July 14 – Day 13 of the Old Legs Skeleton Coast Tour

 -from Katima Mulilo to Namushasha Camp on the eastern boundary of the Bwabata National Park.

Distance – 136 km
Time – 8 hrs 4 min
Av Heart Rate – 129 bpm
Max Heart Rate – 180 bpm.


We rode through the Caprivi Strip today. The road was long and flat and mostly straight with bush on both sides, including some fine specimens of Terminalia sericea, and other trees whose names continue to escape me. In a car it might be boring, but on a bike it was beautiful. On a bike you have time to take in the smaller details, like the Terminalia sericea for instance.


The Caprivi Strip has an interesting history. Displaying incredible foresight and vision , the Germans gave England the island of Zanzibar and the future international television rights for the game of cricket in return for for the Caprivi Strip, this so they could gain access to the Zambezi River and sail the interiors of Africa all the way to German East Africa a.k.a. Tanzania. Unfortunately, they forgot to take the Victoria Falls into account, which had been discovered by Livingstone 35 years earlier. In his own language the German negotiator would be called a dumbass, no translation needed. But for him the Germans would have been able to lay claim to Freddy Mercury.


The full moon watched 10 of us ride out of Kutima Mulilo in the half dark. This time we were able to make it past the spot outside the hospital where George had pulled his Joe Biden without further incident, even though we were riding with all fingers crossed. Back in Harare we knew that George was about to go in to theatre for an emergency hip replacement op, less than 24 hrs after falling.


We were able to squeeze in another medical drama before we left our campsite when Adam operated on Pete’s inflamed big toe using a 400 watt Milwaukee power drill and a 1.5 mm drill bit. Pete remained stoic throughout the operation with his poker face in place, and enjoyed instant relief as soon as the drill penetrated the nail, allowing the build up of fluid to come pouring out.I, on the other hand, screamed like a girl and continue to suffer post-traumatic stress, fully understandable given that Adam has offered to fix my sore finger.


Katima Mulilo is a neat little town well equipped with good roads and all the name brand stores but you can tell you are in Africa by the street names. Only in Africa are streets named after living, incumbent Presidents.


We had 136 kilometers of road in front of us. After the 2 short rides
previously and yesterday’s aborted ride, the prospect of a long day in the saddle felt good.


The traffic was light and polite. The other riders enjoyed a tail wind and fairly flew, averaging over 30 kph at times. According to his Garmin, Howard would go on to burn in excess of 5000 calories on the ride. At the very back of the peloton, we took it slower as is our want, looking for things to see.


The villages in Namibia are not dissimilar to the the villages in Western Zambia, scruffy to look at by Zimbabwe standards and with square huts, not round ones. Somewhere we passed the invisible line between round huts versus square. Square huts make more sense to me because at least you have corners to put stuff in. But in Namibia most of the villages are plumbed into the electricity, and often boast multiple large 5000 liter overhead water storage tanks. I was reminded of the poor people we saw digging for dirty drinking water in the riverbed outside Milibizi. Poor Namibians are rich compared to poor Zambians and Zimbabweans.


We saw two Meyer’s parrots and a purple roller. And Nick saw 2 red necked Falcons. They’re considered a big tick for a birder. It was my first almost seeing them.


We rode through the Sobbe Conservancy Area, a 40 kilometer stretch of pristine bush and home to a large variety of animals. Apparently, we almost saw elephant, zebra, waterbuck, kudu and roan antelope, but didn’t! We saw a lot of Beware of the Elephant signs. The elephants on the Namibian signs are magnificent as compared to the Zimbabwean signs.


We enjoyed a delicious lunch stop at a neat and tidy roadside lay bye that was straight out of my Rhodesian childhood, complete with table and benches and a dustbin that actually gets emptied.


Our night stop, Namushasha Camp, is on the Kwando River in the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservancy. Displaying almost as much foresight and vision as the Germans, Al Watermeyer pitched his tent on an elephant path through camp, and was made to move by the rangers for fear of being squashed. The rangers also repaired a hole in the fence around the camp made by a previous elephant incursion, so that we could sleep more easy.


At the evening deliberations, Al Watermeyer was voted the Dick of the Day for slightly overshooting the turnoff to camp by 7 kilometers because he thought there might be ice cream ahead. George was voted Hero of the Day in abstentia for reminding us that age is just a number and for proving that you are never to old to enjoy the best


We enjoyed the best ever sunset overlooking the Kwando river and the best ever buffet dinner at Namushasha Camp. Russell was quick to make friends with the lady manning the buffet. Her name was Christine. Russell told her she reminded him of macaroni cheese, because he loves macaroni cheese. Russell is an operator and enjoyed more prawn starters than the rest of us put together.


Tomorrow we will be very excited to ride through the Bwabwata National Park, one of Namibia’s premier wildlife parks, boasting elephant, lion and wild dogs. We will ride in a tight bunch with a vehicle in front and behind. I will tuck in behind Nick and Howard who continue to have more meat on them, despite having burnt over 5000 calories.


In closing, a Mucheni George update. His daughter Julie has just told us that in the recovery ward just hours after surgery, George got up and walked 50 meters to the astonishment of the physio. Clearly he is in a hurry to get back on the bike.


And Mr Mthethwa, the surgeon who operated on George, informed us that he is ready to proceed with two of our Operation Marathon patients, husband and wife William and Alison Benny. Huge thanks to Mr Mthethwa and his team for helping us stretch our donations. And huge thanks to all those you have donated towards the Old Legs Medical Fund. In South Africa donations can be directed to our partner charity, the M’dala Trust.


Wish us luck on our ride through the Bwabwata National Park on the morrow.
Until my next blog from Divundu, have fun, do good, do epic – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong


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