July 17 – Day 15 and 16 of the Old Legs Skeleton Coast Tour

 -from the Caprivi Strip to Divundu in the Caprivi Strip.

Distance – 109 km
Time – 7 hrs 6 min
Av Heart Rate – 122 bpm
Max Heart Rate – 197 bpm.
Ascent – 193 m


I am blogging to you from the
banks of the Kavango River, on the Angolan border. It is my first time seeing Angola. At first glance, Angola looks like Namibia.
We can hear the river from our tent, rushing in an obvious hurry to get to the Swamps in Botswana. The Kavango must be 100 meters wide here, and fast running, maybe as fast as 12 kilometers per hour.


We are camped at the Riverdance Lodge. It is quite the most beautiful spot with tall trees that aren’t Trerminalia sericeas, or flowering Flamboyants or Jacarandas. The trees are full of squirrels and birds and we’ve been told to also beware of hippos, and elephants. Two elephants passed through the day before we arrived.


The bird life is very prolific and I was able to positively identify the Yellow-bellied Greenbul,a new species for me, but only after it landed on the palm of my hand in search of crumbs.


Incredibly, we left our police station in the middle of the Bwabwata National Park well rested, even Pete Brodie who managed to pitch his swag directly beneath a flood lamp that strobe flashed on and off every 30 seconds, like a disco. The rest of us know for sure that the flashing light kept every dog for a kilometer radius awake, but Pete was able to power through, no problem.


We had to delay our 6.30 a.m. departure by 36 minutes to wait for the sun to get out of bed, but more of that later.
It was bitterly cold on the bike first up, and I have added frost bitten fingers to my long list of things to worry about. Because he is my friend, Mark Johnson offered to pee on my fingers should they turn black. I told him that I am sure pee only works for jellyfish stings, but he is certain it also works for frost bite. If only Captains Scott and Oates had known.


I logged my highest heart rate of the Tour at 192 bpm when we disturbed 2 leopards enjoying the early morning sun next to the road. They were magnificent. And huge. Most animals look bigger when seen from a bicycle. We also saw huge kudu and huge warthog. We never saw any elephant, which was a pity. I’ve been excited to see elephant since we left Harare 2 weeks ago.


The Bwabwata National Park has several areas of human habitation within it. After 2 days, riding through the villages made a pleasant change to riding through the pristine bush.


We rode passed a man very gingerly carrying a very long and very dead snake on an even longer stick, with a posse of kids in close attendance. Because Al Watermeyer is a Watermeyer, we had to stop to check the snake out. I checked it out from a distance, because I’ve had a vine-snake play possum on me before.


This dead snake was a banded cobra, 4 inches longer than Al Watermeyer is tall, Al stands 6ft 1 in his socks. It was thicker than his forearm. Al was able to use the dead snake to make the kids scream with fear and then laughter.


Mark and Russell played football with a another bunch of kids on a dusty pitch. Mark captained one team and Russell the other. The match started as five-a-side football but ended as twenty- a-side. You couldn’t fit another kid on the pitch.


Russell’s team won 2-1 despite his lack of skill. He put the win down to superior tactics, while Mark blames his loss on the uneven bounce of a ball made from plastic bags tied together. As a Tottenham Hotspur supporter, Mark has a long litany of losing excuses. But I wouldn’t be surprised if those kids have posters of him on their bedroom walls instead of Beckham.


I was worried to see my first ever ox-drawn-sled, which is similar to an oxcart but with runners instead of wheels. Apparently sleds are more efficient in thick sand. Which is not what you want to hear when you are on two wheels with 1800 kilometers of Namibian sand and desert in front of you.


Thankfully we arrived in camp too late to watch New Zealand vs Ireland or Australia vs England. We have 3 Australians and a New Zealander plus me in the peloton.


But we were able to enjoy 60 minutes of the Springboks vs Wales gathered around Ryan’s laptop, until his data ran out. Even though I shouted loudly for Wales, they weren’t doing very well.


We enjoyed our second rest day at Riverdance. Most of the team enjoyed the perfect lazy day, apart from the fishermen among us. Al Crundall and Adam Selby who hunted out skinny worms to feed to the fish all morning, with zero return for their efforts. Mark Johnson and Pete Brodie preferred to not catch their fish on spinners.


We cleaned our bikes, because clean bikes are fast bikes, apart from mine. But mostly we sleep on rest days. After 6 days of riding, our legs are a tad tired, ditto the rest of our bodies.


Since arriving in camp I have been befuddled by international time lines, despite Al Watermeyer’s attempts to un-befuddle me. In that respect he says I remind him of his gardener. My watch and my cellphone are also befuddled. As I type, my cellphone is reliably informing me that it is only 03.30, whereas according to my watch it is now 04.30. Either way, it is bloody dark outside with no sign of the sun. I think the sun is also befuddled.


Apparently according to Al, my cellphone is feeding off a cellphone tower across the river in Angola, where they run an hour behind time on West Africa time, whereas Namibia is on Central Africa Time, even though it is also west. It is all very befuddling.


To avoid starting in the dark, Adam has shifted our start time back by half an hour to 7 o’clock on my cellphone, which is still 6 o’clock on my watch. I so wish the earth was flat, with no hills.


We are riding from Harare to the Skeleton Coast to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. The generation that built our beautiful country have had everything they own reduced to nothing by 40 years of economic stupid. Their pensions are worth less than a dollar a day in real money, rendering them unable to afford rent, food or medical. Once proud, they are now forced to depend on your charity.


If you enjoy my blog, please help us help Zimbabwe’s pensioners by donating using one of the accounts listed below.
Until my next blog from a campsite 109 kilometers further west on dirt, have fun, do good, do epic – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong


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