Brenda’s Best Baobab

Brenda’s Best Baobab is a gentle giant of a tree. Wider than several people and disappearing into the sky, surrounded by a deck for tables, the Baobab stands quietly.



Upon crossing into Zambia we soon come across small shops catching attention with their delicious smells and fresh shiny fruit and vegetables. As predicted there are several banks in … but not one of them is working. “Maybe tomorrow” the locals tell me helpfully but tomorrow we’ll be miles away. I silently mourn the unattainable healthy fruit and vegetables available and decide, for the sake of team morale, not to mention that having cleared our stocks of food before crossing the border, we may be a little short for the next 5 days.

Unexpectedly, the Sesheke town rolls on and it is clear that we will not find a camping spot by nightfall, which is how we have found ourselves at Brenda’s Best Baobab, an immaculate looking campsite. But, with only 5 kwacha, we are hoping for Brenda’s generosity. Her encouraging staff usher me to her rich green lawn outside her house, where I stand scruffy, dirty and awkward.

Looking for hippos in the Zambezi at Brenda’s Best Baobab

Brenda herself is very friendly and happy to offer us free accommodation as a donation to the success of our journey. Her belief in us is yet another reason I hope we raise more money. I would show you a photo of this lady who is both the kind of person you don’t mess with and successfully puts you at your ease. However, when she got up in the early morning to say goodbye she said she was underdressed and did not want any photos going up. A friend of hers had had a photo taken when she was nursing a baby and it ended up on the internet, with the mother, someone who is normally well dressed, feeling extremely embarrassed.

Shower cubicle

Brenda kindly lets us use her kitchen and unimpressed by our dirty pots allows us to scrub the soot off the bottom of them. I also get to cook over a gas stove, I love cooking over a wood fire but a little variety and the easy cleanliness of gas makes for a nice change.

Emma is keen to get to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and have her very well earned 2 day break. She wants to start early whilst it is still dark but Brenda tells a story of a friend walking home at night from work, who was killed by an elephant. Emma agrees to wait until dawn.

with love and thanks to Brenda and the two staff members in this photo

What others have to say about Brenda’s and contact details:

Open Africa
Lonely Planet
Bradt Guide

Tel: 0963 786882

Playfulness and Poverty

Before we enter the “risk of lions” area, we come across several villages on a Saturday. We are an unusual event and an opportunity for a new experience, food, medicine and fun.

In case you can’t download the video it is very brief and shows two lovely moments that day. One when 3 adults came over to find out what we were doing when cooking lunch and then showed their support for Emma by chanting “Go, Emma, Go!” The other was when two young people, barefoot, rushed to join Emma jogging on the road. They were there for a while.

However, there are also many people begging in this area. This group of children were polite and good-natured whilst asking if we had anything we could give them. They were pleased with tins of tomatoes and delighted with the pack of cards. What inspired the young woman to place the cards just there in the photo? There are no mirrors to check out her styling or magazines in shops to stimulate her imagination? More importantly, what are her opportunities for her creativity?


 I would have liked to have got to know these children better, understood the roots of their poverty and most importantly to have found real solutions. On the return journey, I looked for them but travelling ten times faster we missed them in the blur of African landscape.  Travelling more slowly gave greater rewards.

A lady comes over to ask for medicine for a friend, the nearest clinic is a day’s walk away. We have a friendly chat and I give her a few paracetemol and rehydration sachets. This isn’t the answer. I am no doctor. I hope it did no harm.


Other moments are not so positive. A blind adult approaches with his hand on the head of a 4 yr old. It’s an uncomfortable sight and I consider whether the child is being exploited, as a passerby it is impossible to know. In some communities, disabled people find it particularly difficult to make a living. Money isn’t the answer. Not in terms of a fulfilling life, only for survival. But who am I to judge in this moment?

In the afternoon,  a crowd has collected around a bar beside the road and a drunk teenager moves towards Emma with his arms out. He doesn’t touch her, he’s simply being playful, pretending to grab the back of the car as we pass, until he gets yelled at by an adult. Frequently, dogs start barking, heading towards Emma. As long as there are adults present they keep control but these are two of the reasons Mike keeps close to Emma at all times.


Tim the Nomad in his blog explains a good response to poverty:

” … giving money does not change anything. Instead, people most often use it to buy temporary things, which too often is alcohol or drugs. Better than giving money, she said, is identifying goals. When a villager sets a goal, he or she can assess what is needed to achieve it. One goal at a time, the village discovers that they are not excluded from financial opportunity. Then, in knowing that financial opportunity is something accessible, they find something to strive for. This changes a destructive cycle of dropping out into a productive one of self-reliance. In this way, they can find independence. Instead of depending on federal or foreign aid, they can depend on themselves while maintaining the traditional foods, products, and practices that they identify with. With this financial independence comes sustainability and peace of mind.”


If you want to help make sustainable improvements in people’s lives please consider donating to the SEED Project or our fundraising page, which was the reason for doing this run and writing this blog (I hope you are enjoying it).


No of days: 28

Total distance run by Emma: 1193 km, 741 miles

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

Distance run today: 54.7 kms, 34 miles

First Radio Interview Experience

Its 7.30am: not a normal time for me to be out on a Sunday morning. London is surprisingly busy. I can’t get a seat on the Victoria line train. There are suits and ties, tourists, shorts and hoodies, little dresses. No-one speaks. Birds chatter in the early morning, humans don’t. I pass a homeless man, blended into the building scenery, having a morning cigarette.

There is a receptionist at the studios, he lets me in the glass security gates and directs me to an empty room.

The hot seat
Anybody there?

I call a number to chat to a nice man who checks the sound is working and then he tells me to wait for BBC Radio Cambridgeshire to call. And silence. I’m surprisingly relaxed or maybe still asleep.

Not my best look. Headphones carefully balanced as they were huge.
15 seconds to go to 8.15am ...
15 seconds to go to 8.15am …

At 8.15am … no-one calls.

I’m slightly concerned there is a problem but am distracted by the temptation to press buttons.

If I press something will it make a difference and can I fix it before I’m on air?

Then a lady comes on the line, I’m not sure if I’m live on the radio and stutter. But, after initial greetings, she says that I’ll be speaking to the presenter in a minute and hangs up, leaving me connected to the radio. My adrenaline soars as I listen to the music.

When the presenter, Suzie Roberts says “Good morning”, I almost fail to speak. Luckily, Marie goes first and I’m interested in what she has to say. Listening to her, I relax. Then Suzie asks me question. I respond and all other sound cuts out. I can only hear my voice whilst sitting in an empty room. Surreal. It stops you babbling though, as you have to listen to what you are saying. The questions are good and easy to answer.  Then its goodbye and silence again. I’m a bit confused. Is it over? Seems to be and off I go without ever having mentioned that the run is called Head over Heels 2014 and how you can follow us. Doh!

You can hear the interview here, Marie’s first and my bit starts at 2.50 (a huge thank you to BBC Radio Cambridgeshire for having us on the radio and being friendly): 

 Lessons Learned:

  1. Don’t repeat the question because if they cut it you can sound stupid (I didn’t learn this from the radio, I learnt it from my friend in PR who I met up with the night before)
  2. Also, I’d say don’t repeat the question because the presenter doesn’t have much time between songs so if you’re not concise you won’t get much info across.
  3. Interviews are short, its not a chat show, make sure you get the key points in quick and notice when they give you an opportunity to do this.
  4. Its surprisingly fun

All PR advice gratefully received

Have you had a radio interview? Any tips? Any funny mistakes?

Sweepstake Opportunity

Emma, the lunatic, as my housemate calls her, is going to run the Cotswold Way as a practice run. That’s 103 miles! Doing this will teach Mike and I, how (not) to annoy Emma, how to use our brand new stove, and who snores as we’ll all be snuggled up in a tent together.

Emma planning

I thought you might want to get involved too.

Of course, you are always welcome to donate through our fundraising site: which would be brilliant but I thought it would be more interesting to organise a sweepstake in your office or amongst your friends. So, we’ll be timing Emma. We will be timing her running, so lunch breaks and overnight sleeps are not included but quick snack stops etc. will be. However, if you wanted to run a sweepstake on how long it takes her, including sleeping and eating, we will be recording the time she started and the time she finishes. And then, er, if you could donate some of the sweepstake to the charities, maybe even through our fundraising page, that would be highly motivating for us and hugely appreciated by all the charities.

A little tip you might like to know:

Emma still hasn’t run more than 25 miles in a week – this fact is worrying me a lot more than Emma.

Emma is starting on 11th April


Let me know if you want to run a sweepstake on anything else, like whether I prang the car, as I may have a 4×4 by then – which is a little bigger than I am used to. My current car is a 17 year old Ford Fiesta.

And if you fancy popping by and cheering Emma on that would be fantastic (or if you want to dress up as a lion or elephant that would be even better).

Hope to see you on the Cotswold Way