Jenny at Sense Africa, is clearly confused by my cluelessness. I have called her for advice but I know so little I don’t know what I don’t know. She generously gives me some in country contacts. She warns against heatstroke, land mines in Mozambique and areas of civil unrest and tells me, in response to my anxiety about lions: “If you see a lion, man-eating or not, if you’re running he’s going to chase you. Best to walk slowly backwards.” I stop planning to do the trip with a bicycle and plan, instead, on a hefty car with an experienced safari guide.
My mother offers some great advice on lions: carry dustbin lids and bash them together. I like this advice a lot, its simple, cheap and nobody gets hurt. I imagine standing in a truck, looking out for lions and at random moments crashing the lids together and scaring the life out of Emma. Not that Emma’s easily scared and its probably not a game I want to get into with her. I’m wary of spiders, heights, cows and generally most things that have a risk of death or pain. She’s not.
Stanfords is overly hot. Maps and books for Africa are in the basement. It could be the heat in the basement, but the information on the maps is making no sense at all. I collar a reluctant salesman who tells me that all the maps have a scale 1: x amount. The lower the second number, the more detailed the map. Landranger maps for the UK are 1:50 000 and Explorer Maps, used for trekking in the wilds of the UK, 1:25 000. The best I can find for Namibia is 1: 1 500 000! Easy to misjudge distances and the steepness of a mountain! On the plus side, I suppose, it does mean I get the whole of Namibia on one map, which makes for easier and cheaper planning.
Some maps have fences marked on them. I know. Are fences that permanent a structure in Namibia? Is the map that accurate? A friendlier salesman comes by. The fences are buffalo fences (and a controversial topic). He also explains that none of the maps are reliably accurate! Not reliably accurate!! I’m asking Emma to run a marathon a day but the occasional marathon might be a wrong turn!
The salesman advises that the “world mapping project” series are pretty good. Pretty good. I also buy a book on organising charity sponsored events. The nice salesman gives me a discount as I have BMC membership.
Nelles Map: Namibia £7.95
World Mapping Project: Botswana £9.50
World Mapping Project: Zambia £9.50
World Mapping Project: Mozambique/Malawi £9.50
The Ultimate Charity Challenge Handbook £0.50
Total £33.25 with discount
June: the business of making money took over and all I could do was slip in a phone call to a marketing friend of a friend, who advised me, if I want to gain sponsorship I have to see it as a business deal. I like that idea, everyone wins.
July: Inspired by Emma I went on a 10K run/walk, which is great. But, the next day, I thought I was going to die. My teeth were chattering, I couldn’t get warm, my head felt like it was imploding, and I was rocking to and fro on the floor. After a couple of texts to friends I was advised, “no, this isn’t normal after a run” … and … “its probably sunstroke, get some electrolytes down you”. Which I think is a valuable lesson before taking a friend to run marathons in very hot and sunny countries.
August: A friend agrees I can work in his garage to learn how to fix a car. Current mechanical knowledge – I can check the oil, fill up the radiator water and windscreen wash, and put air in the tyres (though for some reason I have a slight phobia about doing this).
I also discover wordpress – its beautiful and they didn’t even offer me a discount to say this. Bought the book, £14, and a map of Namibia, £6.
I read the chapter in “Traversa” about man-eating lions and start to have concerns about Emma’s run. Last time, she did it with her brother on a bicycle. I’m thinking: Lion vs two women and a bicycle. Ooh, lets guess who’s going to win! I hadn’t planned until this point to go with Emma. But now, I realise, I feel responsible for asking her to do it again. I’m going to have to go. I think seriously about what I will do if her life is in danger: I’m not relishing the thought of stepping between a lion and Emma, fab in the movies, not so fab in real life.
I find a book, “Traversa” by Fran Sandham. Its exactly the route we are thinking of crossing. Progressing towards organising the trip by simply reading, is a sheer delight. Reading is easy, a lot like saying.
Sometime back in March, Emma and I went to the Banff Mountain Film Festival. We were inspired. We went clubbing, we came home, we drank tequila and we talked about changing the world. Then Emma mentioned she’d run across South Africa a marathon a day for two months! I was gobsmacked and asked, “Would you do it again? … For a charity? And we’ll make a film of it for Banff?”. “Yeah, that’d be great.”
Such a simple conversation, so easy to say and absolutely nuts when you think about putting it into practice. I know nothing about organising a trip across Africa. I’ve never been to Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi or Tanzania. I don’t know the dangers, the languages, the cultures. I haven’t even started a camp fire for 20 years. How, how am I going to organise this?