Old Legs Mt Everest Challenge

I’m climbing Mt Everest on my bike, 8849 meters of up for Zimbabwe pensioners. So far, I’ve climbed 5296 meters.

To tell the truth, I am struggling with this challenge, more with the heat than the steep. Because it is bloody hot out on the mountain, my face feels like it has been in a microwave on high for a week. I try and imagine ice-cream cones, but they melt before I can imagine eating them. I wish I was climbing Kilimanjaro instead.

But not really, because like some idiot once said, all good bike rides should hurt. The more you hurt, the more endorphins you release. And endorphins allow you to feel good about the absence of pain that comes after when you finish hurting. NB, I know that to be a true story about him being an idiot, because he was me.

Mostly I’ve been hurting on the same Chishawasha hill over and over. Mostly I ride on my own, with the Chilli Peppers, the Killers and the Kooks for company, and my new best friend Stick Figure, although reggae is not the best mood music for the steeper gradients. But there isn’t enough music on Spotify to break the monotony of going up and down the same horrible hill over and over. Last weekend I was able to coax a fiercely territorial flock of white-crested helmet shrikes who live on top of my hill to join me by playing their call on my Roberts phone app. The pleasure of their company aside, I was hoping I’d annoy them to the point where they would shit on top of my helmet and cool me down.

To escape the heat, I swopped Chishawasha for Juliasdale this last weekend to ride up some horrible mountains there. Alas, that didn’t work too well. When they talk about global warming, they also mean Juliasdale. If anything it was more bloody hot there, most probably because the mountains are higher and closer to the sun.

I rode with Pieter and Simone Van Iperen. It was my first time meeting them. Because I dragged them up the scenic route to Froggy Farm, along the back road via Bonda Mission, and via the dreaded Bonda bumps, it might also be my last time meeting them. The Bonda bumps are brutal, and typically end friendships, rather than form them. And because happiness is the management of expectations, I neglected to mention the worst of them to Simone. I especially didn’t mention the last switchback which comes complete with 20% gradients. I think she thinks I was trying to murder her. Thankfully she had long ago run out of breath, and her expletives were muted.

But the healing powers of endorphins and cold beers afterwards at Froggy Farm are stronger than the Juliasdale hills are harsh. And the sense of achievement waiting for you on top of a monster climb also feels pretty good. And that feel good feels even better when you’ve been riding to help someone. We’re climbing Everest to help pensioner Peter Shaw pay for an urgent operation. Peter had a stage one tumour in his oesophagus and couldn’t eat or drink without gagging.

Embattled  Zimbabwe Pensioners

The Old Legs Everest Challenge has grown to 38 riders from all over the world. Since my blog two weeks ago, we’ve been joined by Angela and Sam Pietrofeso in California, Richard Bowes in Ontario Canada, Peter Henman, Dave Marock and TJ Mukanganise in the Western Cape, Sheila Burrough from Nelspruit, Clive Bradford, and Shane White from Vic Falls, Bryan Taverner, Henrique Jorge and Tatenda Wushe from Harare, Geoff Stork and NJ La Grange from Bulawayo. The brotherhood of the bike is a very cool thing, even though it is bloody hot out!

I’m not sure who is currently leading the Everest King of the Mountain leaderboard. I think it could be a tossup between Adam Selby, Gary Prothero in Cape Town and Jordan Ballantyne in Vic Falls. NB Jordan’s assault on Everest starts 04.30 sharp every morning. NB He is even having his own shirts printed. And if you sponsor him up the mountain, you will get your logo on Jordan’s shirt.

If the last one to the top of the mountain is a rotten egg, no disrespect but it is a safe bet that egg will come from the Netherlands. My brother-in-law Tim Brehem rode 104 kilometres last week for an elevation gain of 57 meters. The high point on his ride was 4 meters above sea level. He enjoyed a great view from the top. He has named his peak Mount Short and has claimed it as Holland’s highest mountain.

By my calculations, Tim will have to ride 16,611 kilometres to summit his Everest.

That we have riders from all over the world challenging Everest to raise money for a pensioner from Rusape is so hugely heartwarming, I can want to cry. Zimbabwe remains a village, even though we’ve been scattered to the corners of the earth.

Stephen Marffy also brought me close to tears this week. Stephen used to farm on the Great Dyke, until the government decided that it was in the national interest that he cease farming. Alas. Stephen now farms in Zambia, much to the delight of the Zambian government, but he hasn’t forgotten the plight of the pensioners left behind. And this year Stephen has decided to donate every red cent from the sale of his bumper crop of Spanspek melons to the Old Legs Tour Medical Fund. Stephen’s melons are beyond delicious, and orders can be placed through Kerry Kirkman at the ZEST Mkushi.

The melons will have a reserve price of 50 kwacha each, but you can also pay more if you want. But you need to hustle because perennial good guy Clive Midlane has already snapped up the first 50 melons for 100 kwacha each.

Another villager from afar who continues to care is comedian Barry Hilton. God knows the world is properly messed up, and laughter remains best medicine. Thank God for Barry Hilton. He is one of the funniest men out there, and also one of the most caring.

Barry flies into Harare this week to do a fundraiser at the Highlander a.k.a. the Highlands Sports Club on Glen Esk, for his best friend Steve Hockey’s daughter Danica. Danica was involved in a dreadful car accident and required emergency lifesaving surgery. Barry’s show starts at 6 p.m. on Thursday 19th and tickets are limited. Book now at the Highlander.

You can also join Barry Hilton for Breakfast on Friday morning at the Venue in Avondale with all proceeds to the Old Legs Medical Fund.

The Old Legs will use the money raised to change lives and save lives by helping old folk with their monthly pharmacy accounts and medical aid payments, with emergency surgeries as per Peter Shaw above, and through our ongoing hip and knee replacement program. They are my absolute best.

Helping old folk to walk again after being trapped in their wheelchairs by the agony of bone grinding on bone-on-bone 24/7 is such good muti, right up there with laughter. I am hoping laughter can also fix sore legs, sore bottoms and a micro-waved face.

Until my next blog from the top of Everest – 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

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