Taking the Azalai to Tilbury Docks

We left Torquay in the middle of the night (30/3/11)  knowing that the next time the Azalai drives on the Bay’s roads it will be after it’s traversed the length of both Africa and Europe. Despite having had less than a few hour’s sleep, the drive to Tilbury Docks was really enjoyable. I did the ‘Zombie Shift’ on a pleasantly quiet A303, Rachel did M3 and M25 and I finished the last haul into Essex.

We got there about 0930 so plenty of time to find “John” at Pentalvers Ltd. He was really helpful and reassuringly the firm had just been shipping Land Rovers! He was a bit worried about the height, “It’s the container doors that people forget about”, but thought that if push came to shove deflating the tyres should do it. “But we’ll let your Agent know if we need to do that” (We haven’t heard anything and the boats at sea so I assume we were OK. So that’s a 130 Azalai with uprated suspension and solar panel OK for a 40ft Hi-Cube Container for the record)

He then arranged a lift (thanks Pete) to see Jo at Denholm Barwil Ltd (the portside agents working on behalf of ‘our’ shipping agent, David Squibb at Kinetsu World Express, Plymouth). Jo drove us to the nearby UK Border Agency where we met ‘Lawrence’ to determine what they needed to issue the Unique Assignment Number to allow Pentalvers, in due course, to load the container onto the M.O.L. Caloden for its voyage to Durban. Simple.

In the end Lawrence kept the Carnet. He explained that this needed to go “to the [Border Agency] Hub”. We were and are obviously anxious about relinquishing possession of such a crucial document; especially when it doesn’t seem relevant to export from the UK and that a Border Agency official had seen it on their premises. We proffered a copy of the same but in the end Lawrence took it off, assuring us that it would be returned (via Jo) by registered post. Let’s hope so and in good time!

Jo then kindly dropped us to Tilbury Station, where we caught a train and tube to Paddington. We met Dan Tisdall there briefly (he was returning to Torquay on an earlier train). We celebrated with a dodgy meal in one of Paddington’s ‘pubs’ – washed it down with a couple of pints of Guinness and then slept until we got back to Torquay early evening. Paul and Gayle even picked us up from the station.

So that’s it. The first miles of the trip completed in a very long day.

We have to go on the expedition now if we want to see the van again! The M.O.L Caloden left Tilbury today. We will meet her in Durban early May…….

……..“I regret to advise that the MOL Caledon cut and run before being able to load your booking.

The container has been rebooked to sail on the Safmarine Mafadi ETS 13.04 ETA 07.05

Please accept my apologies for the delay.”

So no sooner do I finish typing about the Azalai’s departure when shipping agent Dave at KWE calls to say that he’s just been informed that the MOL Caloden has “done a cut and run”. In short it’s in the North Sea and the containered Azalai is still in Tilbury!

It will now ship to Durban 13th April, ETA 7th May, approx customs clearance 12th May….

On the plus side Customs have finished with the Carnet and that’s heading back to us.

The Landrover to be shipped

The MV Safmarine Mafadi has arrived at Tilbury – this is the new good ship to ferry the Azalai to Durban after the last boat ‘did one’ sans Land Rover!

A quick note of thanks to Nicky Baker for her support and encouragement. Rest assured Nicky that we’ll do our best to add an engineer’s attention to detail to the whole enterprise!

I’ve just had chance to read The Times columnist, Melanie Read’s precis of ‘One Year On’ since she had a neck injury horse riding following a riding accident. It remains uncanny how she could actually be ghost-penning my own thoughts and memories from my first post-injury year. The hospitals are different – but the similarities in prognosis, mood, family and friends’ support, limited recovery and rehab – well quite literally, I couldn’t have put it all better myself. I think that it takes a greater world experience than that of a nineteen year old prop-forward to translate the magnitude and gravitas of experiencing an acute, disabling condition, let alone conveying it in a way that will make sense to the curious uninitiated. A fortunate marrying of age (52) and honest journalistic flair has led to a gripping read over the year’s serialisation in her ‘Spinal Column’ that has plugged a gap in my view. Well done Melanie and here’s hoping that you get to make the most of the opportunity that being ‘incomplete’ [incomplete rupture of the spinal cord] offers you. It is after all a welcome reprieve that those of us so fortunately blessed, get to stare into a slightly less deep abyss than the chaps who regularly (and unfortunately) do the job completely!

If you haven’t read the article it was in the Times Magazine from last Saturday 9th April 2011 – thoroughly recommended. (Although it will cost a £1 to access online due to the Times fee structure)

The Landrover has shipped for Durban

After missing out on being boarded onto the MOL Caloden, the Azalai was waiting for MV. Safmarine Mafadi to ship her to Durban. The ETS we had was 13th April. We watched her sail in to Tilbury on www.marinetraffic.com – but then saw her sail out again late on 12th April!

We had an anxious wait to hear from shipping and logistics agents KWE the next day to confirm that the container had indeed been loaded. Relief indeed and another snag taken care of.

Really looking forwards to the off now….

A week to go before we leave…

…And so this time next week we’ll be on the train to Gatwick heading out to Durban. The Azalai is currently bobbing about of the Nigerian coast somewhere, and all being well we pick her up after the 7th May. The plan then is to head up the Dolphin Coast to Hluhluwe Imfolozi Reserve – from where we will ‘properly’ begin our Indlovu Trans-Africa Drive.

After a few days we’ll double-back, and head south and west towards the Cape aiming to be there about the end of May/early June.

I think I can say that we are ready to go now – but at T-1/52 – thoughts inevitably dwell on things we are leaving behind in order to complete what is sure to be an amazing adventure. So at the risk of being morose – a few reasons not to travel for eight months or so might be…

Torquay is beautiful at the moment as summer has come early. You will have to travel a long way to find places nicer – as nice yes, but nicer, you’d struggle.

My Grand Parents, Ken and Margaret came down last week too. We really appreciate them making the effort as it’s quite a trek for them, and we can’t get to Abertillery (on account of the Van being off Nigeria). It was, as ever, great to see them.

There’s also a ‘condemned man’ type syndrome going on (although not quite as drastic!) Things like catching up with friends ‘the last time we’ll see you before you go”, using the last bottle of shampoo, the last rugby at the rec, the last walk with the dog to Cockington etc etc. Some poignant, the others silly. Of course I think we need to hold true to our assertion that  in the greater scheme of things eight months is a short time – and the benefits speak for themselves. (Especially if I can find a living upon our return).

We are hoping to kit ourselves out with a local rate UK telephone number whilst we are away – and I’ll be updating the website with a Contact Us page – we’d love to hear from you all  of course during our travels.

Looking forward to the Party on Friday as well. Russ, Becky, Zoe, Penny and Phil Burford have all worked really hard. There should be a good turnout and looking forward to seeing the guys from Wales too – it won’t be messy at all!

Should pick up the Worldmade wheelchair from Motivation on Thursday. The handcycle attachment has arrived here and a great piece of hardy, simple and elegant engineering it is too. Looking forward to testing it out in its natural environment. Thanks to Natalie and Chris (and everyone else) at Motivation.org.uk. We hope to edge closer to our £3k target at the party on Friday (everyone coming – bring money! We’ll bring the prizes!)

Anyway a rushed blog update  – off now to ‘the last rugby’ (at least until the Sharks take on the Brumbies at Kings Park ABSA stadium a week Saturday….  Oh Yes, there’s a very silver lining!…)

Ready to go?

One of the things I’ve ben asked the most just of late is “How do you feel about going?” Often followed by assertions, “Nervous? Just looking forward to it? Ready to go?”

For sure we’re ready to go, I suspect that deep down there are some nerves; but most of all I feel humble. Slightly over awed maybe. It’s incredible to think that we are here, on the starting line, just about to begin what will definitely be something of an experience. Not many people find themselves with the opportunity, will or circumstance I guess. We wouldn’t be here without the support of so many – so thank you all for your interest and support.

Blogging may take a back seat until South Africa now, as we enjoy the last few pre-departure days with good family and friends, a little to much food, fine weather – it is even possible that drink might be taken.

Leaving Party and Thanks

Thank you all to everyone who came to our leaving party. It was preceded by an excellent unbeaten season ending game for Torbay Sharks vs a Newton Chairman’s XV.

Just before our departure we of course would like to offer our heartfelt gratitude to all of the companies, organisations and individuals who have been so kind in offering their generous support to the venture – we would not have gotten to the start line this year without your help so freely given. We have been humbled by your contributions, both financial and in kind. Importantly, it means a lot to know that you are rooting for us!

I’m sure everyone who attended would like to thank Torbay Sharks RFC for hosting the party, and Newton Abbot RFC for freely donating the fantastic venue. In particular Russ Baker and Phil Burford together with Becky Bettesworth and Penny Jones, who all worked tirelessly to pull things together and cram so much into the evening.

We fly to Durban next Monday, so until we get there thank you all, our friends and supporters!