Sunday, 30 June 2013

11,300 miles driven and inevitable weight loss

From leaving Southampton on the 31st March to arriving at Vladivostok on 28th May I have driven a total of 11,300 miles. Now I need to prepare myself for another 7,000 miles for Stage 4 from Vancouver to Alaska, down through Canada and US to Newark on the east coast of the US arriving around the middle of September. It was supposed to be the middle of August, but with the poor Jimnys being left on the docks in Hong Kong, it's put us back nearly a month.

Having completed the first three stages of the journey, I took time to reflect the fact that very few people in the world have had an opportunity to experience what I have gone through over the past two and half years. Particularly April and May of this year.

I have tried to keep the information flowing to Maureen who has managed the Blog, Facebook, Twitter and PR and Keith who produces and updates the web site, and of course my lovely wife Vi, who has been my general contact at home, to these three people and every body who has helped in one way or another a big Thank you from me. The point I am trying to make is that when you visit the web site or read the blog, you only read about what has been happening from the information I have been able to send to Maureen and Keith in the very limited time available to type and send it. So over the next couple of weeks we will feature what really happened. Some good and some bad, but all worth reading about.

On the 5th of June I flew to Athens for a short break to try to get myself in a fit state to tackle stage 4 of the journey. During the first three stages, weight loss was always one of those issues that I needed to keep my eye on
Before we started I had done a reasonable job of keeping my weight where it should be for someone my height and age, so I started the journey with no fat reserves available. Generally it was the route, itinerary and the distance you had to travel that dictated when you can, and what time, you could eat. The journey from Southampton to Budapest wasn't too bad, mainly because we used hotel accommodation so we got in the main a good breakfast and a light lunch, but the time for the evening meal was always dictated by the time we arrived at our destination which was usually late at night. So we ate late and went to bed with the food undigested on a daily basis.

It took a turn for the worst throughout stage 2, Warsaw Poland and on to Novosibirsk in Russia. We had to be at Novosibirsk by the May 9th, so we were up against it. We didn't have time to erect the tents for camping so we had to find low cost accommodation where we could late at night. The food at the accommodation was generally not good so we didn't eat much, lunch was usually a bowl of soup if we could find it, but most days we didn't have time to stop. Night time was the same as before, arrive late eat later.

Stage 3 followed the same pattern, we had to be at Vladivostok by May 30th, only this time we were going to drive the length of Mongolia. Places to stay were few and far between and if we found any it was late at night, and no breakfast to start the day, other than what we had in the vehicles. The guys with me all suffered and it is a credit to them that they stuck it out to the end,
Mariuszs and Gary through Stage 2, and Graham and Mike through Stage 3.

I think Stage 3, driving through Mongolia really pushed us to the limit but we made it. We had all lost weight at that time, I had lost around half a stone and rattled a bit when I walked. My skin seemed that it would fit someone twice my size. I must admit, I did look a bit scrawny. To top it off I picked up food poisoning in Vladivostok and unfortunately it was after the cars had been containerised and guess what?? All the medication Vi had given me, including the Imodium, dehydration salts were in the Jimny. Luckily Mike has his supplies and he became Nurse – I'm really not sure about his Nurses uniform though!!

After the Jimnys were sorted, I made my way to meet my wife Vi at our place in Greece arriving two days her and felt totally knackered. I couldn't do much other than sleep for two days. When Vi finally saw me she thought I was a vagrant and was about to throw me out before she realised it was me. After she had examined the pile of skin and bones standing before her, the rehabilitation process began immediately. Full English breakfast was followed later with spaghetti bolognese
and topped off with Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding. All my favourites, and that's only the first day! I felt like a cuckoo - just sit still long enough and Vi comes up to me, holds my nose and shovels in more food! If it carries on like this I will look like Humpty Dumpty and have a problem getting into my Jimny by the time we start the journey through Canada and U.S.

Next blog …. Graham visits Suzuki at Yamamatsu.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

I thought it was too good to be true!!

You think you have everything organised and while you're actually on site or with your precious Jimnys everything is under control ..... or is that just an illusion??

Something told me it wouldn't last.  I have nursed our two Suzuki Jimnys along since they were first delivered to me and watched over them like a mother hen with her chicks throughout the journey so far. I've rarely taken my eyes off them (apart from sleeping that is)and have been concerned for their welfare if they're not treated right. I've watched over them through Europe, Hungary, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, the hell of Mongolia and the treacherous Russian roads around the top of China to Vladivostock. We completed all the customs paperwork, we cleaned and decontaminated them ready for inspection on arrival in Vancouver and we tucked them up in the container ready for shipping to Hong Kong.  In Hong Kong they would meet the container ship the Arthur Mearsk for their main sea voyage to Vancouver.  We said our goodbyes and thought isn't life wonderful!!

Our container left two days early for Hong Kong to await the Arthur Mearsk.  The little Jimnys were offloaded in Hong Kong as per instructions but there our luck ran out.  When the Arthur Mearsk arrived in Hong Kong to collect it's load the little Jimnys container was overlooked. So the Arthur Mearsk left Hong Kong without them.

The Arthur Mearsk leaves Hong Kong WITHOUT our Jimnys

So that's put our carefully planned itinerary well and truly in the poo. Instead of arriving on or about July 5th they won't be there until on or about July 14th. This means I will have to rewrite the itinerary and reschedule everything as we will be starting the next stage 12 to 14 days later than planned - very frustrating as we know you're all interested to see how we get on in Canada and the US and I am like a cat on a hot tin roof to get going again, but these situations put us to the test and we'll just have to rise to the challenge.  After all, no one said it would be easy.  

Now I've got longer to wait to rejoin my Jimnys I'll write you a few more journey tales, so watch out for them over the next couple of weeks. Les

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Les shows off his war wound

With the two Jimnys safely tucked up in a container and on their way to Vancouver, I took the opportunity to dash off to Greece to meet up with my wife.  I needed to give her a kiss and a cuddle as I have not seen her for over two months, it doesn't do to let them get too used to being on their own, they may get to like it!

Anyway some weeks ago, I think it was when driving through Mongolia that I did something to my left hand, I don't know what I did exactly but I know it hurt at the time. Being the sort of person I am, and for the good of the project, I pushed the pain to one side and carried on as a good around the world driver does, regardless. However the time came to catch my flight to Athens via Moscow and to pack everything that I needed to take with me. First I put out for packing my real fur Yeti type knee length boots, my top coat and thick roll neck sweaters as they will be out of place in mid summer in Canada and the U.S and my foul weather gear now that the monsoon season has passed, that had to go as well. This lot and a number of other items when packed into my brightly coloured laundry bag totalled almost 20 kilos, just under my limit for the baggage hold.

I also had to take with me all the filming equipment in case it got nicked while the Jimnys were unguarded along with my mobile office (another bag) containing all my documents and papers that I need to look at when I can sit still for a few minutes. So there I am, my laundry bag that I swap hands to carry and the two other bags slung around my neck, people must have thought that I was vagrant trying to sneak on the plane.  Anyway lugging these bags on and off buses and planes took it's toll on my left hand, it had swollen and was hurting real bad. I put up with it for a day or two but after that I had to give in and go to the hospital. By this time my hand was in a bit of a mess and thought for sure they will have to remove it and replace it with a marine grade stainless steel hook.

Needless to say I had let my imagination take over. The X-ray showed no damage or broken bones and all that was need was to rest it.  So now it's bandaged up and the panic is over, I should be fit to fly to Vancouver in a week or so to meet up with the Jimnys after their sea voyage.  

Les showing off his war wound

All I have to do now is to talk my lovely wife in to carrying my bags to Athens airport! Well you don't want me to hurt my hand again do you.   Les

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

First donation from Heaven Can Wait I'm Busy

While the Jimnys were being washed, decontaminated and loaded into their containers ready for their four week sea voyage, the home team where in Lymington making a presentation to Save the Children.

It seems a long time ago now, but it's only 8 weeks when Les and the crew were in Bensheim Germany receiving a cheque for 1000 Euros. Money that had been raised by the staff at Suzuki Bensheim in just one week to support The Ultimate Challenge. A brilliant effort and one greatly appreciated by Les and all the crew.

This weekend, in lovely sunshine, Alan Butler a trustee from Heaven Can Wait I'm Busy and the rest of the home supporting team, together with Julian Clegg of BBC Radio Solent and Alun Parry from Suzuki GB, presented that very generous cheque to Janice and Margaret of Save the Children.

From left to right Alun Parry, Janice Sparks, Julian Clegg, Alan Butler, Margaret Brooks

As The Ultimate Challenge continue to raise money on a number of fronts we say a huge thank you to Les and all the crew who have made this possible.

You may be wondering what we'll be putting up on the blog while the Jimnys are on the water and Les has a well deserved breather before Stage 4 begins, well keep logging in as Les is going to be feeding us some stories from the journey so far. I'm sure there will be a giggle or two amongst that lot!!