17 July 2021 – The Third World as Seen From the Saddle.

Day 3,of the Old Legs Silverback Tour – Mashumbi Pools to Kanyemba

Distance – 118 km
Climb – 976m
Time – 10.28
Av Heart Rate- 114 bpm
Max Heart Rate -163 bpm

I am blogging to you from Kanyemba on the banks of the Zambezi River at 04.00. All around me I can hear hippos guffawing.

Laurie told us that the ride on Day Three would have teeth like a crocodile. Laurie is the master of the understatement. Man but we struggled. Not least of all because we rode unsupported.

From Mashumbi Pools the riders headed to Kanyemba to cross into Zambia by boat, whilst the Support Team turned left at the Angwa River Bridge head west through the Chewore, past Mana, through Chirundu to collect Gary and then across the border to Lusaka. We now have a photographer on board.

Adam worried the Support Team would only arrive in Lusaka after dark. Jenny is able to get lost in Harare in broad daylight. So he phoned the girls after 5 minutes to check on their average speed. Co-driver Linda conferred with Driver Jenny who told her she thought it was zero. Turns out they were stationary. Adam checked 5 minutes later when they were on the move, and Jenny was emphatic that they were averaging exactly 16.2 kph. It didn’t seem very fast to Adam. He asked Jenny to check again. Still exactly 16.2 kph. Then Adam suggested to Jenny that possibly she was reading the ambient temperature instead.

In fairness to Jenny, the dashboard on her Isuzu D-max looks like it has been cut and pasted from a Boeing airliner.

On one of the few occasions where I did pay attention to my ‘O’ Level geography, my teacher, a dour man with a strong right arm who had been breast fed battery acid, told us valley floors are easily recognizable as flat and are never, ever mountainous. Clearly the lying bastard had never been to Kanyemba on a bicycle.

But worse that the nearly 1000 meters of mountain we had to climb was the soft sand and the bone jarring corrugations that put an immediate end to any forward momentum. My average speed for the day was a pathetic 11 kph. Which makes for a very, very long day.

Our senses were heightened briefly when we saw our first elephant pooh just after the Angwa Bridge, and then our first lion spore. But then the same scenery over and over and over and over took it’s toll and the ride became a blur

Marveling at the same scenery can get you through the first 10 or 15 minutes, thereafter it gets boring. To while away the hours, Billy and I played car cricket. Because we were riding very slowly, we decided we’d play a 5 day test. The rules were basic – 1 run for a car, 4 runs for a small truck, 6 runs for big truck. Any bus, mini or big, and you were out clean bowled. Billy flipped his imaginary coin, called heads, and put me into bat.

Billy’s opening bowler was quite pedantic about his preparations. He polished his ball, practiced his run up and his glower for an hour and a half before bowling his first ball. It was a mini bus. 1 wicket down for zero. I complained bitterly to the umpire and told him I wasn’t ready. The umpire, also Billy, told me tough shit, get on with the game.

Car cricket might be on the edge of your seat exciting on California highways were Billy hails from, but on the roads less travelled, not so exciting. 10 hrs and 28 minutes after the start of play, bad light stopped play with my score on 2 for 7. And 3 of my runs came from overthrows when the same car passed us 3 times.

Clearly we weren’t going to get a result, so I was prepared to concede a draw. But Billy, sensing blood, won’t have it.

But worst of it, we were riding unsupported, not just one day, but two days on the trot. After packing extra jelly babies, extra fruit bars, extra biltong, extra biscuits, our packed breakfast and lunch, plus pajamas, plus toothbrush, I only had room in my backpack for 3 liters of water, plus another liter in my bottle. 4 liters sounds plenty for 120 kilometers, but unfortunately the Zambezi Valley never got the memo about winter, and I ran out of water after 60 km.

The heat took it’s toll in Fiona. By the time we hit the 60 km peg, she was badly dehydrated. She is also bloody stubborn and soldiered on bravely. But when she jettisoned her breakfast, Adam made the call and asked Andy Lowe, our Kanyemba host to evacuate Fiona. Andy met us 40 km out, dragged Fiona off her bike and into the car kicking and screaming, and resupplied us with 25 liters of water. And still we ran out of water but the time we limped into camp after easily one of the hardest days I have ever spent in the saddle.

Jenny packed us boiled eggs for breakfast and hot dogs for lunch. Alas. I ran out of lunch when I ate my hotdog for breakfast by mistake. CJ didn’t and enjoyed her lunch later while I watched on. I almost mugged her. CJ is one of those annoying people who drag their Easter eggs out until October.

I am very underdone for this Tour and am easily the weakest rider in the group. But for Adam physically pushing me up the steepest hills, I would still be out there riding. I have never gone up hills that quickly. I was quite exhilarating. I want to ask Adam to push me to Uganda but worry there are not enough yellow jelly babies in the world.

I have to pay tribute to our 1949 models, Alastair and Marco. They are riding like teenagers. It is bloody annoying and if ever I catch them, I will tell them.

I am not too despondent about my legs. Yesterday was only my 4th ride since May 22nd and fully expect them to get stronger, most probably on the last day in Uganda.

And if you think us riders had it tough, spare a thought for the poor support crew. Alastair’s solemn promise of 5 hours to the tar road ballooned out to a massive 9 hours. One of the trailers fell apart on security road through Chewore. And on top of all of that, it turns out Zambian Customs and Immigration officials know how to spell officious.

The cars only got through the border after ten o’clock, exhausted, after a 16 hour day. What fun. I would not be surprised if Al Watermeyer has painted a huge Dick of the Day target on his back.
And to make matters worse for young Russel, he was voted Dick of the Day, despite a spirited defense by his lawyer. I rather think Judge Adam might recused himself because of several personal nominations but he insisted on carry out his judicial duties.

Tomorrow we cross the Zambezi by boat and pedal 90 km to the Luangwa Bridge. We hope to meet the support vehicles there. If we don’t, we will have to survive off road kill.

We are riding to Uganda to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. Please follow us on Facebook and www.oldlegstour.co.zw even though we ride slow like paint dries. Please especially follow the donate prompts.

In closing please raise a glass and say a prayer for Jenny’s beloved mom Hester. RIP dear Hester. We loved you lots.

Until my next blog from the Luangwa Bridge, stay safe, help others and enjoy if you can

Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.

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