With the Chief’s Permission

As we cannot find a secluded area to camp in. We stop outside someone’s house and Robert asks them if we can stay. It is fantastic having Robert with us. He knows how to approach people in a polite and respectful way: the rest of us are learning to cup our hands and clap them whilst saying “Wakadini?” which means “How are you?” in Shona. Zimbabweans are delighted and laugh at our childlike stumblings.

The homeowner tells us we must ask the Chief’s permission first. Warily, we drive on to the Chief’s house. He turns out to be a very welcoming man and insists we stay on his land. I think this is for our safety and the safety of his community if we turn out to be the bad guys.

We are settled under a beautiful tree and given a large bowl of fresh nuts as a gift. Robert tells us that we must return the gift with a plate of food. I hope they are going to like my cooking. Of course, they are too nice to say anything other than it was delicious.

Emma was up and running before we could take the photo with the Chief and his wife.

*****

Number of Days: 52

Total distance run by Emma: 2163 km, 1344 miles

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

Distance run today: 54.09 km, 33.61 miles

In the centre of the chant

This moment lifts my heart.

I am running with Emma and as we come round the corner of a hill I see a class of children let out to play. Before they spot us I can see their skittish joyful runs around their school and then they see us. Excited shouts pour out as they race towards us and surround us. Emma wants to run free, so I slow down my pace and hold my arms out, guiding them to run in line with or behind me. Unsure how to entertain them, I encourage them to sing. One of the girls looks uncertainly around her and then takes the lead with confidence. My senses are overwhelmed with their energy flowing through their voices.

I could tell you many things about this day, about crossing the Tsetse fly border or the moment the team spirit was broken when something was said that took away trust, but this is the moment I want to remember, to share with you and show how wonderful visiting Zimbabwe and meeting Zimbabweans can be.

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A headmaster kindly let us camp in his school. The toilets were full of spiders!

*****

Number of Days: 51

Total distance run by Emma: 2109 km, 1310 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 41.4km, 25.7 miles

Distance run today: 53.41 km, 33.18 miles

Dust devils of discontent

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Emotions are disturbed. Dust devils of discontent have been swirling, slowly picking up strength and pulling in all members of the team. At the same time, Mozambique, our final country, is due an election in a few weeks, and there are fears of civil war. I learn to take joy in every thing I can, whenever I can. Luckily, we are in Southern Africa – Africa is amazing.

And one of the hills that Emma & Mike determinedly reached the top of:

That night we camp round the back of a store. To do so, we must first get permission and we hunt through the village for the owner. The owner’s teenage son says we can stay. But later his Aunt comes to check who are these strange people. Children peek round the corners at us and I can’t resist walking up behind a group and saying “Boo!” They all jump and giggle.

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Sister of the owner of the shop looking dubious about our story

*****

Number of Days: 45

Total distance run by Emma: 1965 km, 1221 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 43.7 km, 27.1 miles

Distance run today: 58.46km, 36.32 miles

 

What can be hot, red, green or crunchy?

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Dawn, 5am

Water!

Apples and chocolate wafers are good crunchy textures. Not so much water.

“Water is not meant to be crunchy” laughs Woocash, shortly after he has moaned at Robert for borrowing his drinking bottle and shaking up the water. Now, he needs to let the dust and twigs and grit settle.

It’s only for a few days when we have accidentally filled up from river water. You know how that is, you imagine the tap is treated water and in fact it comes direct from the river. Assumptions can kill you. In any case, we’re not picky and we survive and mostly use it for cooking. Normally, we fill up at boreholes, which is delightfully sociable. The local children come stare at us and laugh at the strange sight. The local ladies help us out. The most embarrassing moment was today, when I got out the car and they all burst out laughing at my dirtiness.

Water from boreholes comes in different flavours and colours. At one point, we can choose between green, orange and clear water. And I am sure the iron enriched water resulted in extra energy for a few days in Emma and I.

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For cooking and washing only, we think

Today however, the water is hot. Hotter than warm, hot. It’s not a big deal for us, we have some cool water, we were just topping up, but it is a problem for the villagers. They have to wait for water to cool down before they can water their crops with it or drink it, which means that they need twice as many containers. And we are near the equator, at night it is so hot that we are all having trouble sleeping. I sit upright in the tent at times just to get some circulation. Cooling down isn’t happening very much. The villagers need a pipeline or perhaps someone clever to extract the heat from the water as energy. Hmm, maybe that’s an idea.

Emma runs on by.

*****

Number of Days: 43

Total distance run by Emma: 1848 km, 1148 miles

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

Distance run today: 57.28km, 35.59 miles

Sacred Space

Shade is hard to find in the dry season and essential for Emma and Mike to be able to rest properly. Eventually, over a hill we find this green tree near a village. Apparently, the people use it as a church and take care of the area, which is why the tree is flourishing despite the lack of rain. The head of the village says that we are welcome to rest under there. Which is pretty amazing. Being a sacred area I chose to respect that and cook and eat outside the space. We use it only for Emma to sleep under and for us to have a quiet moment sitting under the tree. I found it soothing and joyful sitting the tree and it still makes me smile remembering that moment.

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*****

Number of Days: 42

Total distance run by Emma: 1791 km, 1113 miles

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

Distance run today: 56.81 km, 35.30 miles

 

To school and back: a marathon!

3am. The young man gets up in the dark and drinks water. Without a torch or shoes he sets out into the Equatorial darkness. His way is lit by stars and the moon as he carefully navigates the dusty path, wary of snakes and scorpions. He is conscious that not long ago there were lions and elephants living in this area and there are still wild dogs hunting in packs. As dawn rises, 2 hours later, he is almost half way to his destination. School. He can speed up in the light. 20 kilometres he travels each morning, without breakfast, studies all day and then makes the return journey home, arriving late afternoon, when he can finally eat.

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This day, however, is unusual, he meets white people from countries he has never had the chance to be to, running on the road. Choosing to run more than the distance he runs to school everyday (well, only one of them). Traversing his country and continent. A luxury experience and education he cannot imagine.

It was my privilege to meet this young man and slowly realise what an incredible person he is. I had joined Emma running. I do this occasionally to keep her company and add variety. For me, it’s refreshing to be moving, to be in the environment. There is the gorgeous view of the Zambezi, cutting through the valley far below us, dust beneath our feet and Cleo is the only car. As sometimes happens, school children excitedly run alongside us. We are a novelty. They run close to Emma, but too close, almost tripping her and shouting and laughing. I drop back and try chatting. It works and they slow to my pace. They are wonderfully exuberant and great company. All on their way home from school. Robert hops out the car to run and translate their stories for me. As the children drop off to go to their homes, we are left with this last young man. He is the tired looking man in the middle of the photo.

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The conversation takes place between the padding of our feet and haltingly.

“Is it safe to travel in the dark?” I had naively asked.
“No,” He answered, “There are many animals that will bite you.”

Eventually, discovering he has little opportunity to drink water, we offer him some.

“Would you like the container? ”
“Yes” is the quick and happy reply.

Now, he has a bottle to carry water on his journey.

He exchanges contact details with Robert and we hope that SEED will be able to do something more constructive and empowering in the future. I think he would make a good employee.

Or maybe I missed a trick and he would make a great athlete. If you have the resources behind you and wanted to help this young man I am sure we could find him again.

*****

Meanwhile, Emma has continued battling with her pain to run a phenomenal distance.

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*****

Number of Days: 41

Total distance run by Emma: 1734 km, 1078 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 42.3 km, 26.3 miles

Distance run today: 51.73 km, 32.14 miles

*****

If you have enjoyed reading this, please consider making a donation to The SEED Project, a highly cost-effective charity, praised for its innovative and long term sustainable work. Or you can make a donation to our fundraising page:

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/EmmaTimmis

Donations can be accepted up until 15th August 2016.

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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