Welcome to the 2023 Old Legs Zanzibar Tour.
My name is Eric de Jong a.k.a. Chicken Legs and I’m part of something called the Old Legs Tour. Every year we ride our bikes to somewhere ridiculously far away, on roads less travelled, looking to have fun, to do good and to do epic. We’re called Old Legs because it sounds more polite than bloody ancient, and because we ride to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners.
We’ve ridden to Cape Town and Kilimanjaro, to Uganda and the Skeleton Coast, and from Bulawayo to Bulawayo, braving elephants, lions and tsetse flies, and the Zambezi Escarpment more than once. This year, we’re heading to the tropical island of Zanzibar.
But I can hear you ask where exactly is the epic in lolling about on a beach under palm trees, sipping long and lazy pink cocktails with little umbrellas? Well, first we have to get to Zanzibar on our bikes, and that involves 2800 kilometers of tough, hard riding, climbing massively harsh mountains and through some of Africa’s wildest bush.
On May 27 and armed with only a Portuguese-English phrasebook, a smattering of Swahili plus a mountain of other kit, our Old Legs peloton of 10, plus support crew of 6, will leave Harare headed in the general direction of Mozambique and beyond. Because I’ve been involved in route plotting and navigation, it could get interesting. NB We’ve taken the precaution of packing 2 Frenchmen in our peloton, lest we bumble into Francophone Africa.
The plan is to cross the Zambezi River at Tete, then we turn right towards Malawi, turn left before the Zomba plateau, then down to Lake Malawi for our first rest day and a sneak preview of the pink cocktails complete with umbrellas, fingers crossed. Then down to Mangochi, east back into Mozambique, north over some very tall mountains around a town called Lichinga, back down to the Lake for another rest day, more pink cocktails, umbrellas, etcetera, before plunging back off the beaten track into the vast unknown that is the Niassa Province. NB The vast unknown is a geographical term that happens often when I’m navigating.
Google reliably informs me that the Niassa Province is home to some even taller mountains, elephants, buffalos and tsetse flies, and not much else apparently, apart from 12000 sable, 350 wild dogs, and assorted lions, etcetera, etcetera. To give you an idea of the vastness of the Niassa Reserve that we will ride alongside, it is the same size as Wales or Denmark, or twice the size of the Kruger National Park.
We’ll then cross the Rovuma River into Tanzania, ride east for plus minus 600 kilometers, plus minus being another of my oft used geographical phrases, briefly passing through the bottom of the iconic Selous Game Reserve, unless of course we hit sand, whence upon briefly will take forever. Then on to the Indian Ocean, apparently a large expanse of open water in front of us, and we can’t miss it. NB If we hit the Atlantic Ocean, we’ll know that we have gone horribly wrong somewhere and we’ll blame the Frenchmen.
When we hit the ocean, we’ll turn left a.k.a. north to follow the Swahili Coast for 300 kilometers to Dar es Salam, lots of big, tall buildings on our left and in front. Thankfully, we remain fluent in Swahili from our Kilimanjaro Tour 4 years ago, provided the conversation doesn’t stray much beyond slow, slow, and hallo.
Another rest day in Dar with more cocktails and pink umbrellas, plus an introduction to our kayaks. And then our penultimate leg, 40 kilometers in the kayaks across the ocean. NB I am reliably informed that I will not be able to see land for long stretches. Also NB, I swim like a brick and am petrified of sharks. When and if we land on Zanzibar, we get back on the bikes to pedal the length of the island to our finish line on Nungwi beach, Zanzibar’s most northerly point. And then we loll about under palm trees, enjoying pink cocktails with little umbrellas. And man, are they going to taste good.
We are riding to Zanzibar to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. After 30 years of ruinous economic policies and 2 bouts of hyperinflation, the generation that built our country, the doctors and the engineers, the teachers and the farmers, especially the poor farmers, have been with nothing, no pensions, no savings, no nothing, leaving them entirely dependent upon the charity they are too proud to ask for. Alas.
Please help us help them by following the donate prompts on www.oldlegstour.com. And please be invited to join us on our adventures up through Africa, but be warned, we ride slow like paint dries, and we paddle even slower.
The Old Legs Zanzibar Team a.k.a. Al Watermeyer, Zack Patinois, Pete Brodie, Rafe Wetzlar, Angus and Rowena Melrose, Clem Henon, Cedric Breda, Kim Parker, Eric and Jenny de Jong, Hanny Swart, Brian Goodman, Vicky Bowen, Gary de Jong and George Lockhart.
* Names and images may have been changed for privacy reasons
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