit non-governmental organization, will manage Matusadonha for twenty years to come. Poachers and Chinese coal miners be warned.

And in the best news ever, Jenny and I are proud grandparents for the 4th time. Welcome to our world, little Teagan Dakota Beaton. Thank you, thank you, thank you Tom and Veronica. We can’t wait to hold and hug Teagan when she gets out of hospital but already, we love her lots.

Grandchildren are the best muti ever as evidenced by my conversation with Cailyn on Wednesday –
Cailyn- Hey Eric, can I tell you a joke?
Me- Yes, please Cailyn.
Cailyn- Why did the chicken cross the road?
Me- I give up.
Cailyn belly laughing – Because it was stuck.
Me also belly laughing- Good one Cailyn. But you don’t think you got that mixed up a bit. You don’t think that should be why the chicken didn’t cross the road?
Cailyn- No….. Do you know any jokes, Eric?
Me- Just one. Why was six scared of seven?
Cailyn- I give up.
Me- Because seven eight nine.
Cailyn belly laughing uncertainly – Good one Eric. Can I tell Andy that joke when he gets here?
Me- Sure you can.
Cailyn a few minutes later when Andy Louw-Evans – Hey Andy, can I tell you a joke?
Andy- Sure you can Cailyn.
Cailyn – Why was six scared of seven?
Andy – I give up.
Cailyn belly laughing – Six was scared of seven because of a whole bunch of other numbers.

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

Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.

Photos below- SA Lockdown Tour team and their route, Kariba sunset complete with African Skimmers, Chipinge footbridge complete with ribbons and pomp and Teagan Dakota Beaton.

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