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.

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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!

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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

Elephants!

“There is nothing beyond here, only the bush.”

The policeman, at the entrance to the Caprivi Strip in Namibia, is laughing at me: I have just asked about shops.

This thin wedge of land between Botswana and Angola is renowned for lions, elephants, buffalo and wild dog. Every day is a risk assessment. It will take Emma several days to run through it and her safety is paramount. Lions and other carnivores chase moving objects. We will also be sleeping in our tent on the side of the road. Lions usually hunt when the heat of the day is over and during the night. We enter the area with caution, armed with knowledge from Charlie Paxton as to where along the way we are at risk from which animal. Initially, there are houses and people but these eventually stop and the stillness is eerie. We cannot see any animals at all.

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We aim to keep the car a few metres behind Emma and Mike. This annoys Emma, who hates the car being so close and noisy (it’s really noisy) and creates tension with Woocash who worries Cleopatra (the car) will overheat: stopping and starting is not good for her. I am sitting on top of Cleo with binoculars, wrapped up in clothes in the early morning, as it’s cold, and in the afternoon, as protection from the sun. It is wonderful to be out in the fresh air. The others seem unduly worried that I will fall off. But I have myself snuggled in well, with handholds planned in the event of sudden breaking or accelerating. In my turn, I am constantly checking out for buffalo (we are in the buffalo hunting area). I have a fearful vision of an angry buffalo or elephant charging out of the bush at Emma and Mike.

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Then, in the silent trees, we see a family of elephants. Well camouflaged, little ones, medium ones and a big mama. We are all delighted. Woocash utterly fails to follow the safety plan, to keep the car beside Emma and Mike, and picks up a camera whilst driving. We really need a cameraman for these moments. I would have loved to have taken a photo of Emma as she ran past this family munching quietly in the heat. But I was busy assessing safety. Luckily, Woocash did do some filming as I can show you this lovely film:

That night, as always, we are in the tents soon after dark. Whilst the rest of us slept, Emma heard an elephant snapping trees around us. The following day, Charlie calls to check that we are okay, nearby villagers had had to flee their homes in the night, as angry elephants damaged human property. As so often during this trip, I wonder if there is some stronger power keeping us safe. And if so, I wonder why.

We keep going, out of the elephant area and into an area, apparently, inhabited by lions.

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Have you had an encounter with elephants? Please feel welcome to tell your stories or thoughts in the comments below.

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As this is all in the same day as crossing the border, the distance travelled and day are the same as the previous post.