A Travellerspoint blog

Change of Plan

How we ended up at the end of the world.

So Africa was off. It was decided that we had to come up a new plan. Like many an explorer before us we decided the best location for a planning meeting was in a country pub. Beside a roaring fire over a few pints we banded around a few ideas. Drive to Everest base camp, or Beijing or do a lap of South East Asia. However the world is going to hell in a hand cart at the moment. Getting to many of these places involved travelling through places such as Iran, not such an exciting option for Ellie and I, full Burqas are just so unflattering. Burma was also on the list, and which ever way you look at it travel there helps the regime and dictatorship, not exactly ethical travel. However easy Top Gear make these jaunts look, for the common traveller, without a BBC research team, it becomes nearly impossible. China even requires you to take a written driving test in Mandarin. As none of us are blessed in the language department this really wasn't an option.

We really wanted to keep the spirit of an adventurous road trip, one with challenges of terrain, boarders, dealing with local culture and customs. We also loved the idea of getting from one end of continent to the other. Although Terry, Andy and I had traversed a small section of the land in 2010, South America seemed to offer everything we wanted. We could start at the very bottom and head north. Such romantic names as Patagonia, Terra del Feugo began to fly of the tips of our tongues and it was decided. The great Pan American Highway would be our new adventure.

Now, the record for the whole highway, that is from the very most southerly point in Chile to the most northerly point in Alaska is 11 days. This was however a rally team with a full back up. Terry, Ellie and Jacko had a month off work and Andy and I had 3 months to play with, but there was no way we wanted to do the whole thing in just a month. So it was decided that we would try and get South America covered as a team leaving Andy and I to carry on through central and northern America alone. We still feel we have set ourselves quite a challenge and we shall see how much of the journey gets completed.

The race was on to get everything organised. It takes a surprising long time to ship a car to the other side of the world. Well over a couple of months in fact. There was one very important element we had to complete before we could ship our lovely taxi. We had to fur the vehicle. Yes you read that right, fur it! This involves buying silly quantities of fake fur and grip fill. This for the uninitiated, is horrible stuff builders use for something or another, but after much research we have found the best stuff to bond fur to metal. We settled on a lovely Dalmatian or more to my liking a snow leopard print. Predominantly white might not turn out to be the cleverest colour to choose but time shall tell. There were various mechanical bits to sort which fell to Jacko and his dad, (a big thanks to him, esp for our very cool jerry can holders on the back). We also drafted on a the help of highly sweaty mechanic in Bristol to sort out last minute problems. The thing about going on a trip like ours is it is bonkers, and we all know the great British public love a bonkers plan, our sweaty mechanic was clearly taken with the plan heaping spares and advice on us. We had lots of help and people pitched in, a day spent with Anne and Kate was a big help, we wouldn't have cool spots on our roof rack with out their help, and in just over a week we raced the car to some godforsaken eastern port or Tilbury as it known, and said goodbye for two months, next stop Punta Arreas, Southern Chile.
The finished Taxi ready for shipping

The finished Taxi ready for shipping

Posted by lskellis 07:37 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Our African adventure that never was.

A bit about the adventure we planned and why it didn't happen.

So for those that don't know Andy and I are on a bit of an adventure, the plan was hatched a while back but no one can quite remember where, it might have been during one of the practice sessions on an inflatable children's bouncy castle that Andy and Terry had high hopes of taking from mainland Uk to the Isle of Wight. Didn't turn out quite so well, but that is another story. There is also some confusion as to who came up with idea, however as this is my blog I'm going to say it was Andy with a little help from his wife. It really doesn't matter either way as once the idea was hatched we all worked hard to make it a reality. The original plan was a brilliant one. Our very good friend Emma recently moved to Pretoria in South Africa to live the expat dream. Well, such a move demanded that we go and visit. However we weren't interested in just your boring flying out like the hoi polloi (try working out how to spell that when you are dyslexic as I am!). We decided in the grand tradition of many of friends we would make the journey overland from Alexandria to Capetown, in our own vehicle, thus completing one of the great road journeys in the world. This is where Terry to his eternal credit started to take over. He started to plan, organising leave from the army, buying maps and checking the foreign office website for advice, because let's face it, Africa can be a little tricksy in places.

Unfortunately for Andy and I, the trip looked just a little out of our reach. Since Andy left the Army he has been on the hunt for a job worthy of his many talents. I run Antiques Fairs which rather inconveniently seem to come around with alarming regularity. This combination of employment also left Andy and I rather fiscally embarrassed, which isn't the best way to be if you want to drive to South Africa. However we kept in touch with Terry's and his plans feeling rather miffed and just a little jealous.

Around the new year we had the most amazing privilege to celebrate Andys Grandads 100th birthday. Papa Don, as he was affectionally known was a wonderful man who lived an extraordinary life. It really is something to see in the flesh the famous telegram from Liz herself. However not long after we received the news that it seemed Papa Don was happy to have reached this milestone and slipped peacefully away one night.

We had no idea but it seemed papa Don remembered Andy in his will, making the financial reasons for not going on the trip a thing of the past. We will always be grateful! At the same time, the lucky MOD saw what an asset Andy would be and offered him a job in Abby Wood in Bristol. My big fear was always he would find his perfect job but it wouldn't leave us any time for travelling. However the MOD said he would choose his start date even months ahead. I contacted the amazing Tina, who ran the fairs for 10 years and floated the idea of coming back for a bit. She agreed and everything was set for us to embark on the big adventure. Sometimes you have to wonder if things are meant to be.

During this time Terry had enlisted a couple of people to do the trip with him. A dashing royal engineer called Jacko and Terry's new girlfriend, the lovely and beautiful Ellie. Terry had managed not only to find a wonderful girlfriend, but one who was willing to take on an African adventure. Terry hadn't just found love, he had also found the perfect vehicle for our adventure. We wanted something quintessentially British. We considered taking a 4x4 cheating even if it was Land-Rover. No, it had to be something little more challenging, after all within our group of friends we have taken a fire engine to Mongolia, rascal vans through the Sahara to Cameroon , tuk tuks the length of India, a hearse to the alps and motor taxis across the Andies, to name a few. In a flash of inspiration/impluse Terry went out and purchased that most Bristish of of transport options, the London Black Cab. Ok so it has a Nissan engine, and lets face it Steven Fry got there a bit before us, but it was still a stoke of genius.

Terry had done most of the planning and was doing a very good job of downplaying the dangers and highlighting the safe parts of the trip. Reassured by talk of having an armed guard through Egypt and nowhere on our trip being on the unsafe list from the foreign office we were all getting excited. Ellie and I did discuss some of the less savory aspects that might be found on the road, such as kidnapping and rape. Although talked about in nervous giggles, it ws clear we were both more than a little scared that these were possibilities and real ones at that. These fears were shared by many of our family and friends. I have heard on the grapevine Ellie's Dad was very upset at the idea and went right off Terry as boyfriend material in light of the planned route. However none of this was enough to deter us, we were pressing ahead.

The army have a saying, "no plan survives first contact." In the case of our trip, the contact came in the form of the formidable Emma Sinclair, who's new home we were travelling the length of the great continent to visit. Through work she has a good knowledge of the conditions on the ground in Africa. Over a few drinks in London she expressed what I can only discribe as horror at our plans. I thought (and had told those who were worried) we had the full blessing of the people in the know, such as Miss Sin. This revalation that she thought the whole idea was ludicrous came as a bit of a shock. However Emma has been my friend for over 13 years and if her advice was don't go, well then I wasn't going to go! It really was that smiple. I was sad but I hoped the others would support the decision and hopefully still be up for a different type of adventure.

With bombings in Kenya and Al-Shabaab upping their general territost activity it actually was a pretty easy job of aborting the trip, with the blessing of the whole group. It was months of work down the drain, but I suppose better that than a trip laden with risk. We had the leave, the vehicle all we need now was a new plan......

Posted by lskellis 11:14 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged planning Comments (1)

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