16 October 2021 – The Third World As Seen From The Saddle

I suffer vertigo standing at the top of my 8-foot ladder. Vertigo is a ‘Get Out of Jail Card’ invented by an idiot on a bike looking to ride up Mt Everest. 8849 meters of uphill is against all the laws of physics and shouldn’t be allowed. It is why God invented elevators and cable cars.

But 8848 meters on the other hand is entirely doable. Thanks to exhaustive research by Peter Simpson in Johannesburg, we’ve been able to adjust our target downwards by 1 meter. Because it is winter in the northern hemisphere, and because the expansion/contraction of granite is approx. 8x 10 -6 m/(m/deg C) blah blah blah, Mt Everest is 70 cm shorter at this time of year, assuming 20 degree C temperature swing, which Peter thinks is probably conservative. And because the height of Everest is expressed in meters above sea level, thanks to climate change, rising sea levels and Donald Trump, Peter has been able to save us a further 30 centimetres.

Some might call the above an illegal shortcut, up there with failed urine tests, but I’m filing it under the aggregation of marginal gain, perfectly acceptable cycling tactics as espoused by Dave Brailsford.

We are riding the equivalent of Mt Everest to raise money to buy Janse Grobler a new knee, because his old one is bone on bone, and has been for two years. Janse told us that he has as much chance of climbing Everest as he has of raising the money needed. So, we’re going to help him with both. We also hope to raise money enough for new hips for Dave Odendaal in Mutare and Keith MacDonald aged 80 in Bulawayo. Old guys needing new hips and knees in Zimbabwe are backed up worse than trucks at Beitbridge. Alas.

But we are up to the challenge and Old Legs alumni all over the world have put their hands up to tackle Mt Everest– Al Watermeyer and Al Rheeder on the Northcliff hill in Joburg, CJ Bradshaw plus 11 friends are riding up Everest in the Drakensberg, Pete Brodie and Mike Paul in Western Australia, Nik Bellwald in Switzerland, and CarolJoy Church in Germany. Nik is riding the Swiss Alps in temperatures below 10 degrees. Ouch.

To climb Everest in Zimbabwe, Laurie and Fi Watermeyer, Adam Selby and I, plus hopefully Mike Whaley, Clem Henon and friends, will attempt to tackle the Ugly Sisters in the Shawasha Hills -a.k.a. Chisha Left and Chisha Right on Strava- 39 times in 3 days- totalling the required 8848 meters of climb in 253 kilometres of riding, which is twice as steep as the Blue Cross. Woe is me. My previous record for Ugly Sisters in a single day without vomiting is 6. For those lucky enough not to know them, the Ugly Sisters are Hoggerty Hill overdosed on steroids, and far, far, much more horrible. The hills are back-to-back with less than 50 meters of flat between them. Ouch. N.B. They are also known as Hugh Williams Drive and Anne McGregor Drive.

I only started my training 2 weeks ago, but fortunately, my bicycle broke on my 4th ascent. It was a fatal malfunction involving a broken chain, busted bearings and cassette, and a derailleur through my spokes. Collectively, the technical term for all of that on a single bike is completely buggered, and beyond the skills of even an Allan Wilson old boy to fix, leaving me free to consider new sporting codes, like badminton, because you get to eat cucumber sandwiches whilst looking cool in a John McEnroe headband.

But unfortunately, Albert Kirevha didn’t go to Allan Wilson, and he was able to fix my bike in just 2 days, allowing me to train this past week in Juliasdale, forcing the further postponement of my badminton career. I am going to buy Albert a dictionary for Christmas so I can show him the word irreparable does exist.
Juliasdale is as pretty a place as I’ve ever ridden a bike with crisp, fresh air and forever views that were only slightly marred by a red haze. The only downside to riding in Juliasdale are the hills, of which there are many.

My training took another wrong turn in Juliasdale when I pulled a muscle in my back whilst stoutly defending Jenny against an insect. Smaller than a dog but easily as big as a medium-sized cockroach, with lots of mean eyes and a proboscis like a sword, just smaller, the insect forced his way through the bedroom burglar bars and commenced looking around for things to snack on, like jugular veins. With scant regard for my sleep patterns, Jenny shrieked. With scant regard for my own safety, I leapt into action, mostly because I knew Jenny would kill me worse than the insect if I didn’t leap. Using a Pick and Pay plastic packet as a protective glove, I seized the beast to fling him back out the window. Too late, I remembered his proboscis, which would slice through the packet like a sword through butter, and then most probably on to tendons, ligaments, and other things that hurt. (As it turned out it didn’t, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t.) Whence upon I also shrieked, and tried to fast-forward flinging the beast, enabling me to pull a muscle in my back that I didn’t even know I had, enabling Jenny to laugh and laugh and laugh, even though it was bloody sore.

Given my physique, pulled muscles are largely unchartered territory for me, so I am not sure how long I’ll be able to use it as a further excuse for riding up the Ugly Sisters slower than normal.

Also looking for excuses for riding slower than normal, Adam Selby has decided to train for Mt Everest Challenge at sea level where he will put himself on a strict see food and eat it diet for 10 days, in an attempt to balloon out to 110 kilograms worth of excuse.

Al Watermeyer flies his excuse for going up hills slowly in the form of a giant Zimbabwe flag which he flew proudly behind his bike on the Cape Town Cycle Tour. The drag coefficient from the flag is such that it allows Al to ride his bike backwards when riding into head winds on Suikerbossie and Chapman’s Peak, sort of like Michael Jackson moonwalking, but with both gloves on. Al is like red wine and just gets better and better. Even with the flag, he finished in 5 hr 6 minutes. I hope I am half as spunky when I am a septuagenarian, although by then I’m hoping I’ll be laying badminton instead.

If you like watching people with purple faces riding bicycles slowly like paint dries, please be invited to cheer us on, starting on Friday 22 to 24 October, and again on Thursday 28 to 30 October. We’re using the last weekend as a spare spill over weekend to accommodate those of us who have been lolling about on beaches, or who didn’t make it up Everest in 3 days, on account of pulled muscles, etcetera, etcetera.

If you would like to be one of the cyclists with a purple face, please be invited to join us on the Ugly Sisters on any of the days above, from 06.00 onwards. To this end, the Old Legs Tour would like to put out a challenge within the Everest challenge to any other social riding groups to see who can climb the most meters in a day. We will have a leader board up with 3 categories, mountain bikes, road bikes and e-bikes. Already Mike Whaley and co have accepted the challenge. But please remember that it is going to be cheeky hot out on the hills, 36 degrees on last Sunday’s training ride, so please ride within yourselves, and remember lots of rehydrate muti.

N.B. We’re also looking for volunteers to help man the Ugly Sisters leader board, the water point, and the shower from 06.00 onward.
The Old Legs Mt Everest Challenge is all about raising money for Janse, and for other pensioners requiring life changing medical interventions. Please donate on https://www.gofundme.com/f/janse-grobler-everest-challenge.

In Zimbabwe you can also use the following accounts –
Bank – CABS
Branch – Platinum
Account name – Old Legs Tour Trust
NOSTRO Account No – 1130018407
RTGS Account No – 1130022072

In other news, lest we forget who caused the shit that our pensioners are now in, a magistrate this week fined Grace Mugabe 5 cows and 2 goats for burying Bob improperly. Which left me wondering how do you bury someone improperly? Maybe they left a foot sticking out? And who gets to keep the goats and the cows? The state or the magistrate? Maybe they dished out farms to judges and magistrates so they can continue to uphold the law with impunity, because 5 cows and 2 goats will destroy your Borrowdale Brook lawn quicker than a cyclist up a steep hill. Alas.

And Beitbridge border post was plunged into go-absolutely-nowhere gridlock this week by hundreds of grumpy truckdrivers protesting the introduction of a new US $210 fee to scan their loads, on top of the US$ 175 toll fee paid to get across the bridge in the first place. And because of glitches in the new system, they are able to scan a whole 3 trucks an hour, the truck drivers get to stay grumpy in the queue in 40-degree heat for days, if not weeks. Alas. But that is the price of progress. Interestingly, the company that has been given the contract to modernize the Beitbridge border post and to operate it for the next 17 years is incorporated in Mauritius, a country well versed in operating land borders efficiently. I think I’ll stick to the Plumtree border as and when it reopens, unless of course all the grumpy truck drivers follow suit.

And by the by, if you are looking to pay the US$385 in border fees in local currency, it would cost you either $32725 Zim Dollars if using the government rate, or $73150 if you use the black-market rate, like every single person in Zimbabwe. Although I think that is a moot point, because they don’t accept Zim dollars in Mauritius.


I was able to summit the Ugly Sisters 8 times on a training ride yesterday morning, climbing 1784 meters in 52 kilometres in 4 hrs and 36 minutes. At 35 degrees, it was stupidly hot, almost as stupid as me. I rode the last two hills with a heavy heart, having just been told that Pete Kleu passed away in South Africa after a long illness. Rest in peace old friend, and strength to Tina, Rory and Tim going forward.

Until my next blog, stay safe, enjoy and avoid vertigo whilst pedalling if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

Photos below – a view of the Swiss Alps, Al flying the flag in Cape Town, warning signs of 8 Ugly Sisters ahead, N.B. The thin line on the graph is the temperature.

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