Shipping Update and a trip to The Land of My Fathers

The van is going for shipping at the end of the month, but now not from Avonmouth, but Tilbury docks. It will arrive in Durban at the end of April just in time for us to help it clear through customs. Thanks again to David Squibb of KWE for all of his help in arranging the shipping at this end. We are both keen to get going now and the van being loaded into a container and disappearing to the southern hemisphere is something of a marker in the latter stages of pre-expedition planning!

You may notice that there has been a lack of updates in the blog recently. Unfortunately this was due to a problem with my computer, typically, and I’m sure that these machines know, it was just before I was due to talk to students at my old school Westlands. After much swearing and desperate late night foraging around a flaky hard disc, I luckily managed to recover my keynote presentation. This was a relief as it meant that I could relax over the weekend of our trip to Cardiff, staying with good friends Rhodri and Kate, where we went on the final shakedown trip, under the excuse of watching Wales play Ireland in the Six Nations rugby championship.

Kate’s brother, Jonathan Stokes, was also staying with them on the Friday night. Jonathan (and his company JBS Associates) rather splendidly, sponsored Ed Stafford’s Walking the Amazon expedition. Interestingly Jonathan was saying that Ed was not sure what some of the people he now finds himself talking to would find interesting about his amazing feat. After hearing Ed speak at the Royal Geographical Society, coupled with meetings we have had with some quite extraordinary people along the way, I tried to convey (as we washed down a delicious meal cooked by Kate with copious lashings of wine) that its people talking about their adventures in ordinary, modest and mundane manner that is in itself the inspiration and learning. That is to say, that without really trying, they convey that by achieving their goals and projects as ‘ordinary Joe’ they are just like you and I underneath and we all have untapped potential. Humility and consideration seemingly being constant virtues too amongst the best speakers.

Well match day was a full on and a unique sort of day. After a ‘light’ lunch (of Cafe pie and chips) Rhodri dropped us into town. We went straight to the ground, a good move as we started a growing crowd in the concourse, as passers-by realised that Italy were going to beat France on the conveniently situated TV (opposite one of the many bars). A big cheer at the final whistle from Welsh and Irish alike. Come kick-off the ground was boiling. The sides were pretty even but Wales won with a controversial try from a quick lineout. A different ball was used by Mike Phillips which technically should have ruled the try out, however I’m sure the whole of Wales will take the win. Rhodri picked us up and then to the Windsor Arms in Penarth, when my brother Daryl had joined us. The beer flowed and for some reason our small party ended up drinking from a selection of improvised vessels from the bric-a-brac trinket table! Suitably imbibed we adjourned to eat in a convenient Pacific fusion restaurant. The food was great but to top it all halfway through the meal our patron enthusiastically started up his prize possession, a fantastic home karaoke outfit–I kid you not! Rhodri was recognised by a birthday celebrating table of ladies, as “that man from the telly” despite my protestations that they must’ve seen him opening the local Co-op. It was the sort of day and night that you couldn’t have planned. Thanks to Rhodri and Kate for their as ever splendid hospitality. Thanks also to Kate and Jonathan’s mother, Lizzie for a splendid and generous donation to the expedition, we really appreciate your support and words of encouragement, we hope to see you shortly after our return to tell you how we got on.

One final aside to share with you, back at the house on Saturday night, Daryl, Rhodri and I began a debate on Gavin Henson and his potential for ‘completing’ the Welsh team—Daryl and Rhodri for, me against (no doubt about his talent, but he’s on a different planet to the real one!). Incidentally Ffreya, Rhodri’s daughter, had earlier in the morning brought down a photo signed by all of the last grand slam squad. “Daddy got this for me” she explained, “but I scribbled out Gavin Henson!” Sure enough his visage was neatly biroed over and his signature also. Out of the mouths of babes! I rest my case.

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