June 18 to June 20 2023 – Day 23, 24 and 25 of the Old Legs Zanzibar Tour – from one bush camp in the middle of the nowhere Tanzania to yet another one
Again, apologies for the break in transmission due to a lack of signal and a lack of oomph. Please also note the ride stats below belong to Angus as I remain infected, but more of that later.
Sunday June 18 stats
Distance – 77 kilometers
Ride time elapsed- 3 hours 34 minutes
Total ascent – 324 m
Av heart rate – 135 bpm
Max heart rate – 163 bpm.
Temperature- 34 degrees
Monday June 19 stats
Distance – 89 kilometers
Ride time elapsed- 4 hours 24 minutes
Total ascent – 428 m
Av heart rate – 121 bpm
Max heart rate – 155 bpm.
Temperature- 34 degrees
Tuesday June 20 stats
Distance – 87 kilometers
Ride time elapsed- 4 hours 16 minutes
Total ascent – 555 m
Av heart rate – 125 bpm
Max heart rate – 165?bpm.
Temperature- 34 degrees
I am blogging to you from a bush camp 18 kilometers from the town of Nangurukuru, 300 kilometers south of Dar es Salaam.
We have bush camped for the last 8 nights on the trot. David Livingstone is the only man in history who has bush camped for longer. Famously, Bear Grylls once tried 8 nights straight camping but had to abort because he felt sick and ran out of clean underwear. Because Dr Livingstone lost his teeth, his health and eventually his life breaking camping records, the Old Legs Tour have decided to leave his record intact and will seek out accommodations complete with porcelain tomorrow.
After 8 straight days bush camping, we’re like a well-oiled machine, just without the oil. Rafe was able to collapse his pop-up tent and pack it away in under 5 minutes, plus another 5 minutes to pop it back up again to recover his Camelbak left inside the tent.
Brian and George are even far much more impressive at popping down the pop-up toilet tent. Pirouetting like berserker Morris Dancers wrestling with a cow’s prolapsed uterus, NB you can blame James Herriot for that rather disturbing analogy, they were able to collapse and bag the toilet tent in just under 9 minutes, eclipsing their previous world record by an hour. Brian firmly believes the pretty girl who pops down tents on You Tube for a living has been photoshopped.
After 8 days of long drops, my bottom and I yearn for porcelain, especially after my toilet tent collapsed along with the hole beneath me. As I lay trapped in the wreckage of the tent with pants pooled around my ankles, desperate to not fall further, Clem rushed to rescue me, with worry etched across his face. And for good reason. Clem was the design engineer in charge of toilet construction.
I am bitterly disappointed in the decline in French precision engineering. Both the Suez and the Panama Canals were designed by French engineer Dreyfus and both have stood the test of time, apart from Evergreen. Old Legs invest in not one, but two French design engineers for the Zanzibar Tour and we end up with long drop holes larger than the toilets seats above them. Alas.
Our Frenchmen might be crappy at digging long drops, but they excel at joie de vivre. They cannot pass a village football match or a roadside snooker table without joining in, often winning. Clem and Cedric have brought so much humour with them to the Tour, and so much fun. Viva la France.
Also Viva la Tanzania, just in case big brother reads this. Big brother is alive and living in Tanzania.
We weren’t 5 minutes in our bush camp outside the village of Ngwale before we received a delegation of villagers headed up by a district official, a.k.a. the political commissar. They were nice enough but very formal. They asked us a barrage of who, why, what and when questions and seemingly pleased with the answers, wished us safe travels going forward.
Not 10 minutes later, we received a phone call instructing us to report first thing on Sunday to an immigration official in the town of Liwale, despite Liwale being over 600 kilometers from the nearest border post.
Over and above a covert immigration official, Liwale also boasts a decent sized district hospital. So we decided to kill two birds with one stone, which is an unfortunate analogy considering. While the riders commenced riding, Jenny, Hanny and I would go into Liwale in the black Isuzu to jump through immigration hoops, visit the doctor, Hanny and I remain the worst infected on Tour, and look for ice.
The immigration official guy turned out to be a nice guy, and very helpful and very interested in Zim, and why we do what we do.
Next up was the hospital.
Liwale Hospital isn’t much to look at on the outside, but on the inside, it works. My doctor wore a white coat and a stethoscope and weighed me and blood pressure tested me before prescribing new go-faster antibiotics and ointments, and pressure stockings when I ride, and all of that for just 3000 shillings a.k.a. $1.28. Which makes me sick. How can Tanzania get basic health care so right when our biggest referral hospitals in Zim can’t even do bandages and paracetamols? Alas.
NB My infection has spread to my lymph system and both feet are now swollen, but already the antibiotics are starting to work. I now tip the scales at 71 kgs, down from 78 kgs. Looking on the bright side, my power to weight ratio should be excellent when I return to the saddle, provided I have some power in the first place.
Back to the bicycle part of the blog. We’ve skirted the Selous Game Reserve to the south for the last 3 days . The riders have enjoyed a riding surface that was better than expected. We were dreading sand.
Apparently, I almost saw impalas, warthogs, and ground hornbills, but didn’t. I did see some few baboons, a handsome squirrel and a splendid elephant pooh which was very fresh and still steaming.
The riders have ridden through some stunning woodland with villages and/ or small holder farms only every now and then. The bush has been that beautiful I almost begrudge the local folk their 1 or 2 hectares of half-cleared fields, but don’t. They are nice people.
We passed through a predominantly a Muslim area on the Sunday, which sounds staid and stern, but wasn’t, thanks to brightly colored burkas and vividly contrasting, full length shawls and dresses.
We’ve also encountered our first tribesmen on the Tour, including members of the M’bulu tribe, who dress like Masai but are shorter and less haughty, and carry sticks instead of spears. We also saw members of the M’sukuma tribe who would appear to mostly drive cattle for a living, and favour gum boots. Having said that, the late President Magafuli was a member of the M’sukuma tribe.
The cattle looked to be in good condition, some with almost Ankole sized horns. The cattle we saw were all branded with a real mish-mash of brands with every animal different. It turns out the herds are communal – 50 cows, 50 owners, 50 different brands, ranging from naughts and crosses to Picasso graffiti, often across the full length of the hide.
We rode through several village markets which very loud in terms of both noise and colour and make our markets in Zimbabwe dowdy by comparison.Because I ran out of clean shorts days ago, I bought a pair of designer label shorts for 5000 shillings a.k.a. $2.13. I think the designer was inspired by Rupert the Bear. Clearly he wasn’t a beer drinker, because there is no fly. My new shorts are slim-fit, especially in the front. I think they could actually be ladies shorts. But at least they are clean, briefly.
I also bought 8 fresh coconuts from a kid for 1000 shillings each a.k.a. 42 cents. I am sure I was ripped off, but am glad that I was. The thought of anyone risking life and limb climbing up trees that reach to the sky for less would have made the coconuts unpalatable. I showed the kid my appreciation by teaching him how to juggle two coconuts simultaneously.
Coconut palms aside, the trees in Tanzania are just like home, although the forests here are huge by comparison. Charcoal is less of a curse, ditto small-scale tobacco farmers and we’ve been able to camp under mnondos and masasas, mfutis and candelabra trees every night, with night apes screeching blue bloody murder above. I heard an early morning Night jar calling on the Good Lord to Deliver Us just before I fell into the toilet.
We are riding from Harare to Zanzibar to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. Please help us help them by following the donate prompts on www.oldlegstour.com.
In closing a big shout out and much love to Luca and Alexi from Pappou a.k.a. Zack.
Until my next blog from the Indian Ocean – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong
* Names and images may have been changed for privacy reasons
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