June 16 and 17 2023 – Day 20 and 21 of the Old Legs Zanzibar Tour – from one bush camp in the middle of the nowhere, Tanzania, to another one.

June 16 stats
Distance – 121 kilometers
Total time elapsed- 8 hours 35 minutes
Total ascent – 938 m
Av heart rate – 120 bpm
Max heart rate – 170 bpm.
Temperature- 34 degrees

June 17 stats
Distance – 77 kilometers
Ride time elapsed- 4 hours 18 minutes
Total ascent – 579 m
Av heart rate – 120 bpm
Max heart rate – 159 bpm.
Temperature- 34 degrees

NB These are Angus’s ride stats. Alas, mine were far less impressive, but more of that later.

Apologies for the break in transmission, due to cell phone signal failure and a wobble.

This blog is coming to you from a bush camp about 5 km past the village of Ngwale which is on the map, but only just. Night-apes sound like they are being murdered in the trees all around us. We hear them at every bush camp. I am blogging with my foot in a bucket, but more of that also later.

We just finished 3 tough days back-to-back looking to get off the highway and back on roads less travelled. On paper and in the planning stages, the days looked big but doable. In the flesh, they were brutal.

We have 8 days back-to-back bush camping in front of us and are properly off grid. We’ve not had cellphone signal for 2 days and our Ezytrack tracking device stopped tracking in Songea. It is quite daunting that no one out there knows exactly where we are, but also quite refreshing.

We are showering using water drawn from rivers, hot if you are one of the lucky fish first to shower, but cold if the batteries run flat. Last night we were down to two cold beers in the fridges and expect the ice to run out tomorrow. NB one of our inverter batteries in Christopher fritzed, and the charging system along with it, but we are still enjoying our best adventure ever.

We rode through the town of Tunduru early in the morning. For months Tunduru has just been the name of a distant spot on the map. In real life, it is a crazy, hectically busy market town, full of noise, colour, motorbikes and tuk-tuks.

They don’t do formal retail in Tanzania, but the support crew were able to shop hard for some few essentials, including new deep cycle batteries for Christopher, fuel, water, ice, and a bottle of brandy for Pete, which cost him $12.82, so it should be quite good stuff.

Just after Tunduru, George Lockhart was robbed at gun point of 20,000 shillings a.k.a. $8.54, an Old Legs first.

George, an avid photographer, had stopped on a bridge to take a photo of the river below. An angry man came barreling out of the bush like a troll, brandishing a shotgun. He was the keeper of the bridge and told George in gesticulations and broken English that his photos had compromised national security, and he was demanding 20000 shillings in compensation, or else. Anyone who can act out national security in charades, would absolutely ace Bangkok. George comes from South Africa and knows full well the consequences of or else, so he paid up in a hurry.

Rafe, Angus and I also stopped for photos on the same bridge a few minutes later, and attracted the attentions of the same robber troll. The troll was short and squat like in the nursery rhymes and the ancient single barrel 12-gauge shotgun looked huge in his hands. The hole in the end of the barrel looked especially huge. He demanded money of me. I’m not sure why, but I told him I was Russian. Clearly that conjured up images of being invaded and bombs being dropped on his schools, his hospitals and his head, because the robber troll quickly turned his attentions to Rafe instead. Silly man.

‘Give me your money’ the robber troll demanded. Rafe weighs in at 6 foot 4 inches, but looks bigger when he is angry. Rafe was plenty angry and crapped upon the hapless robber troll about his piss poor take, take, take attitude. The poor chap was confounded and gave us a 100% discount on the toll, and sent us on our way.

I stopped at a police checkpoint 10 kilometers down the road and reported the robber troll and asked the cops to arrest him and/ or shoot him dead. Oh how the policemen laughed and laughed. Should any policemen in Tanzania wish to follow up on this story, the river was the Muhesi.

We turned off the tar and onto the dirt with thick trees and bush on both sides. It felt good to be back on dirt, even though it was deep sand in places.

We passed some Tanzanian smallholder farmers. They were poor like Mozambicans and were trying to scrabble a living amongst the tree stumps in the half cleared lands. Somewhere along the line and without noticing the downhills, we have dropped back down to 400 meters and for farmers, that spells hot and dry. Mostly we saw tatty maize, a tall legume bush which we thought might be chick peas, cassava, and some cashew nut trees.
Their villages were ugly, consisting of a few square mud huts under see-through thatch with bricked up windows to compensate, apart from the one chap who had constructed a splendid double-storey hut with an external staircase that looked as though it might fail Australian health and safety audits.

The poor farmers. If and when they are able to coax a crop out of the hard soils, apparently the elephants come crop raiding. The villagers were quick to warn us of elephants marauding ahead. We were very excited to see them, but didn’t. Alas. Fingers crossed for tomorrow.

We bush-camped next to a river 5 kilometers past the village of Ngapa. George dug a pool in the riverbed to wallow in. I wallowed in it after George, and found it suspiciously warm. George has a good poker face.

Cedric enjoyed a roaring trade at his medic’s clinic. Everyone has scratches and cuts on their legs which have gone horribly septic, we think per kind favour of either the flies, and/or some dodgy rivers that we waded through.

Grass seeds were a major culprit. Kim had a minuscule seed in her foot which transformed into a massive septic sore the size of a dollar coin, or a South African 5 Rand coin. Hanny trumped Kim with 3 grass seeds in one even bigger wound.

I was at the back of the queue with a small and very modest scratch near the bottom of my right shin. But by morning, my ankle had swollen to the point where my lower leg almost looks muscular, but I am known to exaggerate. I popped an antibiotic for just in case.

Alas. 10 kilometers into the next day’s ride I suffered a major wobble on my bike, and had to get off, before I fell off. I feel generally crap and worry that my body is at a low ebb.

I sat out the last 67 kilometers of the ride, sleeping in the back of the black Isuzu. I must be knackered because I slept through the most epic rickety, wooden bridge crossing on Tour thus far.

FOMO hurts more than infected bodies. I hate it in the back of the car, but I also know that I am not good to ride. As soon we got into camp, I sat with my foot immersed in a bucket of salt and Dettol water, hoping to get the puss out of the wound. But that doesn’t looked to have worked too well.

My veterinary consultant, Vicky Bowen, thinks my lymph system is infected. She prescribed 3 vigorous massage sessions with hot, hot water to dissipate the infection up into my body. Third degree Vicky said that many of her horses have suffered the same condition over the years, and she has never had to shoot a single one. Bless Vicky and I love her dearly, but vigorous massages couples with third degree burns hurt more than infected lymph systems, so I am going to throw job lots of antibiotics at the problem going forward.

We are riding to Zanzibar to raise money for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. My black mood was lifted by a video of Martin Carroll, walking with a Zimmerframe in his new home at the Salvation Army, Braeside. Martin broke his hip 8 weeks ago on a lonely mine in the middle of nowhere that he called home. With huge help from Mr Mthethwa the surgeon, the Old Legs Medical Fund was able to buy Martin a new hip, and we’ll pay for his Salvation Army board and lodgings going forward. After years on his own, Martin is thrilled to live amongst friends. But for our donors, the Old Legs would not be able to help people like Martin. Thank you and God bless.

In closing, a big shout out to Mait, Tenzen and Mila on the other side of the world in Canada from Grandpa Al. As I type, he is looking for pet scorpions for you, but don’t tell your mothers.

Until my next blog from another bush camp, have fun, do good and do epic – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.

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