July 2 2022 – Day 1 of the Old Legs Skeleton Coast Tour

- riding from Harare to Namibia to raise money and awareness for the pensioners of Zimbabwe.

Distance 156 kilometers
Time 9 hrs 14 min
Av heart 126 bpm
Max heart rate 172 bpm
Today was the start of one of the world’s most epic multistage cycle events. And the Tour de France also started today.
I am a big Primoz Roglic fan. I’m hoping his Tour got off to a better start than mine.


10 minutes before the start I asked if anyone had seen my Camelbak. I was in a panic. On a 3125 kilometer Tour Camelbaks can be considered essential equipment. Normally I wait for the Tour to get underway before I start losing shit.


No one had seen my Camelbak.. Which was not surprising considering I’d left it at home. Alas. I fear I have pinned a large Dick of the Day target on my back instead.


We enjoyed a rock and roll send off from Isuzu Autoworld in Chisipite with a huge crowd of well wishers and fellow riders. We had ambulance escorts complete with flashing and motorbike outriders stopping traffic at the robots. Briefly I felt Presidential. I think the motorbike guys might have even enjoyed more than us.


Riding beneath the skyscrapers and through the very middle of Harare CBD City was very cool. I cannot remember when last I ventured in to the city centre. It was cleaner than expected, apart from the filth and all the homeless living on the streets, all very at odds with the futuristic pedestrian walkway erected over Samora Machel that must have cost millions and millions.


The downside of riding through the City Centre is that trees behind which a person can sneak a wee are few and far between. Alas. My bladder, overawed by the occasion, was full to bursting again just minutes after having had a wee. I was in full panic when we crossed First Street. It is hard to ride a bike with legs crossed and eyes watering. Eventually I found a tree by the Sheraton large enough to hide behind. Turns out the tree was large enough for two people. The other person, an early morning commuter waiting for his lift, was rather alarmed when I rushed up with my willy already hanging out. I composed myself as best I could, not easy with your Willy hanging out and commenced weeing, unfortunately all over my pink lip balm which had fallen to the floor. I sincerely hope my lips don’t chafe.


I think shambolic could actually be a Shona word used to describe traffic on the roads of Harare, or the urban planning or rather the lack thereof on the outskirts of Harare. Both are shocking and make for exciting bike riding. Our visitors from Australia, Switzerland and New Zealand were wide eyed, and a bit saddened by how tatty things had become since they lived here.


I don’t have many regrets in life. Only having one of Ian Kinnaird’s delicious bacon rolls is one of them. Big thanks to CCC Pigs for hosting our first and very welcome breakfast stop.


We rode Harare to Kadoma 4 years ago on the first Old Legs Tour to Cape Town. The volume of traffic has doubled with every unlicensed Honda Fit driver having spawned another unlicensed Honda Fit driver. And double the number of 30 ton rigs plowing the road. The miners are obviously busy busy. But thank God for a generous yellow line.


There were a lot of firsts today on our 156 km ride .It was Howard Thompson’s furtherest ride by more than 30 kilometers. And it was also his first time using a Camelbak. It was also George Fletcher’s longest ride. Born in 1941, I can’t but feel George is leaving his record breaking a bit late in life.


George rode with a spring in his step all day. Worried that he would burn out, I wanted to tell him to ease off a bit but couldn’t catch him to tell him. Annoyingly he sped as we neared Kadoma. George was excited to be riding back into his childhood. George left Kadoma High School in 1959, the year I was born.


Apparently what the other riders enjoyed was a tail wind today all the way. I never noticed it. My 27 kilometer average speed was all down to hard endeavor. At one stage we were wizzing along at 34 kph. I don’t even sprint that fast. But we were still able to spend 9 hours in the saddle, mostly because we punctured often. Howard was the first to puncture. He has never repaired a tubeless tyre before and was briefly very impressed with my efforts to repair. That should rather read very briefly, which is how long it took for his tyre to go flat again. I blame my less than stellar success on the very pretty German girl on You Tube who tutors me on bike repairs.


But practice makes perfect. I also stopped to help Nik Crash Bellwald and Alan Crundall and actually fixed Alan’s puncture, until he buggered things up by insisting on neatly trimming my plug. Apparently Alan’s sock drawer at home is neat and tidy. NB Alexandra Bellwald- there is no need to panic, your dad didn’t crash. We’re just using his old nickname to avoid confusion with the other Nick.
Brad and Darrell from Chegutu joined us in Selous and we were joined in Chegutu by a larger Kadoma contingent headed up by Charlie Robertson and Bruce Newman. Our home for the night is the Kadoma Golf Club. We received a hugely heartwarming welcome from the Kadoma Chegutu community. They are good people. And very considerately made little noise at the urinal. By way of explanation, Adam, Alan and I slept in the men’s toilet. They are well appointed with carpets and everything, and not as noisy as the squash courts where others were snoring.


We needed a good night rest because Adam told us our next day ride will be twice as hard with 131 kilometers and 1100 meters of climb up to our bush camp on the top of Gokwe’s Mafungubusi Plateau. Wish us luck.


Until my next blog from somewhere near the middle of nowhere, have fun, do good and do epic if you can
Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

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