Inspired by Banff film festival and after a touch of tequila, Emma and I thought she should run from the west coast of Africa to the east. This is our story of dreaming up the idea, researching it, planning, training and running the distance.
By which Andy means someone has to get off the boat and step into crocodile infested waters. It’s our last evening at Samsitu and Andy and Karin have insisted we stop rushing about and writing blogs and instead enjoy an evening of relaxation on a boat on the Okavango river. Andy, the owner of Samsitu River Camp, has just been telling us stories about crocodiles catching dogs and people in the river. I think Andy is joking but no, the boat is stuck in some reeds and someone does have to get out. Woocash and Karin take their shoes off and step into the water whilst I keep a watch for crocodiles. I was once told if a crocodile gets within 10 metres of you in water, you have no chance of escape. Luckily, the crocs are busy elsewhere or their larders are full.
The whole experience is pretty amazing. It’s peaceful and beautiful. The Okavango river, at this point cuts between Angola and Namibia, which means there are moments when we are in Angola. An exciting thought.
At Samsitu we have comfy beds, running water and a huge room in which we unpack all our kit from Cleo (the car) so that we can give her a thorough clean. The open plan dining room, living room, kitchen has a table in it for about 20 people. It would be perfect for a party. The friendly bar has seats overhanging the river from which I try to spot the local hippo. Andy and Karin tell wonderful stories. Sometimes, in the rainy season, the area is so flooded that they can only use a boat to get to Rundu.
During the day we had been shopping and cleaning and other chores. Whilst Mike was finishing shelves for the back of Cleo, Emma writing her blog and Woocash fixing Andy and Karin’s car, I cooked up a tasty but time consuming lunch:
Pancakes and Tuna Wrap
Pancakes and honey
I could never make this on the road. The pancakes are made from flour, egg, water and salt. In the wrap, I put variations on request of: tuna, avocado, tomato, lemon, onion and salt and pepper.
After the boat trip, a running friend of Andy’s drops by. Katie is nice and friendly and impressed by Emma and decides to join Emma for her morning run through Rundu. This is good, Emma needs variety to keep her entertained. Andy and Karin also give us useful contacts for the rest of our route in Namibia.
The hotter climate brings more bugs and animals. Slow moving flies with teeth: attracted to warm bodies, they settle down peacefully and then without warning they bite. “Argh f…!” It’s generally a suicidal move for the fly as we smack them down with satisfaction. According to natural selection theory, these guys shouldn’t exist, they are too slow.
5 days after leaving Africat we trundle into Roy’s Camp.
Its shower time! Hooray! Clean flip flops and feet, (although, to be honest, we all seem to like not washing for 5 days and its better for our skin). Roy’s camp is an oasis with grass, a swimming pool, bar, a place for scrubbing pots and clothes, other tourists, wifi and electricity.
Cameras, computers, and radios all get plugged in and I get cracking making dinner before Emma arrives:
Tuna and Tomato Pasta
Eggy Bread with Syrup, Cinnamon and Banana
Eggs are good for runners, but Emma doesn’t like them so I’m trying out alternative ways of cooking them.
With clothes washed, team fed, and water containers filled, the wifi tempts. It’s in a quiet relaxing area under a tree. A friendly guy gives me some compliments and invites me for a drink at the bar … or his room. I’m easily flattered. But I am married to our cause (of course) and, er, in a relationship and instead stay up until 2am trying, with frustrating, occasional success, to upload photographs to the blog.
At some point the lights all go out and the people are silent in their tents and cabins. There are frogs rustling in the leaves around my chair. Snakes prey on frogs. In the distance, a yowling sound, possibly baboons or wild dogs. Antelope run silently through the camp. Not wanting to be eaten, stung or bitten without anyone knowing, I head back to our tent in the pitch black and only find our site because the bike has reflectors on it.
The next morning the alarm doesn’t go off which is bad for Emma – it means she’ll be running in the hottest part of the day and we’re getting nearer the equator.
Woocash has foolishly left his clothes drying on a rocky wall. As he lifts his underpants he discovers this little thing snuggled under them,
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.
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.
Along the route we stay with a lovely farming family
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.
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.
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.
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.