17 km up hill to border crossing #7 Chiponde, Malawi to Mandimba, Mozambique

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Today was a phenomenal achievement by Mike and Emma. On top of what they do almost every day of this journey.

After a night in hiding, having run off from a camping place that felt dodgy – we had driven up to the local important persons house when he wasn’t there. It felt like we had arrived in a lions’ den and the remaining lions were so surprised they hadn’t quite worked out how to deal with this unexpected gift but were prowling in any case. It was the only time I got a bad vibe on the whole trip, beating even the 5 guys walking up to us with machetes. Of course, it may have been entirely in our imagination, nothing happened. They could be very nice lions.

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Dawn and we are already on our way

Anyway, we set off early to be well out the area before people were up and about. Pretty soon we arrived at the biggest hill/mountain, a long twisting and turning 17km uphill. At the bottom Emma says:

“You might as well go to the top, I’ll try and make it.”

I have learnt, when Emma says she’ll try, it means she’ll make it.

17km later, after running and cycling uphill without more than a water and stretch break, Emma and Mike arrive very hungry for breakfast trailing a group of school children. Otherwise they seem pretty cool about their achievement.

I start chatting to the children, moving slowly away from the team, making sure to catch all of the children and draw them away. They are hesitant, initially, but the temptation to talk to me and poke me to see if I am real is much better than just watching a group of strangers. We walk casually and chat about their favourite food (“Mango” in case you are wondering) and other friendly things and quite by chance we have arrived at the school gate, where the teacher ushers them into class. Some of them give me a look like they know what I did.

Back at breakfast, Emma and Mike have eaten twice their usual amount and as Robert was digging out a flat spot for Emma to sleep on, a black snake undulated out. Apparently, it was not a poisonous one.

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Post breakfast snooze time with a curious watcher on the hill

The border crossing itself is straightforward.

Emma and Mike carry on their way for another 40km or so through the heat.

Our evening campsite, complete with scorpions:

*****

Number of Days: 75

Total distance run by Emma: 3204 km, 1991 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 42.7 km, 26.5 miles

Distance run today: 60.90 km, 37.84 miles

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

Medical Emergency #2 in the Hottest City in Mozambique

Emma and Mike are still on the road running and cycling in the heat. Tete has a reputation as the hottest city in Mozambique and we are here at the hottest time of year. The rains will be coming soon. Robert, Woocash and I are staying with the gorgeous Dora and her lovely dog, who turned out to be a total cuddle bug. Her, the dog’s, favourite thing is to sleep by the air conditioner or run about scaring passers by.

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By the air-conditioner

Tete is a mining town full of busy people in colourful clothes. Skin glistens in the heat. Driving is awesome, there aren’t so much rules of the road as flowing guidelines around walkers, cyclists, motorbikes, 3-wheelers and cars. Getting cash out of the machine takes an hour and a half, with extra delays when a pretty lady charms her way to the front of the long queue, which happens several times. Heat rises from the ground and falls from the sky, Some of the queue gets a bit grumbly at the soft touches at the front. But everyone lets the pregnant lady go first. I like Mozambican culture.

On the day Emma runs into Tete, the temperature is well over 40 centigrade! She calls us at the outskirts. Mike is ill and we need to come and pick him up. We scramble at once. Illness can escalate quickly in the heat.

Once again we call the fabulous Dr. Keletso Nyathi. He thinks it could be malaria and advises we put him on a drip. None of us are confident about doing this. We have testing kits for malaria in our first aid box. Mike tests negative, Emma tests him again to make sure. We decide not to put him on a drip due to our lack of practice. Keletso accepts numerous worried phonecalls in the midst of running his practice in Namibia. Emma takes charge of looking after Mike, whilst I attempt to contact the insurance company. They are helpful but the connection is so bad they can’t understand what I am saying. It’s frustrating and worrying.

Early in the morning, I meet Emma in the hallway, Mike has been throwing up and going to the toilet all night. Emma has been looking after him throughout and looks exhausted. I call Dora and insist that Mike needs to see the Doctor immediately. Dora arranges it at once. It all takes time and Mike looks terrible. The doctor immediately puts Mike on a drip and keeps him under his care. It’s a huge relief.

One medical emergency is unlucky; two in a week is uncanny. Both at the only place where there is a doctor with all the supplies he could need. And where we had the best accommodation for the invalids to recover in. Again, I am very grateful to whatever or whoever seems to be looking after us. A huge thank you.

*****

Day 66 distance run: 58.37 km, 36.27 miles
Day 67 distance run: 50.94 km, 31.65 miles
Day 68 distance run: 0 km, 0 miles

Number of Days: 68

Total distance run by Emma: 2796 km, 1737 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 41.1 km, 25.5 miles

*****

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Until August 2016

Border Crossing #5 Zimbabwe to Mozambique: a medical emergency and a radio interview

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Mike and Emma setting out early in the morning

Emma and Mike set off running and cycling and we drive to the border, find it and double back to make breakfast (porridge). We have to set up on the side of the road, interrupting the crowded flow of curious school children who stop and stare. Luckily, for our self-conscious selves, education holds a strong force on these children and they hurry on to school.

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Emma and Mike arriving for breakfast near the border

Woocash starts behaving oddly, he keeps wandering off. It turns out he didn’t want to be sick in public. He is ill about 6 times in the hour before Emma and Mike arrive. I am deeply concerned and he has disappeared again. We could drive back to Harare where the nearest hospital is or we can risk crossing the border, hoping for no delays, and have another several hours drive to Tete. We are discussing our options, when Woocash returns saying that he is peeing blood. That is way beyond my medical knowledge but we have our doctor on call, the brilliant Dr Keletso Nyathi. (I found Keletso on the explorers connect website – if you are an explorer become a member, its superb).

Keletso is also worried: Woocash must see a doctor right away. I tell him we are about 5 hours from a hospital. Keletso tells me Woocash hasn’t got 5 hours before lasting damage could take place. I consider a helicopter. Keletso takes a deep breath and then remembers we have antibiotics in our medical supplies. They will work. Woocash must take the antibiotics, drink lots of water and then see a doctor within 24 hours. (Many thanks to doctors in the UK who gave the prescription.) I call the wonderful Dora to ask about medical facilities in Tete. She says we can see her doctor, if we get there by 5pm. No pressure then.

Crossing the border, we keep Woocash hidden in the car as much as possible and he is on strict instructions to look well when he steps into public. Emma and Mike go through easily but we, in the car, mistake a police officer for a tout. She doesn’t take kindly to this and plans to keep us there all day and night as revenge for the insult. Now is not the time. Never would be the time but now is really not the time.

Luckily, Robert has unparalleled charm skills. The lady softens and I apologise a lot. Woocash stays in the car pretending to be healthy. She lets us out to the Mozambique border. I nag Woocash to drink, which he does reluctantly, as he feels so ill.

On the Mozambican side, a rather handsome border guard helps me with the paperwork. We have half an hour left to find a secluded area for Emma to take a call from BBC Radio Manchester.  We settle outside this closed shop. An alarmed owner comes out but he is entertained by our story, allows us to stay and kindly donates two Mozambican sim cards.

 

Unfortunately the sim cards don’t work. Emma and Mike will now be left on their own for a few days. A police officer tells us it is 47 Celsius in Tete, where we are going. I insist on us having sim cards that work in case of an emergency, especially in that heat. This entails a 100km round trip to the nearest town and narrowly avoiding being cheated by a wily young mathematician trying his luck with the confused tourists. Fortunately, Woocash is feeling a lot better, you can see, he’s even posing for photos. The power of antibiotics and fear of missing out. The day he refuses a photograph I will get a helicopter in.

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We finally arrive after many hours into Dora’s lovely cool home and I am grateful to put a poorly Woocash to bed. He gets to see the Doctor in the morning and comes back with a bag full of green and pink pills in case it is a bladder infection or bilharzia. When he has to go back a second time, the doctor gives him even bigger and more colourful pills, as it may be a prostate infection. The doctor also insists Woocash has a full investigation when he returns to the UK. Peeing blood in men is a particularly serious sign. Lesson learned: drink water in hot climates, especially when in town and there is alcohol and coffee available.

That’s enough drama for one day. However, I sincerely appreciate our good fortune or the care of whoever is watching over us, this is the only time (apart from Harare) when we are near a doctor during Emma’s run and its when we needed it.

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*****

Number of Days: 65

Total distance run by Emma: 2686 km, 1669 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 41.3 km, 25.7 miles

Distance run today: 46.48 km, 28.88 miles

*****

Thank you Keletso for being a fantastic doctor and answering the phone straight away. Thank you Robert for charming the policewoman.
Thank you Policewoman for having a kind heart and accepting our apology.
Thank you Mozambican guard for helping me with the paperwork when everyone else was busy doing something else.
Thank you shop owner for letting us hang out on your doorstep.
Thank you teenager for helping us get a Sim card that worked and explaining why the others didn’t.
Thank you Dora for arranging for Woocash to see a doctor and letting us stay in your lovely home.

Harare!

We contact Mike and Emma regularly to check they are okay. Sometimes they whisper if it is after dark and they don’t want anyone to hear where they are. We meet them briefly in Chinhoyi before heading down to Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, to wait for them.

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They look pretty happy to me

Harare is beautiful.

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I couldn’t decide between that pretty photo or this weird one, so I gave you both:

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Robert disappears to see his family and go back to project work for a few days, whilst Woocash gives Cleopatra a health check. I find the best café with internet and spend a lot of time there: photos, blogs and contacting journalists. Luckily for us, friends of the family, Bobby and Margie, generously put us up which saves a huge amount of money. Harare isn’t cheap. As a thank you, Woocash fixes Bobby’s car and we donate some spare car parts. We do a lot of scrubbing and cleaning kit. We also give a surreal children’s TV interview. Thankfully it is live which means that it will never be seen again. Hooray!

A few days later Emma and Mike arrive:

The team takes a trip to The SEED Project’s office to catch up with Robert and meet friendly Nyasha, who is SEED’s only other full time employee . Driving through the city, Emma photographs stallholders, people start shouting and frowning at us to put the camera away, it’s an uncomfortable moment.

Emma and Mike enjoy a couple of days of rest at Joy’s lovely home. Emma fits in an interview with a journalist, from the magazine Out of Africa, who writes a beautiful article. At a delicious dinner, organised by Bob and Margie, Emma meets Mike who decides he would like to join Emma on one of her marathons. Which is great.

Water

The Water-to-Go bottles are perfect for Harare as otherwise the tap water isn’t safe to drink without being boiled. With the bottles we can simply fill up and er, go out and about on our business in the city!

Visas

We have decided to head on in to Mozambique. Last year there were civil disturbances and vehicles were attacked. But there has been nothing recently and we are avoiding areas that are considered at risk. Rumour tells us we may have to wait 3 weeks to get visas! Rumour turns out to be wrong. It is all sorted within 48 hours by a very organized and helpful lady.

Over at the Malawi embassy, Woocash has to write a letter explaining why he wants to visit Malawi. He does and the lady bursts out laughing when she reads it. We never find out why.

*****

Huge thanks to Bobby and Margie Warren-Codrington for having us to stay in their gorgeous home, loaning us essential kit and arranging for us to meet with someone from the BBC. And perhaps most of all for linking us up with the wonderful Dora in Mozambique who looked after us through two medical emergencies.

Huge thanks to Joy Peacock for having Emma and Mike to stay and for all the help and connections to journalists that you provided.

And thank you to the Specialized workshop in Harare for helping Mike out with his bike.

*****

Day 55 distance run: 56.21 km, 34.92 miles
Day 56 distance run: 52.85 km, 32.84 miles
Day 57 distance run: 53.43 km, 33.20 miles
Day 58 distance run: 32.11 km, 19.95 miles
Day 59 & 60: Rest days in Harare

Number of Days: 60

Total distance run by Emma: 2412 km, 1498 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 40.2 km, 25.0 miles

*****

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Donations can be accepted up until 15th August 2016.

First Sponsor!

Hooray, we have our first confirmed sponsor! Edible and we like their ethos!

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I met the UK Market Manager of Clif Bar at Kendal Mountain Film Festival and after hearing our story and the challenges of the run, he offered as many energy bars as Emma can eat. These, the shot bloks and Clif bars, can be kept in equatorial heat and humidity and will retain their quality and shape. We will see. We shall test them in the deserts of Namibia and tropics of Mozambique.

I am hoping that we get a few extra ones for the support team, as they are yummy and some are dairy free.

Route Plan A Part 2

We pass just below the Niassa Reserve which looks beautiful. Maybe we can visit it once the run is over. Shortly before Christmas.

Google maps and my map/information don’t agree much on this bit, so it’ll all be flexible as we go but the 242 comes up as an ‘all weather route‘ across the province. Really excited about going to Niassa. Its not somewhere I’ve heard much about.

Mozambique Travel Warning

“The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to Sofala Province, with the exception of the provincial capital, Beira.

The Government of Mozambique has confirmed that a military operation, targeting the Renamo opposition party’s Santunjira base camp in Sofala Province, took place on 21 October.

The situation in Sofala Province remains tense and on 22 October there were reports of armed attacks in the region, including against a vehicle travelling on the EN1 road. Further attacks can’t be ruled out.”

They have had twenty years of peace and now, now, the country starts to develop civil unrest. Will push the run a little further north, maybe as far as Tanzania, and taking in Malawi. Might have to simplify the challenge to reaching the east coast, to give us the freedom to adjust as we go.

Mozambique High Commission Part 1

“So you will be running? Just running?” The friendly person who answers enquiries at the Mozambican High Commission is clearly confused.

“Er, yes.”

“Hold on.”

He comes back in a bit and invites me along to the Mozambique High Commission after 4pm. After they are shut. I hope they are not pranking me. I am ridiculously excited about going to the Mozambican High Commission for a chat.

Maps A

Maps, I’m deep in maps (literally, they take up all the space and have to go on top of each other), and I’m worrying about political unrest, bad roads, dangerous animals and mines. Should we go north through the Caprivi strip or cut south beneath the Okavango delta? South means cutting across the top of the Kalahari Desert, through the middle of Zimbabwe and into Mozambique, onto the road which carries a warning from the Foreign Office. Alternatively, we could go through the Caprivi Strip. Hopefully, the bandits have disbanded and the lions will be well fed or very sleepy. But what happens when we reach northern Mozambique? How good are the little roads through the mountains? Is there still a risk of mines?

The route options are pinging back and forth. I call the Mozambique High Commission and email the Namibian Embassy and the Foreign Office.