Hi – My name is Eric de Jong a.k.a Chicken Legs for reasons unknown. I am part of something called the Old Legs Tour. Every year a bunch of us take time out of busy lives to ride our mountain bikes to somewhere ridiculously far away on the roads less travelled, looking to Have Fun, Do Good and Do Epic. We’re called the Old Legs because most of us are bloody old, and also because we ride to raise money for Zimbabwe’s pensioners.
Alas. The generation that built our Zimbabwe have had their wealth and their pensions reduced to nothing, by 30 years of economic disaster and 2 bouts of hyperinflation. Teachers and engineers, artisans and farmers, especially farmers, have been left with nothing and entirely dependent upon the charity they are too proud to ask for.
On our first Tour in 2018 we pedaled 3186 kilometers from Harare to Cape Town through the Kalahari Desert and a town called Hotazel. Our oldest rider on that first Tour was Bruce Fivaz, aged 72. We were able to raise $71000 for our charities. But when we got home, we were accused of being lazy by choosing a downhill destination.
So, the following year we set our sights on a loftier mountain, Kilimanjaro in northern Tanzania, the world’s tallest free-standing mountain. Our roads less travelled took us through Mukumbura, once home to the world’s largest minefield, we rode the length of Lake Malawi, and Tanzania from bottom to top. Al Watermeyer aged 70 was the senior man. We pedaled 2904 kilometers and climbed an incredible 36502 meters in just 26 riding days. We also raised $100,000.
In 2020 we set our sights on Namibia’s Skeleton Coast but were thwarted by Covid and closed borders. So, we rode the Lockdown Tour instead, 3000 kilometers around Zimbabwe’s borders and through her wildest wilderness areas.
4 of us pedaled through Gonarezhou, the length of the Zambezi Valley, from Chewore and through Mana Pools to the Kariba gorge. We rode through the Matusadona and climbed the Chizarira massif, possibly the first ever, and rode through Hwange National Park. We braved lions, elephants and tsetse flies, and the Zambezi Escarpment more than once. The Lockdown Tour raised over $130,000.
In 2021, we rode the Silverback Tour to Uganda in search of gorillas in the mists. Our route took us through Zambia’s iconic Luangwa Valley, we followed Lake Tanganyika as far as Ujiji where Stanley said “Dr Livingstone I presume.” And then onto the Impenetrable Forest where we walked with the last of the mountain gorillas. Al Watermeyer and Marco Richards led us across the finish line, both aged 72.
Because times for Zimbabwe’s pensioners grow ever tougher, in 2022, we undertook 2 Tours. We swopped bikes for kayaks and paddled the Crocodile Tour, 360 kilometers from Milibizi to Kariba through crocodile and hippo infested waters, and into the waves and against the wind, because it was more epic.
And in the July, we pedaled through some of Africa’s most desolate and harshest landscapes to Swakopmund on the Skeleton Coast. We rode through deserts that bleak and that harsh that Bear Grylls would die if you dropped him there, even with a Bear Grylls knife. That much nothing shouldn’t be epic, but it was. And even more epic was George Fletcher, our oldest rider, aged an incredible 82.
We have loads of fun on our Tours, and for sure we do epic in spades, but it is the Do Good bit that gets us out of bed in the mornings.
Which brings us to the reason for this appeal, the Old Legs Medical Fund. We were inspired to set up the fund by an old chap who bled to death on his kitchen floor after a botched DIY amputation of a foot that went gangrenous, because he couldn’t afford the antibiotics that could have and would have saved his life. Alas, we were too late to save that old chap, but since then, we’ve helped and saved dozens and dozens of others. Our interventions are literally life changing, lifesaving and range from to emergency hernia ops to hip and knee replacements and everything in between.
To make our donations go further, we’ve negotiated discounted rates with the doctors and surgeons, but we still have a waiting list almost as long as one of our Tours. We need your help.
If you donate, we can promise that every cent will be spent on doctors and medical bills, and not a red cent on salaries or admin expenses. The Old Legs manned entirely by volunteers. And for donors living abroad, we can facilitate tax deductible certificates.
Please help us help others. And please also be invited to follow us on our next adventure in June 2023 when we ride from Harare to Zanzibar on bicycles and kayaks, but please be warned, we ride slow like paint dries, and we paddle even slower.