New Zealand Tour

Dear Friend of ZANE, Old Legs Tours and the Anzac Groups,

We are very proud and excited to let you know that Eric De Jong, (who has, with his team of intrepid riders famously conquered so many amazing trails in Africa) is heading down under in March 2024 to lead the Old Legs / Anzac / ZANE New Zealand Tour.

With Mark Johnson (Anzac OLT / Queensland), Peter Brodie (Anzac / OLT Western Australia), Howard Thompson (New Zealand coordinator) and at least three other riders, these valiant explorers will be riding to raise awareness of the plight of the elderly in Zimbabwe and, with ZANE’s help, funds to support these vulnerable older people.

It is often difficult to keep in mind the suffering of aged folk in Zimbabwe. It is hard to imagine, living as we do in a place which has a free universal health service and social security, that people in Zimbabwe can find themselves hungry, ill or injured with no access to medical treatment and often not even to adequate food or shelter.

Without help from charities like ZANE and the Old Legs Tour Group, many of these pensioners, who have lived and worked in Zimbabwe all their lives, would die frightening and lonely deaths far from family or friends.

However, thanks to our wonderful donors, ZANE and its partners are able to come alongside these special people, visit and support them, ensuring that their declining years are as comfortable as possible and that they know they are loved.

For this, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Now we ask you to spread the word about the upcoming New Zealand Tour – if you live in New Zealand, we invite you to join the tour for a few days if you feel able, to offer hospitality to the group if it passes near you, to organise or attend any events to support the fund raising efforts, or simply to share this letter with anyone you think might be interested.

All donations made through ZANE in Australia are fully tax deductible and every dollar you give goes directly to where is it most needed.

Thank you,

Nicky Passaportis.
CEO ZANE Australia

The New Zealand Tour By Eric De Jong

Which brings me on to the subject of a new epic Tour – The Old Legs Tour of New Zealand, and yes that is not a typo.

The New Zealand Tour will kick off 07.00 sharp on March the 1st at Cape Reinga, the most northerly point of the North Island, and will finish also sharply 30 days and 2902 kilometres later at the most southerly point of the South Island, unless of course we get lost.

New Zealand might be known as the Land of the Long White Cloud, but according to Garmin, under the clouds there lurk mountains, lots and lots and lots of mountains. Even though we are riding from top to bottom, we will climb a staggering 32024 metres, which is almost one Everest per week, and four in the month. Which also means I need to be 4 times fitter than I am now. Eeeeiish!! N.B. I think Eeeeiish could be a Māori word.

Mountain Range

I am so very excited to be riding New Zealand, arguably the prettiest country in the world, this according to a panel of independent experts from New Zealand. I am excited to ride through green countryside and against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains instead of through the dry and khaki bush we normally ride though.

I so look forward to riding the North Island’s Timber Trail, 84 km of singletrack through the pristine Pureora Forest, with 1400 meters of climb and 8 suspension bridges, including the iconic Maramataha suspension bridge vertigo permitting. Garmin reliably informs me that the swing bridge is 141 meters either up or across, but either way I am sure to ride with my bottom tightly puckered.

We will ride alongside Mt Ngauruhoe a.k.a. Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings and I will think long and hard about pulling a Frodo and tossing my bicycle into fires. I am excited to ride the Maungatapu Track and climb the Maungatapu Saddle, 700 meters of brutal straight up in under 10 kilometres, passing the infamous Murderer’s Rock where 5 Springbok supporters were shot in the 1800’s for gloating, before heading down to Wellington by way of Lower Hutt. NB I am only joking about the Springbok supporters.

And then we head across the Cook Straits to the South Island, thankfully in a proper big boat, and not in kayaks. The South Island is beyond picture-postcard pretty but I am sure it will hurt on the bike. We will ride down the South Island’s western coast with the Southern Alps our constant companion. Mount Cook will loom large on our horizon. At 3,724 meters high, I am hoping it stays on our horizon. We will be sure to bundle up warm when we ride past Fox Glacier and then down through Queenstown, the world’s adventure tourism centre, before we press onto our end destination – Slope Point , Bluff, New Zealand’s most southerly point, apart from Jacquemart Island which is further south but we won’t go there.

I am also very much looking forward to bird watching in New Zealand. They have some weird and wonderfully ones including the kiwi, nocturnal and secretive and unlikely to be seen, the keas, next-level clever parrots, the kakapo, an uber cute, fat and flightless parrot also nocturnal and last but not least, the pekapeka-tou-roa, actually a long-tailed bat but which won the coveted NZ bird of the year award, nonetheless. I also expect to see a lot of sheeps, apparently, they outnumber people 10 to 1 and also hope to spot an All Black- Sam Cane, or Zinzan Brooke, or Carlos Spencer, or any one of them, just to have a beer with. N.B. True story, Sam Cane’s aunt is married to a Zim farmer from Norton.

The thought of bumping into an All Black whilst wearing the fluorescent Dick of the Day tutu is rather daunting, so I have decided to pack my best legal defence, in the form of my attorney, Howard Thompson. Howard who rode the Old Legs Skeleton Coast Tour has accepted 40% of my Tour jelly babies as a retainer to act as my sole legal counsel on Tour, which is a bummer for Old Leg veterans Mark Johnson and Pete Brodie, both of whom look good in the wig and tutu. Also joining us on their first Old Legs Tour are cyclists Rob Clarke, an ex-Plumtree boy but as far as I know he has given up smoking, and John McKenny a.k.a. Macca is now living in Queensland. And in the support vehicle we’ll have Gary Martin a.k.a. Mango ex Chakari and Middle Sabi and Jenny a.k.a. Yes Dear.

Steep mountains and sheep aside, one of the biggest challenges we will face on the New Zealand Tour is Jenny’s visa application, 9 pages of exhaustive questions about her and her siblings, her mom and her dad, family pets, favourite colours, hobbies, you name it, and this despite the fact she shouted loud for the All Blacks throughout the World Cup. Apparently, Springbok supporters may or may not be subjected to polygraph tests and full cavity body searches. Because I travel on a Dutch passport, my visa application took all of 3 minutes. I’m guessing New Zealand Immigration knows they don’t need to worry about a man on a bicycle from the genetically flat lands staying on illegally in a country full of mountains.

To get to our Cape Reinga start line, Jenny and I have a 33-hour flight in front of us followed by 6 hours in a car. Despite endless lectures from Alastair Watermeyer, I’m still not sure how the international date line works, but I think we arrive before we leave. Jenny and I booked our flights last week, sort of like chucking a big rock in a dam. Once you’ve chucked the rock, you can’t un-chuck it. N.B. Please know that we have to pay our own way on the Old Legs Tour with all travel and accommodation expenses for the individual’s account.

As always, we will ride to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners with ZANE Australia as our charity of choice. Nicky Passaportis and her team work tirelessly to change and save the lives of those pensioners who lost everything in the hyper-inflation. Please see our route map below, but be warned, we ride slow like paint dries.

New Zealand Tour Map

Until my next blog, Have Fun, Do Good, and Do Epic if you can.
Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

* Names and images may have been changed for privacy reasons

If you are already a ZANE donor, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. If you are not a donor but would like to be, please follow the link below and know that every donation, however big or small, goes directly to where it is most needed. If you would like to help but can’t donate, please join the ZANE family and ‘like’ or ‘share’ our posts or write us a Google review – every positive step helps spread the word about the life changing work ZANE does.

Thank you – Nicky Passaportis ZANE Australia

Please donate to support pensioners struggling to survive in Zimbabwe

Any assistance is greatly appreciated and goes a long way to giving our pensioners a better quality of life and lift the pressure of money worries which is very debilitating emotionally.

(Donations made to ZANE in Australia, are tax-deductible)