8 November 2021 – I worry that I worry a lot in this blog. Alas.

I am an unabashed tree hugger. I stood on top of Kilimanjaro and mourned the shrinking glacier, likely to be gone completely within 20 years. Ditto the Impenetrable Forest in Uganda, home to the last mountain gorillas on Earth, but not for long, I fear. But I worry the greenies do not know how to box smart, especially when they are up against the climate change naysayers and the oil barons who boasted the largest delegation present at Glasgow, 500 of them, there to lobby and to schmooze, provided of course the Zimbabwean delegation left them any Scotch to schmooze with.

8 November 2021 – The Third World as Seen From the Saddle

I worry that I worry a lot in this blog. Alas.

At the just ended Glasgow Climate Conference Boris Johnson likened the ongoing fight to avoid Armageddon to a football match in which Planet Earth was down 5 to 1. But after much hot air from the 120 world leaders who bothered to attend, Boris reckoned Planet Earth had pulled back 1 goal, maybe 2, and urged us all to take losing 5-3 as a positive. Not having won a World Cup since 1966, I don’t know if a British Prime Minister is qualified to make footballing analogies.

I worry for instance if Boris took into account the own goals scored by a leader who burnt 140,000 litres of aviation gas and a million bucks on a luxury Dreamliner just to get to the climate change conference, pitching up with 100 minions anxious to drink Scotland dry, after 20 plus years of sanctions.

I worry that 20% of the world’s population as represented by China’s Xi didn’t even bother pitching up for the match, apparently because of Covid concerns, which is like Michael Jackson worrying about child abuse.

I worry that India, another 20% of the world’s population, remain fully committed to chasing down their zero emissions target, but just 20 years too late.

I worry that Brazil’s lumberjack President’s lips moved when he vowed to end deforestation by 2030, a sure sign of Porky Pies. And lo and behold, the very next day he slashed the budgets of Brazil’s environment protection agencies by 24%. I hope one of those big trees falls on his head.

I worry that serial offenders Australia whilst going green with nuclear submarines, instead of dirty French diesel ones, say they will continue to sell their coal to the world for as long as their order books are full.

But mostly I worry that Joe Biden is indeed sleepy, and that Trump will win in 2023 and reverse the US out of any agreements signed in Glasgow, just like he did to the Paris accord. Donald’s idea of recycling is weeing in the shower and sniffing his own farts as his hair stylist burns up more power than Lithuania. Unsurprisingly, Vladimir Putin didn’t pitch either. After discovering first-hand the links between small willy syndrome and cold winters, he yearns for global warming.

I am an unabashed tree hugger. I stood on top of Kilimanjaro and mourned the shrinking glacier, likely to be gone completely within 20 years. Ditto the Impenetrable Forest in Uganda, home to the last mountain gorillas on Earth, but not for long, I fear. But I worry the greenies do not know how to box smart, especially when they are up against the climate change naysayers and the oil barons who boasted the largest delegation present at Glasgow, 500 of them, there to lobby and to schmooze, provided of course the Zimbabwean delegation left them any Scotch to schmooze with.

And why host the most important climate change conference since the last one in a city that is bloody freezing in winter? Why not shock your delegates into taking climate change seriously by hosting them in say Kolkata in 42-degree heat with no air con and an air quality index that can kill you should you be stupid enough to step outside. And when choosing your poster pin-up girl for the cause, why go with a pouty, sulky obnoxious child with bulgy eyes who annoys, rather than inspires? Alas.

But mostly I worry this rant has dragged on too long, so will move on to the bike part of the blog. The Old Legs Tour completed their Everest Challenge this last weekend, in 38-degree heat would you believe. It is that hot in Zim currently, even the baobabs are wilting.

We climbed a total of 68000 meters a.k.a. Everest x 10 to raise money for 1 knee replacement op and 2 hip operations and were helped by people all over the world, which was hugely heart-warming, pardon the pun.

I was very proud to present Pixie Hallows with an Old Legs ride jersey for her efforts in Nyanga. Pixie starting her last ride at 04.00 a.m. to avoid the worst of the heat. Also in line for jerseys are Nik Bellwald in Switzerland for braving some monster 25% gradients, Pete Brodie in Australia , and CJ Bradshaw in SA.

Jerseys for effort also go to Mike Paul in Australia, and to Hans Steenberghe in the Netherlands for climbing 785 meters, which in the context of the Netherlands is Everest and then some. Hans has to share his jersey with Jaap who gifted Hans 278 m.

Adam also wanted to gift to Hans the 32 m he says he climbed between his bedroom and the restaurant whilst on holiday, but because he didn’t log them on Strava, they are unverified and unsubstantiated, and I have no option but to disallow. Plus, there is no way Adam only climbed 32 m getting to the restaurant.

Huge thanks to all those who participated, and especially to all those who donated, including Kevin and Jackie Connor in Zambia, the Tin Roof who donated the proceeds of their Inter Schools Golf Competition, won by Churchill, but only because Allan Wilson boys had to make their own golf clubs and as a result, are very incompetent golfers. Big thanks also to Sue McCallum, Malcolm Pringlewood, Sean Hannay, Gary and Sandy Pott, Caro Calohan, the Taylor and Norris families, and others too numerous to mention.

Special thanks go to the M’dala Trust, who have pledged to cover half of Janse Grobler’s operation. The M’dala Trust are our partner charity in South Africa and do so much for so many Zimbabwe pensioners in need. Please support them if and where you can.

Also big thanks to Patrick Mallon and his team at PJM Response for making sure we didn’t die on the hills, and also to Mike Whaley and Mr Chando for their support and for the world’s best Freezits a.k.a. Penny Cools for those of my generation.

Big thanks also to Andrew Tozer BSI Steel for donating the proceeds from recycled pallet furniture sold at the Stables Market. And last but far from least thanks to the members of the Harare Athletic Club for donating the proceeds from their Komani fun run to the Old Legs Tour, even though they could have used them to buy bicycles.

The names above be among the first to go up on the Old Legs Good Guy Wall on our shiny, brand-new website. Check it out on www.oldlegstour.com.

Hills can either kill you or cure you. Riding in the worst heat wave since for ever, it was touch and go at times, but having officially survived Everest, I am now officially cured of hills, until the next Old Legs Everest Challenge, which will definitely happen in the winter of 2022. Watch this space.

And whilst on the subject of things that kill you or cure you, don’t you just love how this blog flows, allow me to tell you about our next adventure, the Old Legs Crocodile Tour, in which we will get to swap bicycles for kayaks, a.k.a. canoes, boats, ships and or vessels and boldly go where no landlubber has gone before, apart from Mark Johnson, Andy Walsh and Pete Musto who paddled the length of Kariba a couple of years back.

Upfront, I need to tell you that I absolutely fear, loath and hate crocodiles and have steadfastly remained a landlubber to date, specifically to avoid them. I’m not too keen on hippos either, or sharks, killer whales, and walruses. I am very happy that my knowledge of things nautical does not extend beyond almost being able to tie a reef knot, that Popeye’s girlfriend’s name is Olive Oil and that camels are called ships of the desert because they are full of Arab seamen.

But I worry that is all about to change, because of Bill Annadale.

On our Kilimanjaro Tour, Bill quoted some guy called Andy Molinsky at length about the need to go outside your comfort zones, where the magic happens, where we grow and learn and expand our horizons beyond what we thought was possible. Because it is a long way to Kilimanjaro, I heard Bill’s lecture often. I quite like the thought of growing, learning, expanding blah blah blah, and pinned my hopes on being uncomfortable on a badminton court, but Bill said badminton courts don’t count. As a result, when Grimwood Cooke dared me to paddle the length of Kariba, I had no option but to say bring it on, even though the length of Kariba is brim full of crocodiles and hippos, both of which I happen to be petrified of, as mentioned above.

But no doubt the voyage, which is nautical speak for Tour, will be epic, which is the key ingredient of any Old Legs Tour.

And so, on May the 2nd, to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners, we will paddle out of Milibizi on the Old Legs Crocodile Tour, hopefully arriving Kariba May 14th+/- 380 kilometres later. I was hoping Milibizi to Kariba was downhill, but apparently it isn’t. And worse, apparently we will paddle into a headwind, which worries me.

The Crocodile Tour is only a few weeks old but already it has opened the doors on so many new things to worry about, which is quite refreshing. I have not been able to take any comfort from the fact that Mark Johnson and Pete Musto have tentatively signed up to do the challenge again, because I know them all to be fully mental in the first place.

I worry that Andy Walsh famously described Mark Johnson as having typist’s arms on their first voyage, which is a snag, because unless I do something about it between now and May 02, I will forever be labelled as having assistant typist’s arms, which is extremely worrying. To this end, I have asked Olympic rower Peter Purcell-Gilpin for guidance and advice on land-based training exercises to bolster my upper body strength to the point where I can paddle for 8 hours a day, 12 days on the trot. The exercises have to be land based because I haven’t bought kayak, canoe, boat, ship and /or vessel yet.

I worry that Mark Johnson told me to make sure that my kayak, canoe, boat, ship and or vessel is more than 5 metres long, and that it must not have a white bottom, in case it excites a crocodile below. I am now also able to worry about amorous crocodiles, on top of angry ones, and hungry ones, and I don’t know whether I should go with pastel colours beneath, or bright.
But regardless of colour, I will boldly emblazon the bottom of my kayak, canoe, boat, ship and or vessel with Voetsak, Africa’s ‘Go To’ word for all encounters with angry animals, although I do worry that it might piss them off.
And please don’t get me started on hippos.

Thankfully I will have other kayaks, canoes, boats, ships and or vessels to hide behind. Andy Louw-Evans has signed up as Admiral of the Fleet, a.k.a. Ride Captain, plus John Stanton from Johannesburg, Billy Prentice from California, Mark Johnson from Australia, and Pete Musto, with Adam Selby hovering. Andy Walsh said he might delegate paddling to one of junior members of his family. I would follow suit, but I’ve trained my kids too well to be scared of crocodiles and hippos for that to work.

Thankfully, the paddlers will have ample support in the form of a fleet of 3 catamarans, a.k.a yachts, boats, ships and or vessels, under the command of Rear-Admiral Andrew Chadwick, plus Dr Kevin O’Connor, plus another sailor yet to be identified, plus deckhands a.k.a. swabbies Jen de Jong, Kath Stanton with Linda Selby hovering, plus hopefully Ryan Moss manning the cameras.

Mentioning the names of the participants at this early stage is sort of like chucking big rocks into a dam, because big rocks are hard to un-chuck.

We will camp on beaches etc along the way, hopefully calling in on places likes Binga, Bumi, Rhino Camp, Spurwing, Sanyati for some creature comforts along the way.

Ryan will get to film the entire voyage, focusing on Kariba’s shoreline, showcasing one of Zimbabwe’s premier wildlife and tourist destinations, documenting the conservation community’s war on poaching and environmental degradation.

As mentioned, we will be paddling to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. But over and above that, we want to give something back to the community that live alongside the Lake. We rode through the Omay and Binga communal lands on last year’s Lockdown Tour and were moved by how nice the people were, despite their poverty. Working with Charlie Hewat of Greenline Africa, the Old Legs will adopt a school, or a clinic, or an old age home.

In closing and as a reminder as to why we do what we do, I was able to able to make two little old ladies cry this week, simply by offering to help them.

The first little old lady, I’ll call her Annie, is in her late seventies. She fell and broke her upper arm badly and developed bedsores after languishing for 3 weeks, essentially untreated, in a government hospital, no names mentioned but it used to be called The Andrew Fleming, because she could not afford the cost of the operation. Her body weight plummeted because she couldn’t eat the food. She developed bedsores which she had to treat herself, because nurses and doctors are underpaid and unmotivated. You try that with a badly broken arm.

I heard about Annie’s predicament and walked into her ward on a Monday morning with a big bunch of flowers and an offer to help with the costs of the operation. I am so very happy to tell you that I was at the back of the queue of people clustered around Annie’s bed, also waiting to help her. News had got out about Anne and the congregants of the Kingsmead Chapel had beaten me to it and had raised money enough to pay for her op.
Annie could not believe that strangers she didn’t know were reaching out to help her, and just burst into a flood of tears.

And more of the same when another little old lady in her 80’s who I will call Mary reached out for help with her hip replacement op. Mary’s family now living outside the country had been able to raise money just enough to cover the cost of operation. To save money, Mary’s surgeon was going to book her into the government hospital mentioned above. But then Mary’s surgeon changed his mind. Because the Hippocratic Oath that he signed would have him first do no harm, he told her he was no longer happy to put her into the big government hospital, and she would have to be booked into a private hospital, the cost of which was above the sum of money already raised, and she worried about asking her family for more help. So, I told her, no problem, we would move heaven and earth to cover the additional costs. Predictably, Mary burst into tears.

Man, I so love making little old ladies cry. It is the best part of my job. The Old Legs have grabbed the ‘pensioner medical emergency’ tiger by the tail. I don’t mind telling you that on bad days we are overwhelmed but we just hang on for dear life, never regretting that we grabbed the bloody tail in the first place, and always thankful that Zimbabwe is a village and that we have each other’s backs.

In closing, this week’s Cailyn story. Cailyn came home from school hugely jealous. Her best friend Rayelle had a pet cockroach that she took to school every day, and Cailyn didn’t. I was intrigued. How come the cockroach didn’t run away, or get stamped upon by squeamish teachers, I asked? No problem, Cailyn told me, Rayelle keeps her cockroach in her lunchbox. I am rather glad Rayelle isn’t one of our deckhand swabbies on the Crocodile Tour.

And lastly, a good news nautical story. On the 6th of November at 23.00 hrs, the cargo ship, boat, and or vessel the COSCO ASHDOD, carrying copies of my coffee table book ‘Zimbabwe On The Road Less Travelled’, was at Indian Ocean (coordinates 21.16164 S / 54.47047 E) sailing at a speed of 11.9 knots en route to the port of Durban, South Africa where it is expected to arrive on Nov 11, 04:00.

The same story is playing out in Alberta, Canada, in Felixstowe, England, In Rotterdam, Holland and has already played out in Sydney, Australia where the book is already available. Order your copy of ‘Zimbabwe On The Road Less Travelled’ now, because this is a limited edition.

Until my next blog, stay safe and on dry land,
Eric Assistant Typist Arms Chicken Legs de Jong

Photos below – the Everest leader board, the Swiss Alps, presenting Pixie with her ride jersey, and possibly the best coffee table book in the world, although I could be biased.

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