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20.04.2011 - Mali – Home

Our time in Africa was short now; in a few months we would be back in Europe, back in the UK, back home. Read more..

On the road!!

April 1st, 2010

At the time of writing, the trip is 1/30th completed

So, we’re finally off. And properly this time, not system testing in Wales.  As its been a while since we updated, this blog is a 2-4-1 special, at no extra cost. You lucky, lucky people.

The lack of updates and contact recently can be explained simply by time constraints. The last few weeks have led us to become even more reclusive than we ever imagined possible as we finalised bits on the car and paperwork arrangements.

Due to our delayed departure our Eygptian visas would not be valid for our expected entry date so these had to be run up to London in double quick time. A few days later Tom went to collect both passports only to be told that he was not allowed to collect both of the visas, only his own. This was strange considering one of us had consistently dropped off/collected passports at all previous embassies – including the Egyptian one! Possibly this is a good taster of the red tape to come.

On the car front , the lovely chaps at Ring Automotive sent down some of their  latest bits for us to trial through Africa. We set about wiring in an extra two Ring airhorns which operate simultaneously with the existing air-horn we have. .

Following the crossmember catastrophe, we felt the need to dawb the back end of the car in underseal to help prevent the inevitable rot. We also had to repair a faulty handbrake, replace the diff-lock switch, replace a couple of persistently leaking oil seals and re-fit our Dixon Bate rear tow point to accommodate our shiny new Bradley Doublelock pin-hitch . Needless to say, a lot of hours have been spent under the car.

In amongst this time we also had to make decisions on which bits of recovery kit to take as we have quite a few items which weigh a fair bit and ultimately perform the same role. Que a day at a muddy but deserted motorway service road to test, practice, learn and take our minds off ongoing mechanical gremlins. Within a few minutes we had the car up on 3 wheels, then 2 wheels using the air jack and hi-lift. Bloody impressive items, but pretty scary too! The air-jack works by pumping gas from the exhaust into a tough rubber bag, which is then placed under the car and lifts it as it inflates. As soon as we have a pic of this in action, we’ll post it, as its pretty cool.

Once we had ticked off the last of the jobs above,  we embarked upon a week of talks in local schools which we had pencilled in to help the fundraising after it had stagnated following our delayed departure. The response we received from so many children and teachers alike was fantastic and re-invigorated us to get going following many disheartening moments with a faulty car.

As well as hoping that doing some publicity would result in more fundraising for the charities, we also wanted to bring some focus back to the other aspects of our trip. Our original idea of completing an expedition through some of the most amazing countries on the planet whilst raising money for two important causes had been hijacked by the car and was now almost purely mechanical related.

Whilst we have undoubtedly learned very useful mechanical skills, we always wanted the trip to be about more than simply a year long mechanics lesson. With this in mind it was great to do some fundraising and discuss some of the wider issues with the trip and the countries which we shall be going to.

However, no matter how much we wanted to leave all mechanical musings behind us in the final weeks, the old girl wasn’t finished with us yet. Due to changes with the fuel line caused when we replaced the crossmember, the car wouldn’t start properly.  This was put down to a poor fitting on the fuel pipe coming out of the diesel tank, which was allowing air into the fuel line. A simple swap wasn’t possible however, as we had had to hammer and glue the pipe into position in order to stay in the badly rusted hole – a one time deal that if it ever needed replacing we would need a new tank.

All other options were explored and exhausted, so a new tank was ordered and changed last week. With this done the car started first time, every time, so problem solved we thought until we found a puddle onf diesel on the drive on Thursday. Cue panicked phonecalls on Friday morning and a trip to Wimbledon for Tom to collect yet another tank. By Friday night we were sorted. Job done. Finished, but we (and Phil) are carrying a few less hairs and fingernails.

 The Saturday before we left, a small leaving party was organised in the pub down the road.

A really nice crowd turned out to wish us well and buy us a beer. A lot of thankyous were said and our only regret was not having enough time with each person. A small raffle was organised and thanks must go to P&O, Bradt Travel guides and Simon at the Wagon & Horses in Chalfont for generously providing prizes. In total, almost £500 was raised for the charities and, as we awoke with very sore heads on Sunday, we felt a lot better about having had a chance to say goodbye to so many people but also that we had gone some way to satisfying our Winkers addiction with a 3.30am finish.

 As detailed above, the next week flew by and all too soon Sunday was upon us. As P&O had helped us out with the ferry crossing, we had decided to take our time, make our departure day a leisurely affair and had planned to stroll down to Dover for the 3.15 ferry.

However, despite ”the best laid plans of mice and men” and all that, we were running late and we had to concede that our packing would have to move on from a carefully placed affair into a ‘bung it in, we’ll sort it out later’ job.

A very understated departure from home, waved off by parents, and we were finally on the road. A moment or two of silence, before we both admitted to being sodding nervous about the whole thing. Having had a good laugh at ourselves for being so highly stressed, we made ok time to Dover and checked in to P&O with 7 minutes to spare. Some would say we were 6 minutes too early.

As the ferry rumbles on beneath, we make plans for the first leg of the journey, a relatively straightforward trip up to the suburbs of Amsterdam to meet Carl’s Aunt and Uncle. The plan is to spend a few days in Holland before snaking our way down to Morzine in the French Alps for midweek. A day in the Alps and then its on to Genoa to catch the Saturday ferry to Tunisia.



Monday – 29/03/10

After our first big drive yesterday, we rocked up in Utrecht late on Sunday to be met by small and excited group of very friendly, very drunk Netherlanders. After a good nights sleep we were taken for a tour round Amsterdam by Rob, Carls cousin. Amsterdam is a very different sight by daylight and male British tourists may be surprised to know that it extends for quite some way outside of the Red Light District. Needless to say Tom saw little of this, but was informed by Carl and Rob.

The following day, we traversed the waterways to see Carl’s Aunt and Uncle. As this was the first stop, we took time to repack the truck, making loads of space after the hurried packing on Sunday. We also dealt with some noisy straps on the roof and a sagging shelf, completing some rudimentary carpentery with our new Draper pruning saw on the drive.

We’re only  48 hours in and we’re  already fed up with emptying huge camping bags each time we want new clothes, so we re-jigged the cupboards and now have a clothes shelf each, at the expense of food storage which has moved to a box. At the end of the day it was boxers or biscuits and boxers won.

After re-packing it was back to Utrecht for dinner and a whirlwind tour of Utrecht on traditional Dutch bikes. Unfortunately Robs house mates were all out, leaving just two bikes for the three of us. All we can say is that Carl’s backside took a pasting from the metal panier mount and cobbled streets, or so he says that’s what caused it. Not wanting to feel left out in the sore backsides game Tom volunteered to sit on the back and let Carl ride. However 10stone trying to counterbalance a back-end weight of 12stone was never going to end well and sure enough within 30seconds the two of us were lying in a heap in the centre of the street laughing and complaining aloud in equal measure. Meanwhile Rob averted his eyes and tryed to distance himself from us as much as possible.


As we type this, we’re burning the late night miles to break up the 11 hour drive to the Alps.

After a lovely supper by Rob, its time to have a beer and bash out a blog as Tom listens to the football on 5-live.

After an overnight stop in Liege we’ll head on down through Luxemburg to the Alps and the next resting point, Riders Retreat in Morzine.


For more photos have a look at our profile on mapvivo

  • Riders Retreat - mountain bike holidays in Morzine
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