The Third World as Seen From The Saddle – 23 January

I still have two weeks before I am allowed back on my bike following my epic Christmas Eve meat-bomb bellyflop. My rib remains stubbornly bust , I can’t toss and turn at night and I worry I’ve developed an addiction to diclofenac. I wish I had been born a jelly fish.

Because it is harder to fall off a car than off a bike, especially a slow old car, our next but one Old Legs adventure will happen on 4 wheels , not 2 .

We’re entering the 2023 Zimbabwe Safari Rally. We have been promised our best adventure ever, driving an old car, the older the better, on roads less travelled, through the iconic Hwange National Park, ending in the Falls. And it gets better, a portion of our entry fee will go towards the Old Legs Medical Fund. That sounds right up our Have Fun, Do Good, and Do Epic street.

If the truth be known, I haven’t always been a petrol head. Most of my car stories have ended badly and in tears, like the time I bought a VW Kombi from a drummer in a rock band. What could possibly go wrong? NB My motivations for buying a Kombi were entirely carnal.

Having attended Allan Wilson Technical High School, I was able to pick up on a rather alarming knocking noise on the test drive, emanating from the back of the Kombi, where the engine lived apparently. I queried the noises with the drummer, and he told me they were coming from his drum kit which he’d left in the back. Which sounded feasible. Because I really wanted a Kombi, I bought it there and then, voetstoots.

Alas. The alarming knocking noise persisted, even after the drummer removed his drum kit, but I was able to turn up the volume on the tape deck enough to not worry about them. But even more worrying than the knocking noise was the Kombi’s steering wheel which came off in my hands on the way home. I tried to turn into my driveway, but the Kombi stubbornly continued straight, towards the neighbour’s hedge. Thinking fast, I screamed like a girl and spun the steering wheel furiously. Which came off my in my hands completely, leaving me just time enough time to scream like a girl before ploughing through the hedge. Thankfully no one was hurt, apart from the hedge.

My mechanic friend was able to reattach the steering wheel. He pointed out to me that I had a rude word printed on my forehead, and that voetstoots is Latin for buggered.

Only after the detachable steering wheel had been reattached, I proudly showed Jenny the other love of my life, and invited Jenny to join me in the Kombi on an almost-all-expenses- paid holiday to Durban. All she had to worry about was the money needed for our meals, drinks and petrol, and I’d take care of all the accommodation, courtesy of my Kombi. Incredibly, Jenny said yes. (40 years on, I still worry about Jenny’s ability to make stupid decisions.)

I set about pimping my ride, sparing no expense. The first thing I bought was a roll of deep-pile shaggy carpet to carpet the Kombi’s interior walls, floor and ceiling. The shaggy carpet was burnt orange and only slightly clashed with green paint job. Alas. It turned out to be the only thing I bought. The carpeting worked out more expensive than expected, the back of the Kombi measured bigger than it looked, and I had to leave a small patch of the ceiling above the driver’s seat uncarpeted. But that was just as well, because I would have surely crashed staring up at my ceiling whilst driving. I congratulated myself on a great job well done. The shaggy deep-pile carpet looked sexy, and bonus, it also helped hide the alarming knocking noise.

Jenny and I set sail early in the morning in my suitably pimped ride, next stop Durban. The Kombi fairly flew along at 80 k.p.h. It was raining. Because the windscreen wipers weren’t working, I had to drive with my head out the window and the wind whistled through my hair. I had hair back then. My engine was possibly purring, you couldn’t tell for sure because the tape deck was volume ten, because of the knocking noise. Life was good and I was loving that holiday feeling—for the first 50 kilometres.

Whence upon the alarming knocking noise drowned out the tape deck, and with Beatrice almost in view, the Kombi conked out.

Back then I didn’t even own a Swiss Army Knife, let alone a Leatherman, so I had to phone my mechanic friend to tow us back into Harare. Because I didn’t want to bleed on my brand-new shaggy carpet, I avoided pointing out to Jenny how lucky we were to have a deep-pile shaggy carpet to sleep upon while we waited to be rescued!

As it turned out, the conk out proved terminal, and the only other time I drove the Kombi was on the test drive with the new owners, who also weren’t alert to the real meaning of voetstoots.

Fast forward 40 years, and the scars from my Kombi, and many other subsequent cars, remain fresh in Jenny’s mind. So you will understand why she was less than excited at news that we were entering the Safari Rally driving an old car, until I told her the Safari Rally would provide full mechanical back up for the entire length of the course , and plus we wouldn’t be driving a Kombi.

The Old Legs Tour is very proud and very grateful to have been chosen by the Safari Rally as their nominated charity. And we look forward to participating in and contributing to the event. Please be invited to join us. Book now on

As mentioned, part of your entry fee will go towards the Old Legs Medical Fund as a donation.

To give you an idea of how that donation will be spent, herewith a snapshot of what we did last week. One of our pensioners was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer. He has no medical aid, no savings, no job anymore, and no hope of raising the money needed to have his prostate removed. There is a drug on the market called Zoladex which if administered quarterly, might keep the cancer at bay, apparently, but at $280 per injection, our pensioner can’t afford the treatment. Last week the Old Legs Medical Fund was able to pay for his first injection. And we’ll try pay for his next injection. He was overjoyed. Life is precious, especially in three-month chunks.

Another of our pensioner’s suffers a severe and debilitating auto-immune disorder which has caused all his teeth to fall out, and has rendered him bed ridden and, as a result, incontinent. Just 5 years ago, he was healthy, with a job, a social life, and a future. Now he can’t even get out of bed to go to the toilet. Yesterday we bought him adult diapers and paid for a set of false teeth. Incredibly, he still smiles often.

And also last week, we bought a new hip for an old chap who had been living in constant pain for two years, following a botched hip-replacement done on the cheap. We also organized an ambulance to run another bed-ridden pensioner to and from her doctor, and her specialist. And we delivered job lots of donated magazines to old age homes around Zimbabwe. Thank you to the publishers of the Zimbabwean Foodie and the Zimbabwean Gardener.
Oh, and we also helped an old lady euthanize her cat, and we bought her some groceries.

It was a crazy busy week. And such are the conditions in Zimbabwe, it will be more of the same this week, and the next.

We were also given the harshest reminder of why we do what we do. Last year, a very kind lady living in South Africa reached out to tell us she wanted to donate her late father’s ongoing monthly pension to the Old Legs. Her dad’s pension had been ‘frozen’ by the banks after her mom emigrated to South Africa to live with her. NB Because pensions in Zimbabwe cannot be exported, the banks and insurance company ‘freeze’ them and hang on to them quietly. The daughter asked her father’s pension fund to pay the pension across to the Old Legs, so that we could in turn pay it across to a pensioner currently receiving nothing.

We were hugely touched by her generosity from afar and thanked her profusely. Zimbabwe remains a village, even though we have been scattered to the corners of the Earth.

But alas 5 months later, and we are still waiting on the pension fund’s promised resumption of payment. NB As it happens, the pension fund is in the same building as our bank ,and it would take the pension fund manager two minutes to pop across and deposit the money. But here we are, five months later and counting.

But in an even bigger alas, by the time her dad’s pension gets to us, it will be worth less than 5 US dollars. And in Zimbabwe today, 5 American dollars buys you exactly 4 loaves of bread. And to put that further into perspective, it would take our pensioner mentioned above who needed to see her doctor and physician 5 years to pay for the ambulance ride.

I am so pissed off that a very kind person’s generosity has been reduced to a pittance by economic incompetence and/or greed. I am even more pissed off with a government that has visited hyperinflation upon us, not once but twice, in less than 15 years. But most of all I am pissed off with the pension fund. With a cheek full of tongue, if only the pension fund had invested his hard-earned contributions into bricks and mortar, shopping centres and office blocks, investments that might one day attract hard currency rentals, rentals that would allow them to pay out inflation proof pensions. Shame on you. And for the record, I will never, ever buy a Kombi from a pension fund.

With all that going on, small wonder I am looking forward to getting back on my bike. And the sooner, the better, because in 6 short weeks, we will ride from Wilderness to Cape Town to fly the Zim flag in the Cape Town Cycle Tour a.k.a. the Argus. I am dreading the hills between Wilderness and Cape Town, but will love the views.

We’ll ride out of Wilderness on the 5th and arrive in Gordon’s Bay on the 10th, 570 kilometres later. If you see us on the road, please shout at the lazy buggers at the back to pedal faster, unless of course it’s me. NB If you live in or around Hermanus, please be invited to join us at the Hermanus Golf Club on Thursday March 6th for drinks, strictly for purposes of rehydration.

The Old Legs peloton for the Argus proper on Sunday the 12th will be 19 riders strong, although strong might not be the most apt adjective, especially after celebrating Rob Fisher’s 70th birthday on the Friday night. NB A Lilfordia contingent made up of Rob Fisher, Donald ‘Bomber’ Campbell and myself have very unselfishly volunteered to ride at the very back of the Argus, sweeping for strugglers and stragglers.

Then we have to rush back to Harare for the annual Old Legs Golf Day at Borrowdale Brooke on the 25th of March, with all proceeds going to the Old Legs Medical Fund. Huge thanks once again to the Fisher family for organizing. To enter a team or to sponsor a hole, please contact Dido on or WhatsApp 0777080375.

All of the exercise above should be excellent training for our epic Tour to Zanzibar in June, which just got a whole bunch more epic. Previously our finish line was going to be on the Pungume Sandbank, just off the southwest coast of Zanzibar, following a 40-kilometre kayak paddle from Dar es Salam. But now we have escalated to Plan Z which will have us loading the bikes on to the support dhow that will follow us paddlers. Then after we finish paddling, 40 kilometres will take all day, we’ll offload the bikes and ride an epic last leg from the south of the Zanzibar to our new finish line on the northern most beach at Ras Nungwi. I am especially excited to paddle on the ocean, which will be a first for me, and I also want to see the house where Freddy Mercury was born.

In closing, thank you, thank you, thank you to Olwen Morgan and especially her mom, Wendy Walker, Ross Breeders Zambia, Karl Ullrich, Elgin Railway Market, Ralph Garlick, Larry Kritzinger, Bill and Sue Farrell, Darrell Goodwin, Theresa Ferreira Cazes, Darrell Waterfall, Shannon Crocker, Josh Carter, Nicolette Williams, Shane Jeffree, David Bachmayer, Maria Polentas, Gerald Boting, Jeffery Lin, Fiona Whitefoot and others too numerous to mention for helping us help others. It is so heart-warming to live in Zimbabwe and know that there are people living abroad who still care about Zimbabwe’s pensioners.

Thank for all the applications received from riders looking to fill the two vacancies in our Zanzibar peloton. I look forward to introducing you to them shortly.

Please be invited to follow our progress or lack thereof on Facebook and, and please also follow the donate prompts. But be warned, we ride slow like paint dries, and paddle even slower.

NB Please note that the views in this blog are mine, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Old Legs Tour or their sponsors.

Until my next blog, live life to the full and enjoy , and look after others if you can. We do not have many summers left– Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.

Photos below – the Zimbabwe Safari Rally, happiness is a new hip, magazines for Africa, flying the flag in Cape Town and Zanzibar, here we come.

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