To Grootfontein: Kit and cooking fails cause emotional downs and ups


The temperature has got a lot warmer bringing butterflies and jazz. Jazz is like quality dark chocolate it flows better when the temperature is hot. Emma runs alongside the Waterberg Plateau an impressive rock feature 405 square km over 850 million years old full of rare species. One day I plan to come back.

Cleo attracts a well dressed friend

However, there is a downer as both Garmin watches go blank and don’t switch on again. It’s odd that both watches have gone within a day or so of each other. Perhaps naturally, there are suspicions that it’s someone’s fault, but we don’t know why they’ve stopped or who’s fault it is – which is all rubbish for team dynamics.

The watches were hugely important as motivation for Emma and they measured the distance. Surprisingly, well to me anyway, the car, the bike and the watches all recorded different measurements.

Warning Geek Moment: Car mileage is affected by how inflated the tyres are and by the road surface. In addition, we inflate and deflate the tyres depending on the road surface.

I’m not so clear on what affects the bicycle. The watches are GPS.  Maybe the bike isn’t accurate because Mike on the bike doesn’t travel in a straight line! He’s not wobbly by nature – it’s tricky on a bike to go at jogging pace on a sandy track. Anyway, instead we try giving Emma the Garmin GPS 62S which I’d bought for the car. I imagine its not great having to run with a sat nav in your hand. Equally, I’m impressed its still working well after weeks of being in a sweaty paw swinging back and forth, out in the midday sun, and occasionally dropped. Definitely a piece of kit I’d recommend.

Emma with Garmin GPS 62S, Mitex Radio (also highly recommended) and Pepper Spray (never used as never needed) as she sets off for a few km on her own

Along the route we stay with a lovely farming family

Omega Rest camp was a little further than expected so the owners gave Emma a lift at the end of her day
Omega Rest camp was a little further than expected so the owners gave Emma and Mike a lift at the end of their day
Omega rest camp complete with BBQ, showers and very friendly and helpful owners
Omega rest camp complete with BBQ, showers and very friendly and helpful owners who let us explode our stuff everywhere

The family let us use their tools and pretty much build the shelves we needed to bring order to Cleo. Emma and I left Mike and Woocash working hard but video evidence shows that the guys at Omega Campsite did all the work. Slackers.

The nice family also gave us sausages and mince. We didn’t just take take take, happily, Woocash fixed their lawn mower. All things mechanical are fixable by a mechanic. But huge thanks to Omega Rest camp for being so generous.

Whilst Woocash and Mike were (pretending to be) busy bashing and sawing I got to cycle beside Emma as her support. Fabulous to be out the car and having a natter. It’s surprising how little we get to chat. Before I get to play, I have to cook breakfast first and when I tipped up the salt pot, the lid fell off and a whoosh of salt went in. I thought it’d be fine, I’ll put more honey, cinnamon and fruit in …

I’m going to count it as an up moment. On the grounds, everyone was happy laughing at me.

Cycling alongside Emma, we spot a large animal in the distance and can’t tell if it’s a dangerous one. We can’t get Mike and Woocash on the radio. We cautiously go closer and discover it’s … a … cow! But, you know, it could have been a lion or buffalo. An up, as we didn’t get eaten.

I also ran 1.2km with Emma that day. That’s all. It’s hot! My head feels like it is about to explode. Emma runs another 50k or so. Clearly, she’s the athlete, I’ll stick to cooking … er.

Why are my arms swinging round the side? I’m meant to be running forwards. Emma, looking particularly casual.

Lunch is delicious thanks to the donated sausages (and my expert cooking ) – fried sausages and onions with mash potatoes and pancakes (there’s no milk but water seems to work just as well). All cooked on the Ezy Stove that I am falling in love with. It’s a lot of carbohydrates to make up for the salty porridge.

Cooking – more accurately – washing up my first attempt to cook sadza which we threw away and even a passing donkey refused to eat … nobody records my successes. Its a bit windy and we’re trying not to set fire to Namibia which is why we have windbreaks and fire extinguisher out and ready.

Dinner is also pretty good:

I slowly fried the onions until soft, added garlic and cumin and Namibian special spice (I think its like a braai spice). Then mince (fried until its brown) salt and pepper, fresh tomatoes and lemon.

We don’t have a fridge so it’s protein overload. Spirits in the team are much happier after a good meal.

On 15th September we arrive in Grootfontein. It is further than expected to get there, sometimes the map distances aren’t accurate, which is a definite down as Emma seems to be in a lot of pain. We go searching for ice bags for her. There isn’t the range of products you can get in the UK. So the pharmacist kindly gives Emma ice to put on her knee. It’s good that we take a longer break than normal for lunch.

In Grootfontein, after many kilometres without one, we also manage to buy a brake calliper bolt, which is brilliant. Brakes who needs them? We do! Cleo is fat and heavy; running someone over would be rubbish. And we can fill up with diesel. Grootfontein itself is a beautiful town and feels safe and friendly. People go out of their way to be helpful and make sure we are okay.

Leaving Grootfontein

That night we camp outside town down a side road, hidden behind a sand pile … only to discover we’ve camped on a short cut to a village a few yards away. Its fine though, no-one bothers us.



Africat: a conservation island in the middle of cattle and game farms

DSC01519Africat is inspirational. Its a large farm that has been converted into a game reserve and educational centre on big cats. Its also good timing for Emma to take a break. She’s keen to get there and finishes early in high spirits.


We have a long drive from Africat’s entrance gate to their main centre. Happily.

As soon as we enter this oasis, there are antelope, giraffe,and more warthogs.

 DSC01541P1010180 P1070327

and funky chickens – these things would dash out in front of the car.

We stop so many times to take photos that the Africat team calls us to check we haven’t got lost. When we arrive,

The main hall. Isn't it beautiful?
The main hall. Isn’t it beautiful?

the first thing they do is feed us lots of cake.

Mmmm, delicious poppy seed cake
Mmmm, delicious poppy seed cake

The way to a runner’s (and her support team’s) heart is sweet carbohydrates.

As a team we can run, bike, fix cars, organise but we're rubbish at filling out forms.
As a team we can run, bike, fix cars, organise but filling out forms and we’re all confused.

The rooms are white and clean. A little overwhelming for our dirty crew. Instead of being crammed in a tent, we have a bed each!

Being utterly exhausted, the first night is most definitely for sleeping. Followed by an early morning game drive, followed by an introduction to the work at Africat, then radio, TV and newspaper interviews. We’re not here for a holiday.

View from the dining room - okay, I realise this may look like a holiday, well it is, for some people
View from the dining room – okay, I realise this may look like a holiday, well it is, for some people

Africat started with a farmer who had a problem with leopards. When he found that killing the leopards was not reducing the number of cattle being eaten, he started to study their behaviour. He set up a platform onto which only a leopard could jump. Jumping onto the platform would pull out the batteries to a clock so he would know what time the leopard appeared and would cause a photo to be taken. Clever eh?

Over time he was able to differentiate between the leopards. He discovered that leopards hunt at night and occupy territory, removing one leopard simply meant that another leopard would move in to that space.


He found simple solutions to reducing the number of attacks, he began bringing the cattle in at night and keeping calves in protected kraals. (Or, apparently, you can send a mule out with your cattle. Not sure who told me that. But mules are bad and can beat up a leopard!)

This approach of living in harmony with the wildlife, having solutions that do not involve destroying wild cats is at the heart of Africat’s work. However, in the days after, on our journey, some generous and friendly farmers (they gave us sausages, we were going to like them) felt that Africat’s solutions were no good for them. Their cattle herds were too big to bring in at night. Others, however, were fully supportive of Africat’s work, agreeing that killing or capturing leopards and cheetahs was pointless.


Clearly Africat’s educational work is successful but it needs more funding to develop their important work and make sure it is relevant to all farmers. (You can donate generously through our fundraising site  or direct to Africat UK or, if you can, go on holiday there.)


Africat also rescues animals that have been trapped by farmers.

I think the guide is trying to tempt Woocash into the trap
“Woocash, get in and help me with this end” : )

One farmer told me he had heard stories that Africat simply release the leopard on the edge of the farm but I think this is unlikely. More likely, as others discovered, if you move one leopard out another one will take over the territory. Its pretty tricky to tell one leopard from another.

In the early morning, first thing, we are given something to wake us up:

You should definitely try it : )
You should definitely try it : )

We visit young cheetahs that have been rescued and are in a small enclosure before being released into the wider farm, where they can hunt for themselves.


A photo to prove that we were really close and had little cameras only
Happy Mike
can you spot him?
can you spot the cheetah?

Once a big cat is rescued, they have to be looked after. Fenced areas have to be built and food has to be bought for them. This is very expensive, which is why, sensibly, Africat is focusing on education and understanding to resolve this human animal conflict.

DSC01589This is exactly the type of project the Head over Heels 2014 team wanted to raise money for. Managing the balance between humans and animals benefits everyone: cheetahs, for example, keep population of small animals down to levels where vegetation can grow and this affects soil erosion and the survival of cattle and larger herbivores.

After the morning game drive, Emma and I are interviewed by NBC with a cheetah relaxing in the shade in the background.


It was slightly surreal, as were some of the questions.

Whilst Emma and I are busy giving an interview on the radio, Mike and Woocash are off playing with skeletons
In case you are interested in skeletons too

Africat isn’t all about cats though. On our way in, we see one of these:

He was out for a walk with his friend …
the mongoose!
the mongoose!

A Pangolin, like an aardvark, but not. Not even related. These annoy farmers as they burrow holes. Some farmers kill them as they believe cattle break their legs in the holes they make. But Pangolins are really useful. They eat termites and a termite problem is not one that is easily solved by humans. They are also highly prized in China as a medicine to make your life perfect. That’s what we all want, a perfect life, but I think travelling across Africa without a wash for 5 days is a better way to find it. Each to their own imagination, I guess. Seems a pity to unnecessarily kill a Pangolin though.

P1070333Due to being extremely busy all day with interviews and learning about the work Africat does, we decide to take an extra day off our journey to clean, repack the car, write blogs and make use of the internet. Using the internet is a slow process in Namibia, particularly trying to upload photographs to the blog. Which would be bearable if i always load P1070402the photo I want but sometimes I wait 10 minutes to discover it doesn’t look right at all. Its very frustrating. At the end of two days we are all ready to get back on the journey. Before leaving, Emma eats her body weight in cakes and Africat send us off with a bag muffins. So yummy.


Thank you Africat for an amazing few days.

Outtakes section:

Media moment
We’ve been running, cycling, cooking and camping in a leopard area for the last week … but wild leopard’s have tastier things to eat than humans
Looks like a statue ...
Great statue …
oh, not a statue
oh! not a statue
We're whitening our teeth. Obviously. Apparently dry teeth whitens them (see skeletons)
We’re whitening our teeth. Obviously. Apparently dry teeth whitens them (you never see a skeleton with yellow teeth, do you?)
Team HOH and Cheetahs
Team HOH and Cheetahs