Days 3, 4 and 5 Cattle

July 4 2022 – Day 3 of the Old Legs Skeleton Coast Tour

Riding from Harare to Namibia to raise money and awareness for the pensioners of Zimbabwe.

This blog is coming to you from Ben’s View which is south east of Mutusadona and west of Chizarira a.k.a. the middle of nowhere. You won’t find Ben’s View on any maps, but it is that good, it should be.

Today’s ride was sold to us by Adam as a recovery day with 114 km and 600 m of climb. And it was a true story. We arrived at our middle of nowhere bush camp before lunch to enjoy some downtime ahead of our biggest day on Tour, but more of that later.

I think I’m going to get some ‘Gokwe Is Good’ bumper stickers printed when I get home. For most people, Gokwe is that big empty space on the map below Kariba best avoided, but I am loving the place on my bike. Huge horizons stretching away as far as the eye can see are even huger at 20 k.p.h. And Gokwe the town even has a set of traffic lights, and they work.

The sweeping descent down off the Gokwe Plateau and into the start of the Zambezi Valley was that spectacular we gave it to Howard Thompson for his birthday. We also gave him a 2lt scud of Chibuku which he said he enjoyed less but had him singing and dancing around the campfire after just 2 sips.

The people in Gokwe are nice. Howard and the A Team stopped at a no name buisness center for a rare rest and met a sharp buisness man who offered up a visit to his nearby emporium. By way of explanation, the A Team are riding bicycles that can go faster than 20 k.p.h. and are expected to arrive in Swakopmund before the B Team. But I digress. When told it was Howard’s birthday, the shopkeeper told Howard he could choose anything he wanted from the shelves as a gift, but he wasn’t allowed to propose to his wife.

The children in Gokwe are especially sweet. They are more shy than other parts of the country and more reserved in their greetings, but smile and wave with both hands when you ride past.

That people with so little can be so happy should serve as a wake-up call for all of us. George watched a little girl no older than 6 happily filling a 20-liter bucket with drinking water for the family cup by cup, before carrying it home up the steepest of hills.

The support vehicles joined a long queue of donkey carts and ox carts to refill our water tanks at a communal water point. The villagers were polite and allowed Ryan to push in. He was able to sow much confusion when he told them where we are riding to when asked. The people of Gokwe have no idea they live on the road to Namibia.

We are burning huge calories and the gap between breakfast and lunch is big like Gokwe. We have delicious snack stops in between, but not enough of them. Russell was driving behind us in the support truck. I asked him to go ahead and run something over so we could eat it but he wouldn’t. Russell is a pacifist. So I was forced to pinch his wine gums. Which made me feel bad, because Russell is such a nice young man. If I was 30 years younger, he would be my best friend.

Tomorrow is the harshest day on Tour by far. It looms large like Mordor, but way more scary. We hope to ride 126 kilometers of corrugations to arrive at the world’s most rugged and epic mountain biking destination, Chizarira’s Mucheni View. Unfortunately, that involves a 1600 meter climb with a max gradient of 19.6%. Ouch. And it gets worse. I also have to do my laundry. I blame Adam Selby entirely. He wouldn’t let me bring 32 pairs of ride shorts.
We are riding for the pensioners of Zimbabwe. Please help us help them by following the donate prompts on www.oldlegstour.com.

Until my next blog from the laundry at Chizarira, unless I perish en route.
Have fun, do good, do epic.
Eric Chicken Legs de Jong


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)

July 5 2022 – Day 4 – Ben’s View Gokwe North to Mucheni View, Chizarira National Park

Distance – 130.5 km
Time -10.35 hrs
Ascent – 1325 m
Av Heart Rate – 119 bpm
Max Heart Rate – 182 bpm
Max Gradient – 19.5
Max Temp – Bloody hot.

Please let it be known that George Fletcher has a new name. Hence forth he shall be known as Mucheni George.

Yesterday at age 81, George was a proud member of the 2nd group of mountain bike riders ever to have ridden up the Chizarira massif to the Mucheni View. George is a national treasure.

Chizarira is a Batonka word meaning Great Barrier. The Batonka are masters of the understatement. The mountain is beyond massive and put cricks in our necks trying to stare up at the top. I pointed out our home from home for the night at the very top to Mark Johnson. He offered to punch me for coming up with stupid ideas.

The ride up to the Mucheni Gorge was stupidly steep with max gradients of 19.5. Not even the Tour de France boasts rides that steep. The ride up was further toughened by swathes of deep sand in which both George and Howard were able to face plough spectacularly.

I am still not sure how we made it up to the top of the mountain, especially at the end of a 9 hr day. We caught the sunset just in time. The pristine bush we rode through and the cold beers and the view from up top were best ever, and well worth the effort. That we heard lion that night and saw waterbuck, warthogs, impala and a steenbok on the way out made the ride all the more special.

Chizarira is now managed by National Parks Rescue. With robust anti-poaching strategies, they are determined to fix what has been broken and to restore the Park as one of Zim’s premier wildlife destinations. Please put it on your radar.

George is riding 3125 km from Harare to the Skeleton Coast to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. Please help him help others less fortunate. Please also be inspired by him. If I grow up, I want to be just like George.

Our Day 4 ride is up there as one of my best ever on the bike, from start to finish. We rode out of Gokwe district and across the Sengwa River into Binga district. In Binga the horizons are even more distant than those in Gokwe, although that could have everything to do with waning average speeds. I am very underdone on the bicycle.

I have improved slightly after though, swopping out new riding shoes for my old riding shoes. I had the onset of a wounded knee because of cockeyed cleats. The start of a 3125 km bike tour is no time to be breaking in new riding shoes. Silly me.

We are riding the Karoi – Binga highway. We rode the same route on the 2020 Lockdown Tour. The scenery has improved hugely and is now spectacular. Last time my eyes were broken and I saw not a lot.

In 2020 we rode past a big yellow IXMGA ‘Made In China’ grader broken down in the middle of the highway, deaded by the road it hadn’t fixed. I remember featuring it prominently in my blog that day. Fast forward 2 years and the grader remains in exactly the same spot, a broken down monument to poor workmanship.

According to the prominent plaque on the grader, IXMGA are the sole brand of grader used by the Chinese National Antarctic Research Program. I’m guessing roads in the Antarctic are also buggered.

The Karoi -Binga highway boasts a million bus stops, but not a single bus, not in 2 full days of riding. The people in Gokwe and Binga do it tough, and on foot.

I stopped to help a young lady push her wheelbarrow up one of the stupidly steep hills. She was clearly struggling in the heat. Her name was Charity. She pushed my bike, I pushed her wheelbarrow which was full of butternuts and a 2 lt of cooking oil. Bicycles are way easier than wheelbarrows. I was knackered halfway up the hill.

Charity told me she’d already walked 10 kilometers when I met her, with another 5 kilometers still in front of her. But she was all smiles, especially when Russ handed her a cold coke at the top of the hill.

I passed another lady struggling with 60 liters of water in her wheelbarrow, but was too tired to help. Like Jon Snow in Game of Thrones, we know nothing about hard life.

Not much further on, a little boy ran out on to the road to greet Alan and I. He was waving his hands and his face wreathed in the hugest smile and he wished us a Happy New Year in his best and only English.

I continue to be amazed at how people with so little can be so happy.

Until my next blog from Milibizi, have fun, do good, do epic – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong


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)

July 6 2022 – Day 5 From Chizarira to Milibizi


Distance – 139 km
Time – 9 hrs 17 min
Ascent – 902 m
Av Heart Rate – 121 bpm
Max Heart Rate – 175 bpm
Max Temp 34 deg C

I’m not sure what God was thinking when he made the Zambezi Valley. He had the perfect opportunity to go with a user-friendly flat floor, but instead, He went with extremely lumpy with more uptulations than undulations. Uptulations as defined the Al Watermeyer dictionary are like undulations, just more steep and more horrible, especially in 35 degree heat.

We rode through the Sijarira Forest. We saw our first Beware of Elephants sign, and shortly thereafter, our first fresh elephant dung. The elephant in the sign was scrawny, but the dung on the ground was huge, and still steaming. I flung the dung at Ryan when he stopped to take a photo, because I’ve also wanted to do that, and because he’s paparazzi.

We rode through massive swathes of bush for hours and saw not a single person or a single car. It is was beautiful. I think we passed 4 cars all day.

Further west we started to see villages. The farmers in Binga district are more poor than those in Gokwe, if such a thing is possible. From what I can see mostly they farm rocks and goats and zero crops. Which is criminal considering the area has one of the world’s largest fresh water lakes on it’s doorstep, plus unlimited sun. If I was a villager from Binga I would seriously consider catching a dinghy to England and a plane to Rwanda.

But there are some signs of development. We rode past a large sign in the middle of the dry, arid bush, kindly erected by the Civic Protection Zimbabwe, telling the people to beware of crocodiles, hippopotamus and drowning.

We also saw a large area of fenced off bush in the middle of the bush, bought and paid at considerable cost by US AID and the American people. From what we could see there was nothing happening inside the fence but I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time, and worth the money spent. Thank you Joe Biden.

The Zim government have also started working on the new highway as promised by Mugabe in 1980. Better late than never I guess. The drivers of the 4 cars we passed will be thrilled. I just hope they don’t use Made In China graders.

We luxuriated on tar before and after lunch, but wilted badly in the heat and on the hills in the last 50 kilometers to our night stop at Milibizi. With over 2000 kilometers of hot bush and desert in front of us, riders will have to take electrolytes more seriously going forward.

I was very happy to ride into Milibizi at the end of a very long day. It seems crazy that we were here just 7 weeks ago for the start of the Crocodile Tour. I found energy enough to dice 2 picanins on a Buffalo bike and won, but only because their chain came off.

Milibizi

After 550 km of hills, hard riding and bush camps, we are styling at the Milibizi Resort. Last night we feasted on grilled bream, luxuriated in proper beds and hot showers and on flush toilets. Tomorrow we will ride 93 kilometers through the Kavira Forest Area and part of the Kavango Zambezi Transfronteir Conservation Area to the Zambezi River.

Until my next blog, have fun, do good, do epic – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong


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)

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