Police Visit

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It rained last night and flowers are slowly coming out.

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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

Running across Africa – blog 1

Sorry it has taken so long to get this first blog out there, as I’m sure you can imagine I have been quite tired and not been able to find time in amongst the hectic life of running and sleeping! And, I’m sure you can understand, internet access in the middle of nowhere is not so easy to find.  I have decided to keep it quite simple and show you the distance run each day and some highs and lows from my diary. I don’t have much experience of writing blogs so this may not be the best way to do it but I can adapt it the next time perhaps.

Day 1 – 37.70km

I wanted this trip to be coast to coast so I literally started in the sea at Henties Bay. The whole team got in the sea and we all had lots of childish fun and giggles, splashing around. The energy was great, a real sense of the journey beginning. The environment is real desert, you can see for miles, nothing but a flat horizon and sandy, sandy ground. Not easy running. I managed to pull my left quad while attempting to stretch, good start to the trip. We set up our camp on a puff adder’s home which was a nice surprise for us all!

Day 2 – 45.08km

Woke up in a soaked sleeping bag, delightful. There is a lot of moisture in our tent considering we are in the desert. Morning running was cold but extremely refreshing. The air outside was also really wet, my face was dripping as I ran. Legs: seriously stiff. As soon as the sun came up the mist lifted and I felt like a new woman bounding along. This was ruined after breakfast when the wind was directly in my face for the rest of the day, the sand was deep and the sun blistering. Aaagh! Seriously tight calves.DSC01270

Day 3 – 46.36km

Ran through Spitskoppe, this place is stunning. Huge, towering boulders surrounded us for miles around. We noticed some routes were bolted, and there were chalk marks, no climbers to be seen though. Would be great to return and climb here. The running got really hard after breakfast. Hot, sandy, windy. I had drunk plenty of water but hadn’t had any salt today and suddenly I felt horrendous. Mike was a hero and set up a shelter for me within seconds. I lay down, ate a Clif Bar, dozed off for ten minutes and woke up feeling perfect again. In the evening I studied the maps closer than I had before and decided that to get the best route I should back-track 7km which is slightly annoying but would be best overall.

Day 4 – 42.17km

Running today would have been perfect if it wasn’t for my right knee that had been hurting for a day at least. I am feeling acclimatized and energetic but just in pain. In the evening we thought we might get attacked by bandits. As we were sorting things out in our camp, which was hidden in some bush-land, what sounded like two men on horses came down the road noisily. They stopped alongside our camp, got off there horses and walked into to bush towards us. We switched off our lights and stood in silence. A car came along, there was some chatting and the horses went. It sounded like the men were still by the camp though. After some time of being stood in silence we decided we were being daft and we should just pack up quickly and go to sleep. Me and Mike slept in our separate two-man tent and the others slept in the car as they were leaving at 4am to sort visas. Once everybody was in bed, me and Mike heard footsteps outside our tent, without saying anything we prepared ourselves for danger. Mike lay with a knife in his hand and I held the pepper spray. Just silence. Again, after some time of laying there we felt stupid so decided sleeping was a better idea. We are still alive.

Day 5 – 46.59km

Aysha and Woocash left with Robert at 04:00 so they could take him for his visa run. My knee felt really stiff this morning, again, this was annoying as I otherwise felt on top form. I had a good day running. Robert returned with the bad news that his visa could not be extended so he must leave us tomorrow but will hopefully return as soon as he can. We slept in a rhino and elephant reserve this evening. Aysha and Robert slept in the car and I slept in the rooftop tent with Woocash and Mike. At about midnight I felt the tent rocking and woke up. The boys unbelievably slept straight through. There was the sound of an animal trotting down the road a short distance and then returning to the car. It would scrape at the floor with a foot, give a little grunt and then nudge the car which was causing the tent to rock. It would move around the car and do the same again. This continued for at least half an hour. The boys just kept sleeping. I felt like an orchestra conductor giving each of them a small prod every time their snoring began to reach a croshendo. I am hoping that our visitor was a rhino but i’ll never know. Whoever it was they took Mike’s smelly flip flops as a souvenir.

Day 6 – 38.00km

Half way through my first running session today I suddenly felt crippled. My knee that had been causing me some problems seized up and it was excruciating to move. I could barely walk let alone run. I was doubled over in agony, the kind of pain that makes you feel like you might vomit. This was terrible. I felt so annoyed with myself. I was just hoping that continuing to run on a bad knee hadn’t made it worse. I slowly started to jog and as I got warmed up it eased off but each time I stopped it would go back to being stiff again. This is frustrating as it’s so hot that I need to stop to hydrate otherwise I’d have a whole load of other problems. I decided to have an easier day and lowered my mileage. I also changed my stretching routine which will hopefully help.

Day 7 – 48.57km

All four of us slept in the tent last night, this is overcapacity I think as I woke up with condensation dripping on my head and my sleeping bag soaked, delightful. Had a good days running though I was worried about my knee but it seemed to be holding up. We had been running through a hunting area all day which apparently isn’t safe for roadside sleeping so we drove around looking for somewhere to sleep. Eventually we found a guest house to sleep outside, they were actually closed but the lovely owners invited us in for dinner. They were actually from Manchester but live in Namibia and they had heard us on the radio this morning (must have been repeated from a while ago).

Day 8 – 50.74km

Had a really bad nights sleep on the back seat of the car. My legs are so restless in the night from the high mileage that I’m doing. Having them squashed up in the night isn’t really a good option. The morning began badly, no energy, tired legs, felt like I dragged myself around. Then, later on I felt proper chipper, managed to get my longest mileage in so far. I did loads of stretching, loads of foam rolling and got lots of massage. Aysha made a delicious pilchard curry for dinner, yum.

Day 9 – 41.63km

This was the first day that I have had to run on a tar road, all the rest has been sand and gravel. I changed into my road shoes when I met the tar at 5km, this was a disaster. I had the same problems that I have experienced at home before, the feeling of a pebble under the bone in my foot. I think its called ‘Metatarsalgia’. Whatever its called, it’s really not pleasant. As soon as we met up with the car again the road shoes were off and trail shoes back on, I’ll just continue to run on the dirt at the side of the road. Road shoes and road running are clearly just not for me, I’m much better off playing in the mud and dirt! By about 15:00 the time had come, I had completed almost 400km and I was due a day off. We had been invited to stay at Africat, one of the beneficiaries of Tusk who we are raising money for.

Day 10 and 11- 0km

Africat – lots of interviews and learning about the charity.

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I would like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to all the sponsors that have helped this trip to be possible.  A massive thank you goes to the Head Over Heels team who help me out each step of the way, these guys are meticulous with their care and attention, love and support. A special thank you goes to Michelle Pennell and Michael Whitehurst, thank you Michelle for training Mike in physio, he has been massaging my legs everyday and I really doubt they would still be moving without this treatment. Big love to everybody.

Spitzkoppe, Namibia

This gets a post all of its own as Spitzkoppe is stunning.P1070201 One of the most beautiful places I have been to.

 

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unusual rock formations
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A breadth and depth of views I’m not sure our cameras captured

We are travelling slowly and really appreciate the gradual changes from the desert to scrub to savannah (I’m not sure of the official names, again, I’ll check this when I have good internet connection).

We entered Spitzkoppe by a gate and no idea what we we were entering. We were looking for the 8am porridge stop. We had entered long dry grasslands and it is windy.

Like lighting a fire in a haystack
Like lighting a fire in a haystack

I refuse to allow a fire to be lit. I didn’t use to be the one who made the decisions like this. It feels very unusual but I feel quite strongly that the responsibility falls on me. In this case, some think it will be safe enough but I disagree. I am not willing to risk setting fire to Namibia, I’m pretty sure that would be the end of the trip. I’m a bit surprised at my unilateral decision but that’s it. As a result, we can’t stop at the 10 mile point. I radio Emma and Mike to let them know. A couple of miles down the road we find this large rock formation with a natural wind break, and I agree, very nervously.

Backing Cleo onto the rock formation to act as an additional wind break
Backing Cleo onto the rock formation to act as an additional wind break

This journey is a constant risk assessment. I wouldn’t have risked an open fire but fortunately before we left, I bought an Ezy stove at a huge reduction from Wild Stoves and this is totally brilliant, even better than expected. The stove doesn’t allow any embers to float away and we bury the ashes and cover them with the water we use to wash the dishes. Phew!

Then we accidentally enter Spitzkoppe rest camp, which has some gorgeous areas to stay. Luckily, they kindly let us off the entry cost:

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Emma’ll stretch anywhere
Here we are
Here we are

Emma stops for some more scenic stretching:

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The support team has to head into Usakos for supplies, leaving Emma and Mike on their own. I am anxious the whole time. The roads are terrible compared to the UK but not bad once you get used to the juddering. I also learn to drive faster as that way we seem to glide over the top. I’m not sure if that is what happens in reality. We don’t get back until the early afternoon, leaving Mike to rig up some shade from the midday sun for Emma.

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winter desert flowers spotted along the way

That night we park well off the road but it turns out to be out to be our scariest moment so far.

We end the day with lots of food. I believe in keeping a team well fed.

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In the Desert part 2

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Sunrise in the desert. And our 2 storey home.
Can you see them? Emma and Mike head off into the early dawn.
Can you see them? Emma and Mike head off into the early dawn.

The desert is amazing and beautiful. Our days settle into a routine. 5.30am start. The stars are still out which is, of course, wonderful, “It makes getting up early worth it” I say to Mike and he agrees. Emma and Mike leave as soon as it is light. Emma running, Mike on the bicycle. We clean up the camp and set off. I am very strict in the desert. I’m not sure how quickly things decay here but I’m guessing slowly, so we have a “leave no trace” policy. Poo paper goes in the poo bag. Not everyone is happy with this but no-one wants toilet paper blowing across the desert.

I never knew there was so much life in the desert. We can see hoof prints round our camp.

What is it and can we eat it?
What is it and can we eat it?

At 8am (10 miles down the road) Robert lights a fire (he has become our fire man) and he calls, “Aysha, you’re wasting my fire.” I have to get snappy with the porridge. No milk, as we have no fridge. Porridge with salt. I know this sounds horrible but as long as you put it in at the beginning it tastes delicious. Then, after it is cooked, I add cinnamon and honey – in time, at the request of the team i also add two apples and a banana. Around eating, which must happen within 20 minutes of stopping, Emma needs a massage, sunflower oil works surprisingly well. Emma also needs to use her roller and to stretch.

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9am Emma and Mike set off again for another 10 miles or so. We have to pick a nice spot for lunch.

Mid run stretch on the only line of hard ground.
Mid run stretch on the only line of hard ground.

11am is the long lunch break waiting for the heat of the day to pass. Eating, sleeping, repacking the back of the car, massage for Emma.

3pm Emma sets off again for her final 10 miles or so, depending how she is feeling.

See you later Emma and Mike
See you later Emma and Mike

The sand is tough to run, she slips back with every step and its harder on her leg muscles. The wind is also against her. At the end of the day, we only have wet wipes for her to wash off the dust and sand. Carrying only 100 litres of water in total for 5 people means we have to be careful with the water we use as we don’t know where we’ll fill up next. But I rarely hear any complaints from Emma.

 

 

 

In the Desert

Ready? ... Go!
Ready? … Go!

Emma and Mike head off through Henties Baai and into the desert.

No water No firewood
No water No firewood

Fortunately, we have 100 litres of water, firewood, and a flame torch (yes, I know that’s cheating but its in the tool box, seems a waste not to use it).

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We meet for lunch. I’m really pleased I bought the awning to put up shade for Emma. Its hot but there’s a breeze. Avocado and tomato sandwiches. We lay out the yoga mats as seats. We’ve not done any yoga yet, but the mats are useful to sleep on, sit on, as a massage bed and as a ground floor to the tent to make sure we’re not stepping on snakes or spiders. They make good padding too around fragile items in suitcases.

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At every stop we set out the solar panel to charge up the leisure battery. For anyone who wants to know we got the kit from Holly Brook Power supplies.

 

 

I’ve also tried out the washing machine, which was suggested by two other travellers who are famous for the idea (I’ll look up their names when its not 3am in the morning before we set off again). It involves putting your clothes in a sealed container with water and washing powder and letting the rocky road shake everything up. I’m impressed my clothes come out pretty clean. Mike puts up an ingenious washing line for me.

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Emma sets off at about 3pm after the heat of the day. She runs a total of 38 km, a gentle first day! She’s incredibly chipper at the end and offering to help.

Despite the emptiness of the desert there are animal prints and holes near our camping spot.

Robert gets a fire going and I cook chicken curry without the chicken. I deliberately choose foods that don’t waste water. We’re faffing around afterwards until Mike calls us over to see a baby puff adder. We must have almost parked on top of him. After that we decided boots were a must at night and to pack up and head to bed as soon as possible.

Windhoek to Walvis Bay to collect Cleo

(Apologies for the lack of photos but the internet connection is too slow to upload them).

Whilst Emma and Mike are flying to Windhoek, Woocash and I head to the coast to pick up Cleo. We’re hoping that she has all the kit still with her. Sending Cleo by Ro-Ro (roll on roll off) instead of container became the only option as sponsorship failed to come in and the dates started to slip. Ro-ro is faster and I’m conscious of the coming African summer, but you have to leave the car unlocked. We locked everything up in a big old chest and we padlocked all the items together and gave the key to the Captain.

We head to the coast in a combi, which I would definitely recommend to other travelers. You can catch the minibus taxi from Rhino Park in Windhoek. The 14 seater minibus waits until all the seats are filled for the journey. It costs N$150 each and takes 5 hours. There is a locked trailer into which your luggage goes. We had one bag but they might charge if you have more. One of the other travelers, as he got on the bus, made a comment about preferring the back to the front … because in the front there is nothing in between you and whatever you are going to crash into. Naturally, then, someone else happily piped in about how a car crashed into the side he was sitting on when he last traveled in the minibus.

The driver turns out to be awesome. Highly skilled at predicting other people’s bad driving. The travelers are friendly, and the lady behind me starts singing (beautifully) to pass the time. Its hot and and I put up a hoody as a screen from the sun. The road is smooth tarmac.

The journey entrances me. I have never been in a desert before. Beautiful and uncompromising, overlapping brown and crème sand dunes, some small, some huge, and in the distance blue mountains.

There are warning signs for “Sand” and “Fog”. My mind wanders to thinking about water tanks, how much water we can carry and where we will be able to fill up. We arrive at the coast and turn left. This area is famous for shipwrecks and I feel sorry for the sailors who landed here.

When we get out the taxi, it is cold and windy.

Berghaus

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Team HOH became unbelievably excited a couple of days ago when a huge brown box arrived filled with shiny new Berghaus kit.  We are exceptionally lucky to have been supported by Berghaus who have given each member of our team a waterproof jacket to be worn in Africa.  This has been a massive help to us as all the kit needed to complete a trip like ours adds up to a big expense.  This is possibly more exciting to me (Emma) than to the rest of the team as Berghaus have made a jacket specifically designed for running.  Im sure that most runners out there will agree with me that finding a jacket to keep you warm and dry, and comfortable while running long distance is not easy.  Thankfully, I haven’t put the jacket to the test yet as the sun has been out, but as soon as I get the chance I will put a review up for you to see my thoughts.

IMG_1173My first thoughts about the kit we received are that Berghaus are onto a winner with the colours of their womens clothes.  I imagine that most women into outdoor sports will agree with me that we don’t all want to wear pink, red or purple!!!  I hear lots of women regularly complaining about the colour options available to us, and unfortunately we can’t just choose XS mens, its just doesn’t work like that.  The colours and style of the Berghaus jackets are gorgeous.  Really shapely and great choice of colours.  Well done Berghaus!!!!

 

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