June 15 2023 – Day 19 of the Old Legs Zanzibar Tour – from our bush camp on the edge of the Selous Niassa Wildlife Corridor to a less stunning bush camp 20 kilometers short of Tunduru.

Distance – 122 kilometers
Total time elapsed- 8 hours 15 minutes
Total ascent – 1155 m
Av heart rate – 124 bpm
Max heart rate – 163 bpm.

Today was all about the Miombo woodlands we rode through, and the forever views stretching away for miles and miles in every direction, courtesy of some stupidly steep hills that we rode up. Apparently we also rode down them but I never got that memo.

Even though we didn’t see any game, bar 2 hyenas and a civet car, the bush in the Niassa Selous Wildlife Corridor through which we rode for most of the morning is right up there as some of the best ever and it has escaped the ravages of the charcoal trade thus far. I think they take policing in Tanzania seriously and long may that continue.

The hyenas I saw were both unfortunately late, squashed extremely flat by the thousands of coal trucks that to and fro daily from Songea to the port of Mtwara, but I am sure they were magnificent specimens back in the day, ditto the civet cat.

The coal deposits in the south of Tanzania must be huge and are serviced by literally thousands of trucks.

Apparently it takes 2000 coal trucks to fill a ship. But the trucks did not detract from the ride in the least. The truckers were all well mannered and especially considerate of the cyclists, hooting politely to let us know they were there and giving us all the room we needed on the road.

I went from hero to zero on the bike, suffering a hangover porridge day in the saddle, especially after lunch. I am sure the hills that I climbed were steeper than the hills Pete Brodie and Zack Patinois climbed next to me. Pete and Zack pulled the short straws and swept for strugglers and stragglers at the back of the peloton, namely moi. But I am very happy to ride slow and at the very back, because it gives you time to stop and smell roses, and to soak up the experience like a sponge. We are almost two thirds through our adventure and before we know it, it will all be over.

I especially enjoyed our interactions with the locals. I was seized by hunger pangs about 20 kilometers before the lunch break. My allotment of jelly babies for the day were all ready a distant memory. Zack and I stopped in a tiny village to buy some samoosas from a lady on the side of the road. Because I was completely knackered, Zack was in charge of negotiations. Greek Cypriots wrote the book on trading. It was a pleasure to watch Zack in action.

That our purveyor of fine foods had as much English as Zack has Swahili wasn’t a problem because Zack is also very good at charades. He communicated our desire to purchase her samoosas clearly, by scoffing down three of them. I especially love meat samoosas and also dived in. Three samosas later, I still wasn’t sure what type of samoosas I’d eaten, because they were empty, entirely devoid of any filling. Which is sort of like eating an ice cream cone, without the ice cream.

Come time to pay the language barrier grew. Clearly alarmed by the shoplifting in progress, the samoosa lady solicited the help of a passing motorbiker. Negotiations commenced. Zack in action was a joy to behold. The sign language was impressively fast and they both looked like they were being bothered by a swarm of tsetse flies. Zack and the motor-biker scribbling invisible numbers on an invisible white board. Then Zack closed the deal. He snapped up the 6 samoosas for 5000 shillings. Given that she’s just bought 10 doughnuts for 1000, Vicky thought Zack had been ripped off.

The empty samoosas were delicious and worth every penny that Zack paid for them. I came away from the impromptu food stop with a top tip. Always negotiate the price before you eat the goods.

We descended off the plateau down into farmland, mostly small holders. Tanzania is God’s own country and if you are a farmer, you can grow anything you want to grow. We saw crops of tobacco, papaya, cassava and maize, and a big plantation of coconut palms even though we were still 400 km from the beach. If I was 40 years younger..

My porridge day turned into a stodgy porridge day when my kinetics coach, Vicky Bowen, picked up that I was riding with a sqwonk knee. I asked Rafe to ride behind me and have a look at my suspect knee. He agreed that the knee looked dodgy and diagnosed it as possible curvature of the spine. Which put bees in my head and imaginary pains in both knees.

Long story short, turns out the cleat on my right shoe was 10 degrees off centre and my comfortable saddle installed in Malawi was 10 degrees off centre the other way. I am glad I picked up the problem straight away after a thousand kilometers.

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

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Thank you for your support. It will be used to save and change lives. God bless.

The Old Legs Zanzibar Team – a.k.a. Al Watermeyer, Zack Patinois, Pete Brodie, Rafe Wetzlar, Angus and Rowena Melrose, Clem Henon, Cedric Breda, Kim Parker, Eric and Jenny de Jong, Hanny Swart, Brian Goodman, Vicky Bowen, Gary de Jong and George Lockhart.

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