Carl Wilson rated today as his best day ever in the saddle. Which can be considered high praise indeed because Carl has spent quite some few days seated on his saddle.
The Old Legs mantra is Have Fun, Do Good and Do Epic on roads less travelled. We did epic in spades riding to Gonarezhou’s iconic Chilojo Cliffs. Standing beneath the Cliffs marveling up at their splendour is a muti for the soul and a must do. Put it on your list.
We rode 55 km today in 6 hours, through thick bush and thicker sand, through stunning floodplain vistas beneath towering Kigelias and Wild Mangoes, along side the Runde River. We rode with Hugo van der Westhuizen, the Director of the Gonarezhou Conservation Trust, a partnership between Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife and the Frankfurt Zoological Society.
It was a privilege to ride alongside Hugo through Gonarezhou, and to also Zimmerframe. I did lots of Zimmerframing today through the tough 20 km section along the top of the Cliffs, Hugo and the others not so much.
To power through thick sand, you need light hands on your handle bars and you need to transfer as much of your weight as possible to your back wheel, all the while spinning like crazy in your smaller gears.
To Zimmerframe though requires more technique. It is an extremely efficient form of exercise and allows one to turn a 20 kilometer ride into 50 kilometers of toil and allows one to explore the full width of the road whilst snowplowing briefly and out of control through both side and middle mannetjies, before employing the involuntary dismount and the Zimmerframe stride. Zimmerframing in slow motion is almost exhilarating, up there with falling off bucking broncos. Carl is hopeless and will need to work harder on his technique if he wants to become a proficient Zimmerframer.
Because he is my new best friend, and because he know how to tell carnivores and pachyderms to voetsak, I stayed close to Mike Scott, apart from when I was Zimmerframing. Mike also needs to brush up on his Zimmerframing technique.
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A successful Zimmerframer needs to be unable to multitask. Thankfully I am a natural and can’t walk and chew gum. I certainly can’t focus on riding while Hugo is pointing out lion and leopard spore on the road beneath, which allowed me to practice my wobble techniques considered by many to be the foundation of successful Zimmerframing. We never saw lions on the ride but just because I’m not paranoid, it doesn’t mean they’re not behind every bush.
As I type, lions are calling all around camp. What a sound to wake up to.
We rode alongside a stampeding herd of wildebeests, pronking herds of impalas, shy kudu and nyala. Stuart saw a ground squirrel. He said it was a great specimen but Stuart is prone to exaggeration. When we rode into our camp site in the middle of nowhere at the Malugwe Pan we found 2 elephants and 4 buffalo bulls just enjoying the mud. Marco and Judy Richards came to visit, to say hallo and to drop off bread enough for 5000 and a delicious chocolate cake baked for us by Karen Saunders. I have never seen anything get disappeared so quickly. Because some other people are pigs, I only had 4 slices. Marco and Judy’s pop-in-visit cost them a 5 hour round trip.
I rated Malugwe Pan as the best place I have ever ridden a bike to, trumping my previous best ever bike destination the night before into Rossi Pools. But then along came the Chilojo Cliffs which are next level best. Next level best pretty much sums up Gonarezhou. The Park boasts an amazing diversity of fauna, flora, and stunning, take your breath away landscapes. But no Pels Fishing Owls so far, or flowering Jacarandas or Flamboyants. I saw a pair of Great White Pelicans who were very cool. We also saw Meyer’s Parrots, Green Pigeons and our list goes on and on.
Rather than shower, I bathed in the Runde River last night. It was knee deep for a hundred meters so I didn’t have to worry about crocodiles. Thirty well mannered elephants walked past on the opposite bank and didn’t stare. I needed a bath badly after 6 hours in the saddle, the dust and the sand.
I was looking in my kitbag for some clean underpants after bathing, badly needed after today’s ride, and the thing that lurks at the bottom of the kitbag told me to expletive off, petal. I worry that it has infected the inside of our tent and both vehicles, especially Isuzu D-Max One piloted by the girls. Their car is a bloody mess and like a pair of horny honey badgers have had vigorous sex inside it, but not before trashing it in search of a condom. I have asked the girls to tidy up but they can’t. Although Vicky’s dashboard flower arrangement added a nice touch. I can’t wait to get to Bulawayo in 30 days to put on clean clothes last seen somewhere near the bottom of my kitbag. But because Stu Chalmers has pulled out of the Blue Cross, I win the Most Organized Camper and Stu’s prize money of fifty bucks to the SPCA. I would like to thank my parents blah blah blah.
Dick of the Day is heating up and continues dog eat dog. Jan Hart put in a determined trot by leaving his expensive kit strewn across Africa for others to pick up but was pipped by Vicky who burnt Jenny’s black pots black. Mark Wilson seized the overall lead last night with his second award for being a philanderer. Mark does not know what a philander is. My alliances with all the other members of the Team remain intact, apart from when I vote.
We head to Chilo today and our first and very welcome rest day before starting our Blue Cross, 500 km and more than 10,000 meters of climb from Zimbabwe’s lowest point to her highest. But first we have to get across the Save River. Stu is excited to try out the snorkel on Isuzu D-Max Two.
As you might have guessed from all of the above, my knee has stopped being wounded. I will continue the Tour on the longer Scott, until the 135 mm stem extension for the Trek arrives hopefully with the Mutare resupply. In meantime, my Trek is sulking on the trailer with bad FOMO, but not as bad as Adam Selby. Bummer dude, wish you were here.
Until my next blog from on the Blue Cross, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can
Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.
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