Skeleton Coast Riders

Welcome to day zero minus just two. It is bloody freezing as I type this at 04.30 and there are just two more sleeps until we start pedalling in the general direction of Namibia, unless of course Adam gets us lost, and we peddle off in the general direction of somewhere else instead, like Mozambique, or Angola.

Pedalling eight hours on a bicycle on harsh corrugations and even harsher hills is made easier if you are able to put a face to the cause you are riding for. To this end, I asked our partner charity Pensioners Aid if they could introduce the members of the Old Legs Team to some of the pensioners we help.

But riding bikes with tears in your eyes will be anything but easy. Mark Johnson and I were taken by Sandy from Pensioners Aid to meet the Fourie family in Hatfield, not their real name, and we both ended up suffering badly leaking eyes.

We met Granny aged 93, Peggy in her late 60’s, Peggy’s daughter Nancy who is very proudly turning 37 on August 20th, and her youngest daughter Una who is aged much older than she should be, on account of the fact that she is the only bread winner in the family.

But because Una only works 2 mornings a week as a teacher’s aide at a creche, bread remains a rare commodity in the Fourie household.

Fortunately, the family have Granny’s pension and Peggy’s pension to fall back on. Unfortunately, Granny’s government pension is worth just $5 per month, whilst Peggy’s company pension is worth a whopping $24. So that is a family of 4 trying to survive on 29 bucks.

To put that into context, currently one loaf of bread in Zimbabwe will cost you between 1 and 2 USD, depending on your black-market rate. The rate varies between 350 and 700 depending on how hard you trade. I rather worry that the Fourie family aren’t Gordon Gekko when it comes to dealing currency.

And alas, this story gets worse. I forgot to mention that Nancy is a special-needs-child, with just 6% vision to boot, while Granny is bedridden and requires 24-hour care. Because they can’t afford a carer at $8 per 12-hour shift, Peggy and Una take turns looking after Granny, each of them doing 12-hour shifts.

Outside of that, Una works when she can for not a lot at the childcare centre, and Peggy helps Nancy with her embroidery business. With just 6% vision, you can imagine Nancy requires much help.

Nancy’s embroidery business is hugely important to the family, Una told me. Not only was it feel good therapy for Nancy, but potentially it was good income, if only she can get the marketing right, she told me. Una is Nancy’s business manager.

I told Una it was their lucky day, because Mark and I were in the mood to buy big lots of embroidery products. There was much joy in the room as Una trotted off to fetch the stock. She came back with a not-too-tall-pile of ready-for-sale items. The pile was not-too-tall because embroidery is a painstakingly slow task for Nancy.

At the top of the pile were half a dozen milk jug covers. Una apologized they didn’t have many beads sewn on them, but she said they were very good for keeping the flies out the milk, nonetheless. Because our milk at home comes in a box, I’m not too big on milk jug covers, but magnanimously told Una we would buy the lot. How much were they, I asked? Una told us $12 each.

Because they didn’t teach the 700 times table at Ellis Robins, Mark had to ask Una what 12 Zim dollars was in US dollars? She looked at Mark like he was an absolute moron. That was the USD price, she told us, because no one in their right mind sells in Zim dollars. Which represented a snag.

I had exactly 14 dollars on me, and Mark had conveniently forgotten his wallet in his car. In the end and after borrowing $10 from Sandy, Mark and I went 50 / 50 on a set of 6 place mats, and we still owe Una a dollar.

The place mats are beautiful, even though they’re a bit short on beads. Mark will give his placemats to Suzi for Christmas, and I’ll give mine to Jenny. But please don’t tell them, because the placemats are a surprise. I’m also thinking about getting Jenny another three place mats for her birthday, and maybe some milk-jug covers for our anniversary.

But for Pensioners Aid, the Fourie family would not survive. Pensioners Aid pay them a pension and give them 2 food packs a month, containing staples like flour and mealie meal, luxuries like tea and sugar, and a few extra special treats like biscuits and maybe a bar of chocolate.

I’ve not met many families as poor as the Fourie family before, but I’ve never met people more thankful for what they have. I never heard them complain, I never heard them cry, I only heard them laugh. In fact, I did all the crying. I drove away with tears in my eyes and almost hit the gatepost.

I’ve only met them once, but I love that family, especially Nancy. She is the sweetest girl, and I will do whatever I can to help her, including riding my bike to Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, starting 06.30 this Saturday from Isuzu Autoworld in Chisipite.


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)

Please be invited to come and wave us fond farewell, even though it will be bloody cold. Please accept my further apologies if it is raining. If it is raining, it is entirely Adam Selby’s fault. He promised me faithfully it never rains in June July and as I type, there is a steady drizzle outside my window. Which worries me, because Adam also promised me no crocodiles, no hippos and downhill and blue skies all the way to Swakopmund.

We will be 11 riders and 5 support team riding the 3125 kilometres to the Skeleton Coast, including 4 Australians, 1 New Zealander and 1 Switzerlander. N.B. I have no idea what people from people from Switzerland are called.

We’ve been crazy busy doing live shows on radio in between trying to figure out how to pack 120-litre kit including ample underwear, Speedos and haircare products into 90-litre kitbags and in between fetching imported athletes from the airport, and in between stressing about their missing luggage.

Best friend Pete Brodie arrived from Perth on Saturday, but not his luggage. But all is well that ends well. Turns out Pete’s luggage wasn’t actually missing. Singapore Airlines just didn’t have room for Pete and his bag on the same plane, so flew his luggage separately on the next available flight, because Pete’s luggage is huge, even though Ride Captain Adam Selby gave clear and precise instructions that we were only permitted 90 litres of kit per person max. Pete says unfortunately Western Australia still works in gallons.

One of the reasons Pete’s luggage is so overloaded is because he purchased a light-blue 1100 ml portable urinal. Someone told Pete it will be freezing cold in the Namib desert. Someone also told Pete that Captain Oates died of frostbite on way to the South Pole after exiting his tent for wee in the middle of the night. Hence the portable urinal.

But I don’t know how clever portable urinals are and am prepared to put money on a spillage accident in the middle of the night. Which might not sound a big deal, but if you are sleeping in a swag, 1100 ml of spillage represents an environmental disaster of Exxon Valdez proportions. But worrying about his street cred, Pete asked me not to mention his urinal, so please disregard the above.

You might remember I used a portable urinal on the Crocodile Tour but that is completely different. And mine was dark blue.

I worry that I am slightly underdone in terms of training. If we were to encounter any swollen rivers in Namibia, I would be across them in a kayak in a flash but am less confident of my endurance on the bicycle. Whereas the other riders have put in massive training efforts and all look to be hugely strong, apart from Alastair Watermeyer, who will only start his training on Saturday.

Swakopmund Sand Storm

To avoid arriving in Swakopmund a day behind the other riders, I’ve abandoned my normal pronounced-centre-parting hairstyle in favour a more aerodynamic and completely shaved head hairstyle. I’ve been on the bike since and must confess to being disappointed. Not only is it bloody, freezing, but my average speed has improved not one iota and I remain firm favourite to finish stone-bone-last.

N.B. Because I don’t want to arrive in Swakopmund a day ahead of the others, I’ve decided to not shave my legs like Mark Johnson. Plus, I wanted to avoid receiving abuse about my shaven legs from Howard Thompson on the radio.

As mentioned above, Mark, Howard and I were invited by Mark Pozzo to join him on his ZIFM breakfast show, easily the best breakfast show on air. Despite my attempts to divert his attention elsewhere, Howard went on and on about Mark’s silky-smooth legs. Shame.

Radio interview

So, when Poz offered me the chance to choose a song to sing along to live in the studio, to bolster Mark’s self-esteem, I chose a rap song. Because he’s from inner-city London, I thought a rap song would make him feel at home.

I went with ‘Sweat Like Coca-Cola’ by Peabod, but to tell you the truth, Mark was bloody useless. He just sat there with his cap on backwards, mouthing empty words like a guppy. He didn’t even tap his feet. I should have gone with something from Mary Poppins instead.

I almost give up on Mark but won’t, mostly because he and I have a firm Dick of the Day alliance. Under the terms of our alliance, which I’ve cut and pasted from my 14 other alliances, Mark will give me selected jelly babies on Tour, including his black ones, yellow ones, green ones, red ones and orange ones, while I will have his back coming voting. And taking win win to ridiculous lengths, Mark gets to eat his brown jelly babies, and also his beige jelly babies.

Please remember Mrs Goodman, loving mother to Chris, Brian, Floss and Alison. Mrs Goodie was a lovely lady who did so much good for so many in Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Please also remember Elcine Stafford. Big love and hugs to Gary and Josh, strength going forward and sorry we can’t be there at Elcine’s memorial on the 2nd.

And in closing, please raise your glasses to Bloodnut Curtis- soldier, hunter, legend, and a very nice man. Respect and salute, Bloodnut.

Please be invited to follow us for 31 days and 3125 kilometres on our way to Swakopmund, even though we ride slow like paint dries. And please help us help others by following the donate prompts on Facebook and on www.oldlegstour.com.

Until my next blog all the way from Kadoma, have fun, do good and 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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