Dust devils of discontent


Emotions are disturbed. Dust devils of discontent have been swirling, slowly picking up strength and pulling in all members of the team. At the same time, Mozambique, our final country, is due an election in a few weeks, and there are fears of civil war. I learn to take joy in every thing I can, whenever I can. Luckily, we are in Southern Africa – Africa is amazing.

And one of the hills that Emma & Mike determinedly reached the top of:

That night we camp round the back of a store. To do so, we must first get permission and we hunt through the village for the owner. The owner’s teenage son says we can stay. But later his Aunt comes to check who are these strange people. Children peek round the corners at us and I can’t resist walking up behind a group and saying “Boo!” They all jump and giggle.

Sister of the owner of the shop looking dubious about our story


Number of Days: 45

Total distance run by Emma: 1965 km, 1221 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 43.7 km, 27.1 miles

Distance run today: 58.46km, 36.32 miles


The little and big things in life: flies, scorpions and huge hills

This 3 second video is definitely in my top favourite moments. It’s early morning, Emma and Mike have already set out and then these children come whirring by on their bicycles, pedalling fast down the hill that aspires to be a mountain. Calling out in that joyful way of children: “Morning!”

“Morning!” I almost sing back to them.

As they whizz into the distance, I am left with chirrups and bird noises.

It was here also that we discovered a mini but potentially lethal scorpion sleeping under our blue barrel.  These ones can put an adult in hospital and kill small children or the elderly. How do I know? Robert told me. And he knows as one stung his uncle. This article tells you more but essentially, what scorpions don’t have in pincer size they make up for in lethal injection.

Emma and Mike have to tackle huge hills up and down along this route. Some of it on a”corrugated road”, which is exactly as you would expect but probably worse, bumpy in the car and worse on a bicycle or on foot. A combination of bumps and soft sand.


Meanwhile at the less impressive end we have had flies in our eyes! Mopane flies are technically bees but then you wouldn’t be able to bond with me over a love of “Catch 22”. They are in our eyes, and ears and up our nose, busy collecting our secretions to make into honey, so Robert says. Which is amazing. I am the source of honey, I have no idea if I make good tasting honey. (Wikipedia says they are only collecting moisture but what does Wikipedia know, there’s no moisture in my ears). The little things are remarkably robust. I more than carelessly pinch them out the corners of my eyes, and they regularly stretch themselves out to fly off my fingers. However, They don’t help to make Emma as comfortable as possible. Cooking dinner is a test of my focus and inner zen. We resort to hiding ourselves in Cleopatra with the air conditioning on until it is dark and they fly home to bed.


Number of Days: 44

Total distance run by Emma: 1906 km, 1184 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 43.3 km, 26.9 miles

Distance run today: 57.77km, 35.89 miles



What can be hot, red, green or crunchy?

Dawn, 5am


Apples and chocolate wafers are good crunchy textures. Not so much water.

“Water is not meant to be crunchy” laughs Woocash, shortly after he has moaned at Robert for borrowing his drinking bottle and shaking up the water. Now, he needs to let the dust and twigs and grit settle.

It’s only for a few days when we have accidentally filled up from river water. You know how that is, you imagine the tap is treated water and in fact it comes direct from the river. Assumptions can kill you. In any case, we’re not picky and we survive and mostly use it for cooking. Normally, we fill up at boreholes, which is delightfully sociable. The local children come stare at us and laugh at the strange sight. The local ladies help us out. The most embarrassing moment was today, when I got out the car and they all burst out laughing at my dirtiness.

Water from boreholes comes in different flavours and colours. At one point, we can choose between green, orange and clear water. And I am sure the iron enriched water resulted in extra energy for a few days in Emma and I.

For cooking and washing only, we think

Today however, the water is hot. Hotter than warm, hot. It’s not a big deal for us, we have some cool water, we were just topping up, but it is a problem for the villagers. They have to wait for water to cool down before they can water their crops with it or drink it, which means that they need twice as many containers. And we are near the equator, at night it is so hot that we are all having trouble sleeping. I sit upright in the tent at times just to get some circulation. Cooling down isn’t happening very much. The villagers need a pipeline or perhaps someone clever to extract the heat from the water as energy. Hmm, maybe that’s an idea.

Emma runs on by.


Number of Days: 43

Total distance run by Emma: 1848 km, 1148 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 43.0 km, 26.7 miles

Distance run today: 57.28km, 35.59 miles

Sacred Space

Shade is hard to find in the dry season and essential for Emma and Mike to be able to rest properly. Eventually, over a hill we find this green tree near a village. Apparently, the people use it as a church and take care of the area, which is why the tree is flourishing despite the lack of rain. The head of the village says that we are welcome to rest under there. Which is pretty amazing. Being a sacred area I chose to respect that and cook and eat outside the space. We use it only for Emma to sleep under and for us to have a quiet moment sitting under the tree. I found it soothing and joyful sitting the tree and it still makes me smile remembering that moment.



Number of Days: 42

Total distance run by Emma: 1791 km, 1113 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 42.6 km, 26.5 miles

Distance run today: 56.81 km, 35.30 miles


To school and back: a marathon!

3am. The young man gets up in the dark and drinks water. Without a torch or shoes he sets out into the Equatorial darkness. His way is lit by stars and the moon as he carefully navigates the dusty path, wary of snakes and scorpions. He is conscious that not long ago there were lions and elephants living in this area and there are still wild dogs hunting in packs. As dawn rises, 2 hours later, he is almost half way to his destination. School. He can speed up in the light. 20 kilometres he travels each morning, without breakfast, studies all day and then makes the return journey home, arriving late afternoon, when he can finally eat.


This day, however, is unusual, he meets white people from countries he has never had the chance to be to, running on the road. Choosing to run more than the distance he runs to school everyday (well, only one of them). Traversing his country and continent. A luxury experience and education he cannot imagine.

It was my privilege to meet this young man and slowly realise what an incredible person he is. I had joined Emma running. I do this occasionally to keep her company and add variety. For me, it’s refreshing to be moving, to be in the environment. There is the gorgeous view of the Zambezi, cutting through the valley far below us, dust beneath our feet and Cleo is the only car. As sometimes happens, school children excitedly run alongside us. We are a novelty. They run close to Emma, but too close, almost tripping her and shouting and laughing. I drop back and try chatting. It works and they slow to my pace. They are wonderfully exuberant and great company. All on their way home from school. Robert hops out the car to run and translate their stories for me. As the children drop off to go to their homes, we are left with this last young man. He is the tired looking man in the middle of the photo.


The conversation takes place between the padding of our feet and haltingly.

“Is it safe to travel in the dark?” I had naively asked.
“No,” He answered, “There are many animals that will bite you.”

Eventually, discovering he has little opportunity to drink water, we offer him some.

“Would you like the container? ”
“Yes” is the quick and happy reply.

Now, he has a bottle to carry water on his journey.

He exchanges contact details with Robert and we hope that SEED will be able to do something more constructive and empowering in the future. I think he would make a good employee.

Or maybe I missed a trick and he would make a great athlete. If you have the resources behind you and wanted to help this young man I am sure we could find him again.


Meanwhile, Emma has continued battling with her pain to run a phenomenal distance.



Number of Days: 41

Total distance run by Emma: 1734 km, 1078 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 42.3 km, 26.3 miles

Distance run today: 51.73 km, 32.14 miles


If you have enjoyed reading this, please consider making a donation to The SEED Project, a highly cost-effective charity, praised for its innovative and long term sustainable work. Or you can make a donation to our fundraising page:


Donations can be accepted up until 15th August 2016.




Almost half way, the most challenging time

Almost half way we are treated to some of the most stunning views of the journey …

… and it is the start of the most challenging time.

There is pain and there is pain and there is running almost 1700km in 6 weeks and knowing you have another 2300km to go. After toenails have gone and your knee has swollen up and you are wondering why you are doing this. I am guessing at Emma’s thoughts but I know about her feet. I can only imagine the powerful discussion between her body and head.


At first break, I walk over to her but her focus is within herself. Sensing anger, I move away. Mike stays silently with her. He has been with her every step of the way, whilst the rest of the team have been with her only for meals, rest times and the occasional run. I am surprised at how little opportunity we have had to chat. Even in Victoria Falls, I was too busy blogging, admin, shopping, cleaning. And now, right at the darkest point, what can be done to ease her pain?


Number of Days: 40

Total distance run by Emma: 1683 km, 1045 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 42 km, 26.1 miles

Distance run today: 41.76 km, 25.95 miles





Two days off in Victoria Falls Town

Ah, morning. Late morning. Victoria Falls Town is small, one main road with several side streets and a market. For one wonderful hour I potter around the tourist shops. I spot a fresh fruit and vegetable store and establish that the seller will be there on the day we leave. There are no tarpaulins, a request from Mike, but there are rechargeable batteries. Victoria Falls is very expensive for tourists but Robert and Woocash go adventuring; they twist and turn through streets to end up at a real local market where prices are cheap. I kind of wish they had told me about it. With unerring skills, Robert also discovers the best place to buy chicken and sadza. Its in the petrol station.


The Internet remains a flirtatious tease for both Emma and I. Eventually, I manage to update the blog and put money on my post office card whilst watching elephants and vultures. I like vultures. They keep the place tidy, aren’t picky about their food and look glorious gliding in the sky.

With excellent timing, my driving licence has expired. It’s a small logistical issue, I can renew it through the World Wide Web, which is awesome. (Being able to do this from Zimbabwe is somehow more amazing than from a laptop in the UK). And we will have to detour to Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, to collect it from Robert’s house, providing it arrives in time. Woocash is the only legal driver in the meantime.

Whilst emptying and cleaning the car thoroughly, this cheeky monkey ended up in the driving seat holding the steering wheel! He admires Cleopatra as much as I do. But retreated to the tree when he saw me.


After that, Woocash went to make friends with him. I don’t think he was so keen.


I did the biggest shop of the whole trip, as we won’t be passing any towns for 2 weeks or more. Way to much to fit in the storage trays, the extra food has to be stashed behind and under seats as if it is contraband. What are you smuggling? Tinned tuna, pilchards and tomatoes. Yummy. My speedy shopping style is destroyed at the till, after 45 minutes trying every card machine in the shop, bless the cashier. I ended up running to the nearest cash point.

We have two fantastically touristy indulgent wonderful evenings.

The Boma

If you are hungry this is the best experience. There is dressing up and dances and food and face painting and more food and dessert and more desserts and drumming. Happiness glows around our table as we munch our way through all the different flavours.


Booze cruise and elephants

The next afternoon, we are floating on the Zambezi before the falls and we can have as much alcohol as we want. Woocash doesn’t usually drink but it’s an offer he can’t refuse, he turns out to be adorably smiley after a couple of glasses of gin. I highly recommend the cruise if you are drinker and love animals. The captain points out rare birds and we search the shores for crocodiles.



Afterwards we head out for dinner with an amazing view of a waterhole. Suddenly, there are gasps from the diners as people realise a large tribe of elephants are present. One  walks right below our deck for a snack on the tree below us. Silently they appeared and then, slowly, their grey outlines dissolve into the night.


And then far far too soon it’s over and it’s the next day and we are leaving and I feel like I hardly rested or saw the town. Emma is not happy as she starts the run and it is difficult to know what to do.


Number of Days: 39

Total distance run by Emma: 1641 km, 1019 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 42 km, 26.1 miles

Distance run today: 0 km, 0 miles