29 May 2023 – Day Three of the Old Legs Zanzibar Tour.

Of missing tents, saving Guinea Fowl and the perils of Milk of Magnesia.

Distance – 98 kilometers
Time – 7 hours 29 minutes
Av heart rate – 130 bpm
Max heart rate – 159 bpm
Av temp – bloody hot.,

I can know how to lose kit on Tour, often losing it in my own kitbag. It is a wonder I do not arrive at our final destination stark bollock naked.
But I’ve never able to lose my whole tent, apart from the once on the Blue Cross. NB, We had granddaughter Jocelyn on board for that disaster. Before I digress, back to the Zanzibar Tour.

We arrived in our bush camp site, a disused quarry about 40 kilometers into Mozambique well after dark, courtesy of our longest day ever at the border post. The Third Worlders had kindly set up camp – including tents for all the First Worlders, apart from mine. There was a big glaring hole where the 16th tent should have been. Jenny was also glaring. The trucks and the trailer had been turned inside out more than once, but to no avail, our tent was officially missing.

I stoutly declared my innocence. Hand on heart, I pinky promised that I had packed the tent. But inside, my bottom sank. It was the Blue Cross without a tent but worse times 10.

To repair the damage, I selflessly offered to negotiate space for us in Pete Brodie’s tent. He and I have a sound DOD alliance going and he owes me. But Jenny had already deployed our stretchers under a tree.

I retreated to where my tent should’ve would’ve could’ve been, dragging my kit bags, feeling very sorry for myself. I was almost very sure I’d packed the tent.

It was nice sleeping under the stars. Until vicious heartburn kicked in. I reached for my Rennies, normally kept in the little pouch in the wall of the tent. Not surprisingly they weren’t there. Neither was my torch. I fumbled in the half light from my raging heart burn and found a bottle of Milk of Magnesia which, according to the small print on the label, offered soothing relief for heartburn. I took a swig, followed by another big swig, because my heart burn was bad.

It is very important to always read all of the small print. The next morning whilst blogging on my stretcher, I was struck by flatulence a.k.a. I had to sneak a fart, mostly because I didn’t have the privacy of a tent around me. That should read thankfully, because had I let rip, the consequences of the accidental follow through would have been catastrophic. I was stunned. What the hell had just happened down there? Lying there trying to look innocent and not stinky, I read the Milk of Magnesia label more carefully and was interested to note that it is also a powerfully efficient laxative.

Thankfully I was able to find my spare underwear, Jenny’s wet wipes and slunk off into the bush gingerly with the Boskak 2000.

Clem and Cedric and I were the last riders out of camp. They were the designated sweepers for the morning ride, sweeping for stragglers and strugglers a.k.a. moi. Which is French for me. My French is coming on in leaps and bounds.

Clem is such a free spirit and easily the most fun sweeper I’ve ever had. I hope they designate him sweeper permanently, but I doubt.

We had much fun on the road. We stopped at a roadside butcher displaying his wares a.k.a. a freshly dead cow hanging in a tree on the side of the road. The butcher was serving a customer with a cut of meat that had interesting pipes and tubes and bits of bone. There were surprisingly few flies. The butcher was an affable chap whose name was either Desire, or Bright, but definitely not Christiano Ronaldo. (NB Christiano Ronaldo features prominently in all of my Portuguese conversations.) He assured us the cow wasn’t road kill and had been hygienically dispatched with an axe.We didn’t buy any meat.

We also stopped to debate the climate with Alphonso, a charcoal salesman who spoke good English. Greta Thurnburg would have been proud of me.

Charcoal is huge buisness in this part of Mozambique with hundreds of sellers lining the roads. My chap Alphonso was a medium sized operator with 300 bags in stock, each weighing in at 30 kilograms, each selling for 100 Metical a.k.a USD 1.50. He told us he could harvest 3 bags per large tree, so his stock in hand had once been a hundred trees. I asked what he would do when the trees ran out in 5 or 10 year short years, and he had not a clue. Alas.

According to my watch, we have dropped down to just 143 meters above sea level. I live at almost 1500 meters but never noticed the downhills.

It was bloody hot all day, low to mid thirties, so we took time out to swim in the Mazoe River which was very cool. I was also able to squirrel away 2 kilos of river sand inside my ride shorts, allowing me to chafe my bottom all the way to Tete which was not so cool.

We also took time out to rescue a poor innocent Guinea Fowl from a clutches of poultry dealer. Our rescued bird, Ginette as named by Clem, cost us 200 Metical. Ginette celebrated her freedom by shitting all over my Zimbabwe flag which we used to wrap her in so that Cedric could carry her on his bike.

We could have freed 14 other unfortunate Guinea Fowl, hanging upside down and with legs and wings tied, but didn’t have enough cash, or enough room on Cedric’s bike.

Killing 2 birds with 1 stone pardon the pun, we gave Ginette to Hanny for a birthday present for her to release into the wild. Where we figured she would be promptly eaten by any number of things, so we decided to carry her all the way to Tete where we could give her to our hosts in lieu of flowers or wine.

On to ride itself. Scenery wise it was quite bland on account of the charcoal sellers and we had to contend with a million trucks, cars, and crazy motorcyclists. It is a bummer that we are sharing the roads less travelled with so many others and cannot wait until we can turnoff onto quieter roads. But it is all so wonderful foreign, with every experience a new one. We are having the best adventure of our lives.

In Tete we enjoyed riding across the mighty Zambezi River on the new multi-span bridge. NB The Zambezi River in these parts is fully deserving of the adjective mighty.

We are camping at an absolute oasis called Kukatana courtesy of hosts Brendan and Amanda McConnell, apart from Jenny and I because our tent is still missing. We had to tough it out in the 5 star comfort of one of guest rooms instead.

It is so nice to enjoy Zimbabwean hospitality so far from home, and to see Zimbabweans doing so well in their new homes. Brendan and Amanda hosted a delicious dinner for us and we met a large contingent of Zimbabweans living in Tete. They are Zimbabwe’s loss and Mozambique’s gain.

Until my next blog from Mwanza, Malawi- have fun, do good and do epic if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.

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