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.

Change of Plans

Mark is a big character warm hearted and fierce. I like him but then he is inviting us to stay, telling incredible stories and not shouting at us. These details might make all the difference. He is concerned by our route and advises we must be beyond a certain point by nightfall.

Discussing the route ahead

However, during the day we have another team meeting to resolve problems. Well, really it is about valuing the role that each person does and showing our appreciation for each other. So everyone knows how fantastic we think they are – there are tears. And we all feel wonderful but, then it turns out it hasn’t worked (which is a good lesson I will remember).

That there are problems is not that surprising. Sometimes it feels as if we are living in a submarine, cut off from friends and family AND Emma is running a marathon everyday, a phenomenal endeavour in the dust, heat, in pain and without privacy. Throw in other details such as some of the team barely knew each other before we started and that we are from 3 different cultures and I think everyone did pretty well. Emma ran 37 marathons before any hint of serious issues arose.

However, we are at this point now (54 days of marathon running): Emma and Mike will travel alone, whilst the rest of us will push publicity, sort out visas, and other logistical issues. We will meet Emma and Mike regularly to refuel with food and water. Mike will need to carry food and camping equipment on the bike. The increased weight means a change of route: off sandy tracks and onto firm asphalt. Instead of travelling straight across to Mozambique, they will head south to Harare. We will avoid the path Mark was worried about and miss out the most remote and dangerous part of the journey. Perhaps the change of plan was a good thing.

We all camp at Mark’s beautiful farm that night.

Early in the morning, Emma sets off running with only Mike on the bike beside her.




Number of Days: 54

Total distance run by Emma: 2217 km, 1378 miles

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

Distance run today: 12.84 km, 7.98 miles


Thank you Mark for welcoming us in and letting us stay at your gorgeous farm.


So… lots of people keep asking me questions about the specifics of the running side of things.  I have the answers, but I’m just not very good at expressing the answers so people probably think I don’t have a plan.  I do have a plan.  I’m just keeping it all a secret.  Only joking.  I’ll try and give you a little insight…

My running speed used to be approximately 7:30 minutes per mile.  This included training for my run across South Africa in 2011.  This was mostly because I didn’t have the time to run slower as I was too busy.  I have recently come to the conclusion that running faster is not good for me, it makes my muscles tight and causes me injuries.  The outcome: I now do all of my running at least a minute per mile slower.  I aim to always keep between 8:30 and 9:30 per mile.  This is just for my training; I am currently running between 10 and 15 miles per day.

When I am in Africa my aim is to break my day into 3 x 10 mile runs.  When things are going well and I am feeling fit (or running downhill) I want to be running at 10:30 minutes per mile, therefore each 10 mile section will take me 1 hr 35 minutes.  When things are not so great, when I’m stiff first thing in the morning, running up hill, generally feeling rubbish, I will aim to run at around 12 minutes per mile meaning that 10 miles will take me 2 hours.  If I am hoping to travel 30 miles a day then I should have a maximum of six hours running per day.  And if I take one day off of running per week then I will be running 180 miles per week.  A marathon a day adds up to 183.4 miles per week, so if I just run a few extra miles one day per week then my trip should hopefully equate to running a marathon a day.

I have spent many many hours studying the maps of the route and I have got the entire route distance to add up to 2584 miles (obviously this is probably not going to be the exact distance I will run, as I’m sure I’ll get lost at least once!).  2584 miles is equal to 98.6 marathons.  If 10 miles takes me a maximum of 2 hours to run then the whole run across Africa should take 516.8 hours of running!  According to Runners World, if I run 10 miles in 2 hours I will burn 950 calories, so I will need to take in 2850 calories per day just to cover the energy used running!  Over the distance from Namibia to Mozambique this would equate to 245,480 calories I will burn.  This is the equivalent of 1,014 bowls of white rice, 2,337 bananas or 4,909 lollipops!!!!


Wow, I got a little bit carried away writing this.  I really didn’t intend for it to go off on a tangent like that but hey ho!!  Bring on the lollipops.


Practice Run

With our team being almost complete now, we thought it might be a good idea to try and replicate each of our roles that we’ll have in Africa.  This way we will have plenty of time to iron out the problems we discover before we leave.  We had a look into trails that are already established in the UK to have a practice on.  The West Highland Way was looking like an exciting, wild and rugged trail to use but unfortunately the road doesn’t get very close to the trail often.  At a similar distance, we found the Cotswold Way (103 miles).  Apparently, the most sign posted trail in the UK, so fingers crossed the navigation should be super simple: follow the sign!

DSC00452So, on Wednesday we had our first team meeting, in which the main topic was the practice run (along with a million other things).  This was our first meeting that Mike has attended so there was lots to update him on.  We have probably completely overloaded him with information and tasks for him to get started on but he’s a good’un so I have no doubt he’ll get stuck in.  Aysha was particularly quiet for most of the meeting, this might have something to do with the snot running down her face and her lack of voice! (this is why she isn’t in the picture!) Bless her.  And I did a cracking job of supplying health snacks.

I think having a meeting, chatting about plans and throwing around ideas is always a great way to get motivated.  At least for me it is anyway.  I’ve come away from the meeting feeling overly excited just about the practice run.  I can barely contain myself when I actually think about Africa!  We’ve all got our own list of jobs that we each need to get ticked off, hopefully this has been shaped by our individual skills.  Doing this kind of challenge with a team is so incredible. I don’t know about the rest of the team but at the moment I am feeling really supported and a real sense of team spirit, which in turn makes me want to be better myself and not let them down.

Go Team Head Over Heels!!!!

By Emma