Trip Diary


United Kingdom

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Day 1 - 29 December 2008

Crich, Peak District, United Kingdom

GPS: N 53°5.044', W 1°28.759'
Miles today: 285 miles (458 km)
Total miles: 285 miles (458 km)
The first leg of our journey, though detached from the rest by some months, certainly wasn’t devoid of interesting anecdotes. Indeed, it represented some notable contrasts.

We began at the Heart of Midlothian, a heart mosaic set into the ground on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh, which holds emotional and patriotic significance for Scots. This was the point at which Neil’s dad, Alex, began his trip in 1969 so it also held personal significance for us.

This is the first contrast. Alex and his friend David didn’t stand on the heart with a GPS plotting their precise location and digitally recording and mapping their trip from the very beginning. Neither did they have the facts that we have about the number of miles they would travel, the route they would take, the amount of money they would spend, or how long they would be on the road. In more ways than one, they were the ones taking the risks, without any technology options at their finger tips. However, what Alex had then and what Neil has now, is the heart for adventure and the desire to spread their wings and see Africa and her people. This is what brought us back to this mosaic heart forty years later.

We had to dodge our way to the heart, on foot, through a throng of people carrying burning torches. This was apparently an annual event in Edinburgh linked to ancient pagan rituals and it certainly added to the surreal nature of the moment.

With the GPS mapping of our Great Trek South ceremonially begun, we set off the following day back down to London.

Here was the next contrast. The temperature was seven below zero. Mpudi’s rear wheel was covered in frost and his windows were solid with ice. If only this was all. We had to scrape the inside of the windows and cope with no heating as we travelled down through the Lake District. Needless to say, we gradually put on most of the clothes in our suitcases, bought socks and hot water bottles in the nearest supermarket and asked for them to be filled in the nearest services. Neil was driving in skiing gloves and hat. Catherine lost her feet after about half and hour and didn’t rediscover them until we arrived in Crich (near Derby) in the evening.

We didn’t miss the irony of the situation, and decided to enjoy it. It would be air conditioning, not heating, that we would be regretting for most of our trip. Mpudi will spend his months covered in dust, not ice. We were glad that the leg from Scotland felt utterly British and wintry. A fitting start.

Beautiful too, as we drove through the Lakes, with a clear blue sky and afternoon winter sun shining on the water, which was partially frozen. There will be days on our trip when we will look back at those photos and feel nostalgia for the cold and for how stunning Britain can be.


Day 2 - 2 January 2009

London, United Kingdom

GPS: N 51°29.218', W 0°6.902'
Miles today: 155 miles (250 km)
Total Miles: 440 miles (708 km)
After spending a wonderful New Year in the Peak District with Catherine's old university friends (plus significant others) we headed back home to London to end the first leg of our journey.

Although we are still months off from starting the trip proper, there is nevertheless a sense of excitement having had our first taster. It's now New Years 2009 - who knows where we will be in Africa to bring in 2010.

We'll be picking up day 3 sometime in September 2009...


Day 3 - 11 November 2009

Exeter, United Kingdom

GPS: N 50°43.367 , W 3°30.769
Miles: 175 miles (282 km)
Total Miles: 615 miles (990 km)
We drove to Exeter on 14th September to spend a final ten days with Catherine’s parents before heading off on our adventure. We had a lovely time finishing off projects for the car and visiting some beautiful Devon spots in the glorious sunshine.

However, as most of you will know these ten days ended up turning into ten weeks as an unexpected sequence of events delayed our departure.

On 24th September, as we headed to London to collect our camping equipment, we had a crash which resulted in Mpudi, our trusty Landy, being very badly damaged. This was a traumatic time as, for a while, we thought that out dreams and plans had been dashed.

However, we found Foley’s Specialist Vehicles, in Essex, who gave us the option of rebuilding our Land Rover in a safe manner. Foleys are a very well known outfit in the UK and have been building Land Rovers for many years.

This was an amazing option as it meant that we could save everything mechanical from our original car, including all the custom interior bits which Neil has spent so long designing and making. Paul and Stuart at Foleys were fantastic and turned us around within 3 weeks. We spent a further 3 weeks finishing off the car in Exeter and then finally left on November 25th.

Despite the fact that these few weeks were challenging for us as our plans had to be re-thought, we were amazingly looked after in Exeter. We feel very grateful this time and extremely indebted to Catherine’s parents who so willingly let us stay. They fed us, counselled us, allowed us to take over their entire house with our belongings and projects, gave us endless wise advice and supported us greatly through an emotionally difficult time. We all got to know each other very closely and we will always look back fondly on this time, especially when we are living far away.



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