Border Crossing #4 Zambia to Zimbabwe:

We emerge from our overnight hiding place in the bushes excited to be crossing into a new country.

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In Livingstone we bump into my Mum. I mean I knew she was in Zimbabwe but, I was in the midst of fussing over something, when she pulled up in a taxi behind me. She had brought us cold drinks! Cold drinks. That needs saying twice or even thrice. There is nothing as gorgeous as a cold drink when you are sticky and stinky and have been sweltering in the hot sun for days. When I drink cold water in this state, it tastes like honey.

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A sign in Livingstone – I think this is a complex issue, people with more knowledge can perhaps comment.

Livingstone itself, is a busy border town with everything we need. Money changers and diesel. I am worrying about Emma as she has been in a lot of pain but when she arrives she is in good spirits, particularly for seeing my Mum. Variety is an essential spice for Emma. I have no idea how she runs for hours a day.

Mum’s taxi driver knows of an idyllic place for our picnic lunch under a huge tree, where elephants like to hang out, and up a riverbank from crocodiles. The taxi driver is the son of a chief in the area and has extensive understanding of the local animals. I consider the impractical idea of taking him with us.

After lunch we head for the Zimbabwe border. Visa requirements for UK citizens are $50 and for Polish citizens only $30. I joke to the Immigration Officer:

“You like Polish people better than the British.”

“No,” He deadpans back, “We like you better, you pay more.”

The immigration officers, as always, are intrigued by Emma’s achievement, friendly and helpful.

The border is stunning. We stand at the top of vast cracks in the earth cutting down to the river below.

And then we are in Zimbabwe, a completely new country for Mike, Emma and Woocash, Robert’s home, and my history.

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This day to be continued tomorrow …

 

 

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

Fire in the distance

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Alarmingly, we see wild fires less than a mile away. However, people, cows and dogs are going about their business without looking at even those fires that are near straw huts. So, we do what everyone else does and ignore it.

Robert explains local people start fires to flush out small animals, which are caught for food. I guess Zambians are as experienced with fire as the Swiss are with snow.

With fires around, I am not keen on camping beside the road. Luckily, we are allowed to camp here under this fantastic tree which makes Cleo look like a toy truck instead of the Landcruiser with extra suspension she really is.

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Robert swiftly disappears to chat up the locals who are having a meeting about development in the area and receive some tasty meat and sadza, which I am very happy about. I still haven’t mentioned to the team the possibility we could run out of food as we don’t have any Zambian money to buy any. Why bother them?

In the night the wind gets up.

Advice Moment: When travelling in a windy place, do not take a roof tent. The wind sweeps between the layers of the tent and struggles desperately to get out, crashing the fabric up and down. At moments, shaking the whole car, I dreamily wonder if we will take off. Fortunately, Cleopatra is a big girl and all the kit inside and us on top, adds up to over a tonne so it would have to be some wind to fly us into the sky. In future, I think twice about putting a tent under a massive tree.

Nobody gets much sleep.

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Emma slowing up for Robert 😉 … Truthfully, though, Emma was in so much pain it is phenomenal that she is moving, much less running more than a marathon

Number of Days: 35

Total distance run by Emma: 1537 km, 955 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 43.9 km, 27.3 miles

Distance run today: 55.71 km, 34.61 miles

Robert Returns

In constant pain, Emma with a determined gait, still covers phenomenal distances. We try running with her to provide support and variety for her day. Before, she would chat happily but now she conserves all her energy and focus on running. It’s hard to know what to do. I do come up with this make shift idea: (video of me cooling her feet).

Peaceful breaks are a challenge. Children come running, their little legs spinning as fast they can as soon as they see us. I feel a sense of obligation as guests in their country but having them watching us closely at every rest stop is not restful. Woocash and I cook as quickly as we can and then move on to meet Emma and Mike but even then, at times, we still have to swiftly pack up and drive 1 mile down the road, as the children come running after us. Emma arrives at her breaks looking stressed from the constant attention. Once a small child had run up and slapped her. I can only assume that the child thought Emma was a ghost or something. I suggest Emma calls us on the radio when children surround her but she doesn’t believe we can help and so never asks. As every metre hurts, the mismatch between the car’s measurements and Emma’s measurements become a significant irritation for her.

We pass road works: a sign says, “Apologies for the 15 minute delay” which makes me chuckle. I come from the UK. I love my country dearly but for sheer politeness Namibia and Zambia are winning. The road itself is good quality.

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The main highlight of the day, however, is Robert chasing us down in a minibus taxi. If you remember, Robert is SEED’s Project Manager and is on the trip as our guide, to gain experience and consider expansion into new areas. Having travelled overnight from Harare to Victoria Falls, Robert caught sight of Cleopatra (the car) in the distance travelling in the wrong direction, which confused him (we were returning from a breakfast in hiding) and persuaded the driver to accelerate to catch us. I was thinking who is this crazy driver trying to overtake us until everyone chorused “Robert” as they saw him frantically waving out the window. His cleanliness makes him stand out. Woocash is instantly happier, the two of them have a budding bromance, and the whole team seems re-energised for seeing Robert.

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Number of Days: 34 (almost 5 weeks)

Total distance run by Emma: 1,482 km, 921 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 43.6 km, 27.1 miles

Distance run today: 52.85 km, 32.84

Brenda’s Best Baobab

Brenda’s Best Baobab is a gentle giant of a tree. Wider than several people and disappearing into the sky, surrounded by a deck for tables, the Baobab stands quietly.

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Upon crossing into Zambia we soon come across small shops catching attention with their delicious smells and fresh shiny fruit and vegetables. As predicted there are several banks in … but not one of them is working. “Maybe tomorrow” the locals tell me helpfully but tomorrow we’ll be miles away. I silently mourn the unattainable healthy fruit and vegetables available and decide, for the sake of team morale, not to mention that having cleared our stocks of food before crossing the border, we may be a little short for the next 5 days.

Unexpectedly, the Sesheke town rolls on and it is clear that we will not find a camping spot by nightfall, which is how we have found ourselves at Brenda’s Best Baobab, an immaculate looking campsite. But, with only 5 kwacha, we are hoping for Brenda’s generosity. Her encouraging staff usher me to her rich green lawn outside her house, where I stand scruffy, dirty and awkward.

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Looking for hippos in the Zambezi at Brenda’s Best Baobab

Brenda herself is very friendly and happy to offer us free accommodation as a donation to the success of our journey. Her belief in us is yet another reason I hope we raise more money. I would show you a photo of this lady who is both the kind of person you don’t mess with and successfully puts you at your ease. However, when she got up in the early morning to say goodbye she said she was underdressed and did not want any photos going up. A friend of hers had had a photo taken when she was nursing a baby and it ended up on the internet, with the mother, someone who is normally well dressed, feeling extremely embarrassed.

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Shower cubicle

Brenda kindly lets us use her kitchen and unimpressed by our dirty pots allows us to scrub the soot off the bottom of them. I also get to cook over a gas stove, I love cooking over a wood fire but a little variety and the easy cleanliness of gas makes for a nice change.

Emma is keen to get to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and have her very well earned 2 day break. She wants to start early whilst it is still dark but Brenda tells a story of a friend walking home at night from work, who was killed by an elephant. Emma agrees to wait until dawn.

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with love and thanks to Brenda and the two staff members in this photo

What others have to say about Brenda’s and contact details:

Open Africa
Lonely Planet
Bradt Guide

Tel: 0963 786882

Border Crossing #3 Namibia to Zambia, Wenela:Sesheke

Woohoo! We are heading into a new country. We stop for lunch in busy Katimo Mulilo before heading to the small border post Wenela. I have read that border crossings require cunning, preparation, bribery and patience. For our preparation we have eaten all the fresh fruit, vegetables, and bread as apparently taking these items across borders is illegal and can result in trouble with the officials which may mean unpacking your whole car – something to be avoided. In the early afternoon, we head towards the border. I have not prepared much for Zambia as the plan, until the day before yesterday, was to go through Botswana. But we are sure we can wing it.

Leaving Namibia is easy. Then it’s a short drive to enter Zambia. This is my first ever land crossing and there’s a long patch of no mans land in the middle. Who owns that bit?

We need $220 for all our visas and the car to enter Zambia. I have British pounds as back up but they turn out to be useless as I can’t change them at the bank or with the moneychangers on the border. I go to withdraw money from the cash point but its not working for me or anyone of the others hanging around looking frustrated. The Zambian border turns into a festival of queuing and machines not working and heat and people asking us if we want to exchange money and getting confused by all the different exchange rates for US dollars, Namibian dollars, Sterling and Euros and more heat and catching a taxi back through the border to Katimo Mulilo to get more money in an exchangeable currency and queueing for a visa, and queueing to import the car and queueing for insurance. And customs agents (genuine ones) guiding me and refusing to allow locals to butt in front when I am looking confused. I am immensely glad I have a carnet de passage, which simplifies things but not as much as I had hoped. All the while the team (Emma, Mike and Woocash) are peacefully waiting. And finally we are paid for and all our documents stamped and we are off. Not exactly stylish winging but we are through before the border closes.

The Zambian customs and guards are delighted with the story and smile and wave and tease Woocash and I for being lazy in the car whilst Emma is running and Mike is on his bike. They never ask to search our car or for bribe, it is all friendly and professional. We are about to slip past the barrier when an official comes running after us. We have missed paying a levy, which takes all but 5 of my final kwacha.

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Never mind I think, this is a big town and there are banks.

The Zambezi is wide and wonderful and we are all excited to be entering a new country.

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Mike and Emma continue their journey whilst I am anxious to buy fresh food and withdraw money.

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*****

4 Visas ($50 each) 200$
Cleopatra (Toyota Landcruiser) entry costs: 20$
Car Insurance: 200 Kwacha (40 cents or 30p)
Sesheke District Council Levy: 30 Kwacha (less than a cent or penny)
Remaining Zambian money: 5 Kwacha

*****

No of days: 33 

Total distance run by Emma: 1429km, 888 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 43.3 km, 26.9 miles

Distance run today: 30.7km, 19.1 miles – shorter day than usual due to crossing the border.

The map shop: Stanfords

Stanfords is overly hot. Maps and books for Africa are in the basement. It could be the heat in the basement, but the information on the maps is making no sense at all. I collar a reluctant salesman who tells me that all the maps have a scale 1: x amount. The lower the second number, the more detailed the map. Landranger maps for the UK are 1:50 000 and Explorer Maps, used for trekking in the wilds of the UK, 1:25 000. The best I can find for Namibia is 1: 1 500 000! Easy to misjudge distances and the steepness of a mountain! On the plus side, I suppose, it does mean I get the whole of Namibia on one map, which makes for easier and cheaper planning.

Some maps have fences marked on them. I know. Are fences that permanent a structure in Namibia? Is the map that accurate? A friendlier salesman comes by. The fences are buffalo fences (and a controversial topic). He also explains that none of the maps are reliably accurate! Not reliably accurate!! I’m asking Emma to run a marathon a day but the occasional marathon might be a wrong turn!

The salesman advises that the “world mapping project” series are pretty good. Pretty good. I also buy a book on organising charity sponsored events. The nice salesman gives me a discount as I have BMC membership.

Nelles Map: Namibia £7.95

World Mapping Project: Botswana £9.50

World Mapping Project: Zambia £9.50

World Mapping Project: Mozambique/Malawi £9.50

The Ultimate Charity Challenge Handbook £0.50

Total £33.25 with discount