Uganda 08 diary - Day 1

Ok, so here we go...

Well, first up is our day of travel. Somehow we managed to get all our luggage (including 6 extra, very large holdalls full of sports and audio-visual gear) and 13 bodies into our school minibus (we picked Francis up once we got to Southampton). Fortunately I have some experience of such packing from previous trips. One of the group wittily asked me if I was a Tetris fanatic!

By 10.00am we were on the road from Liverpool to Southampton, stopping for lunch at Warwick services. Bros. Francis + Augustine had light refreshments ready for us at St. Mary's (the Brothers' community in Southampton). Bro. Jack attached his trailer to our minibus, we loaded the bigger bags into to it to make room for Francis and also Jack (our driver to Heathrow) and off we went on the last road leg.

Refreshments at St. Mary's, the team proudly showing off their tour t-shirts designed by Simon T.

Fortunately we left in plenty of time, because as it turned out there was to be high drama once we arrived at Heathrow. There was a mistake on the ticket booking that we only picked up a couple of days before we left (the person who made the booking shall remain nameless... let's just say that they still owe me a beer!! :-) The mistake was in relation to Simon's name. He was down on the ticket as Matthew T., not Simon T. Ironically he has a brother named Matthew and this was to work in our favour. To cut a (very) long story short (for the negociations at the ticket desk went on for about 45 mins.) at one point the best we could do was buy Simon another ticket at full price (over £2,100!!) without even a guarantee that he would have a seat as at best he could only be put on standby. This was because there were already other people waiting in the standby queue who would take his initial seat as soon as his first ticket was cancelled.

We were then looking at him getting a flight to Nairobi (Kenya), staying the night there and flying on to Entebbe the next day, though this would never have been a viable option without an accompanying adult (though Simon was certainly up for it). However, Bro. Francis + myself worked our well-rehearsed "bad cop-good cop" routine perfectly (after a few silent prayers). Francis softened up the woman at the ticket desk with some well aimed verbal resistance and I followed up with a devastating charm attack on her and her manager after having politely asked if I could see him (or her - it was a him in the end), referring to the charity work we were going to be doing, all the money we had raised, etc... This worked a treat as, before we knew it we had a guaranteed seat in Simon's name and the cost had come down to the price of his original ticket (about £640 - a big improvement on £2,100).

Afterwards, we were all able to laugh about it, but at the time I felt my whole world caving in around me. Not nice. Can't imagine how Simon felt. But the drama was not over. We barely had the time to get our pulse rates back down to normal before problems occured at the security check. A certain "Team Win!" member (who obviously hadn't read my e-mails!!) tried to blithely get a whole assortment of banned hand luggage items through security in the vain hope of no-one (and no machine) noticing. Hmmm.... This included at least 3 cans of anti-mosquito aerosol, large bottles of suncream, shampoo, etc..., full water bottles... you name it, he had it. The choice was to either dump the whole lot or go back and put the bag through the baggage check-in. We chose the latter. Fortunately they did not charge him extra, as we had already paid out over £300 to bring the 6 extra large holdalls. 20 mins. later we eventually managed to set off for the departure gate. Thank God I had broken the habit of a lifetime (oh boy, and don't you know it, Francis!) and actually managed to get us to the airport (with Bro. Jack's assistance in driving us) a good 2hrs45 before departure.

Oh the relief of finally making it on board!!

The night flight itself was incident free, though next morning I cursed myself for not having wrapped up in the British Airways blanket before nodding off, as I then woke up with a streaming nose thanks no doubt to the plane's agressive air conditioning. This led to a full-blown head cold, complete with bunged up and aching sinuses, headache, the works. Took about 5 days to work it out of my system. Nice!
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