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 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.
Okay, agreed, this photo technically has nothing to do with the game park (although it was just outside it.) But I really liked the photo and it shows a lot of things about our life on the road. Emma running in the heat and sand. Us finding the only good tree for shade near the distance Emma wanted. Also, during lunch break, a tiny dung beetle tried to push my toe out the way as I dozed. Little feisty one.
Then we drove round the corner and discovered we are about to enter a game park in the Erongo Mountains. Its not marked on any of our maps.
The guard assures us we don’t need to worry about the rhino and elephant as they are over the other side. Emma will be fine. He says its okay for us to camp, which surprises us.
Finding somewhere to camp is tricky. We’re a little concerned about elephants coming by in the night. Elephants killed 300 people in 7 years in Kenya. African elephants are serious business. Although, humans have killed 100,000 elephants in 3 years … so, I guess, we would be more at risk if we were elephants. Still, we don’t want to be near an annoyed elephant. As a result, I move our campsite a little as it looks like its on an animal path to me. (We miss having an animal expert who would really know.)
Robert and I have decided to sleep in the car to save getting the other tent out, as we need to leave quickly in the morning. Emma, Mike and Woocash are in the roof tent. Emma’s blog post, says that all sorts of exciting things happened in the night. I slept through the lot except for the snoring.
We set off early into town, as Emma starts her first 2 hr run of the day. The bumpy roads rattle Cleo (the car) and Woocash and I argue over whether it is better to go fast and skim over the top or drive slowly and boing up and down more. I want to travel as fast as possible as I worry about Emma and Mike.
We drop off Robert and head back as soon as we can. We return to find Emma and Mike alive and zipping along. Emma’s ability is phenomenal. When they join us Mike asks if a bolt he spotted in the road is important to Cleo. Amazing eyesight and luck. Its for the rear brake calliper! Bouncing along has serious consequences. Woocash instantly gets under the car.
Two bolts have fallen out. We are still missing one and will need to sort that out as soon as possible (several hundred kilometers later).
At the end of the game park, the very friendly game park guard dances with us and joins us for a photo. Special moments that make the journey.
We encounter more friendliness that evening when we find a lay-by to park in. A man and his digger/road flattener are already there. He only speaks portuguese so we send Woocash (Polish speaker), as Emma suggests they might speak international english. Sure enough, Woocash comes back to tell us Frantz has no problem with us staying and even offered to flatten an area for us. Later, Frantz generously sends over some wood for our fire.