Friday, 2 January 2009

31st December 08

Date: 31st December 08
Location: Guildford, Surrey, England
Weather: Cold and crisp, heavy frost overnight 2°c
Status: Starting the final day…..

So this was how it was going to be then, the final day of my African adventure and I was playing out in the freezing conditions of the UK! I jumped out of bed though with the realisation that it’d all be over pretty soon, bar the friends and family I’d hopefully see as I crossed the finish line!

After the usual pre-marathon nipple-plastering and vasaline rubbing session I gathered my thoughts and warm top and got into the Colonel complete with Bre and Dad for the final drive of the expedition.

Dad had very professionally organised the route for me taking me back to Petersfield on the back roads ensuring I’d cover the required 26.2 miles to make it all official and together with Bre they’d form my team of water suppliers and direction givers!

We left and started the run from Shalford, just south of Guildford, and after a toilet stop started the run with cold fingers to start off with. Two hours into the run I’d made it past Haslemere and into the small village of Miland, marking the halfway point for the run, by this stage I was starting to feel the cold and shivered every time I stopped for a drink break….this is so different from African runs!

The undulating terrain around Liss and the final approach to the Jolly Drover at the top end of my marathon was exhausting, it’s easy to think halfway through a marathon that everything is going well and that the second half should be easy…but then it all starts to bite as the legs tighten, the pain kicks in and the energy levels disappear suddenly leaving me desperate to see the crest of the hill.

The drop down into Petersfield along the A3 was much better, my family and friends had started to appear at the sides of the road with even the odd banner about to motivate me for the final push into the town square where I was hoping to meet a few people. But what I didn’t expect was quite the welcome I received!!

There must have been 40 people there including an official finish line, TV cameras and reporters all wanting to talk…something that’s very difficult to do after running for four and half hours! Once the pulse had settled again I managed a hug and kiss for them all and even had a great pint of good old English ale, my first since leaving a year ago, and it tasted awesome!

And then it was over all of the dreams, plans, challenges and expectations which I had set myself nearly three years ago were lying there in front of me completed….Bre, the Colonel and I have formed the most incredible team and I sincerely hope there is more to come in the future. For now were going home to spend New Year’s Day with family and to do a good old catch up, bore them with photos and complete the website for you all to see….

Thank you all so much for reading, writing and being involved, it really has meant the world to me…..

Over and out…for now.

End of day location: Ropley, England
Distance covered: 42kms running, 20kms driving

30th December 08

Date: 29th December 08
Location: Mont Blanc, France
Weather: Very cold with snow and sleet, -5°c overnight
Status: Within a day’s drive of home

Wow that was extreme camping….so cold overnight so we were lucky to have my two mountain climbing sleeping bags which are rated down to -25°c and gave us plenty of warmth in the cold tent.

We were back on the road by 8am and without Kees filling the mirrors could up the speed to 110kph when the conditions allowed, the weather slowly deteriorated and snow started to fall which even the fleet of salting trucks couldn’t keep from blocking the outside lane of the autoroute.

Our progress was constant and as we arrived in Reims I decided to head to the Mumm Champagne cellars and pick up a bottle ready for the New Year celebrations, having worked for them in the UK for ten years it was great to see where all of the fizzy stuff is made.

Late on in the afternoon we made it to Calais and after trying the channel tunnel which was full we headed to the ferry and booked the Colonel and ourselves on the next available crossing back to the UK.

On arrival at the famous white cliffs of Dover Bre and I held our breath as Baccus the Buffalo was facing his final test…could we sneak him through the final border of the trip and safely home to Hampshire? The police and customs stopped the Colonel momentarily to check our number plate and waved us through….we’d done it!!

The joys of the M25 and thick fog slowed our progress back to my sisters house in Guildford where we finally arrived at 1am, a quick chat and into bed ready for the alarm clock at 7am in order to ready myself for the final marathon home!

End of day location: Guildford, Surrey, England
Distance covered: 950kms

28th December 08

Date: 28th December 08
Location: The middle of the Mediterranean Sea
Weather: Cloudy, cold and fiercely windy. 15°c
Status: Scared for some reason….

After a good nights rest we copied the last of our photos and videos from Kees to my collection, Bre did some more memory book and we all prepared for the departure and goodbyes which would be happening in a few hours time.

Its strange I had a mixture of feelings throughout the last few hours and days and they now became stronger and harder to deal with, firstly the happiness of leaving Africa after battling for so hard over the last few days and weeks but then when thinking about it, it was replaced by a feeling of disappointment that the adventure no longer continues and the harsh reality of the fast, uncaring lifestyle that is presented to us in Europe of money, work and generally selfish people.

I understand that this is a harsh statement but some of the people I have met in the last year have been hugely caring, will go out of their way to help you and think nothing of spending an entire day helping you out with no reward. There’s always exceptions to the rule but I find it hard to think I could easily find the same as easily in the UK as everyone needs reward or gratification for the simplest of things.

We docked in Genova in howling northerly winds with snow sweeping down off the mountains and it gave us a taste of what a stupid decision it had been to return to the UK at this time of year! We eventually managed to get the trucks off the ferry after waiting for ages for a broken down car to move and drove through the customs area without challenge.

Kees led us out of the city on our last journey together for now and we pulled into a service area to have a final meal together, buy some supplies for the journey ahead and say our final farewells to the big yellow tortoise and its amazing driver, Kees and Bindhi….for now!!

Bre and I drove on for another 150kms until we arrived at the foot of the Alps to be greeted by snow and ice everywhere and made a freezing cold camp in a car park.-5°c overnight so big cuddles were needed!

End of day location: Mont Blanc, France/Switzerland border
Distance covered: 300kms