To The End

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The day begins as every day for the last 3 months has begun: Emma and Mike rise just before dawn, ready to set off as soon as daybreaks. We clear up the campsite, fetch water from a borehole and drive ahead to prepare breakfast. As always, we attract attention but it is a working day, people don’t stay long, they head on to their fields.

 

After breakfast we leave Emma and Mike and drive to the coast, to Pemba. This day, the second last day, Emma ran an incredible 74 kilometres in one day.

We speak to several TV companies who say they will film Emma finishing her run. We are delighted that the stunning Avani Pemba Beach Hotel agrees that Emma can end her incredible journey across Africa on their beach.

 

The next day we wait. Emma has risen early, looking forward to finishing. Robert is waiting on the road to film her arriving at the hotel and radios to let me know she is coming. Woocash is in the middle of the hotel and I am at the end.

It’s a wonderful moment as Emma runs through the hotel: guests and staff cheer and direct her to the beach. It’s been 18 months preparation. Many hours of commitment: for Emma and Mike training and for us preparing the car, kit, logistics, support network, and sponsorship. When Emma and I first came up with this idea, everyone told us we would not survive. We accepted this as a strong possibility and were determined to go. Then, it has been 3 months on the road. There were times in the middle when it looked like the team was going to fall apart and the run would not be finished. Yet, we were all determined to see it through.

Emma runs down the wooden stairs, steps onto the beach, walks along the concrete pier and into the sea. An amazing 3974 km, in 89 days, averaging over a marathon day. She did it. We did it.

We celebrate with champagne and sweets.

*****

Day 88 distance run: 74.17 km, 46.08 miles
Day 89 distance run: 62.11 km, 38.59 miles

Number of Days: 89

Total distance run by Emma: 3974 km, 2469 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 44.7 km, 27.7 miles
(A marathon is 42.195 km, 26.219 miles)

Montepuez

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Outside the market

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Google streetview

Montepuez is vibrant with colour and sound and a beautiful back drop of  moutainous rock. It doesn’t take long to find the market under cover from the hot sun. There are stalls selling watermelon, potatoes, spinach, tomatoes. Bottles of oil hang with a beauty like liquid gold, glinting from the bands of light cutting through from the sky above. We ask someone where the internet is.

“Vamos” (Lets Go!) He says and he’s off through zig zagging paths wide enough only for one set of feet to pass through at a time.

Left, then right, then right again, then left or may be it was right; past the pharmaceutical stores, selling anti-malarials and antibiotics in the warm shade; past cloths and clothing brushing us as we go by; through the bread area and the smelly fish market; to arrive at the internet. He leaves us there.

Amazingly, we have paid more attention to our inward journey than we thought. After uploading photos to the world, we work our way backwards past the landmarks, buying food and supplies, emerging with pride into the sun.

It’s lunchtime and we are advised to try a local Somalian restaurant. The food is delicious. I highly recommend “Restaurant Jubba”.

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We head back to Emma and Mike who are looking relaxed. Robert tastes coconut for the first time.

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The next morning sees us on our way. Emma is well enough to run and determined to reach the coast very soon.

*****

For any travellers, I definitely recommend Montepuez. Possibly my favourite town of the whole journey. It’s an international town. We met Pakistani, Somali and Japanese people there.

*****

Number of Days: 86

Total distance run by Emma: 3765 km, 2339 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 43.8 km, 27.2 miles

Distance run today: 0 km, 0 miles

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

We are strange

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Mike is ill again but happily nowhere near as bad as before. He swops with Robert. Robert cycles as Emma’s support and Mike rests in the car. The day starts just before dawn.

Children here are scared of us. When we stop at a borehole the group of children sitting there jump up, grabbing the younger ones in their arms and run. At another borehole, men came running from a distance towards us, which was unnerving but they simply wanted to help. The night before we had had to move camp in the evening as local people surrounded us, curious. As the crowd grew, we felt uncomfortable. We moved a few miles down the road and found a quarry inhabited by a couple and a digger. They let us stay and were singularly uninterested in us, focused on doing their job and getting back to their country.

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Whilst preparing lunch, we are mostly left in peace, a local man stops to check everything is okay, before heading on his way. However, when Emma and Robert arrive a crowd of about 30 curious people gather.

Having lots of people watching us is not at all restful for Emma and she needs rest with the distances she is running. So, I go to speak to them in Portuguese or maybe Spanish, I’m not quite sure, I speak some sort of Spangueselish. I drag a reluctant Woocash with me: I’m not going to make a fool of myself on my own.

At first, as I approach, the younger ones hurriedly stumble back, slipping in their haste, unsure of my intentions and whether I am armed. Everyone starts to laugh which is a good start.

“Bom dia, com estas?” I politely ask.

They politely respond. Encouragingly.

Portuguese isn’t their first language either. Communicating becomes a bonding experience. They offer me words when I get stuck but sometimes I don’t understand the words they are offering. Confusion wins and giggling breaks out. Some do seem to understand me and explain the bits that make sense to the rest. I attempt to tell them Emma has run almost 50km already that day and over 3000km from Namibia, through Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi. They make suitably impressed noises at Emma’s phenomenal achievement: oohing and ahhing and hmming. I think they have understood the story so far.

I explain that Emma needs to rest for a couple of hours. Then, my language skills completely falter and I have to act out how having lots of people round us, looking at us makes us feel shy. I feel ridiculous but its kind of fun. They nod and smile understandingly. This looks hopeful or maybe they feel it is the safest option with the crazy lady. Someone asks for a cigarette and I tell them we don’t smoke. To emphasis the point I run on the spot, then pretend to smoke a cigarette and give out a spluttering cough. They laugh, Woocash laughs and I laugh. Result.

At last, it’s time to say “Obligada” and “Good Bye”. The leaders signal it is time to go to the others, tugging a few of the reluctant ones along with them. I guess they understood then. I appreciate their consideration, when it must have been tempting to stay and stare at us being strange.

Emma goes on to run a whopping 70km!

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Emma arriving at camp

In the evening, we camp near a village. An elderly villager insists that we come and stay in the village and that it isn’t safe for us to camp outside the village. He’s worried about elephants and bandits. We stubbornly stay where we are, everyone is tired and we are not up for socialising. But we appreciated his concern. The rains have started. I think it was Mike who came up with this architectural design in the photo beneath. He’s clever that way.

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*****

Number of Days: 83

Total distance run by Emma: 3640 km, 2261 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 43.9 km, 27.2 miles

Distance run today: 70.69 km, 43.92 miles

What snaps trees in the night?

Elephants! It is sometime between 3am and 4am and dark, when the first crack of a tree being broken near our tent wakes me. We are camped deep in the bush, surrounded by trees. I nudge Woocash and Robert awake (who both claimed to be awake already). Woocash, Robert and I are sleeping in the tent on top of the car, the guy ropes are tethered to the ground and the occasional tree. I really hope an elephant won’t snap a tree attached to the tent and get frightened. Emma and Mike are sleeping in Mike’s tent on the ground. We hear them get up and head to the car. Happily, they don’t step on a snake or scorpion. The car door slams on their way in. Above them, we tense a little.

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Emma and Mike were sleeping in the blue tent when the elephants came by

Knowing the risks makes no difference to the magical moment of seeing the dark shapes moving slowly around us and hearing elephants snapping, munching and making deep contented noises. We are silent and still. Eventually, the elephants move off into the darkness and we all breathe out with joy at the experience, and having come out alive.

We all get up and head onwards to the ocean. Not far now.

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*****

Day 81 distance run: 67.18 km, 41.74 miles
Day 82 distance run: 65.11 km, 40.45 miles

Number of Days: 82

Total distance run by Emma: 3569 km, 2217 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 43.5 km, 27.0 miles

Police Visit

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It rained last night and flowers are slowly coming out.

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At lunchtime, as we sat on the ground munching our dinner, two police, one with a gun and one with a baton  parked their 4×4 beside us and walked over. They were very serious. They asked us if we had a gun and told us we were in a national park where it is illegal to shoot animals.

I responded (in Portuguese) “No, I think guns are dangerous”.
The police officer agreed adding, “if you don’t know.”

The police then asked to search our vehicle. Behind and under the seats they discovered our hidden stash of tinned tuna and tomatoes. Upon finding this, I’m sure I heard a muffled giggle coming out of one of the policemen. Once they knew we weren’t poachers, I guess, they could relax.

We hope we don’t get mistaken for poachers during the night. I don’t think they would be so friendly in that case.

*****

Number of Days: 80

Total distance run by Emma: 3437 km, 2135 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 43.0 km, 26.7 miles

Distance run today: 65.75 km, 40.85 miles

A gorgeous day

 

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The rich colourful views fill up our hearts with happiness. Friendly people wave as they cycle by. As we travel, my favourite spot is on the top of the car, where I can feel the day’s warmth and see miles of trees whenever we crest a hill.

We stop for lunch, yards away from men burning the undergrowth, its a hunting technique. The flies come back crowding round our eyes and ears. I do admire them, they are tough if very tickly. However, once I put on Incognito Mosquito Repellent I don’t find them much of a problem.

After lunch, whilst the rest of the team sleep, Woocash and I take a walk through the burnt ground collecting snail shells bigger than my hand and discover strange termite mounds.

Back on the road we come across beautiful mango trees. They are not indigenous to Mozambique but they are very popular and grow well. It’s tempting to help ourselves but all mango trees belong to someone, we might be stealing from people who live on pennies.

And we pass Baboons waving at us, then we realise they are as bothered by flies as we are.

We shop for dinner, buying something in each village we pass: enjoying moments of connection with the people we meet.

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Emma on her way to running 67km, her furthest distance in one day so far. Happiness gives energy

At the end of the day, Robert cooks us his favourite dish: Sadza with fish in fresh tomato and onion sauce. Sadza is the main carbohydrate across southern Africa. It took a little while for some of us in the team to get used to the texture and flavour and if it isn’t correctly cooked it can make you ill. Robert is a master at cooking it and now we will happily eat it every day.

*****

Number of Days: 79

Total distance run by Emma: 3371 km, 2094 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 42.7 km, 26.5 miles

Distance run today: 67.28 km, 41.80 miles