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.

Back on the road

Emma and Mike set off a few days ahead of us whilst we hang out at embassies sorting out visas. Mike who we met at dinner joins Emma for a marathon, which makes a happy day. Local people take care of Emma and Mike along the way and they even get to stay in a hut for a night to make sure that they are safe. (How great would that be?)

My driving licence arrives in Harare just before we set off again, luckily. I am delighted to leave the city and love being back on the dusty road with fields and trees for miles in every direction. We catch up with Emma and Mike just in time before the border with Mozambique: we have their visas and passports and we can all celebrate Robert’s birthday with watermelon and chocolate cake.

*****

Day 61 distance run: 60.31 km, 37.47 miles
Day 62 distance run: 61.86 km, 38.43 miles
Day 63 distance run: 52.33 km, 32.51 miles
Day 64 distance run: 53.68 km, 33.35 miles

Number of Days: 64

Total distance run by Emma: 2640 km, 1640 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 41.2 km, 25.6 miles

 

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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Politics and Camping

We are secretly camped beside a farm that was forcibly removed from a white Zimbabwean farmer and given to black Zimbabweans. Robert is jumpy. Acting on his advice, we are cautious.

The redistribution of farmland was set as an objective by President Mugabe in 1980, when Zimbabwe gained independence. 20 years later the process had barely started. In 2000 government supported land seizures were enforced by armed gangs of young men, these were often unexpected and violent and farmers, their families and staff were sometimes injured and killed. The most recent land seizure in the area was in 2008, just 6 years earlier. That is why we are hiding behind a thick hedge.

Robert warns us that these people can be aggressive and may think that we are trying to steal their land. He also assesses the camping spot as likely to attract a lot of snakes. Everyone is wary when we hear cars passing, becoming silent and switching off torchlights. To add a little extra adventure, I have a stomach upset in the night and 3 times have to make a dash into the darkness. Given the situation, I wake Woocash to keep me company, which he suffered with surprisingly good humour. We are happy to get off the site as quickly as possible in the morning.

*****

Number of Days: 53

Total distance run by Emma: 2204 km, 1370 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 41.6km, 25.8 miles

Distance run today: 41.13 km, 25.55 miles

With the Chief’s Permission

As we cannot find a secluded area to camp in. We stop outside someone’s house and Robert asks them if we can stay. It is fantastic having Robert with us. He knows how to approach people in a polite and respectful way: the rest of us are learning to cup our hands and clap them whilst saying “Wakadini?” which means “How are you?” in Shona. Zimbabweans are delighted and laugh at our childlike stumblings.

The homeowner tells us we must ask the Chief’s permission first. Warily, we drive on to the Chief’s house. He turns out to be a very welcoming man and insists we stay on his land. I think this is for our safety and the safety of his community if we turn out to be the bad guys.

We are settled under a beautiful tree and given a large bowl of fresh nuts as a gift. Robert tells us that we must return the gift with a plate of food. I hope they are going to like my cooking. Of course, they are too nice to say anything other than it was delicious.

Emma was up and running before we could take the photo with the Chief and his wife.

*****

Number of Days: 52

Total distance run by Emma: 2163 km, 1344 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 41.6km, 25.8 miles

Distance run today: 54.09 km, 33.61 miles

In the centre of the chant

This moment lifts my heart.

I am running with Emma and as we come round the corner of a hill I see a class of children let out to play. Before they spot us I can see their skittish joyful runs around their school and then they see us. Excited shouts pour out as they race towards us and surround us. Emma wants to run free, so I slow down my pace and hold my arms out, guiding them to run in line with or behind me. Unsure how to entertain them, I encourage them to sing. One of the girls looks uncertainly around her and then takes the lead with confidence. My senses are overwhelmed with their energy flowing through their voices.

I could tell you many things about this day, about crossing the Tsetse fly border or the moment the team spirit was broken when something was said that took away trust, but this is the moment I want to remember, to share with you and show how wonderful visiting Zimbabwe and meeting Zimbabweans can be.

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A headmaster kindly let us camp in his school. The toilets were full of spiders!

*****

Number of Days: 51

Total distance run by Emma: 2109 km, 1310 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 41.4km, 25.7 miles

Distance run today: 53.41 km, 33.18 miles

Bush Fires

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Crackling bush fires start and grow around us, flickering high above our heads. We are parked in the middle of the dusty track waiting for Emma and Mike, Robert assures us that the fire cannot cross the road. I hop out to take a video of the fire, which suddenly swerves closer to me and Cleo, the car. I quick step back to Cleopatra and my video instead of showing the magnificent flames soaring above us, shows a crazy swerving shot of the inside of the car, as Woocash swings her around and out of harms way. Darn it.

We wait to make sure Emma and Mike get through safely. The fire swiftly dies down and makes a fool of our concern.

 

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*****

 

Number of Days: 46

Total distance run by Emma: 2022 km, 1256 miles

Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 44.0 km, 27.3 miles

Distance run today: 57.60 km, 35.77 miles