This is the first time I’ve really hung out with Emma and its great to discover she is one of the nicest people you can meet and she has as daft a sense of humour as me.
On Friday, we fitted in an 8 mile run round Richmond park in the dark.
It was peaceful and companionable. When the deer start to run across the road in front of us, we decided if a stag attacked us, we’d use the bicycle as a shield and hoped it wouldn’t wander off with the bike hooked on its antlers.
The adventure travel show, on Saturday and Sunday, was loads of fun. We met lots of experts in their field, passionate about their countries and jobs and technological developments. It’s a travel geek’s heaven. I’ll go into detail in later posts but inspired by the VBA I decided to give out awards:
Most supportive people award goes to Travel Africa. One of my favourite memories was walking up to the Travel Africa stall and the lady on the stall totally jumping on the story, wanting Emma to write an article and maybe some updates, and then they were incredibly helpful with advice and encouragement.
The most helpful person: frustratingly, we missed Doug McDonald’s presentation on Zimbabwe as the room was packed, so we went back the next day to speak to him. Doug, who runs a safari business, talked us through everything: which roads would be driveable; where we could camp; who we need to get permission from; and where wildlife will be a danger – in areas where elephants are hunted and shot, the elephants become fearful and will either run away or charge and kill us. When Doug said he would liaise with officials to get permission to go through certain areas, I nearly hugged him. And he had advice on how we might work with schools along the way.
Most eco-friendly product: Incognito – developed by a biochemist. It has every eco award going and it is clinically proven to be effective at deterring mosquitoes. We shall test it against midges in the summer before we go.
Most useful local titbit: goes to Drive Botswana for knowing that a particular side road in Zimbabwe is very rocky, we will get at least two punctures and its almost impossible to rescue a car if it needs towing out.
Most interesting stall that had nothing to do with us: Pangaea Exploration. These guys work in marine conservation, documenting levels of plastic in the ocean. They take volunteers if you are interested.
Most freaky piece of information: came from Charlie McGrath, from Objective Travel Safety, who told us to watch out when we pack up our tents in the morning, as snakes will slide under the ground sheet to curl up beside you for your body warmth. I’ll be honest, I didn’t believe him, but my aunt tells me that my grandfather (or somebody like that) woke up to find a cobra wrapped round his feet. I can’t imagine the fear that will shoot through me if I wake up to find a snake cuddled up with me and really hope I don’t find out.
Most encouraging talk: Leon McCarron, for a talk that was honest about the mistakes they made, which made me feel a lot better about the mistakes I will make and have made. It’s all part of the adventure. I liked his comment, “once you relinquish control, that’s where it gets really exciting.”
Then Monday morning we were up and off to Hills Balfour for a meeting with their PR team and Namibia experts. They were great. Providing us with advice and information and offering to put us in contact with the relevant people. Most of all though, it gave me the idea that I would love to make a little computer game of Emma running across africa, jumping over crocodiles and heading down dead ends. If anyone knows how to do this that would be amazing.
Afterwards, we popped into the Zimbabwe tourist board but they had gone to lunch so happily it was time to go home:
A special thank you has to go to my lovely sister-in-law for letting us dump our stuff and shower after the run, Black and Blue waterloo for delicious free food, wine and cocktails (definitely recommend them), Emma and Ross for having us to stay in their living room and cooking us a delicious roast dinner, and my nieces and nephew for hugs and love.
Total cost: including train tickets, bus and tube travel, food, show entry and accommodation (free), approximately £120 each!