July 5 2022 – Day 4 of the Old Legs Skeleton Coast Tour
Ben’s View Gokwe North to Mucheni View, Chizarira National Park
Distance – 130.5 km
Time -10.35 hrs
Ascent – 1325 m
Av Heart Rate – 119 bpm
Max Heart Rate – 182 bpm
Max Gradient – 19.5
Max Temp – Bloody hot.
Please let it be known that George Fletcher has a new name. Hence forth he shall be known as Mucheni George.
Yesterday at age 81, George was a proud member of the 2nd group of mountain bike riders ever to have ridden up the Chizarira massif to the Mucheni View. George is a national treasure.
Chizarira is a Batonka word meaning Great Barrier. The Batonka are masters of the understatement. The mountain is beyond massive and put cricks in our necks trying to stare up at the top. I pointed out our home from home for the night at the very top to Mark Johnson. He offered to punch me for coming up with stupid ideas.
The ride up to the Mucheni Gorge was stupidly steep with max gradients of 19.5. Not even the Tour de France boasts rides that steep. The ride up was further toughened by swathes of deep sand in which both George and Howard were able to face plough spectacularly.
I am still not sure how we made it up to the top of the mountain, especially at the end of a 9 hr day. We caught the sunset just in time. The pristine bush we rode through and the cold beers and the view from up top were best ever, and well worth the effort. That we heard lion that night and saw waterbuck, warthogs, impala and a steenbok on the way out made the ride all the more special.
Chizarira is now managed by National Parks Rescue. With robust anti-poaching strategies, they are determined to fix what has been broken and to restore the Park as one of Zim’s premier wildlife destinations. Please put it on your radar.
George is riding 3125 km from Harare to the Skeleton Coast to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. Please help him help others less fortunate. Please also be inspired by him. If I grow up, I want to be just like George.
Our Day 4 ride is up there as one of my best ever on the bike, from start to finish. We rode out of Gokwe district and across the Sengwa River into Binga district. In Binga the horizons are even more distant than those in Gokwe, although that could have everything to do with waning average speeds. I am very underdone on the bicycle.
I have improved slightly after though, swopping out new riding shoes for my old riding shoes. I had the onset of a wounded knee because of cockeyed cleats. The start of a 3125 km bike tour is no time to be breaking in new riding shoes. Silly me.
We are riding the Karoi – Binga highway. We rode the same route on the 2020 Lockdown Tour. The scenery has improved hugely and is now spectacular. Last time my eyes were broken and I saw not a lot.
In 2020 we rode past a big yellow IXMGA ‘Made In China’ grader broken down in the middle of the highway, deaded by the road it hadn’t fixed. I remember featuring it prominently in my blog that day. Fast forward 2 years and the grader remains in exactly the same spot, a broken down monument to poor workmanship.
According to the prominent plaque on the grader, IXMGA are the sole brand of grader used by the Chinese National Antarctic Research Program. I’m guessing roads in the Antarctic are also buggered.
The Karoi -Binga highway boasts a million bus stops, but not a single bus, not in 2 full days of riding. The people in Gokwe and Binga do it tough, and on foot.
I stopped to help a young lady push her wheelbarrow up one of the stupidly steep hills. She was clearly struggling in the heat. Her name was Charity. She pushed my bike, I pushed her wheelbarrow which was full of butternuts and a 2 lt of cooking oil. Bicycles are way easier than wheelbarrows. I was knackered halfway up the hill.
Charity told me she’d already walked 10 kilometers when I met her, with another 5 kilometers still in front of her. But she was all smiles, especially when Russ handed her a cold coke at the top of the hill.
I passed another lady struggling with 60 liters of water in her wheelbarrow, but was too tired to help. Like Jon Snow in Game of Thrones, we know nothing about hard life.
Not much further on, a little boy ran out on to the road to greet Alan and I. He was waving his hands and his face wreathed in the hugest smile and he wished us a Happy New Year in his best and only English.
I continue to be amazed at how people with so little can be so happy.
Until my next blog from Milibizi, have fun, do good, do epic