Standby, standby

Thanks to the ever unreliable Ukraine International Airlines, I found myself in a state of airport limbo today. My flight from Kiev Borispol to Berlin was delayed by 5 hours. My genius plan of fixing this pickle by flying to Frankfurt and then on to Berlin was fool proof, or at least it would have been if I hadn’t flown to Frankfurt with…yep, Ukraine International Airlines. My day has been spent staring at the all seeing eye known as the “Standby List Screen” in Frankfurt Terminal 1. It’s like watching ceefax (RIP) for the football scores. My name is on there, I’m number 8! I’m ruddy number 8! I don’t know what that means. I ask the well-fed Lufthansa check-in desk lady as she is mid Kit-Kat, “nothing” she tells me. I’m “in a queue”. There’s nothing I can do apparently. I ignore that last comment, there’s always something you can do. I hot foot it to the Lufthansa help-desk, and do what we Brits do best, queue (again), in preparation to complain.

It’s a well known scientific fact that British people are best in the world at queuing. We politely queued outside Northern Rock to collect what ever was left from our life savings, we queue outside HMV at midnight to buy Modern Warfare 3 and I am queuing in Frankfurt airport, partly to prove chunky Helga wrong, and partly because I’m now convinced its what I should be doing.

I reach the desk at the same time as an equally frustrated American man, who lets rip. No soft approach, no sob story, just hatred. I hold back, British reserve kicks in…”I’m terribly sorry to bother you”…and “I wonder if you can help me”. I hear the American to my right, it’s not going well…”I’m sorry sir, the next 2 flights are fully booked, cancellations only I’m afraid, I will put you back on the Standby List” he is informed. My lady goes quiet, waits until Mr Diplomatic storms off…and slowly hands me a boarding pass, “have a nice flight”. I should buy her a Kit-Kat.

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Mont Blanc

The August expedition to Central Africa seems so far away, I thought I would fill the time with another summit attempt of the White Mountain, Mont Blanc. At 4807m (15771ft), the peak is officially the highest in Europe. Here are some of the best shots of my climb in June 2011, including a somber photo of the resuce helicopter lifting off one of the 9 casualties on the face that day. Sadly 5 people lost their lives on my climb, hoping for a safe climb in 6 weeks time 🙂

Tom will fix it..

I’m the medic, and Tom is the mechanic. That was the agreement. But what if Tom needs the medic? Then I become the mechanic…

Our 1988 Land Rover Defender is a bit of gem. We’ve not driven it, or seen it in the flesh, but we have photos. And we are excited. Driving any vehicle 2,500km is a challenge, not least when it is 22 years old. But this is a Land Rover, and they are hard. Or so our new friends at True Grip Off Road told us when they very kindly gave us a fantastic 2 day training course in 4×4 driving skills and basic mechanics. The Essex cold (and snow) made us feel very far away from the Serengeti Plains and Rwandan jungle, but the vehicles and training were just class.

A short drive

“It’s roughly 2,500km”….

“That’s quite a long way”..was the response from the owner of the vehicle that I was asking to borrow to drive the 2,500km. Thankfully, he soon turned his attentions to more pressing concerns such as my weapon handling skills and my apparent lack of knowledge on the movement of rebels on the Uganda – DRC border. All that aside, an expedition was born, and the vehicle secured.

In August, I will be driving from Nairobi, to Tanzania, through Rwanda onto Uganda, up to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and then back to Kenya via Uganda. Co-driver Tom James completes the team, although i’m not sure he knows too much about those rebels either…?!

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First post..

The first post to the blog, and by chance it is written whilst 1,564 miles away from London in sunny sunny Kiev. I would class that as a ‘far away place’.

The city is experiencing Euro 2012 (not to be out-done by 2012 as ‘owned’ by LOCOG) fever, or so the giant posters and banners adorning the main road from Borispol Airport will tell you. The sight of hundreds of women ‘workers’ frantically putting the final touches to the temporary flower beds and completely unatural looking grassy areas is one to behold, when I was last here in late 2011 the place was much more the former Soviet nation I had in mind…only now it has a 60ft high poster of Cristiano Ronaldo drinking Coca-Cola whilst wearing pink Nike boots and reminding the lucky workers that the he is coming to play football here. I wonder if he even knows where Kiev is.

My attention now turns to the small matter of a 2,500km drive around Lake Victoria, which will (hopefully) be the feature of this site for the coming weeks….