The Old Legs Tour – pedalling from Harare to Mt Kilimanjaro to raise and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners.
A lifetime ago I had a Staffy Terrier who didn’t answer to the name Fred, especially when she was chasing something, which was almost always. Fred was in hot pursuit of a too fast duiker on the Borrowdale vlei one weekend, flat out and straining every muscle in her being, when a pair of greyhounds strolled past her. Up until then, I didn’t know dogs could do looks of disbelief. Fred dug deep and found some extra few k.p.h. but they made zero difference. The greyhounds still pulled away from her effortlessly. Fred looked down to see if one of her legs had maybe fallen off but she still had all four. Whence upon dejection set in and Fred just gave up the chase. If she’d been human, after crying for a bit, she’d have demanded the greyhounds undergo urine tests.
This last weekend I found out how Fred felt. Dave decided to enter an Old Legs Team, Dave, Adam and moi in a Team Time Trial event on the Shamva Rd. It would be good practice for riding in a group he said. For extra exercise, I decided to ride the +/- 25 km to the start line for extra exercise. I set off in darkness so I’d have plenty of time. After 25 km I found out that my house to the start line is more like 37 km. In the sprint finish to get to the start on time, I rode recklessly fast, faster than was humanly possible, overtaking stationary cars and elderly pedestrians with the wind whistling through where my hair used to be. I was busy admiring my average speed readout on my Garmin when a group of guys on road bikes, also en route to the start line, swept past me like I was slowcoach Fred and they were greyhounds. I tried to accelerate but couldn’t because I was already going flat out. And because men in Lycra shouldn’t be seen crying, I pressed on to the start line with my ‘Slow and steady wins the race’ mantra in absolute tatters.
The Time Trial was 20 km straight out on the Shamva Rd and 20 km back in. Even though we were the only riders on mountain bikes, Dave was very excited about our chances. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I can’t spell competitive. Although I did almost come fifth once in an Allan Wilson Inter House hurdles race. The fifth place should have been a doddle because there were only 4 other hurdlers in the race but I had to pull out after the 2nd hurdle because of severe blood loss after kneeing myself in the nose.
We started in 3-minute intervals. Whilst waiting for our turn, Dave went over our team tactics. We’d each take turns on the front, setting the pace and shielding the others from the wind, saving up to 30% in effort. (Which in my case translates to 30% less knackered.) Dave’s job in the group is to organize. He bossed us up all the way to Cape Town reading wind direction like a wind-vane a.k.a. a cock on a pole that blows in the wind. Dave must have been an old lady in a previous life because he is very good at nagging and being bossy. Speed up. Move over to the right. Tuck in behind my wheel. Peel off. Speed up. Blah blah blah. We were moving along like a well-oiled machine, up until we were overtaken by the team that started out 3 minutes behind us. Dave and Adam’s testosterone sloshed and they sped up. Take my back wheel, Dave told me. I didn’t. Mostly because I couldn’t. His back wheel was going faster than my front one. Take my back wheel, he told me again but this time with expletives. And so I turned up the music in my headphones up louder than Dave. I have a rock band on my phone called Five Finger Death Punch for exactly those sort of occasions. To stop Dave nagging, Adam rode behind me and pushed me along. Dave was very impressed with my second wind and told me well done, keep it up. If I had any breath, I would have told Dave to expletive off.
5 kms after the turn with just 15 km left to go, the last team on road, all with bright orange shoes, passed us, still on their outward leg. Adam taunted them. Losers, you’ll never catch us he shouted. Predictably they caught us about 5 minutes later and whooshed past. Alas.
When eventually the time trial finish line appeared, my Garmin told me I’d ridden 79 km at over 25 kph. I’ve never ridden that fast for that long in my life. Now all I had to do was survive the 39 km home. I was feeling very proud until I found out the team that won the Time Trial averaged over 40 kph. Move over Fred, I want to cry next to you.
But it’s all good training for Kilimanjaro. Adam and Dave have been putting in way more hours than me and it shows. But with 4 months left, I’ve got time. All around the world, Old Legs are in training. In Australia’s hottest heatwave ever, Mark Johnson racked up 200 km plus. He’s had to buy a Camelbak because he just can’t carry enough bottles. In bitterly cold Europe, Carol Joy, Jaap and Nik have been braving subzero temperatures. In even more bitterly cold Toronto, Al briefly thought about braving some minus thirty plus but then decided against it and stayed in bed. Going forward, Jaap is off to South America for 2 weeks, in search of warm weather and altitudes above sea level. And Al sets off on a 1700 km tour en route to the Cape Argus. And my son bought me a green drink health supplement, called I Am Hulk. It tastes like crap but I expect I’ll bulge like Schwarzenegger come June 1st.
Staying in bed or on your bike is a pretty good option for Zimbabwe at this time. As I see it our only option to get out of the crap is another some kind of Government of National Unity or next stop will be a North Korean Myanmar, where Generals are king.
Whilst the beating and the raping and the shooting in Zim have stopped, things are still far from normal. After 2 weeks in prison for telling people to stay at home and not be violent, Evans Mawarire has been released on bail. He speaks of the hundreds and hundreds of men in jail with him, awaiting bullshit charges, still with broken bones yet untreated. I cannot imagine the pain. Dr Auchterlonie, Zim’s foremost neurosurgeon now in his nineties, can and went down to the holding cells beneath the Magistrates Court with his Zimmer frame to treat the broken and beaten. Mostly the soldiers used the tailgates on their issue Ford Rangers to break arms and legs. The death toll from the purge continues to rise. Just this morning, a young man called Noah Sahombe died of renal failure after he was beaten by soldiers in Mutare, just because.
The only person arrested so far for the beatings is the uniformed policeman Sky News caught on film whilst administering a beating a poor guy in handcuffs on a busy road in broad daylight. I’m thinking he’s been arrested more because he was stupid enough to get caught on film following orders. The boss cops tried to dodge the bullet by saying it was 2016 footage taken in the bad old Mugabe days but were busted as liars by the 2018 registered car in the video. So now they’re saying he was a rogue cop on suspension at the time. Whilst you might be able to beat all the people all the time, you certainly can’t fool them.
Whilst the beatings are over, for now, the repression continues. Good folk running Soup kitchens set up to feed the multitude of awaiting trial prisoners who’d otherwise starve got hassled by CIO. The head of a medical NGO treating the beaten and the broken ran away from Zimbabwe last week for fear of his life. If only they put as much effort running the country as they do repressing it. Alas.
The whole point behind Operation Restore Fear was to make people too scared to ever rise up again. It didn’t work on the lawyers who marched through the city centre last week in their gowns, calling for an end to the militarization of the judiciary. But it did work on the civil servant Unions who’ve aborted their plans for a collective job action, bar the teachers who are going it alone.
Meanwhile, we await a slew of price increases following the 250% jump in fuel prices, including possibly another fuel price increase. Apparently, the government tax component in our new fuel price is so high, the fuel companies aren’t making a margin over and above the cost of fuel and are now asking for an increase.
Rumours of the rift between Ed and the Generals continue to abound. Possibly linked to this and to get away from continued Just Crush Them advice that Generals espouse, Ed’s just formed a 20 strong advisory committee tasked with a steering a path out the pooh. It is about the only body in Zim without a retired military man on it. If there were any patriots amongst them, they’d advise Ed to confine the army to barracks, and then to reform himself out of power. Alas.
On to things more positive. In the UK, Mary Latham’s Old Legs Walks across the UK to raise money awareness for the Zim pensioners are happening. Up and coming is a 25 ml Easter Walk, destination to be advised, the 100 km London to Brighton in May and the 100 km Thames Path Challenge in September. Follow and support Mary on Facebook or better still, join her.
We are thrilled to welcome on board 2 new corporate sponsors. First up is Mukuru, the safe and secure way of moving remittances generated in Africa. And a big shout out to Brian and Shawn at the Steel Warehouse, Zimbabwe’s leading supplier of quality steel products. We look forward to flying their corporate flags on Mount Kilimanjaro, the world’s highest free-standing mountain.
But the most pertinent reminder that even in Zimbabwe life goes on and must be enjoyed at every opportunity is the arrival in May of my third granddaughter, although this one might have a penis. Grandkids are the best invention ever. Cailyn tested me on my colours on the way home from school this week.
“Eric, what colour is that blue car?”
“Good boy. What about that yellow car?”
“Good boy. How about that green one?”
“No. It’s green you silly boy. You got to try harder.”
And please help us support our pensioners if you can.
Please donate and make a difference!
In Zimbabwe, transfer to Bulawayo Help Network via their CABS Platinum Account number 1124733450 or their Ecocash merchant number 139149.
Please note that donations to Bulawayo Help Network are directed countrywide.
This week’s Swahili lesson –
Hiyo msimamo kithu in ya picha ni mjukuu wa kike’s uume.- That pointy thing in the scan is actually your Granddaughter’s penis.
Until next week, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can
Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.