The Third World As Seen From The Saddle – January 6, 2022.

Crocodile Tour Incoming

My bright yellow kayak looked quite racy bobbing along in the tender boat’s wake, until it sank, whence upon it looked less racy. Whereas Andy’s bright red kayak bobbed along no problem. It is no small coincidence that the submarine in the Beatles song was also bright yellow.

If you told Novak Djokovic Happy New Year, I am thinking he would club you with his racquet. As far as I can make out, Novak is the first international sports star to be booted out of a competition being an anti-vaxxer. Anxious to have the champion defend his title, Australian Open organizers disingenuously tried to sneak him in under a dodgy medical exemption reserved for tennis stars with a severe cardiac illness, or another acute illness, but obviously not severe or acute enough to stop them from playing Grand Slam tennis. But the uproar in Melbourne and beyond was huge, and big brother Scott Morrison cancelled Novak’s visa.

Not to fan the flames of the never ending Covid debate, and presuming Djokovic produced a negative PCR test to get on the plane to Australia in the first place, kicking him out of an Open Tournament for his antivax beliefs can only be construed as discriminatory. Until all this Covid stuff is behind us, maybe they need to change the name of tournament to the Australian Not So Open.

For what it is worth and in case Novak reads this, I’ve had four vaccinations, 2 made in China vaccines and 2 Pfizer vaccines, and my tennis game has largely been unaffected.

But unfortunately, my kayaking not so much. I took my brand-new second-hand kayak, The HMS Inedible, to Kariba over Christmas for her maiden voyage and alas, it turns out I am really crap at kayaking.

Jenny and I were invited by Adam and Linda Selby to enjoy Christmas on Kariba on board the Somabhula, easily Kariba’s nicest houseboat, along with Mark Selby, and Linda’s mom Sally, her friend Connie and Andy Louw Evans. Andy and I were the only intrepid paddlers on board, and for intrepid, read stupid.

Our first practice paddle was on Christmas Eve, the morning after a big storm. Because we’d noticed many, many, many crocodiles in the bay, Adam offered to tow our kayaks 100 metres past the tree line, which is the invisible ‘no crocodiles beyond this point’ line, apparently.

My bright yellow kayak looked quite racy bobbing along in the tender boat’s wake, until it sank, whence upon it looked less racy. Whereas Andy’s bright red kayak bobbed along no problem. It is no small coincidence that the submarine in the Beatles song was also bright yellow.

Unfortunately, we were able to recover my kayak and empty the water out. But even then and with me in the driver’s seat paddling furiously, it still looked less than racy. Even I would be hard pressed to describe under 5 kilometres per hour as racy.

There was often more water in my kayak than out, which is a snag on Kariba, because there really, really, really are a lot of crocodiles in the lake. To use the word really three times in one sentence might seem excessive, but it’s not, because there really, really, really are a lot of crocodiles, most of them are huge. When you’re about to paddle Kariba in a kayak that protrudes less than 30 cm above water, and sometimes below, even small crocodiles look huge.

It didn’t help that instead of scything through the dead treeline in my kayak, and despite much frantic tramping on my rudder pedals, I kept bashing into trees headfirst, or rather bow first as they say in the navy. It turns the rudder on my boat is less-than-fully functional. At Allan Wilson Technical High School, it would have been described as buggered.

It also didn’t help that the water was angry, with white-topped-waves big enough to surf, provided of course you were going fast enough to surf, which I wasn’t. Big waves in a kayak are worse than big hills on a bicycle, mostly because there can be thousands and thousands of waves, one after the other after the other. Small wonder that King Canute got so pissed off with waves.

After an hour of lumpy, bumpy water, Andy and I called it quits. Climbing on to the tender boat like a drowned rat, I was clueless as to how I was going to survive 310 kilometres of paddling my stupid bloody kayak from Milibizi to Kariba.

Andy and I tried take two on Boxing Day, paddling uphill from Elephant Point to Fothergill Island, a distance of 10 kilometres. Thankfully, our second paddle went far much better as they say in Zimbabwe, and we fairly whizzed along at 6 kilometres an hour. In a kayak, the difference between 5 and 6 is significant.

Paddling alongside the Matusadona shoreline with an array of bull elephants watching on from afar was surreal, and very, very cool. The idea of 14 days of more of the same, paddling 6 hours a day now seems a wonderful idea, and I cannot wait for our next best adventure, the Crocodile Tour to begin on May 01.

And it gets better. We will be joined by the Moss brothers, Wayne and Ryan. Because he can multitask, Ryan will paddle and take photos. So, the Crocodile Tour team at this time is as follows-
Paddling we have Andy Lowe Evans as Fleet Admiral, Wayne Moss, Ryan Moss, Billy Prentice, Mark Johnson and me, with Pete Musto as a possible. If Pete is unable to paddle, we will have a vacancy in the fleet for a paddler, so if anyone out there is feeling stupid, please put your hands up.

The support flotilla will be skippered by Andy Chadwick, ably assisted by Dr Kevin O’Connor and Rich Stubbs, ably crewed by Jenny de Jong, plus John and Cathy Stanton.

Physically, I struggled on our practice paddles and will have to work hard between now and May 01. In terms of cardio fitness, I was fine with my heart rate maxing out 110, which is just above snoozing. But my core muscles were whingeing by the end of the 2-hour paddle, ditto my bottom, ditto my arms. I was very disappointed in my bottom.

You’d think that after 15000 plus kilometres in the bike saddle, my bottom would be a hardened professional, but not. It whinged profusely, especially when it saw the armchair in Andy Louw Evans’s kayak. Andy’s kayak seat is a thing of beauty, something you could binge watch all 8 seasons of Games of Throne on. By comparison the seat in my kayak first saw service on a sit-on-lawnmower circa 1950, back before comfortable was invented. I tried to bullshit my bottom that an uncomfortable seat was the perfect incentive to paddle faster, but my bottom is insisting on an armchair like Andy’s. I worry that I will have to buy it one as a late Christmas present.

Not surprisingly my arms also took flack on our practice paddles. I say not surprisingly, because someone very kindly pointed out to me that I have arms like a Tyrannosaurus Rex. He also unkindly pointed out that I have legs like a Tyrannosaurus Rex’s arms, but I’ll save that line for a cycling blog.

The other thing that took flak were my hands, but my stupid for not wearing gloves.

But all in all, I can see the attraction of paddling as a sport, and I think it will catch on.

Jenny’s enthusiasm for the Crocodile Tour was more muted, especially after she saw Andy Chadwick’s catamaran, which will be her home for two weeks in May.

I thought the yacht looked both splendid and seaworthy, with way more room than my kayak, but Jenny looked worried. Andy had warned us that the boat might look diminutive in the boat shed, but assured us it would look far much bigger when on the water. Apparently, that unwritten law of physics is reserved for boat owners who attended Vainona High. Judging by the look on Jenny’s face, those unwritten laws of physics were not taught at Montrose. Jenny’s enthusiasm was further muted when she went to look for the on-board toilet, a.k.a. the head, and didn’t find it.

Moving on to things more positive than missing toilets, I am assured that any time spent on Kariba with best friends having fun, doing good, doing epic gets added back on to your life by God. On a boat, on Kariba is the best muti ever. It is where happy memories are made, and it is why we live in Zimbabwe, and why we do what we do.

And in other sporting news, Joe Biden has announced bold measures to boycott the 2022 China Winter Olympics. It is official that no US officials will attend the games, only athletes. Wow, take that Xi, that will teach you for wanting to have the world’s biggest economy, and for eating bats, and for poaching pangolins, and other infractions too numerous to mention.

And in cricket, England rolled over in the Ashes without a whimper, although they did win the Football World Cup in 1966.

On to the best part of the blog, the ‘Do Good’ bit. Old Legs members Ken Fisher, Ant Mellon, Ryan Moss, Aoife Connolly and me, plus new Old Legs Andy Louw Evans and Andy Chadwick were able to play Father Christmas this year, per kind favour of the men of Round Table 23 who made up a staggering 780 Christmas hampers this year.

Old Legs distributed over 80 Christmas hampers to pensioners in and around Harare. Because I have arms like the aforementioned T Rex, I drafted in elves Jocelyn, Cailyn and Amber to do my heavy lifting, and also to show them that it is more fun to give at Christmas, than to receive. I would also thank and acknowledge Family X, our mystery benefactors who make up Christmas hampers for the Old Legs every year, but who would rather remain anonymous.

And easily the best Christmas present that the Old Legs delivered this year, albeit a few days late, was the new second-hand electric wheelchair for Daniel, a young man in need. Life in Zimbabwe for those in need is made bearable only by perennial good guys like Greg Pozzo who organized Daniel’s chair. Thank you, Greg and God bless. Zimbabwe is a village, and we need to have each other’s backs.

In closing, a moment of crass commercialization, if you enjoyed this blog, if you are elsewhere in the world missing Zimbabwe and all her beauty, you will love the next best Christmas present, ‘Zimbabwe On The Road Less Travelled’, our splendid coffee-table book commemorating the 2020 Old Legs Lockdown Tour.

Copies are available, from stockists worldwide, and in Zimbabwe at Folio Books, the Tin Roof, the Revelo Bike Barn at the Hub in Groombridge, and the Orange Elephant in Bulawayo.

I am determined that 2022 will be EPIC. Please be invited to follow the Old Legs Tour on our best adventures ever, on Kariba in May, and to Namibia’s Skeleton Coast in July and down under in Western Australia in October.

Until then, please rush out and buy a crocodile skin handbag, and a book

Eric Chicken Legs and T Rex Arms de Jong

Photos below – on Kariba in the HMS Inedible, Jenny’s floating home from home for 2 weeks in May, me and my elves, young Daniel sitting in his Christmas present, Ryan Moss showing off.

Source Old Legs Tour Facebook

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