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

Day 4 of the Old Legs Silverback Tour – Kanyemba to Luangwa Bridge

Distance – 84.75 km
Climb –
Time – 5.34 minute
Ave Heart Rate – 104 bpm
Max Heart Rate – 157 bpm

Day 4 was down on paper as a doddle. We’d dialed distances back to allow for our first border crossing. But because yesterday’s monster ride took it’s toll on most everyone, our doddle turned into a very slow dragged out marathon, a stop start one because a tummy bug is now running rampant through the peloton, with 4 down and others with tummies starting to rumble and mumble. Zambians now know that bears aren’t the only things that crap in the woods.

The riders and bikes crossed the Zambezi by boat per kind favour of our host Andy Lowe. By speedboat is an exhilarating way to travel as compared to bicycles, and I am thinking about switching sporting codes to a motorized water sport and watch gorillas on National Geographic instead.

We dawdled in the little border town of Luangwa. Customs and Immigration were friendly enough but sure weren’t in a hurry to process us. We were nipping straws because the 72 hour validity of our PCR tests was slipping away. Finally they checked them with just 4 minutes to spare. But I don’t think they even looked at the date.

They sure don’t take COVID seriously in Zambia, with very few masks in view anywhere. We are determined to keep our COVID bubble intact and mask up anywhere near strangers. Our masks caused some amusement and we had people shouting at us that we needn’t bother because there was no COVID in Zambia. I would not be surprised if Zambia doesn’t become a COVID hotspot in the not too distant future. Touch wood, I am wrong.

The little town of Luangwa felt different, more relaxed and with less edge. The hair styling sector in town is booming with hair salons on every corner, including the Low Life Salon and across the road, Aunt Emma’s Dreadlock Centre who also make cakes.

Prices with lots of zeros in them allowed us to feel right home. I laughed at diesel selling for 1700 kwacha, until I did my exchange sums. That works out at 80 cents US a liter, which is seriously cheap by Zim standards.

Zambia is in full election mode with every tree and every building plastered with campaign posters or graffiti and people wearing tee shirts with happy smiling politician faces on them. My prize for the most catchy, no-nonsense political campaign catch phrase goes to Mr Fred, who has painted the town white with ‘Vote for Fred’ graffiti.

If only all the political spend on posters and banners and free speeches and rallies and bullshit went into developments that would uplift people’s lives, other than just the politicians. Although I’m guessing the tee shirt manufacturers also do quite well.

I saw groups of HH supporters mixing and mingling with Lungu supporters so I’m guessing elections aren’t fought to the death in Zambia, like they are in Zimbabwe.

Eastern Zambia is big sky country with distant horizons and well treed with millions of Ilala palms and baobabs and other trees whose names escape me. But not for long I fear as there were signs of the dreaded charcoal trade along the road, Africa’s curse.

We rode alongside the Luangwa River for most of the day but did’t see any shoebill storks. I hope Al Watermeyer wasn’t telling me bullshit stories about them too.

Apart from charcoal, the only signs of an economy that I could see was grass mat manufacturing. I think Eastern Zambia is the grass mat manufacturing centre of Eastern Zambia. We passed huge piles of them waiting to be sold on the side of the road. I was going to buy one for the tent but I’d only end up traipsing dirt on it and in trouble with Jenny. Plus the colours would clash.

We sure are a curiosity in Eastern Zambia. Whole villages of kids poured out into the roads to cheer us past. The one group of about 20 kids ran alongside me chanting Number One, Number One, Number One, even though I was coming 9th. I tried to speed up for them but couldn’t because I was too knackered.

We went from being marungus to mazungus when we crossed the Zambezi and we’ll stay mazungus all the way to Uganda. Mazungu means ‘white man.’ I asked Billy what would happen if gangs of white kids in America ran out and shouted ‘black man, black man, black man’ at every black man they saw walking in the street? He thinks Lewis Hamilton might frown upon it and take the knee, but wasn’t sure.

Day 5 takes us 118 km from Luangwa Bridge to a bush camp in the middle of nowhere on our way to Chipata. Unfortunately we get to climb a massive 1739 meters on the way. This will be our first time bush camping on Tour. Me and Russ are in charge of digging toilets hole when we bush camp, with strict instructions to site them such that people can pooh with a view. Because of the tummy bug ongoing in the peloton, I’m hoping we can get away with digging small holes, instead of the huge ones normally associated with Al Watermeyer’s volumes of bullshit.

Until my next blog from the middle of nowhere, stay safe and enjoy and pedal if you can

Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.

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