Harare!

We contact Mike and Emma regularly to check they are okay. Sometimes they whisper if it is after dark and they don’t want anyone to hear where they are. We meet them briefly in Chinhoyi before heading down to Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, to wait for them.

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They look pretty happy to me

Harare is beautiful.

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I couldn’t decide between that pretty photo or this weird one, so I gave you both:

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Robert disappears to see his family and go back to project work for a few days, whilst Woocash gives Cleopatra a health check. I find the best café with internet and spend a lot of time there: photos, blogs and contacting journalists. Luckily for us, friends of the family, Bobby and Margie, generously put us up which saves a huge amount of money. Harare isn’t cheap. As a thank you, Woocash fixes Bobby’s car and we donate some spare car parts. We do a lot of scrubbing and cleaning kit. We also give a surreal children’s TV interview. Thankfully it is live which means that it will never be seen again. Hooray!

A few days later Emma and Mike arrive:

The team takes a trip to The SEED Project’s office to catch up with Robert and meet friendly Nyasha, who is SEED’s only other full time employee . Driving through the city, Emma photographs stallholders, people start shouting and frowning at us to put the camera away, it’s an uncomfortable moment.

Emma and Mike enjoy a couple of days of rest at Joy’s lovely home. Emma fits in an interview with a journalist, from the magazine Out of Africa, who writes a beautiful article. At a delicious dinner, organised by Bob and Margie, Emma meets Mike who decides he would like to join Emma on one of her marathons. Which is great.

Water

The Water-to-Go bottles are perfect for Harare as otherwise the tap water isn’t safe to drink without being boiled. With the bottles we can simply fill up and er, go out and about on our business in the city!

Visas

We have decided to head on in to Mozambique. Last year there were civil disturbances and vehicles were attacked. But there has been nothing recently and we are avoiding areas that are considered at risk. Rumour tells us we may have to wait 3 weeks to get visas! Rumour turns out to be wrong. It is all sorted within 48 hours by a very organized and helpful lady.

Over at the Malawi embassy, Woocash has to write a letter explaining why he wants to visit Malawi. He does and the lady bursts out laughing when she reads it. We never find out why.

*****

Huge thanks to Bobby and Margie Warren-Codrington for having us to stay in their gorgeous home, loaning us essential kit and arranging for us to meet with someone from the BBC. And perhaps most of all for linking us up with the wonderful Dora in Mozambique who looked after us through two medical emergencies.

Huge thanks to Joy Peacock for having Emma and Mike to stay and for all the help and connections to journalists that you provided.

And thank you to the Specialized workshop in Harare for helping Mike out with his bike.

*****

Day 55 distance run: 56.21 km, 34.92 miles
Day 56 distance run: 52.85 km, 32.84 miles
Day 57 distance run: 53.43 km, 33.20 miles
Day 58 distance run: 32.11 km, 19.95 miles
Day 59 & 60: Rest days in Harare

Number of Days: 60

Total distance run by Emma: 2412 km, 1498 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 40.2 km, 25.0 miles

*****

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Change of Plans

Mark is a big character warm hearted and fierce. I like him but then he is inviting us to stay, telling incredible stories and not shouting at us. These details might make all the difference. He is concerned by our route and advises we must be beyond a certain point by nightfall.

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Discussing the route ahead

However, during the day we have another team meeting to resolve problems. Well, really it is about valuing the role that each person does and showing our appreciation for each other. So everyone knows how fantastic we think they are – there are tears. And we all feel wonderful but, then it turns out it hasn’t worked (which is a good lesson I will remember).

That there are problems is not that surprising. Sometimes it feels as if we are living in a submarine, cut off from friends and family AND Emma is running a marathon everyday, a phenomenal endeavour in the dust, heat, in pain and without privacy. Throw in other details such as some of the team barely knew each other before we started and that we are from 3 different cultures and I think everyone did pretty well. Emma ran 37 marathons before any hint of serious issues arose.

However, we are at this point now (54 days of marathon running): Emma and Mike will travel alone, whilst the rest of us will push publicity, sort out visas, and other logistical issues. We will meet Emma and Mike regularly to refuel with food and water. Mike will need to carry food and camping equipment on the bike. The increased weight means a change of route: off sandy tracks and onto firm asphalt. Instead of travelling straight across to Mozambique, they will head south to Harare. We will avoid the path Mark was worried about and miss out the most remote and dangerous part of the journey. Perhaps the change of plan was a good thing.

We all camp at Mark’s beautiful farm that night.

Early in the morning, Emma sets off running with only Mike on the bike beside her.

 

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*****

Number of Days: 54

Total distance run by Emma: 2217 km, 1378 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 41.1km, 25.5 miles

Distance run today: 12.84 km, 7.98 miles

*****

Thank you Mark for welcoming us in and letting us stay at your gorgeous farm.

Bush Fires

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Crackling bush fires start and grow around us, flickering high above our heads. We are parked in the middle of the dusty track waiting for Emma and Mike, Robert assures us that the fire cannot cross the road. I hop out to take a video of the fire, which suddenly swerves closer to me and Cleo, the car. I quick step back to Cleopatra and my video instead of showing the magnificent flames soaring above us, shows a crazy swerving shot of the inside of the car, as Woocash swings her around and out of harms way. Darn it.

We wait to make sure Emma and Mike get through safely. The fire swiftly dies down and makes a fool of our concern.

 

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*****

 

Number of Days: 46

Total distance run by Emma: 2022 km, 1256 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 44.0 km, 27.3 miles

Distance run today: 57.60 km, 35.77 miles

Dust devils of discontent

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

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.

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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

 

 

 

 

Fire in the distance

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Alarmingly, we see wild fires less than a mile away. However, people, cows and dogs are going about their business without looking at even those fires that are near straw huts. So, we do what everyone else does and ignore it.

Robert explains local people start fires to flush out small animals, which are caught for food. I guess Zambians are as experienced with fire as the Swiss are with snow.

With fires around, I am not keen on camping beside the road. Luckily, we are allowed to camp here under this fantastic tree which makes Cleo look like a toy truck instead of the Landcruiser with extra suspension she really is.

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Robert swiftly disappears to chat up the locals who are having a meeting about development in the area and receive some tasty meat and sadza, which I am very happy about. I still haven’t mentioned to the team the possibility we could run out of food as we don’t have any Zambian money to buy any. Why bother them?

In the night the wind gets up.

Advice Moment: When travelling in a windy place, do not take a roof tent. The wind sweeps between the layers of the tent and struggles desperately to get out, crashing the fabric up and down. At moments, shaking the whole car, I dreamily wonder if we will take off. Fortunately, Cleopatra is a big girl and all the kit inside and us on top, adds up to over a tonne so it would have to be some wind to fly us into the sky. In future, I think twice about putting a tent under a massive tree.

Nobody gets much sleep.

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Emma slowing up for Robert 😉 … Truthfully, though, Emma was in so much pain it is phenomenal that she is moving, much less running more than a marathon

Number of Days: 35

Total distance run by Emma: 1537 km, 955 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 43.9 km, 27.3 miles

Distance run today: 55.71 km, 34.61 miles