The Third World As Seen From The Saddle -21 January 2024

We will ride 2902 kilometres and climb 32024 metres in 26 riding days with 4 rest days. I am rather daunted by what is in front of me, especially Day 5 with 131 km and 2284 m of up, Day 10 with 85 km and 1868 m of climb, Day 13 with 138 km and 1910 m and towards the end, the biggest bugger of all, Day 26 with 165 km and 1772 m of climb. I am especially looking forward to Day 27.

With less than 6 weeks until we start riding, I thought I’d better swot up on New Zealand, forewarned and forearmed and all that sort of stuff. I was able to unearth some previously unknown facts. For instance, I now know that New Zealand enjoys 16 species of mosquitoes, although enjoy might not be the right word. Fortunately 13 of those species mainly bite birds, although any birds reading this would frown upon my use of the word fortunate, especially the flightless Kiwi bird which is unsurprisingly an endangered species. You try fleeing 13 species of ravenous bloodsucking mosquitoes on short legs across the most mountainous country on earth, barring some few notable exceptions that are more mountainous.


True story, New Zealand is that mountainous that that most extreme form of mountaineering known as Climbing Mt Everest was actually invented in New Zealand. And because it is so mountainous, New Zealand was the last continental land mass on earth to be inhabited by the ancestors of the modern-day cyclist, just 800 years ago, as compared to the Netherlands with zero hills which was first inhabited 3700 years ago.


And New Zealand boasts fewer insomniacs per square kilometer than any other country. And in an interesting aside, New Zealand also boasts more sheep per square kilometer than any other country, again barring some other notable exceptions. The exact number of sheep is unknown because the people in charge of counting keep falling asleep. F.Y.I. – the most accurate method of tallying sheep is to count the number of legs, and then divide by 4, but this can lead to accelerated drowsiness. And also F.Y.I. the most common form of injury suffered by cyclists in New Zealand are caused by crashes because of riders nodding off whilst passing flocks of sheep.


Almost as breathtaking as falling off your bike in New Zealand is the scenery. New Zealand was judged to be the most beautiful country in the world recently, by a group of independent experts from the New Zealand tourist industry, who also voted their rugby team the best ever, apart from the one incident of bad food poisoning, and another incident of even worse television match officialdom.


Quickly moving on as one does on a bicycle, we are called the Old Legs Tour because old sounds better than bloody ancient, and also because we ride to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners, but more of that at the bottom of the blog.


With a combined age of 395 years between the 6 of us, we will the oldest peloton ever to tackle New Zealand from top to bottom, apart from some other notable exceptions no doubt. For those of you who do not have cellular phones close to hand, that works out to an average age of 65.8333 recurring. And aged 64, typing that sentence makes me feel young. I just hope the other old farts don’t fall asleep on me.


We will ride 2902 kilometres and climb 32024 metres in 26 riding days with 4 rest days. I am rather daunted by what is in front of me, especially Day 5 with 131 km and 2284 m of up, Day 10 with 85 km and 1868 m of climb, Day 13 with 138 km and 1910 m and towards the end, the biggest bugger of all, Day 26 with 165 km and 1772 m of climb. I am especially looking forward to Day 27.


Because we are athletes, we will need to take rehydration seriously every day, so if you are a Zimbo or a Safa, or a nutcase mountain biker, or if you want to hear about our cause, please come meet the team on our night stops as per the list below.


In the world of pro cycling, breaking wind is the term used to describe a cyclist drafting behind another cyclist to reduce wind resistance and conserve energy. Breaking wind for the team is a selfless job, although you get to enjoy the views first.


The job of chief wind-breaker on the New Zealand Tour will be performed by Patrick Millar, who lives in the UK and who turns 75 this month.


Patrick is famous within the Old Legs Tour for riding the fastest leg ever, in just 11 seconds. Granted, at 120 meters straight down to the bottom of the Vic Falls gorge, it is also the shortest leg on record. As part of the Old Legs Great Africa Divide Ride in 2022, Al Watermeyer persuaded Patrick, and for persuade, please read conned, into becoming the first and the only cyclist ever to ride his bike into the Victoria Falls gorge. Patrick is very easily persuaded and / or certifiably nuts.


Because Patrick doesn’t do things in half measures, he will ride New Zealand unsupported and will start his ride on the 1st of February, 4 weeks before the rest of us, which is not a bad thing because I’ve ridden behind Patrick before, and he is inclined to the more earthy definition of breaking wind, on account of all the baked beans he’s eaten in more than 30 years of boy scouting.
The rest of us will look to bump into Patrick somewhere on the South Island so we can cross the finish line together on the 31st of March.


As part of his trailblazer duties, Patrick has offered to deploy breadcrumbs at regular intervals so we can follow them a month later. Whether or not we follow Patrick’s breadcrumbs is up for debate though, as he is a fierce proponent of the route planning app Kamoot, and uses it to get lost at every opportunity.


Please support Patrick on the road, on social media and in his fundraising efforts. Any 75-year-old who rides 3000 kilometres plus to raise money for Zimbabwe’s pensioners is a pretty damn good effort, and is deserves support. NB If you do see Patrick and he’s headed north, please tell him to turn around.


As part of our Meet the People We Help, please also be introduced to Louise, not her real name because Louise is a very proud person. Louise was first brought to our attention by the one of the doctors we work closely with. He told us that she suffered more pain than any of his other patients, courtesy of her completely collapsed knees. You’ve heard these sore knee stories from me countless times before, but this one is standout bad.


Louise’s husband Bill worked in the motor industry for more than 40 years, and started saving for his retirement the day he started work. Alas. Even if he’d worked 80 years, Bill’s efforts would have counted for nothing, because of the hyperinflation 2006 to 2009.


For those who don’t know, that was the period when Zimbabwe proudly printed the one hundred trillion-dollar bank note, the first and only country ever to do so. We are currently working on hard on also becoming the second country to achieve that milestone.


To flog this horse to death long after the stables burned down, one hundred trillion dollars, which is a number with 14 zeroes, was worth nearly 40 U.S. cents. And please know there should have been another 23 zeroes, but those were swept under the carpet by wishful thinking Reserve Bank devaluations. Not even Elon Musk can count to a number with 37 zeroes.


Bill and Louise very quickly lost everything they owned – their house, their pensions, and all their life savings, apart from 15 thousand dollars they’d set aside for rainy day emergencies like retirement. And then Bill died. And then impossibly things took a turn for the far much more worse when a conman swooped shortly after Bill’s death, a conman that Bill and Louise had put through school, and swindled Louise out of her last 15 thousand dollars, and her car. If far much more worse is not an acceptable English phrase, it should be.


Louise took the conman to court. Two years later the case remains mired in the bullshit quagmire that is Zimbabwe’s judicial system, and Louise is racking up legal debts she’ll never be able to pay. She can’t even pay for her paracetamol. And now her daughter on the other side of the world won’t talk to her because she allowed herself to get conned, and another daughter, also on the other side of the world, who wants to help, but can’t, because her husband is terminally ill with cancer. Louise lives in a borrowed house on charity and sits all day, stuck in her wheelchair, reflecting on all of the above. Not surprisingly, she cries a lot.


The first time I met Louise, she burst into tears almost instantly, because I told her the Old Legs were going to try and fix her knees. But they were tears of joy she told us, because God had answered her prayers, eventually, after 6 long years of pain and suffering. Whilst I appreciate that God has His hands full worrying about the death toll from Russia vs Ukraine, and from Israel vs Palestine, and from Israel vs every other country nearby, and now from Iran vs Pakistan, etcetera, etcetera, I really do wish He would fast forward helping people like Louise.
And now He has. Louise’s first knee operation is booked for February 5th. Thank you, thank you, thank you everyone who has donated to the Old Legs Medical Fund and to Zane.
Because Louise is one of so many who threaten to fall through the cracks, and because however much we raise in New Zealand will never be enough, the Old Legs are embarking on more than one Tour in 2024.


On the 2nd of March, an Old Legs / M’dala Trust peloton, led by Rob Skinner and Gary Prothero, and including CJ Bradshaw, Andrew Langford, Braam Rademeyer, Adam Selby, Alastair, Laurie, Fi and Lori Watermeyer, Nik Bellwald all the way from Switzerland, Andrew Brown, Debbie Swales, Trevor and Di Lilford, Basil Cackett, Rob Fisher, Heinrich Muller, Pim de Witt and Charles Montgomery will pedal 700 kilometres from Hermanus to Cape Town, via Struisbaai, Stormsvlei, Slanghoek and Wellington, and every mountain pass in creation, before being joined by 35,000 guest riders for their last leg, a.k.a. the Cape Town Cycle Tour. I am very jealous that I am not there because they will have much fun, apart from on the hills, of which there are many. If you are in Cape Town on Sunday the 10th of March, please cheer the Zim flags loudly as they come past.


And then in July, please be invited to join the Old Legs Tour as they pedal their 2024 flagship adventure, 3000 km of epic into one of the last places on earth still untravelled, Angola. From steaming tropical forests to white skeleton beaches, with forgotten landmines and dead and decaying tanks, Angola remains the quintessential mystery wrapped within an enigma, not least of all because they speak Portuguese there. Put another way, Angola is why David Livingstone’s mom had grey hairs, although her grey hairs predate the tanks and the landmines. Don’t miss this one, folks, it will be epic.


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

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