Into Rundu

At Samsitu Campsite we have beds, which importantly means that, despite having to get up in the night to drive back 35 km to where Emma stopped the day before, we don’t have to pack up the tent. Win. We are still up long before dawn, but get stuck at the padlocked entrance to the campsite. Doh! Mike and Woocash disappear to find someone to open it. I worry vaguely about crocodiles and snakes and the embarrassment of waking people in the night. Finally, we are on the road, it is empty except for a few people walking in the dark. I am struck by the silence.

Sun rise

As the sun rises higher in the sky more and more people start wending their way to school and to work. At breakfast, as soon as we get our porridge out, children come running. In a rush, we pack up our food and drive round the corner, where we can eat in peace in the car. But there is something I can’t put my finger on about this. We are running and hiding from children!

Later, whilst Emma is running and we are settled at a police roadblock, ready to go through together, I get chatting to a teacher who explains that we are in a very poor area and points out that many of the bins at rest points along the road are empty because children will scavenge for whatever they can. I remember how some children gasped in wonderment when they saw all our toilet paper. As a team, we have decided that we should not give away food and money and definitely no sweets. I’m against giving away sweets but I, and other members of the team, struggle with not giving away food to hungry children. It doesn’t seem right. Yes, it may only help them for that meal and it can create a culture of dependency but what are the alternatives. The SEED Project, one of the charities we are raising money for, works with communities to help them find long term sustainable solutions to their problems, this is a positive cycle, where communities better their situations and also increase their capability and belief that they can solve future problems for themselves. But there is no SEED here and we have to make a decision to do the run and hopefully raise money or, to stop and stay and do real long term work – that’s not what team members have signed up to do. I don’t even ask but it sits uncomfortably with me. I do, however, contact The SEED Project and encourage them to expand to this part of Namibia. If you know of a charity working in this region please post about them in the comments below.

Then Emma and Mike arrive and disrupt my thoughts and we are off through a police roadblock, where Emma is treated as a celebrity. The police are wonderfully friendly and call after us, “All of Namibia is proud of you.” I think Namibia may well say the same about them. The police made a good, professional, friendly impression on us.

DSC01744 DSC01747

You can never have too many photos of friendly police

I join Emma for her last couple of kms of the day as we enter Rundu, attracting friendly waves and shouts. At the finishing point, Emma stretches and a small group of children copy her movements – at least we can teach them this concept.

Rundu itself is a hot, dusty, busy town, with large supermarkets and fuel stations. We have 36 hours of shopping, cleaning, repairing and intermittent connection to the internet. Emma is happy to be on a break. I am hoping to see a hippo at the campsite.

Days 21

Total distance run by Emma: 899 km, 558 miles

People, cows, donkeys, goats, dogs …

Stopping to eat or go to the toilet has become a public event. Small children run towards us calling, “sweets, sweets”. Older ones stop and stare or join Emma running. There are people, everywhere. Every few yards there are clusters of homes. Some are neat with a sturdy fence surrounding them. Others are carelessly built, fenceless, at risk of wandering hungry cows. Cows, dogs, donkeys and goats ramble at will. Being in the second half of the dry season there are only dusty stalks of grass and spiky bushes for the cattle to eat. Through this activity the high quality tarmac road from Grootfontein cuts a straight line to Rundu: enabling cars to noisily speed and inevitably collide with innocent animals. A dead donkey and a crushed car lie on the side. Children seem to be wise and careful of the road.


First thing in the morning, one of the children from the previous evening arrives asking for food. I do not know if this is out of need or the simple joy of a gift from someone from another world. Erring on the side of caution, I give her an orange.

Children across the world go to school hungry, I have no way of knowing if she is one of them. In addition, I think my 7-year-old self would have been equally excited to have a gift from unusual foreigners. She grins with delight and bounces off, throwing and catching the orange as she goes.

For lunch, we find a quiet stop 20 yards off the road under a huge tree. Soon three 20 year olds come by, I think they are looking for a job, but stay to watch and chat while I cook. Kindly, they leave us soon after Emma and Mike arrive.

Hello! I wonder if you’ll ever find this photo of you on the internet. Hope you like it.

Whilst we are eating, in the distance a troop of small children head our way, but a swirling dust devil frightens them off. Dust devils are dangerous for children. Like a mini-tornado that arises from nowhere, stories abound that they can pick up an adult. Seriously! It’s not just an urban myth, it’s in Wikipedia. The small children don’t come back. Maybe they think we sent it. It feels like someone sent it as we get to finish our dinner almost undisturbed.

Singing school children 🙂
Group no 3, these were the guys I spent a bit of time talking to, they were really nice.

The school children are there to laugh and interact. Group no 3 are fascinated by everything and want something, anything. They don’t understand that we do need our kit and cannot easily get more. It’s a pleasure / pain experience: it’s great to connect and interact but after a while the pressure to entertain means it would be nice to have a break. Chatting to them is interesting, though, even with the language barrier. When I point out Namibia and Angola on our maps, with soft reverence they chorus, “Angola”. Many of the children are refugees displaced by the war. Clearly, their hearts long to go back.

But the team needs to rest. It takes several attempts before they will leave us. Short of an hour they are back, waking us up. We must be an exciting event, it’s not every day a woman who is running across Africa is snoozing in your field with her team and all their specialist kit. I try to distract them by showing them our leaflets about the run … then they all want a leaflet.

Explaining what the leaflet says before they all start reaching for one and calling “Me! Me!”

Emma has to give up on resting and sets off running early. The children shouting and screaming, scamper barefoot alongside her. This group drops off quickly but Emma has to deal with this frequently throughout her run. Luckily, she has Mike keeping by her at all times.

This impressive young woman ran several quiet kilometres with Emma, as she was on her way to her mother's for the weekend.
Two impressive women: one running across Africa; the other jogging for many kilometres, to go and stay with her mum for the weekend.

For the next 6 hours, there is nowhere to pee in private.

Nor can Woocash and I find anywhere to camp. Eventually, we stop outside a clean and tidy looking compound. A big friendly guy comes running up to check we are okay. When we ask him if we can stay on his land. He goes off to ask his wife. (I don’t know why it makes me smile when I write that. Maybe because he was a big impressive guy and everything he did was so cheerful.) His wife, however, is clear, “No, it is too dangerous.” They, themselves are about to leave and don’t stay there at the weekend. On his advice, we pick up Emma and Mike and head north to find a campsite.

Daylight was fading by the time we turned right onto a long dusty track to Samsitu campsite by the Okavango River. Emma and I were sure it was going to be closed. Happily we were wrong. Andy invited us to stay 3 comfy nights in beds. Hooray!

Days: 20

Total Distance run by Emma: 864 Kms, 537 miles