Great African Divide Ride: Day 1 – Monday 26th September :

Victoria Falls Campsite to Senyati Camp, near Kazangula

Victoria Falls Campsite to Senyati Camp, near Kazangula

Distance: 82 kms
Altitude gain: 600 metres
Altitude loss: 560 metres
Difficulty: An easy ride but the heat took its toll
Temp: 37 Celcius (but as they say in North America – feels like 45)
Max heart rate: 169
Average ride speed: 18.9 kph

Although we knew it was going to be a relatively short day distance-wise, we knew we would be at the border for a while. We also knew it was going to be pretty hot so were determined to leave early and planned for a 6:30 departure. On the OLT Skeleton Coast ride Adam was good at getting folk going when they were supposed to … well most of the time that is. I envy Adam that skill. We are a very small team (just 5 of us), and so getting going should be a piece of cake. But it isn’t and it was after 7:30 before we finally trundled out of the Vic Falls camp site. Tomorrow morning it is very important that we get going early enough that we can avoid the worst of the midday heat.

The first 30kms out of Vic Falls was sort of boring … good road, mostly flat, only a little traffic. Paul complained that it was disappointing that we hadn’t seen any animals. Me, I was actually relieved. In my 70 plus years of cognisance I’ve seen plenty of elephants, lions, buffalo so NOT seeing them as I trundle along on my bike is definitely not disappointing. I was riding next to Chris when we came across a small matriarchal herd of three adult cows and about five young ones. They were just 10 metres off the road, resting in the shade of a teak tree. 10 metres as in less than a road width away. When elephants rest like that they are almost motionless … it’s like watching a wild life movie that gets stuck. Patrick as about a hundred metres behind so Chris and I started gesticulating that there were animals in the bush, near the road side, that he should look and be quiet. Patrick was wearing one of those head nets to keep the mopane flies off his face, and perhaps this interfered with his vision. Who knows. But as he drew abreast with this still life portrait of a family of elephants he suddenly shouted out, and it was not a subdued or hissed shout … it was a full-bellied, wide-open mouthed shout. My heart sank … mother elephants are very protective of their young and they will usually charge directly at whatever is the threat. Too lucky for us, the matriarch burst into life, gave a short sharp trumpet, and off she and her family dashed into the jessie bush. Needless to say, that for the rest of day, whenever I saw elephants I just put as much distance between Patrick and me as I could. I think his death-defying leap into the Zambezi gorge has given him some sort of subconscious desire to increase risk at any opportunity.

Now, writing these notes, hours later, I appreciate just how privileged and lucky I am. How many people on this planet of ours have the opportunity to ride a bike right past such magnificent beasts? How many can enjoy that feeling of freedom as one pedals through a wilderness area? How lucky am I that I still have a fully-functional, healthy body? And whilst some folk look at Old Legs riders like me and shake their heads, I know that I am doing something for those far less fortunate. Old Legs is giving back to some the gift of mobility. We have arranged, and will be paying for knee replacements for 20 individuals who are or were immobile. Some of those stories will be coming to you in this blog over the next month. If you buy a brick in our African Divide Wall (just US$20 gets a brick), you too will be helping someone to once again experience the joy of mobility. And please don’t forget my challenge … yes, we would love you to buy a brick or few for our wall, but what we really want is for you to get half a dozen friends or colleagues involved in the brick building. Details below.

Back to the ride today. We saw upward of a hundred elephants – well some of us did, as I stopped pointing them out to Patrick! His survival and mine are important. It took two hours at the Kazangula Border to start the process of getting a refund for our $3,000 deposit for our trailer – a long boring border-crossing saga of bringing an SA registered trailer, towed by a Zim registered vehicle into Zim at Beit Bridge and towing it out of Zim at Kazangula. But I’d like to say that Ngoni and his team of Zimra colleagues were damn good. Thank you guys.

For our night stop we chose Senyati Camp, Lesoma, about 10kms from Kazangula. This place has an abundance of wild life. Elephant wander between chalets and camp sites. At the waterhole, Paul was watching a bunch of warthog, impala, giraffe etc when suddenly they scattered … the reason soon became apparent when a small pack of wild dogs came for a drink. Sleep that night was interrupted by hyena calls – one came right to where we were camping.

All in all, a good day. A fine start to our African Divide ride.

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