28 May 2023 – Day Two of the Old Legs Zanzibar Tour.


Distance – 100.2 kilometers
Time – 11 hours 29 minutes
Av heart rate – 114 bpm
Max heart rate – 182 bpm
Av temp – bloody hot.
Av Speed – 8 km but only because I forgot to switch my Garmin off in the border post.

I have titled today’s blog the colony strikes back, wreaking havoc with my ride stats as recorded above in the process, but more of that later.

The day got off to such a promising start. We started riding at 06.40, excited by a day of new scenery, and the promise of 1800 meters of descent vs 1200 meters of climb.

Well that didn’t quite work according to plan. Thanks to the laws of physics which suck, any time spent on joyous descents is fleeting, but time spent hurting and paining up hills seems forever. Bummer. Especially for me because I find joyous descents anything but joyous, and in my current condition, the uphill hurt like hell.

But the upside of going very slow, is you get to see more of the scenery. For some reason I’d pictured a wasteland between Mutoko and Nyamaropa but the bush was pristine with spectacular kopjes and sweeping vistas. As we dropped I saw my first baobab, then a mopani, then a hornbill. The people we met were friendly, especially the two swarmy CIO types who pulled over to ask their who, what, why, where questions, strutting their designer kit and fake bling designer watches.

And whilst on the subject of snakes, I broke my cardinal rule about never, ever, ever picking up another dead snake, because dead snakes play possum. I was riding with Adam and saw a snake not slithering on account of it squashed dead and stupidly stopped to pick it up. Even though seven foot short of being huge, I was careful to use a stick to pick him up. Brian identified it as an innocuous skaapsteeker but it looked venomous to me, so I played safe and
draped it over Adam’s handlebars instead. I am learning, albeit slowly. Predictably, the serpent turned out to be not dead, but not for long.

And whilst on the subject of slowly, don’t you just love how this blog flows, I was overtaken by a young man running up a steep hill, with a large backpack on his back wearing his best interview clothes. I tried to catch him but couldn’t. He ran effortlessly, with long, loping strides. He made me look and feel old. When eventually I caught up to him, only because he’d stopped to answer a call on his cellphone, I found out he was rushing to Tete for a job interview. I gave him a cold coke and wished him well, the bastard.

And on the subject of bastards, we arrived at the Mozambique side of the border at 13.00, having spent an hour clearing the Zim side, most of which was spent hugging goodbye to Adam, who’d made a bad case of FOMO even worse by riding the first 2 days of Tour.

We were feeling bullish about the Mozambique immigration formalities. NB We have 10 SADAC passport holders in the group who don’t require visas and 2 Dutchmen, 2 Frenchmen, an Englishman and an Australian who do. Since the Chinese launched COVID, visas have become a snag and are no longer available over the counter, and can only be applied for either at the border or online.

To minimize delays at the border, we insisted the non- SADC passport holders jump through all Mozambique eVisa portal hoops, which in my case involved a whole weekend swearing like I had just hit my thumb with a hammer. But we jumped through the hoops and our efforts were rewarded with emailed approvals. All that was left to do collect them from the border in person.

Fast forward to the actual border, and the SADC passport holders whistled through like prunes would a child. Clearing the vehicles took slightly longer, like an hour, but understandable because of the volumes of paperwork involved. And all the while the non-SADC passport holders, all former colonial powers apart from Australia, stood patiently in the queue, laughing, enjoying, excited. After an hour, our laughter was slightly muted. We conferred with our smug Third World colleagues. It was now 2 o’clock and with 40 kilometers left to ride to our bush camp for the night, a disused quarry with zero people living close by, they would run out of day light if they didn’t get riding soon. So it was agreed that the Third Worlders would press onto our bush camp 40 kilometers into Mozambique while the First Worlders carried on waiting patiently.

Our third hour at the border was fun, despite the frustrations and the attentions of every tout in Mozambique. I brushed up on my Portuguese language skills which didn’t take long as they don’t extend much beyond, cerveja a.k.a. beer, pao a.k.a. bread and Christiano Ronaldo a.k.a. Christiano Ronaldo. I was also able to further hone my tout repelling skills. You either try and sell them Zimbabwe dollars, or offer to teach them how to play hick hack hock.

After 3 hours we were asked to fill out manual visa forms, despite our already approved e-visas. The manual form amused.
Question 11 – Have you before ever been to Mozambique? Yes or No.
Question 12 – Have you been to Mozambique? Yes or No.
Question 13 – Why did you leave Mozambique?
Question 21 – Profession – Professional cyclist.
Question 22 – Position held. Front of the peloton.

After 4 hours they asked us to fill in a form, stating the names of both parents. I told them mine were both late. The official told me no problem, they needed the info, I presume for reasons of national security.

We were at the border post for sunset and were asked to stand as the national flag came down, along with all the touts and travelers, which was pretty cool. I like national pride. I was slightly irked that most people were crossing the border with a hand written exercise book for documents, no passport required. I was hugely irked when a ZANU PF branded vehicle breezed into Mozambique without stopping, like they owned the place.

Very long story short, Pete Brodie was issued his visa at 20.30, a full eight hours after we arrived at the border post. I was considering withdrawing my support for Mozambique should they ever be admitted to the Eurovision Song Contest, but have retracted. Our longest day yet was all part of the adventure.

Please follow us on our Zanzibar adventure, but be warned, we ride slower than paint dries. Please also follow the donate prompts on www.oldlegstour.com.

Until my next blog from Tete on the Zambezi River, have fun, do good and do epic if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

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