To The End

DSC02693

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)

Men with Machetes!

To be fair I have seen 4 year olds with machetes. It’s an essential tool. What makes this moment special is 6 men with machetes in hand are walking towards us with serious intent. Its tricky timing as I am busy cutting onions for dinner. Emma has to be fed within 20 minutes of stopping her run for the day, I’m not sure about the reasoning for this but that is the thing that must be done. We are rushing, a little late, as we couldn’t find a good spot at the right mileage. I don’t have time now to chat to men with machetes.

Woocash and Robert are busy with the fire and setting up the campsite and get to watch their approach with rising concern. We had driven 100 metres off the road to an area of trees to hide Cleopatra but hiding a large 4×4 with a bright yellow bumper is tricky. And they probably saw us drive off the road and across the field.

DSC02653
Cleo hiding

As they arrive into our camp I turn round to greet them. It has to be me, Robert and Woocash don’t speak Portuguese. There’s a little tension in the air. After a friendly greeting, I go on to tell them why we are there, their faces relax into smiles. I guess they didn’t want to fight either.

The leader asks our names. “Woocash” says Woocash. Its caught the leader out. “Eh?” “Woocash”

“Woo… Woo?”

“Woocash” This looks like it’s going to go on for some time.

An exasperated voice behind the leader bursts out: “Woocash!” There is the definite tone of “you blithering idiot”.

I grin inside, it doesn’t matter what the culture, the emotions younger people feel at times for their elders are the same across the world.

Happily, the food is ready for Emma and Mike when they arrive. Emma has just run her furthest distance of the journey. 73 kilometres! In fact, Emma is feeling so good, she tells us to go ahead tomorrow to Pemba, to prepare for her arrival. They will be there in a couple of days!

*****

Number of Days: 87

Total distance run by Emma: 3838 km, 2384 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 44.1 km, 27.4 miles

Distance run today: 73.17 km, 45.46 miles

We are strange

DSC02536

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.

DSC02516

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!

DSC02575
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.

DSC02574

 

*****

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.

DSC02497
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.

P1080149P1080146

*****

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

WP_20141118_004

It rained last night and flowers are slowly coming out.

DSC02421

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

 

DSC02308 

DSC02295

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.

P1080106
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

Northern Mozambique

P1080100

Beautiful beautiful Northern Mozambique! A nature lover’s dream. We are on a road that doesn’t exist on our maps. Helpful locals direct us on our way. The forest is tightly packed with trees either side of us. As we come over a hill the forest stretches into the distance: mile upon mile of shades of green and splashes of red. The temperature is cooler here. There is a sense of peacefulness between villages. The road has big drifts of dust and pot holes. Further north, the forest hides lions and elephants. But we have no reason to fear them here.

DSC02276

Food is tasty and costs only pennies in the villages. We have delicious tomatoes and onions with bread and tuna for lunch. For dessert: perfectly ripened bananas and mangos.

We are all happier in this environment.

If you can, go visit this beautiful area. My heart was saddened to see majestic broad trees on the backs of trucks. Go now before the forest is gone and feel what the world was like when trees thickly covered the earth.

DSC02284
After a few yards, even Cleo becomes hidden

*****

Number of Days: 78

Total distance run by Emma: 3304 km, 2053 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 42.4 km, 26.3 miles

Distance run today: 59.32 km, 36.86 miles