Emma is ill

So close you can almost taste it” Natasha Bedingfield’s words have never felt so appropriate. Emma is days away from finishing. We are maybe 250km from the coast.

The first sign Emma is ill is at the end of day 84. Emma is in tears when we arrive to collect her and Robert in Balanga. We don’t know what is wrong. Robert is worried that it is something he has done or not done whilst he was cycling in support. Mike, being closest to Emma, takes responsibility for her care. Emma goes to bed without eating.

I know its possibly wrong to be thinking this at this moment, but as Emma was ill, she wanted to sleep in the Roof Tent, which has a comfier mattress in it. This meant Woocash and I slept in Mike’s tent. We couldn’t squash Robert in too. Its okay though, there was no rain that night so we put up the extension tent for him. Back in the tent, I couldn’t sleep for looking up at the stars, the bright sparkling sheer number of them across the sky was excitingly beautiful.

Due to not being able to camp where Emma stopped, Emma has a shorter nights rest than usual and has to be up at 3.20am so that we can drive her back ready to start running at dawn. Mike swops with Robert and goes on the bicycle. We are all hugely concerned especially as she has not had any food.


That day Emma ran a whopping 59km whilst ill.

At the end of the day, Mike calls us as Emma has gone as far as she can. She’s very tired and isn’t speaking again when we pick her up from the centre of Montepuez.

Robert, Woocash and I have found a beautiful Mission with extensive grounds, 6km out of town. The Padre has said that we can stay. We assure him we will be gone by the next morning.


We rise at 3.45 am but Emma says she cannot run that day. She has had to go to the toilet throughout the night and has barely slept. Emma has been ill before but this is the worst I have seen her yet. It’s a relief that this time she has chosen to rest. She is frustrated.

Yet again, I am struck by the timing. For the last 9 days we have been camping in the bush where we have to dig our own toilets and risk wild animals if we need to get up in the night. But here Emma can rest more easily. Its not perfect for a poorly Emma. Snakes and scorpions can still be present at night and the toilet, although pre dug, is a drop toilet. There is however, a place to shower and hand wash clothes. And solid shade on clean concrete around the sides of the building. It is an oasis from the dirt and humidity of the road. It feels like someone is looking after us again.


Having made sure Emma and Mike have everything they need and can call us in an emergency, we head to Montepuez for much needed fresh food and supplies.


Day 84 distance run: 66.22 km, 41.14 miles
Day 85 distance run: 58.85 km, 36.56 miles

Number of Days: 85

Total distance run by Emma: 3765 km, 2339 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 44.3 km, 27.5 miles

Medical Emergency #2 in the Hottest City in Mozambique

Emma and Mike are still on the road running and cycling in the heat. Tete has a reputation as the hottest city in Mozambique and we are here at the hottest time of year. The rains will be coming soon. Robert, Woocash and I are staying with the gorgeous Dora and her lovely dog, who turned out to be a total cuddle bug. Her, the dog’s, favourite thing is to sleep by the air conditioner or run about scaring passers by.

By the air-conditioner

Tete is a mining town full of busy people in colourful clothes. Skin glistens in the heat. Driving is awesome, there aren’t so much rules of the road as flowing guidelines around walkers, cyclists, motorbikes, 3-wheelers and cars. Getting cash out of the machine takes an hour and a half, with extra delays when a pretty lady charms her way to the front of the long queue, which happens several times. Heat rises from the ground and falls from the sky, Some of the queue gets a bit grumbly at the soft touches at the front. But everyone lets the pregnant lady go first. I like Mozambican culture.

On the day Emma runs into Tete, the temperature is well over 40 centigrade! She calls us at the outskirts. Mike is ill and we need to come and pick him up. We scramble at once. Illness can escalate quickly in the heat.

Once again we call the fabulous Dr. Keletso Nyathi. He thinks it could be malaria and advises we put him on a drip. None of us are confident about doing this. We have testing kits for malaria in our first aid box. Mike tests negative, Emma tests him again to make sure. We decide not to put him on a drip due to our lack of practice. Keletso accepts numerous worried phonecalls in the midst of running his practice in Namibia. Emma takes charge of looking after Mike, whilst I attempt to contact the insurance company. They are helpful but the connection is so bad they can’t understand what I am saying. It’s frustrating and worrying.

Early in the morning, I meet Emma in the hallway, Mike has been throwing up and going to the toilet all night. Emma has been looking after him throughout and looks exhausted. I call Dora and insist that Mike needs to see the Doctor immediately. Dora arranges it at once. It all takes time and Mike looks terrible. The doctor immediately puts Mike on a drip and keeps him under his care. It’s a huge relief.

One medical emergency is unlucky; two in a week is uncanny. Both at the only place where there is a doctor with all the supplies he could need. And where we had the best accommodation for the invalids to recover in. Again, I am very grateful to whatever or whoever seems to be looking after us. A huge thank you.


Day 66 distance run: 58.37 km, 36.27 miles
Day 67 distance run: 50.94 km, 31.65 miles
Day 68 distance run: 0 km, 0 miles

Number of Days: 68

Total distance run by Emma: 2796 km, 1737 miles

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


It is still possible to donate to the charities here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/EmmaTimmis
Until August 2016

Border Crossing #5 Zimbabwe to Mozambique: a medical emergency and a radio interview

Mike and Emma setting out early in the morning

Emma and Mike set off running and cycling and we drive to the border, find it and double back to make breakfast (porridge). We have to set up on the side of the road, interrupting the crowded flow of curious school children who stop and stare. Luckily, for our self-conscious selves, education holds a strong force on these children and they hurry on to school.

Emma and Mike arriving for breakfast near the border

Woocash starts behaving oddly, he keeps wandering off. It turns out he didn’t want to be sick in public. He is ill about 6 times in the hour before Emma and Mike arrive. I am deeply concerned and he has disappeared again. We could drive back to Harare where the nearest hospital is or we can risk crossing the border, hoping for no delays, and have another several hours drive to Tete. We are discussing our options, when Woocash returns saying that he is peeing blood. That is way beyond my medical knowledge but we have our doctor on call, the brilliant Dr Keletso Nyathi. (I found Keletso on the explorers connect website – if you are an explorer become a member, its superb).

Keletso is also worried: Woocash must see a doctor right away. I tell him we are about 5 hours from a hospital. Keletso tells me Woocash hasn’t got 5 hours before lasting damage could take place. I consider a helicopter. Keletso takes a deep breath and then remembers we have antibiotics in our medical supplies. They will work. Woocash must take the antibiotics, drink lots of water and then see a doctor within 24 hours. (Many thanks to doctors in the UK who gave the prescription.) I call the wonderful Dora to ask about medical facilities in Tete. She says we can see her doctor, if we get there by 5pm. No pressure then.

Crossing the border, we keep Woocash hidden in the car as much as possible and he is on strict instructions to look well when he steps into public. Emma and Mike go through easily but we, in the car, mistake a police officer for a tout. She doesn’t take kindly to this and plans to keep us there all day and night as revenge for the insult. Now is not the time. Never would be the time but now is really not the time.

Luckily, Robert has unparalleled charm skills. The lady softens and I apologise a lot. Woocash stays in the car pretending to be healthy. She lets us out to the Mozambique border. I nag Woocash to drink, which he does reluctantly, as he feels so ill.

On the Mozambican side, a rather handsome border guard helps me with the paperwork. We have half an hour left to find a secluded area for Emma to take a call from BBC Radio Manchester.  We settle outside this closed shop. An alarmed owner comes out but he is entertained by our story, allows us to stay and kindly donates two Mozambican sim cards.


Unfortunately the sim cards don’t work. Emma and Mike will now be left on their own for a few days. A police officer tells us it is 47 Celsius in Tete, where we are going. I insist on us having sim cards that work in case of an emergency, especially in that heat. This entails a 100km round trip to the nearest town and narrowly avoiding being cheated by a wily young mathematician trying his luck with the confused tourists. Fortunately, Woocash is feeling a lot better, you can see, he’s even posing for photos. The power of antibiotics and fear of missing out. The day he refuses a photograph I will get a helicopter in.


We finally arrive after many hours into Dora’s lovely cool home and I am grateful to put a poorly Woocash to bed. He gets to see the Doctor in the morning and comes back with a bag full of green and pink pills in case it is a bladder infection or bilharzia. When he has to go back a second time, the doctor gives him even bigger and more colourful pills, as it may be a prostate infection. The doctor also insists Woocash has a full investigation when he returns to the UK. Peeing blood in men is a particularly serious sign. Lesson learned: drink water in hot climates, especially when in town and there is alcohol and coffee available.

That’s enough drama for one day. However, I sincerely appreciate our good fortune or the care of whoever is watching over us, this is the only time (apart from Harare) when we are near a doctor during Emma’s run and its when we needed it.



Number of Days: 65

Total distance run by Emma: 2686 km, 1669 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 41.3 km, 25.7 miles

Distance run today: 46.48 km, 28.88 miles


Thank you Keletso for being a fantastic doctor and answering the phone straight away. Thank you Robert for charming the policewoman.
Thank you Policewoman for having a kind heart and accepting our apology.
Thank you Mozambican guard for helping me with the paperwork when everyone else was busy doing something else.
Thank you shop owner for letting us hang out on your doorstep.
Thank you teenager for helping us get a Sim card that worked and explaining why the others didn’t.
Thank you Dora for arranging for Woocash to see a doctor and letting us stay in your lovely home.

Politics and Camping

We are secretly camped beside a farm that was forcibly removed from a white Zimbabwean farmer and given to black Zimbabweans. Robert is jumpy. Acting on his advice, we are cautious.

The redistribution of farmland was set as an objective by President Mugabe in 1980, when Zimbabwe gained independence. 20 years later the process had barely started. In 2000 government supported land seizures were enforced by armed gangs of young men, these were often unexpected and violent and farmers, their families and staff were sometimes injured and killed. The most recent land seizure in the area was in 2008, just 6 years earlier. That is why we are hiding behind a thick hedge.

Robert warns us that these people can be aggressive and may think that we are trying to steal their land. He also assesses the camping spot as likely to attract a lot of snakes. Everyone is wary when we hear cars passing, becoming silent and switching off torchlights. To add a little extra adventure, I have a stomach upset in the night and 3 times have to make a dash into the darkness. Given the situation, I wake Woocash to keep me company, which he suffered with surprisingly good humour. We are happy to get off the site as quickly as possible in the morning.


Number of Days: 53

Total distance run by Emma: 2204 km, 1370 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 41.6km, 25.8 miles

Distance run today: 41.13 km, 25.55 miles

And other animals

Having Katie join Emma in the morning is great. Anything to change the routine.

Pretty (tough) in pink: Emma and Katie

It’s a long stretch of tarmac. 252 km from Grootfontein to Rundu, now another 197 km to Divundu and then 310 km to the border. It’s long and it’s a bit dull for Emma.


That night we camp on the side of the road. Literally. All along the road there are rest stops, with a tree, a table and bench seats and a couple of big bins. Up until now, we have been very careful about camping out of sight but here, there are houses everywhere we go, and this place seems the most unpopulated. It makes for a noisy night, as lorries thunder past.

Emma is ill all day the next day and it’s very worrying. Stomach upsets in Africa are serious because it is easy to dehydrate in the heat and it takes too long to get to hospital. We are 100km from the nearest clinic. Emma continues to run when most people would be dithering between the bed or the toilet.

Bad horn day
Bad horn day
From left to right: Emma, me, curious friendly people sharing a bicycle (they take it in turns to peddle), Mike
From left to right: Emma, me, curious friendly people sharing a bicycle (they take it in turns to peddle), Mike

I call a contact Andy gave me, Charlie Paxton. On the phone, Charlie asks if we are sitting under a tree having lunch. Yes we are! We have been spotted. Charlie invites us to come and camp with them that evening at Shamvura, which, if you ever get a chance, is a delightful and unusual experience. Both Charlie and her husband Mark are extremely knowledgeable about the area and animals. They educate us on current conservation techniques and issues.

I wanted to share how stick like the stick insect is. Easy to miss.
I wanted to share how stick like the stick insect is. Easy to miss.

Charlie knows a huge variety of people and reminds me of my childhood hero Gerald Durrell (who wrote “My family and other animals”). Having told us wonderful stories about her pet vulture following and doing whatever she did, including sunbathing in the pool, Charlie invited us to have a look in their bedroom to meet their pet goat. I imagine a little cuddly goat. But no, this guy is as big as me. Startled by us, he almost jumps on the chicken that is calmly sitting on a trunk. The chicken doesn’t shift a feather. The one thing that struck me most was how clean and tidy the bedroom was. I am guessing you won’t believe me but honestly, it was a clean and tidy room. I failed to ask how you train a chicken and a goat not to poop in the house.


It’s a fairly eventful time at Shamvura. Woocash wakes me up in the middle of the night as he rushes out the tent, barefoot, to throw up. On the way, there are poisonous spiders, snakes, scorpions and thorns to step on. So, in sleepy befuddlement, I find his sandals and a torch and make my to the bathroom where he’s finished by the time I get there. I have no idea how he did it in the dark.

Anyone know if this is dangerous or merely cuddly?
Spiders in the dark. Anyone know if this is dangerous or merely fluffy?

Whilst trying to leave, before dawn, a friendly horse bothers us. He’s very curious about the tent and what we are doing packing things up. He seems a bit miffed when we push him out the way.

Then it’s through the darkness of the trees and back to the road.

Number of Days: 24

Total distance run by Emma: 998 kilometres, 620 miles

Average distance run, including rest days: 41.6 kilometres a day, 25.8 miles a day.


For anyone considering staying at Shamvura, the campsite seemed great. We had a little corner to ourselves with good facilities.