29th November – In just 6 short months, I will paddle the Old Legs Crocodile Tour -380 kilometres through the crocodile and hippo infested waters between Milibizi and Kariba.

The Third World As Seen As From The Saddle

To rectify my currently pathetic typist’s arms, I’ve had to turn to the pretty slip of a girl on You Tube for advice, with great reluctance I might add. I vowed to avoid her the last time, when she tried hard to show me that it is indeed possible to change a tubeless tyre on a mountain bike in under 7 hours, and without getting that white gunky snot stuff all over the curtains and carpets. Which F.Y.I. is impossible, unless you’re a Formula One mechanic working for Lewis Hamilton, but more of him later.

The Third World As Seen As From The Saddle – 29 November 2021

In just 6 short months, I will paddle the Old Legs Crocodile Tour -380 kilometres through the crocodile and hippo infested waters between Milibizi and Kariba. I am trying to get to grips with being a kayaker. Apparently, us kayakers are good at getting to grips with stuff, on account of having Popeye arms and the upper body strength that comes from countless hours of paddling, which I actually haven’t got around to yet, on account of never having sat in an actual kayak. But that is all about to change as I have just bought a splendid bright yellow second-hand kayak which I intend naming the ‘HMS Inedible.’

To rectify my currently pathetic typist’s arms, I’ve had to turn to the pretty slip of a girl on You Tube for advice, with great reluctance I might add. I vowed to avoid her the last time, when she tried hard to show me that it is indeed possible to change a tubeless tyre on a mountain bike in under 7 hours, and without getting that white gunky snot stuff all over the curtains and carpets. Which F.Y.I. is impossible, unless you’re a Formula One mechanic working for Lewis Hamilton, but more of him later.

Back to the slip of a girl on You Tube. Driven by the desperation of just 6 months to go, I asked her what exercises a kayaker without a kayak should be doing in the privacy of his own home to prepare for a 14-day paddle marathon. She told me look no further than resistance band core- training, which she proceeded to demonstrate, without any grunting, straining or sweating, and it all looks too easy. For the uninitiated, resistance bands are nothing more than industrial sized multi-coloured elastic bands which you are supposed to stretch whilst contorting your body in a bewildering series of different directions.

So, I bought some resistance bands at Decathlon in Johannesburg. Resistance bands come in various thicknesses and colours, starting with the red 65-kilogram ones, an orange 45-kilogram job, then a whole bunch of lesser pastel colours, right down to a pink 5-kilogram band. Because I’m training to paddle the length of Lake Kariba, not across Lake Mac, I scorned the lesser bands and jumped into the deep end with the red 65-kilogram band, plus the orange one for warm-ups.

I resisted the urge to try out my splendid red and orange resistance bands in store, mostly because of my fellow athletes who were crowding out the aisle, not so much on account of narrow aisles, but because their muscles had muscles. N.B. resistance bands are found in the same aisle as the barbells, medicine balls, kettlebells and other heavy-lifting sporting equipment.

I couldn’t wait to get home and commence training, just like the girl on You Tube. Alas. After 10 minutes on the fat red elastic band, I was left wanting to vomit, I guess in anticipation of life out on the open waves. But unlike the girl on You Tube, I was able to stretch my red elastic band not one single inch, despite strangulating my hernia and making my eyeballs bulge like Greta Thunberg. I am thinking Arnold Schwarzenegger uses his red resistance band only for towing his Ford F250.

To avoid death by straining, I had no option but to downgrade to using my orange elastic band. After three days on that, my contortions threaten to be permanent, with no signs of Popeye arms anywhere on my horizon. If anything, my arms have gone backwards. I no longer have the strength to type Qwerty without stopping to rest. I wish I’d bought the pink 5-kilogram resistance band. I now officially hate the girl on You Tube.

But I am so thankful that I am an almost kayaker, and not a cricketer like Quentin de Kock. Us kayakers aren’t required to kneel in memory of dead drug addicts, an account of kayaks not being the most stable of crafts and prone to toppling over, which especially not a good idea if you are paddling on Kariba.

Poor Quinny. With all the hullabaloo at the Yorkshire Cricket Club, he will be kneeling for years to come. Apparently, a cricketer of Pakistani descent was called Paki, and sometimes even Kevin,,even though his real name was Rafiq, although they might have been referencing Alex Hale’s black dog, which also answers to Kevin.

The allegations have opened up a real shit storm in English cricket, prompting a whole raft of apologies from cricketers both current and former, including Rafiq himself after someone outed a whole bunch anti-Semitic and anti-black text messages that he’d sent back in the day before he became an anti-racist campaigner. Rafiq says he doesn’t expect the Jewish community to forgive him quickly but hopes the outing of his messages doesn’t derail the cause of anti-racism.

Rafiq is lucky he doesn’t live in South Africa. Apparently, racism there is more in your face than name calling as alleged by a witness giving testimony to the South African Human Rights Commission. Having survived the aftermath of the KZN looting orgy earlier in the year, the poor chap alleged that bar just a few, the entire Indian community in KZN are racist after they shot /slaughtered / massacred 44 blacks for trying to steal their 58-inch plasma televisions, microwave ovens, dishwashers, and anything else they could carry during the looting frenzy.

As yet there has been no response to any of the above from Kevin Peterson, or from the Australian Cricket Union despite the flagrant and continued use of the diminutive term Aussie, although my brother-in-law, also Kevin, is understandably aggrieved. Lewis Hamilton is expected to also continue kneeling, even though his knees are sore like those of an errant nun.

But thankfully kayakers aren’t have bigger fish to worry about than name calling, like crocodiles and hippos, both of which I am more terrified of than before, especially after phoning friends for advice on what to do when we encounter the beasts.

Because he has been responsible for more than a few crocodile handbags in his lifetime , I turned to CJ Bradshaw for advice. He told me and I quote “beware of launching and beaching. Avoid shallow waters. And stay in the boat. And should you topple over, get back in the boat quickly. Do not drag your bits in the water. And if a croc grabs you, stick your fingers in either his eyes, nostrils or his arse, all of which should prompt a quick release.” More of the same from Larry Norton who further suggested I paddle with a large handgun, bear bangers and an axe velcroed to the deck of my boat, to bake crocodiles with should they try and bake me. In the context of this blog, to bake is not a culinary term. Jan Hart further recommended wearing a Bear Grylls sheath knife on my lifejacket. I have decided to go with all of the above and will be the most heavily armed kayaker in the world. I will make Navy Seals look like pacifists by comparison.

Unfortunately, Jan Hart is in agreement with the slip of a girl on You Tube about the importance of core training, so more resistance band training ahead. And Jan will also train us on technique, starting this weekend in his swimming pool.

Admiral of the Fleet Andy Louw-Evans will take epic to ridiculous lengths by paddling the Crocodile Tour on a homemade kayak currently under construction in his garage. Already it looks like a splendid vessel. Andy has christened his kayak the ‘HMS I Have More Meat On Me Than Eric.’

John Stanton has decided to start his training by swatting up on the theory of how to kill crocodiles with your bare hands.

The Old Legs mantra is Have Fun, Do Good, Do Epic. We are paddling Kariba to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s beleaguered pensioners. The very best part of that job description is the ‘Do Good’ bit. Following the success of our just ended Mt Everest Challenge, I am so looking forward this week to being able to help pay for one knee replacement and three hip replacements. Thank you, thank you, thank you to those who participated in the Challenge, and to all those who donated. You have changed lives.

Huge thanks especially to the M’dala Trust for their continued support. The M’dala Trust make such a difference to the lives of so many Zimbabwean pensioners in need in South Africa, and in Zimbabwe. Please support them if you can. I’d also like to thank and acknowledge the Farm Family Trust who continue to do so much to support ex-farmers who lost their livelihoods along with their farms.

Such is the state of the economy in Zimbabwe, the Old Legs Tour are going to be busy, busy, busy next year with not one Tour, but two. The Crocodile Tour in May as mentioned above will be followed by the Skeleton Coast Tour in July. Very cunningly, I have chosen the world’s oldest desert where crocodiles haven’t been seen in millions of years as our destination, although we will have to cross the Zambezi River twice to get there.

As is our want, we will ride on roads less travelled, 3000 plus kilometres of them, mostly on dirt. We’ll ride through a town called Gokwe, onto Milibizi via the wilds of Chizarira, alongside the mighty Zambezi full of crocodiles to Vic Falls for our first rest day. We’ll do epic by pedalling across the Vic Falls Bridge into the back of beyond that is western Zambia at which point we’ll head across to the Angolan border, so we can cross back over the Zambezi at Katimo Mulilo before heading south into the crocodile free zone that is the Namibian hinterland. We’ll ride via Grootfontein and the Etosha National Park and will take the scenic route via Desolation Valley, Spitzkoppe, the White Lady Bushman and te Brandberg Massif. We’ll hope to bump into the iconic Skeleton Coast at the aptly names St Nowhere and then head south along the Coast past the Cape Cross seal colony and the Dead Sea Swim hole towards our finish line at Swakopmund, where we will rehydrate by quaffing copious quantities of German beer. I am exhausted just having typed all of that, but as so excited.

Al Watermeyer will be the senior man, aged 73 years young, ably assisted by Graeme Fleming, Adam Selby, Mike Reimer, Rob Cloete from Zimbabwe, Alan Crundall, Pete Brodie and Old Legs Kilimanjaro veterans Mark Johnson from Australia, and Nik Bellwald from Switzerland. The Old Legs is an especially apt description for this year’s peloton. To be able to cling to any claims of being middle-aged, most of us will have to push on to the other side of 120 years old.

Please follow our preparations for both Tours on our very splendid new website www.oldlegstour.com. Please also follow the donate prompts.

In closing, some humour from the short people out there. As part of our raising awareness campaign, I give talks to schools in which I make the children roll their eyes a lot by going on and on and on about the importance of spending less time on their tablets, and more time on bicycles, or climbing hills, having adventures, etcetera, etcetera. N.B. Please note, that very responsibly, I go to ridiculous lengths telling them not to paddle on Kariba.

It is a killer presentation if I say so myself, peppered with quotes plagiarised from www.bucketlist.com, like “a ship is always safest in harbour but that is not what it was built for” and “no one likes to move outside their comfort zone, but that’s where the magic happens, where we grow, where we learn, and where we develop in a way that expands our horizons beyond what we thought was possible.”

At the end of the presentation, i.e., once I’ve run out of quotes, I invite questions from the kids. This last week I spoke at Live and Learn in Groombridge. A little chap in the front row called Anesu was the first with his hand up in the air.
“Yes, Anesu. What would you like to ask me?” I asked.
“Can you do a backflip?”
“Um…no, I can’t.” I answered truthfully and rather embarrassingly.
“Hah, I can” said Anesu, triumphantly. “How about side flips? Can you do a side flip?”
“No, I can’t do them either.”
“Hah, I can. They’re easy.”
Such were my feelings of inadequacy, I think that Anesu could enjoy a very successful career on You Tube.

If you have enjoyed this blog, you will love my new book ‘Zimbabwe On The Road Less Travelled’ now available in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, Canada and the US, but not yet in South Africa and Zimbabwe because the boat they arrived on in Durban on the 18th of November, hasn’t been offloaded yet, most probably because of COVID, although I’m thinking Third World inefficiencies and officiousness might also have played a part in the delay. Book your copy now because they are selling faster than reasonably priced designer crocodile skin handbags. And please note the book will not be available on Amazon for now as there are some concerns about print quality.

Until my next blog, enjoy and stay safe by avoiding crocodiles whilst launching, beaching and in shallow waters- Eric Chicken Arms and Legs de Jong.

N.B. This blog does not reflect the views of the Old Legs or the charities we support, or Quentin de Kock, Lewis Hamilton or Alex Hale’s dog, Kevin.

Photos below – the HMS Inedible, the HMS I Have More Meat On Me Than Eric in dry dock, amusing Hungry Crocodile socks that will keep you awake at night, Skeleton Coast or bust and best ever Christmas present this Christmas.

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