Great African Divide Ride: Day 0

Day 0: Sunday 25th September: Victoria Falls Campsite to Gorge Swing and back

Day 0: Sunday 25th September: Victoria Falls Campsite to Gorge Swing and back
Distance: 3.1 km
Altitude gain: 31 meters
Altitude loss: 100 meters of free-fall!!!! See below
Difficulty: A doddle, completed in a total riding time of 17 minutes
Temp: 37 Celcius
Max heart rate: 137
Today we launched the second Old Legs Tour ride of 2022. In future blogs, we will fill you in on more detail, but the Great African Divide Ride started in Victoria Falls a few hours ago with an epic event – a “first time ever event.” Tomorrow, we start the ride proper, following the watershed southwards. This means riding more or less on the line that divides the rivers flowing east and south into the Indian Ocean from those flowing westerly into the Atlantic Ocean. A bunch of rivers flow into the Okavango Delta … and all that water just disappears into the sand, with none going to the sea.


My very good friend Charles Betts was the inspiration behind this ride. Unfortunately, he cannot be with us at this time … but there is still much more to the Great African Divide, and hopefully, he will be with us for that. We will be riding the almost 3,000 kilometers from Victoria Falls, west into Botswana at Kazangula, southerly towards Francistown, then west towards Orapa, southeast to Lobatse, due east to Johannesburg, more east to Volksrust, then south (and seriously up) into the Drakensburg Mountains, to Mont Aux Sources – the highest point in South Africa, and the source of several river systems. We will follow that with a ride to the base of Sani Pass, then a huge bunch of serious huffing and puffing, swearing, cursing, staggering, pushing, and even some real riding up to the top of Sani Pass. The ride down will be such a breeze. And then 4 more days of passes, valleys, and ridges to finish going over Naude’s Nek into the village of Rhodes, close to the Lesotho border. Rhodes is famous as the birthplace of the mother of Al, Laurie, and Lori Watermeyer. Surely, you, the reader, must have covered that when making South African history at school.


But more of that in future write-ups.
Old Legs is about having fun, doing good, and doing epic. Today we did EPIC and EPIC in spades.
For the first time ever, an individual (Patrick Millar) was brave enough to do the Gorge Swing at Victoria Falls on a bicycle. This was the epic blast-off event for our African Divide tour. I suppose I should come clean and admit that I knew this would be terrifying, but I did need someone to do it to make our Start an epic event. There is no way I could have persuaded Paul Taylor or myself to take on the role. And so, there is a possibility I was a little economical with the truth in selling the concept to Patrick. I told Patrick it was a swing, and he assumed (100% incorrectly) that one just did a long semi-circular swing out and back. I did not tell Patrick that the Gorge Swing is effectively a bungee jump – one drops vertically for 100 meters off the platform and then starts swinging backward and forwards over the Zambezi. Once Patrick had agreed to the Gorge Swing, I knew it would be tricky for him to later refuse. My brother, Laurie, was at the Falls a week ago, and gave Patrick some solid advice … as in “Don’t,” but by then, too many people knew Patrick had agreed to Swing. Laurie added that if Patrick went through with it, he obviously was well-endowed in the scrotal area. I got a sneak view of Patrick’s nether regions and can confirm that, genetically, he has close links to a Brahmin bull.


You will find a few photos at the end of this blog, but to really, really appreciate how scary it was, please watch the video.
As you may have seen from the video, Patrick went hurtling down vertically but was mostly in a “rider above the bike” position. Huh!!!! Newtonian physics kicked in when that swing got to the fully extended point. Patrick and the bike flipped through 180 degrees, the bike now on top of the rider, but then was saved by the physics of Galileo, and the center of gravity switched their positions – Patrick regained the superior position. All this while swinging in a huge arc over the Zambezi. Ahhh, Patrick … we are proud of you.


When he finally got back onto the launch pad and had time to look at his ever-present electronic gadgetry, Patrick saw that his heart rate jumped from his normal 62 to 137 in a couple of seconds. The guys manning the swing were super-impressed – Patrick got hugs from each of them afterward. The main guy, Reason, was particularly impressed. Thanks to the Wild Horizons crew and boss Clive Bradford for allowing the risk.


Patrick’s version:
“Laurie Watermeyer gave me a lot to think about when we met the other evening. He discussed how my bike might flip over and how I should be able to release myself from the bicycle. He also mentioned how I should be able to get up the cliff after the Gorge Swing. All of this helped me to discuss with Reason, the main man from Wild Horizons. The team from Wild Horizons were great, listening to my suggestions and concerns. For example, they agreed to put a harness from my handlebars over my back to prevent the bike from going away from me. I was terrified that I’d damage or completely lose my brother’s one-of-a-kind, custom-built, ultra-light bike. But they gave me confidence that everything would be ok. After I was finally harnessed up, they pulled back on the bungees and ropes to effectively create a slingshot. Nothing, however, prepared me for what finally happened. As I left the ramp, the bike started to somersault. I had to hang on for grim death to my handlebars. As I swung to and fro, I hardly had time to worry about myself.


On the way back up, in some ways, the somersault helped to make me face into the cliff and enabled me to push against the cliff with my feet and keep the wheel moving up the vertical rock face. Once I reached the top, the Wild Horizons team were so eager to get me up that my wheel jammed against a rock. Eventually, this was released, and I was up on Mother Earth once again. Interestingly enough, I didn’t have any time to think about things other than hanging on to the handlebars, so there was no thought of fear.
The Wild Horizons team all greeted me with hugging and fist-pumping, amazed, I guess, that I’d survived such a wild stunt.”


By normal OLT standards, this is a very small group. Three riders will leave Vic Falls (Patrick Millar 73 years old, Paul Taylor 73 years old, and Al Watermeyer, 73 years old). Paul has to go back to the UK when we get to Johannesburg, and his place will be taken up by Patch Patchett. We have a support team of two – Chris Himonides and Diana Wall (ages withheld). They also intend to ride parts of the tour when time and energy permit.


Why do we do this? Very simple. Old Legs Tours raises money for those in need of medical assistance, and we raise awareness of the plight of the pensioners in Zimbabwe. We will be telling you of some of those we have helped in the past. And, of course, we will ask you to donate to this cause. But more importantly, we want you to promote our mission. We want you to bring others into the fold of those who donate to the Old Legs Foundation.


Our aim is to build a virtual wall of 1000 bricks. Each brick costs US$20. So, send us a donation of US$20, and you will get a brick with your name on it. If you would rather remain anonymous, simply let us know but give us a short code to represent your name. We must have complete transparency. Be a real OLT hero, and buy a bunch of bricks if you can. Each week we will send out the progress of the wall. So, here’s the challenge to you: buy a brick (or bricks, yes, please!), but more importantly, find half a dozen friends or colleagues to also buy a brick, and get them to follow our adventure. Get them to see the good we do. Get them to realize that their donations (bricks) make a real difference. We emphasize that every dollar raised as a donation goes to a needy person. We keep not a single cent for administering the Old Legs Trust. We do not use a single cent of donated money to fund our adventures – for that, we self-fund or find sponsors.
We will provide full details of where and how you can make donations in tomorrow’s blog.


Enough for now … the ride begins in just over 12 hours!
Ali (The Forager) Watermeyer

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