Back and Forth and Unstoppable

Emma had a planned a day off in Tete, which is lucky as she has had no sleep. In addition, her shorts soaked in oil from her daily massages, are frying her legs in the sun. We take the opportunity to wash them as well as possible. Mike and Woocash are not able to support Emma, so Robert will become her companion and guard. Robert has not ridden a bicycle for years but he steps up to the challenge admirably.

At dawn, I drive Emma and Robert the mile or so to where she stopped 36 hours before. As they are about to set off a policeman arrives demanding to see I.D. and saying there will be a fine if we cannot produce them. It causes a slight delay whilst I zip back to fetch their passports. Later in the afternoon, I pick them up 60km down the road and bring them back to sleep in Tete. At 2.30am, the next morning, we drive for 1.5 hrs out the silent dark city and through the dark countryside. The sun is sending its first rays as we arrive where Emma and Robert will start their day.

Emma and Robert set off into the heat whilst Woocash and I head back to collect Mike. In the afternoon, there are some steep hills on the route and we are all wondering how Robert has coped. (We know that Emma will be fine, although I still think the hills are pretty big). Robert is exhausted when we find them and Mike discovers he has done 55km up and down hills with one of the brakes on! Mike says Alfredo, the bicycle, is misbehaving with out him. Robert and Emma are both an inspiration today.

We are surrounded by tilled fields and wondering where to put up camp when a local man, kindly, says that it is fine to park on his field and sleep there.

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*****

Day 69 distance run: 60.57 km, 37.63 miles
Day 70 distance run: 55.52 km, 34.49 miles

Number of Days: 70

Total distance run by Emma: 2912 km, 1809 miles

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

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.

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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.

 

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*****

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.

Hiatus in Karoi

We are not meant to be here already. Emotions have swirled us up and now we have transported here to take a break and discuss ourselves, or rather each other.

With perfect metaphorical timing there is a huge storm in the night, puddles form inside the extension tent. Across Zimbabwe there are power cuts and flooding. I am struck by how fortunate we are to have not been camping in the bush as, when rain comes in the tent, Emma and Mike can swiftly put up another tent under shelter on a dry surface. In addition, the next day we are able to lay our wet things out flat in the sun.

Karoi, itself is a lovely town. The market sells the most delicious honey any of us had ever tasted. And we make someone’s day when we buy lots of our fresh food supplies from them. We find an electrician who helps to fix our inverter which we are using to charge all our phones, cameras and other electrical items. At night, there are no lights along the streets, our torches pick out a snake crossing our path, gliding along focused on its business. I’m glad we didn’t step on it that would have been bad for it and us.

We sleep, eat, and take a break from each other before we meet for some honest discussion. I contact two wise people in my life for assistance. After two days, we think we have solved the issues. The team is in good spirits and singing songs as Woocash, drives rollercoaster style, back to where Emma finished running 2 days before. Stopping only when we come across a bus crash to donate food and water to the shocked passengers on the side of the road – they had been there for hours. We arrive just before the sundown, in time for us to set up camp.

*****

Number of Days: 47

Total distance run by Emma: 2056 km, 1277 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 43.7km, 27.2 miles

Distance run today: 33.48 km, 20.80 miles

*****

On days 48,49 and 50 Emma did not run, her daily average distance on day 50 was: 41.11 km, 25.54 miles

 

Two days off in Victoria Falls Town

Ah, morning. Late morning. Victoria Falls Town is small, one main road with several side streets and a market. For one wonderful hour I potter around the tourist shops. I spot a fresh fruit and vegetable store and establish that the seller will be there on the day we leave. There are no tarpaulins, a request from Mike, but there are rechargeable batteries. Victoria Falls is very expensive for tourists but Robert and Woocash go adventuring; they twist and turn through streets to end up at a real local market where prices are cheap. I kind of wish they had told me about it. With unerring skills, Robert also discovers the best place to buy chicken and sadza. Its in the petrol station.

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The Internet remains a flirtatious tease for both Emma and I. Eventually, I manage to update the blog and put money on my post office card whilst watching elephants and vultures. I like vultures. They keep the place tidy, aren’t picky about their food and look glorious gliding in the sky.

With excellent timing, my driving licence has expired. It’s a small logistical issue, I can renew it through the World Wide Web, which is awesome. (Being able to do this from Zimbabwe is somehow more amazing than from a laptop in the UK). And we will have to detour to Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, to collect it from Robert’s house, providing it arrives in time. Woocash is the only legal driver in the meantime.

Whilst emptying and cleaning the car thoroughly, this cheeky monkey ended up in the driving seat holding the steering wheel! He admires Cleopatra as much as I do. But retreated to the tree when he saw me.

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After that, Woocash went to make friends with him. I don’t think he was so keen.

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I did the biggest shop of the whole trip, as we won’t be passing any towns for 2 weeks or more. Way to much to fit in the storage trays, the extra food has to be stashed behind and under seats as if it is contraband. What are you smuggling? Tinned tuna, pilchards and tomatoes. Yummy. My speedy shopping style is destroyed at the till, after 45 minutes trying every card machine in the shop, bless the cashier. I ended up running to the nearest cash point.

We have two fantastically touristy indulgent wonderful evenings.

The Boma

If you are hungry this is the best experience. There is dressing up and dances and food and face painting and more food and dessert and more desserts and drumming. Happiness glows around our table as we munch our way through all the different flavours.

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Booze cruise and elephants

The next afternoon, we are floating on the Zambezi before the falls and we can have as much alcohol as we want. Woocash doesn’t usually drink but it’s an offer he can’t refuse, he turns out to be adorably smiley after a couple of glasses of gin. I highly recommend the cruise if you are drinker and love animals. The captain points out rare birds and we search the shores for crocodiles.

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Afterwards we head out for dinner with an amazing view of a waterhole. Suddenly, there are gasps from the diners as people realise a large tribe of elephants are present. One  walks right below our deck for a snack on the tree below us. Silently they appeared and then, slowly, their grey outlines dissolve into the night.

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And then far far too soon it’s over and it’s the next day and we are leaving and I feel like I hardly rested or saw the town. Emma is not happy as she starts the run and it is difficult to know what to do.

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Number of Days: 39

Total distance run by Emma: 1641 km, 1019 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 42 km, 26.1 miles

Distance run today: 0 km, 0 miles

And relax

1641 km! I can’t believe that we have made it this far: That we bought and fixed up a car, shipped it to Namibia, sourced kit and connections, Emma started the run and is still running and we are still all alive. A lot of me never thought this would happen. Really, truly, but I have a fear of failing and that fear drove me to make it possible. You don’t have to believe to succeed but you do have to work hard. I am not sure what is motivating Emma.

Emma runs, Mike cycles and the rest of us drive into tourist town. A kaleidoscope of colour, noise, little shops, glamorous tourists and backpackers, touts and cars. For the next 3 nights we shall be sleeping in beds, beds I tell you, with mattresses. We are all exhausted and could do with time apart. Emma is obviously much more tired than the rest of us and happy to be off her feet. I am giddy at the thought of not thinking about the rest of the team or cooking.

First, however, is the goodie bag Mum has brought from the UK. We unpack presents and letters for Emma. Emma is overwhelmed as she hears all the words of love and admiration from her friends. She’s not the only one.

There are also shiny new shoes kindly donated from family and friends, which were hugely appreciated. Then it is time for each of us to take turns soaking in the tub and getting as clean as we can, dirt has become ground into our skin. Emma and I have a lovely relaxing dinner with my Mum and leave the guys to their own devices.

Number of Days: 37

Total distance run by Emma: 1641 km, 1019 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 44.3 km, 27.6 miles

Distance run today: 49.82 km, 30.95 miles

Fetching water

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To be honest, I just love this moment and wanted to share it with you. I don’t even know why I like it so much. Possibly, I like that we are helping people out, or may be it’s the whole male only moment of men working together with boys to resolve a mechanical problem and all from different countries – the boys from Zambia, Robert from Zimbabwe and Woocash from Poland. I think that must be it.

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Did you notice the wooden pump? And the yellow containers are to be filled with water at the bore hole and then they cycle home with them. Many people don’t have bicycles and walk several kilometres a day to fill up. We often fill our water from the boreholes and don’t even need to purify it, which I find amazing as it wasn’t like that when I visited 20 years ago. But we rarely carry it more than a few yards to the car. Living as we do now, longing to be clean, makes me appreciate the easy availability of fresh clean water in the UK.

The scorched scenery in the first photo will be from fires that are set deliberately.

Emma continues her incredible achievement in a lot of pain. We are almost at the border and almost time for a rest. She keeps pushing herself to get there sooner. Mike is always by her side.

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Number of Days: 36

Total distance run by Emma: 1591 km, 988.5 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 44.2 km, 27.5 miles

Distance run today: 53.55 km, 33.27 miles

Introducing Cleopatra (in her words)

It’s a bit late for an introduction. I’ve been part of the team for over a month. …

Anyway, I am 21 years old, which officially makes me the youngest member of the team, although the way my mini person drives me, you’d think I was 80. Maybe she’s 80, I don’t know. Too old to tell the truth about her age, that’s for sure.

How did I get involved? Against my will. I was happily living a gentle life in Norfolk, trips to the seaside, taking the dog for a walk, when this mini person came along and drove me to Manchester. I feel ridiculous, I am not a city girl, I don’t have the figure for it.

I was swiftly taken to the GP for a once over. Whatever. It did make me laugh though, when my mini person had to change my tyre:

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Here we go …
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Go! Mini person, go!
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nice face, note the double chin

 

Well done mini person … I carry that around all day everyday
Well done mini person! … I carry that around all day everyday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Specialist Doctor
Specialist Doctor

 

The Cotswold way [Editor’s note: Emma’s practice run of 107 miles] was a blast. I love blatting round the country roads. It got a lot more fun after the specialist doctor, Julian, said I was indestructible. He had a proper poke and prod and called me, “Sluggish!” I’d like to see him carry four people up a hill. But, apparently, I’m to have some surgery and given new toys. Sounds good to me. I would like to be a bit speedier.

Tell you what though, that mini person has no sense of direction. I shall have to have my compass fixed or we’ll end up in Kenya. She’d get lost walking round a corner. And she doesn’t half fuss. So I dribbled a bit of green and puffed smoke on the hills. Get over it. I’m fine!

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Slacker!

The team, are alright. I didn’t appreciate Emma saying I was “too fat”.  Skinny thing. She needs more fuel, than is in her right now, to power her across Africa. Too fat! After I’ve been nice and kept the wind off her.

I'm waaiting ...
I’m waaiting …

 

 

 

That Mike, had a proper skive too, I carried him and his bike up the hill. Who’s the fatty now, eh?

 

 

 

 

They’re all fussing about wrong turns, border crossings, baddies, lions, snakes and heat. The only thing I’m really worrying about is being poked in the side by an angry elephant or if they’re dopey enough to put the wrong fuel in me. As for the rocky roads, mud and sand. I say: Bring it on!

*****

Editor’s note:

A huge thank you to Julian at Overland Cruisers for checking over Cleopatra, free of charge, and telling us everything we need to do to get her in shape.

A massive thank you to Tony for letting us buy her off you. She’s perfect.

And Mini-Max … I would not be able to do this without you.