Days 9 11 and 12

July 11 – Day 9 of the Old Legs Skeleton Coast Tour


From Vic Falls to Kazangula

Distance – 78 km
Time – 5 hrs 40 min
Ascent – 112 m
Av Heart Rate – 127 bpm
Max Heart Rate – 198 bpm

This blog is coming from a small village called Mwandi in Western Zambia on the banks of the Zambezi River. A rock rabbit perched high up in a tree has just urinated on Howard’s tent below, causing much hilarity.

We are camping on the banks of the Zambezi. Even though it was part of Adam’s promise to me, I am saddened that there are no hippos, & no crocodiles to be seen. They were long ago hunted out. The Zambezi doesn’t feel the same without hippos and crocs. It doesn’t feel wild like it should. Alas.

The road we rode upon today was voted by support as being up there with the worst they have ever driven on in Africa. It used to be wide tar but much of that is no longer and has been replaced by huge, deep crater-sized potholes.

The roads and potholes were such that the cyclists were able to ride way faster than the support vehicles. Mindful of avoiding a Dick of the Day nomination for disturbing the luggage in the overhead luggage compartments, Russell driving Christopher, the OLT over- lander managed a paltry average of just 11 k.p.h.

Bad Road

Riders riding faster than the support vehicles was a snag come lunchtime. Enter Al Watermeyer, possibly the best forager in the world. In the middle of the bush in middle of the nowhere that is Western Zambia, Al was able to forage a job lot of delicious donuts just as the hunger pains started to bite. If you ride with Al, donuts can be considered a staple. These were particularly good as the young lady who made them included a little sugar in her recipe.

Without any haggling, Al bought her entire stock of 30 donuts for 60 Kwacha, which is equivalent to $3.75 American. Even though she was happy like she’d won the lottery, looking back I wish we’d paid her more.
And whilst on the subject of the Zambian Kwacha, don’t you just love how this blog flows, for the first time ever the Zambian currency is stronger than the South African Rand. Do not take a bow, Cyril Ramaphosa.

But the benefits of stronger currency have yet to filter through to the poor people of Western Zambia.

The people here are so poor.

I met a chap wearing two different shoes, one slip-slop and one trainer, that looked a few sizes too small. He was also blind in one eye. Jenny gave him a pair of sunglasses and he was so happy.

I saw more than one person still wearing last year’s free and unsuccessful ‘Vote Edward Lunga’ tee-shirts which is another surefire poverty indicator. I am guessing the people around here are members of the Batonka tribe, like new President H.H. so Lunga would ‘t have stood a chance of winning and could’ve saved money on the tee shirts. He certainly wouldn’t have won their votes based on past performance. I hope H.H. sorts the road out, and the poverty.

We shared the road with many other cyclists. In Western Zambia, bicycles form an integral part of the commercial transport system. I rode alongside a shoe salesman called Matthew who was pedalling 30 kilometers to peddle his wares.

We rode passed guys on bicycles delivering what had once been forests of hardwood trees now reduced to charcoal. Charcoal is the curse of Africa.

Riding Through Potholes

We also passed men on bikes delivering flocks of chickens, herds of goats, and more than one pig. I am uncertain of the correct collective noun for pigs. Russell told me the correct collective is herd but after his dismal performance in last week’s quiz, I am now doubting his general knowledge.

A baby goat trussed up on the back of a bike crying plaintively is a powerful advert for veganism. I wish I could have set the goats free but I think stock theft is frowned upon in Zambia.

We passed through the 1000 kilometer barrier halfway through the day’s ride. We arrived at our night stop early, just after lunch. Today’s 78 kilometer short ride was good muti after the excesses of last week.

After setting up camp, we enjoyed premature sundowners on the riverbank. We would’ve enjoyed more had we seen hippos and crocs but alas. We saw Malachite kingfishers and Giant ones, Squacco herons and a Golden oriole, but no Fish eagles, apart from one as seen by Adam. Every bird Adam sees is a Fish Eagle.

Rest Time

The fishermen on this stretch of the river paddle their dugouts standing upright using long paddles. I have no idea how they do not fall in. We watched passengers being ferried across the river into Namibia all afternoon. I don’t think they were refugees looking for free one way air tickets to Rwanda. Clearly the border is very porous.

We are riding to the Skeleton Coast to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. With help from the Old Legs and Bulawayo Help Network, 7 pensioners in Bulawayo paid visits to the orthopedic surgeon last Friday for their first consultations, the first step towards the long overdue hip and knee replacement operations they would otherwise not be able to afford. Thank you for helping us help them.

Tomorrow we will ride to the Zambian border town of Sesheke and cross the river into Namibia at Katima Mulilo, which is halfway along the Caprivi Strip.

Until my next blog from there, have fun, do good and do epic if you can – 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)

Day 11 of the Old Legs Skeleton Coast Tour

From Kazangula to Katima Mulilo

Distance – 80 km
Time – 5 hrs 56 min
Ascent – 135 m
Av Heart Rate – 124 bpm
Max Heart Rate – 183 bpm

We crossed the Zambezi River yet again as we rode into Katima Mulilo.

The river turns north at Katima Mulilo in search of it’s source.

By my count so far the Old Legs Tour has now crossed this amazing river 6 times on our various Tours. Our crossing points from east to west were Tete, Kanyemba, Chirundu, Vic Falls, Kazangulo and now Katima Mulilo. But maybe the Kazangula crossing should only half count because the Botswana officials wouldn’t allow us passed the third upright.

Day 11 was a shortened ride to allow for possible delays at the Zambian Namibian border, but not there was nothing short about the day for the support crews who got to drive another 40 kilometers on the worst road in Africa. We passed more than one 30 ton truck deaded by the dreaded potholes. Thankfully our Isuzus were more than tough enough to cope.

Avoiding Potholes

We enjoyed banter with some of the truck drivers broken down on the side of the road. Even though their breakdown was already 24 hours old, and with no relief expected any day soon, the drivers were quick to smile and laugh.

When we told them we were riding from Harare to Swakopmund on bicycles, they told us we were crazy. I told them they were even more crazy for braving the road in 30 ton rigs. They were carting sulphur from Walvis Bay to Ndola, Zambia. I hope sulphur doesn’t have a best before date because they weren’t expecting their breakdown truck for days. I told them that if they were still stuck on our way back, I’d lend them my bike.

Again the cyclists rode away from the support vehicles on the crappy road, and again I almost starved . Thankfully Al was able to forage more donuts. I worry I am going to put on weight riding with him.

The bush we rode through was largely bland and innocuous, apart from the Terminalia sericea which were magnificent. It is a new species of tree for me, thanks to Al Watermeyer. I was quick to show off my newly gained knowledge to Adam, over and over and over again. Terminalia sericea are all over the place, once you know what they look like. I am now able to identify them and baobabs at the drop of a hat, and also jacarandas and flamboyants, provided they are in flower. I think Adam is jealous.

At the back of the peloton, Al, Adam and I messed around like kids on the last day of school. Meanwhile at the front, the racing snakes were racing. Unfortunately for them, Crash Bellwald took the lead. Even more unfortunately for them , Crash had zero clue as to where he was going and missed the road to the border, and plunged off in the general direction of Angola, dragging the peloton behind him for 5 wasted kilometers.

Unfortunately for Crash, his lawyer was one of the riders behind him. I fully expect to see Crash in a tutu.
We are camping on the banks of Zambezi in Katima Mulilo. I am very relieved to be able to withdraw my comment about hippos being extinct on this western stretch of the river. We saw a lone hippo yesterday afternoon and he has just grunted as I type. I am sure there are more of them but they are very shy.

No names mentioned but Pete Brodie was caught trying to photograph his wounded bottom with his phone. He is also sporting a wounded big toe on his left foot. To ease the pressure on his toe he has cut a large hole on his riding shoe and now looks like a fast bowler on a bike. But apart from his wounded toe and bottom, he is in showroom condition and riding strong.

In other breaking news, somehow Crash dodged the Dick of the Day bullet for attempting to invade Angola. Howard was blindsided by Adam and Nick and wore the tutu today for allowing rock rabbits to urinate on his lodgings. I think OJ would get away with murder on this Tour.

In closing, huge thanks to the doctors and nurses at Katima Mulilo hospital for looking after George so well. The hospital was clean, looked to be well equipped and the nursing staff well trained. And after a morning of doctors’ consultations and x-rays and a long list of medications, we were asked to pay not a cent for George’s treatment. It would appear that Namibians and visiting cyclists enjoy free health services. If only pensioners in Zimbabwe were looked after as well.

We’ve not seen much of Namibia, but the little that we have seen, has impressed.

Until my next blog from a bush camp along the Caprivi Strip, have fun, do good and do epic. And visit George in hospital if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

July 13 – Day 12 of the Old Legs Skeleton Coast Tour


In breaking news, George Fletcher crashed out of the Old Legs Tour after fracturing his femur after taking a clumsy tumble in Katima Mulilo.

George is being evacuated to Kasane in Botswana as I type and will be flown to Harare this afternoon for surgery. Huge thanks to perennial sponsors and good guys Alliance Health for facilitating George’s evacuation.

Born in December 1940, George has been our absolute inspiration on Tour. He has ridden strongly at the front of the group every day, and has brought his quiet brand of humour to the campfire every night.

The only time I saw George get angry was at the top of the Chizarira climb when I tried to put up his stretcher for him. He is a thoroughly decent human being and I am very proud to call him my teammate. And I look forward to riding with George again when he is back on his bike.

I was also hugely proud of how the entire Old Legs team pulled together in the crisis to get the job done. We will miss George hugely but remain determined to complete the Tour. And for the record, George said I can have his jelly babies going forward.


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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