We are strange

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Mike is ill again but happily nowhere near as bad as before. He swops with Robert. Robert cycles as Emma’s support and Mike rests in the car. The day starts just before dawn.

Children here are scared of us. When we stop at a borehole the group of children sitting there jump up, grabbing the younger ones in their arms and run. At another borehole, men came running from a distance towards us, which was unnerving but they simply wanted to help. The night before we had had to move camp in the evening as local people surrounded us, curious. As the crowd grew, we felt uncomfortable. We moved a few miles down the road and found a quarry inhabited by a couple and a digger. They let us stay and were singularly uninterested in us, focused on doing their job and getting back to their country.

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Whilst preparing lunch, we are mostly left in peace, a local man stops to check everything is okay, before heading on his way. However, when Emma and Robert arrive a crowd of about 30 curious people gather.

Having lots of people watching us is not at all restful for Emma and she needs rest with the distances she is running. So, I go to speak to them in Portuguese or maybe Spanish, I’m not quite sure, I speak some sort of Spangueselish. I drag a reluctant Woocash with me: I’m not going to make a fool of myself on my own.

At first, as I approach, the younger ones hurriedly stumble back, slipping in their haste, unsure of my intentions and whether I am armed. Everyone starts to laugh which is a good start.

“Bom dia, com estas?” I politely ask.

They politely respond. Encouragingly.

Portuguese isn’t their first language either. Communicating becomes a bonding experience. They offer me words when I get stuck but sometimes I don’t understand the words they are offering. Confusion wins and giggling breaks out. Some do seem to understand me and explain the bits that make sense to the rest. I attempt to tell them Emma has run almost 50km already that day and over 3000km from Namibia, through Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi. They make suitably impressed noises at Emma’s phenomenal achievement: oohing and ahhing and hmming. I think they have understood the story so far.

I explain that Emma needs to rest for a couple of hours. Then, my language skills completely falter and I have to act out how having lots of people round us, looking at us makes us feel shy. I feel ridiculous but its kind of fun. They nod and smile understandingly. This looks hopeful or maybe they feel it is the safest option with the crazy lady. Someone asks for a cigarette and I tell them we don’t smoke. To emphasis the point I run on the spot, then pretend to smoke a cigarette and give out a spluttering cough. They laugh, Woocash laughs and I laugh. Result.

At last, it’s time to say “Obligada” and “Good Bye”. The leaders signal it is time to go to the others, tugging a few of the reluctant ones along with them. I guess they understood then. I appreciate their consideration, when it must have been tempting to stay and stare at us being strange.

Emma goes on to run a whopping 70km!

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Emma arriving at camp

In the evening, we camp near a village. An elderly villager insists that we come and stay in the village and that it isn’t safe for us to camp outside the village. He’s worried about elephants and bandits. We stubbornly stay where we are, everyone is tired and we are not up for socialising. But we appreciated his concern. The rains have started. I think it was Mike who came up with this architectural design in the photo beneath. He’s clever that way.

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*****

Number of Days: 83

Total distance run by Emma: 3640 km, 2261 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 43.9 km, 27.2 miles

Distance run today: 70.69 km, 43.92 miles

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