And we are off!

I had an impressive 2 hours sleep on Wednesday evening with all the excitement and preparations before departure on Thursday morning. If I have forgotten any thing then I will just have to buy it!!

The journey to the airport was fairly easy, having picked Simon up from Timsbury we headed back to Mum and Dad trying to avoid any Glastonbury traffic – which we did quite successfully – down the motorway and to the folks where we put our luggage in Mum’s car and had a coffee and then left. I was worried that they would be asking Simon all sorts of embarrassing questions, thankfully not. Mum wowed him with her impressive knowledge of my boys and Dad started to show him around the garden and then proceeded to tell him that if he needed any help in organising people that he could count on me as I am very bossy – CHEERS DAD!

Mum dropped us off at Terminal 3 after a speedy journey up the M4 and I had managed to book the hotel for Andy and Hannah’s wedding for Tash and myself for the end of August. Simon cleverly thought of seeing how we could all be checked in more quickly as we were as a group yet knew nothing of what all the others looked like apart from the fact that they would have the pink Leopard tags on their bags!!! Sorted by those at the Emirates desk and I checked in after Simon and, yes of course my bag was over weight. Only by 4kg though so actually not as bad as I thought it could be! Once I was all sorted I went out to have a fag. I stared at my tickets while sitting there and started welling up. The time had come after near on a year of planning and the 175 day count down from the start of the year. The excitement, the anticipation, the hyperness – it had all been WELL worth it as I sat there with my precious boarding card not quite taking in the mammoth journey that I have been on since booking it and of course the mammoth journey that I was about to undertake!

The first flight was hell on earth. The seats I found SO uncomfortable – it was like sitting on two pieces of wood and reclining did not help that much. So much for being that tired that I was bound to sleep. So films it was – Yes Man, based on a book by Danny Wallace that I loved but nothing like it in reality. It was a pile of poo but I am glad that I have seen it on a plane and not paid for that pleasure!!! The second film that I watched was ‘How to loose friends and alienate people,’ which I actually really enjoyed. The entertainment system in the back of the seat was pretty impressive with a mahoosive range of films to watch and games even to play. I tried the latter but easily got bored and listened to some music instead. Even if I had wanted to sleep there was no way that I could have done, there was a screaming child for the WHOLE flight about 4 rows in front and then the two rather large gentlemen sitting next to me (not on the tour!) were snoring like pigs sometimes at the same time and also at times out of sync. It gave me the major giggles at one stage. Of all people on the flight – !

Getting off in Dubai at 03.15 was interesting 36 degrees it was, so we were told. The bonus was that we did not have to encounter the heat as we had to walk to transfers and then security which took a while. To be fair the walk was a welcome relief to get the blood moving as I had been doing some of the exercises but one of the things I realised that I had left behind was my DVT socks – you never can be too careful and frankly they are an incredibly sexy item of clothing that everyone has to have a pair of! The inside of Dubai airport is pretty amazing, high ceilings and full on palm trees inside and o course a/c which clearly is needed if it was that hot at that time of night – imagine what it would be like during the day?! I would not be able to wear my Lions strip in that kind of heat – actually it would be a weight loss strategy to think of – sweat it all out!!!!

I MUST have dozed off at points on the following flight – far longer and just as uncomfortable seats but as I was totally shattered by this stage they felt way worse. I was on the aisle seat again and once again I was sat next to a larger than average gentleman. Thankfully there was no fat protruding over the seat but it just meant I couldn’t lean or be anywhere near on arm of the seats. I didn’t watch any films in the very vain hope that I would be able to sleep. I got irritable and just as I was dozing off fatso needed to get out – it was like he was watching to see when I was nearly asleep and then wake me just to piss me off.

Coming into South Africa and Johannesburg we were all told by the captain that the ground temperature was a pleasant 2 degrees. Ummnn hello? Pleasant?! I felt sorry for those who had not brought a jumper with them on the flight as it was a little biting to begin with but the sun was out the sky was blue with not a cloud in sight! It was here that we could really see who was on our group as we were ushered around the airport with Gullivers Leopard Pink signs to be taken to our coach and thus our hotel out in Pretoria. It was quite interesting to see that most people second to introductions were pretty much all talking about the news of Michal Jackson passing away as there were headlines on the tv screens at most times and so it was hard to miss. It was literally only that he had passed away from a cardiac arrest. I tried to find out more info later on the news about what had happened but always seemed to try finding it at the wrong part of the hour. Ah well, I am not here to worry about that!

The transfer to the hotel was painless as was checking in. There was another Gullivers Group that had arrived earlier that day via Munich – Wildebeast Red. They, the poor sods were all sat in the bar area and not really looking the happiest of bunches on brief glimpses. I soon became apparent why – ALL of their bags were at Munich Airport – they had all made the transfer but none of their bags had. The poor buggers – I did give a little chuckle to myself though as I was so prepared for that to have been me! The hope is that all of the bags will turn up on the same flight tomorrow – if they don’t there are some that didn’t have ANY Lions stuff on and so they would have to go shopping for stuff. What a way to start your trip?!

Once in my room I opted to have a lovely long bath and was quite prepared to then fall into bed and have a much needed kip. Having spoken to Lauren though I decided that frankly that was not going to happen and the delight of being able to have a beer – and a Castle at that was frankly NOT something that could wait! So down stairs I headed and joined the plethora of people taking in the afternoon sun and blue skies out on the decking of the Hotel Bar. My good god, after seven long weeks of no beer that Castle didn’t half taste good!! So good I just felt I had to have a few more and then come the free drink from the management at 6.30pm as a welcome drink we all found that none of us had moved! Some had had to retire after not being used to the drinking in the afternoon sun scenario and were not to be seen until the following morning but the rest of us all headed into food in the hotel restaurant. A superb buffet choice with delicious primes of beef, fresh fish cooked in front of you, you could create your own stir fry and so on. I decided to try and stick to the jolly old diet as I had had a few beers – that was my indulgence for the day.

I left for bed at half nine, about the time that some of the group started singing in the restaurant, not audience participation songs but just singing. I knew I could easily have stayed there all night but the adrenalin running through me for the excitement of actually being at a Lions match tomorrow was nearly getting to much and my whole body craved bed. I know I was out like light. However I still woke at the usual time of about 3 or 4 o’clock but I felt rested and managed to doze off thank heavens!


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