To Grootfontein: Kit and cooking fails cause emotional downs and ups


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.

Cleo attracts a well dressed friend

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.

Emma with Garmin GPS 62S, Mitex Radio (also highly recommended) and Pepper Spray (never used as never needed) as she sets off for a few km on her own

Along the route we stay with a lovely farming family

Omega Rest camp was a little further than expected so the owners gave Emma a lift at the end of her day
Omega Rest camp was a little further than expected so the owners gave Emma and Mike a lift at the end of their day
Omega rest camp complete with BBQ, showers and very friendly and helpful owners
Omega rest camp complete with BBQ, showers and very friendly and helpful owners who let us explode our stuff everywhere

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.

Why are my arms swinging round the side? I’m meant to be running forwards. Emma, looking particularly casual.

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.

Cooking – more accurately – washing up my first attempt to cook sadza which we threw away and even a passing donkey refused to eat … nobody records my successes. Its a bit windy and we’re trying not to set fire to Namibia which is why we have windbreaks and fire extinguisher out and ready.

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.

Leaving Grootfontein

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.



Emma on training

People seem to be interested in how you train to do such a big run so I thought I’d give a little insight into my intentions and previous experience.

When I was training for the freedom run in 2011 I had a lot of other stuff going on in my life and had to squeeze in the mileage anywhere I could. That meant that most of my training was done on the canal right beside my house. A lot of the runs were pretty monotonous but pleasant at the same time as the canals are beautiful. The downfall to this was that there was little training on hills and it would appear that South Africa is not flat! The main concept behind my training was to gradually increase my distance on a daily and weekly basis until my final few weeks when I was running 100miles a week. This was pretty tough considering that six months before the start of the run I got tendinitis in my knee and had to start from running one mile at a time, if I could manage that. Overall this theory did the job and I managed to complete the run pretty unscathed. I do however feel that I overdid the training a bit and could have done less damage to my knees if I trained slightly differently. Which is what I hope to do this time.


My intentions…

This is my aim but it is only an aim. Of course I need to gradually increase my mileage as I did before but this time I hope to focus more on quality not quantity. I have less demands on my life this time so hope to get out to the Peak District more and do more full days running on trails and over hills. I’m going to try and replicate the lifestyle I will have in Africa at least once a week. I will still need to be doing my flat out and back runs along the canal which is good rough terrain training but hopefully not so much that I recognise every leaf on every tree!

Also my intentions are to try and get a yoga class in each week as I’m not so young and flexible anymore. Trying my best to look after my old body!! Also going to get more hours in on my bike. I suppose the aim overall is to not hammer the miles so much but to spend a lot of time being exposed to the elements while training.

Emma’s knees and her route requests

My mother is worrying about Emma’s knees. She hasn’t met Emma but she’s worrying about her knees and threatening to not sponsor us … I promise to allow Emma days off.

Handily, Emma turns up at the climbing wall and we can chat about the route and her knees. I discover I have been wrong about her terrain preferences.

Gravel and sand – yes, tarmac – no more than a few kilometres. She likes up hills but running downhill is bad for her … knees. How am I supposed to get her up a hill and not down? Anna, who’s listening, suggests roller skates. Perhaps we should change the challenge to 3000km uphill, then we can justify putting her on a sledge to go down.

Emma: “Can we include Kilimanjaro? I quite fancy running up Kilimanjaro.”

Me: “Are you serious?”

Emma: “Yeah”

Me: “Ok, I’ll have a look”.

Fortunately, Kili is north of northern Tanzania, I estimate an extra 1000k detour and Emma agrees to go some other time. Phew!