We are changing perceptions about who can do good, do epic and how one can end up creating change, but with that we need to be successful, to make sure we are doing it safely and that we are approaching the problem from the right direction. I think it’s the next step, in many ways changing young minds. We ride to have fun, do good and do epic.
Every year a group of elderly men assemble from around the world led by the infamous Eric de Jong, set out on an adventure pedaling ridiculous kilometers far away on mountain bikes to raise funds and awareness for Zimbabwean pensioners. Generations that built our Zimbabwe have had their wealth and their pensions reduced to nothing, by 30 years of economic disaster and hyperinflation. Teachers and engineers, artisans and farmers, have been left with nothing and entirely dependent upon the charity they are too proud to ask for.
So, we adventure to do good. Our inaugural tour in 2018 with a crew of 6, saw us pedal 3200km from Harare to Cape Town through the Kalahari Desert. The start of what’s known as “The Old Legs Tour.” Epic comes in the form of the oldest rider on tour Dr Bruce Fivaz at age of 71, completing the first adventure for good. The do good, raising funds and awareness of the pensioners fight for survival in Zimbabwe. With Eric’s infamous blogs, and our social media efforts, we surpassed our fundraising target beyond our beliefs and telling the world about the plight of our pensioners, a formula for good done right. Thus, we set a blue print for future endeavors. Work hard, play hard, not taking oneself to seriously. Knowing when to deliver and when to focus, to never give up and empower others to act on change.
It is difficult when you go into retirement and become a pensioner. It’s the start of a lonely journey for many, to one’s final resting place. Pensioners get shoved into retirement homes, family visits become less and they start to live a life of solitude to proud to ask for help, or reach out for company. As humans we shy away from problems, rejecting the broken, the fallen and not fit for purpose.
And so setting a benchmark for having fun, doing good, and doing epic, in 2019 we set our sights on a loftier mountain, Kilimanjaro in northern Tanzania, the world’s tallest free-standing mountain. Our roads less travelled took us through Mukumbura, once home to the world’s largest minefield, we rode the length of Lake Malawi, and Tanzania from bottom to top, pedalling 2904 kilometers and climbed an incredible 36502 meters in just 26 riding days with our senior rider Al “The Forager” Watermeyer being 70. Al has gone on to ride every tour to date and continues to define the word Epic. No one should be defined by their jobs or titles or how we are perceived by others. We are all so much more.
In the height of the Covid Pandemic 2020, with borders closed and our Namibian skeleton coast tour postponed, the Old Legs Tour set their sights right at home, riding “The Lockdown Tour” instead. 3000 kilometers around Zimbabwe’s borders and through her wildest wilderness areas. 4 cyclists pedaled through Gonarezhou, the length of the Zambezi Valley, from Chewore and through Mana Pools to the Kariba gorge. Cycling through the Matusadona and climbed the Chizarira massif, possibly the first ever, and rode through Hwange National Park. They braved lions, elephants and tsetse flies, and the Zambezi Escarpment more than once.
Cycling all corners of one’s own country opens our eyes to the beauty within. We are so quick to fly to far off places, when there is an abundance of attractions right on our doorstep. Zimbabwe’s roads less travelled is an education in itself. The people of Zimbabwe are some of the most hospitable in the world. Amidst all the troubles we are faced with, we are welcomed with arms wide open to the good that lies within. We are now known across Zimbabwe and internationally as the pensioners raising awareness for our pensioners. Our story has become bigger than us. With the communities we have reached, and within our own crews cycling 30 plus days nonstop, we have opened the doors to conversations, getting to know each other intimately forged friendships in adversity and a rekindling of what really matters.
We are on the right path to creating awareness for what really matters. As borders slowly opened up again, we set our compass north for our next tour. In 2021 after a year of lockdown, The Old Legs cautious but eagerly rode the Silverback Tour to Uganda in search of gorillas in the mists. Our route took us through Zambia’s iconic Luangwa Valley, we followed Lake Tanganyika as far as Ujiji where Stanley said “Dr Livingstone I presume.” And then onto the Impenetrable Forest where we walked with the last of the mountain gorillas. Leading them across the finish line Marco Richards along with “The Forager” both at 72 years young, set the bar for quiet courage. When crewing up a tour like this, do we find cyclists for adventure qualities or Olympic abilities? Perhaps it’s evident, courage and great team work matter more than muscle. The Old Legs Tour cyclists, for the most part all pensioners, set a precedent, regardless of age, anything is possible. And if the Old Legs Tour does anything for us, it unites us in a cause. Regardless of age, race, nationality or religion, all of us stand awe of the magnitude and power of our community, bringing us together for a cause.
Epic – “The deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures or history of a nation…” “heroic or grand in scale of nature.”
So, because times for our cause, the pensioners grow even tougher in Zimbabwe, in 2022, we undertook 2 Tours. In May we swopped bikes for kayaks and paddled the Crocodile Tour, 360 kilometers from Milibizi to Kariba through crocodile and hippo infested waters, and into the waves and against the wind, because it was more epic. Then in July, we pedaled through some of Africa’s most desolate and harshest landscapes to Swakopmund on our historical Skeleton Coast Tour. We rode through deserts bleak and harsh that even the most fit athlete would question. Even more epic was George Fletcher, our oldest cyclist, aged an incredible 82 showing us all that age is a mere number and Epic has no age limit.
As much fun as we do have and do epic in spades, we have an obligation to our elders to do good, and support them and it’s this do-good bit that get the Old Legs Tour crew out of camp in the mornings. Looking back, it’s the little things that stand out strongest. Peoples quirky habits, worried looks our moment of struggle and times of laughter that drive us to Have Fun, Do Good and Do Epic. Our resilience, courage, faith, discipline, hope, trust, humility and accountability are some of the learning benefits taught by these do-good adventures. So we continue to set benchmarks, and encourage communities to take up causes you believe in and just do good.