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Sky Car Expedition 2009 London - Timbuktu

Man Truck in to Central London (Cheriton Hotel)

This was a good day for getting to know Ben Gott, who was our 8x8 Man truck expert with 3 Dakar races under his belt.

We had a good laugh getting this monster of a truck into the capital the look on people's faces was amusing. After our evening sponsors and press party, we stayed at the hotel which was to be my last night with the lovely wife Patti. The hotel was not as posh as I would have expected for a 5* but I am no expert.

The next day was the drive out of London for a re-group at Dunsfold Airfield. (Top Gear Track) It was a great day for getting some shots, and a much needed day for the 8X8 to sort out it's niggles and catch up from there to the ferry in to France. I jumped over in to the camera car for the drive to Dover which gave me a chance to get to know Steve Shearman who is a director working for C4. (he is quite a funny bloke I have to say!)

The first few days in France were a little slow. It just felt like being at home still, in the knowledge of what was to come later in the expedition. The team settled in after the first few days and we were all getting excited about the first major highlight of the trip. That had to be the Mumm Champaign Château. It is arguably the most exclusive seat to dine in the world. It is said that you can not buy a ticket for the seats we sat at for any amount of money! With its very few members made up of our planets great explorers I felt quite unworthy sitting there.... At least until the fast flowing Mumm started to kick in. We were drinking a bottle of Champaign worth £900 at one point! Our host (the Mumm No3) was explaining all about the fizzy which was something I wish I could remember.

On through a few days of Vineyards that stretch in the hills for mile after mile, We made a stop off at Ben's parents house further down France, they fed us with food fit for a kings banquet and what seemed like an expert wine collection! (I knew inside that this sort of luxury was soon to end) We carried on into Spain over the Pyranees mountains then through Andorra where we collected the KTM's to play with in the desert and hooked up with Alex. Andorra is a stunnung place if you have not been there, its cheep and easy to get to and you will feel a million miles away from home when your there. Down through the rest of Spain to the next highlight of the trip.

We had two days at Alex Ledgers place we got there just as the sun was setting which gave me a short but great flight that day and a decent flight over a 4000ft snow capped mountain the next day. The following day was the first time for most of the team to see the car fly, not just a hop but a 1000ft + 30 min flight. A wave of excitement filled the team and fuelled the energy for a long and hard night of celebrating in a Spanish bar. The take off used every last inch of the runway and a bit more, the flight was perfect and smooth and stable and the landing was good but a little bouncy. To be fair to Neil Laughton he took off not knowing what to expect when landing, I am fairly sure I would not have done that, the guy has got some balls.

I was starting to feel a little further away from home now but still eager to cross over to Morocco. Spain was very nice, more so as I went in with low expectations of it and was rewarded by some of the nicest mountain scenery I have ever seen in my worldly travels and Olive tree farms that took up entire chunks of grid squares on the map. We stopped off at Danni Martinez's place for a few tests and tweaks for the now looming flight across the Gibraltar straight in a few days time.

As we approached the south coast of Spain it became apparent that the weather was not good enough to fly on that day. I formed a part of an advance party into the Spanish lump in Morocco to find a landing site for the Sky car. I found what I described as a crap site but if you have to use it there is NO margin for error. There was nothing else anywhere! After another day of waiting for good weather we decided to get the truck and motorbikes over the very famous (for taking all day) boarder from Spain into Morocco. We flew through in about two hours with thanks to Kim who was the expedition translator and visa person.

Now I was starting to feel as though I was on an expedition, but in a funny way I also felt as though we had left the Sky Car behind and that the great team we had was now split. The first nights drive into Morocco was a very windy, dusty dark track up to the top of a mountain. For our first night we were greeted by a local who kept telling us that he was taking us to his Scottish friend. So we went with it and ended up in a nice little local house type living room eating some spicy lumpy soup. Sure enough we met a young guy who had decided to move out from Scotland and is now a guide over the surrounding tough terrain (I think he was about 19).

The next days drive through Morocco was done in daylight so we got to see how stunning the dry mountains and the green valley's full of palm trees were stunning. We stayed the night on top of the Atlas mountains and about an hour after we got our heads down for some kip we got shot at from the darkness a couple of times. It soon ended only to be replaced by getting surrounded by wild dogs snarling and scurrying around fighting to get a git closer to us. This went on just about all night.

At this point we were 2.5 weeks into the expedition and getting excited about our much awaited 'Desert Camp' It was designed for the sponsors of the event to come to the edge of the Sahara in Morocco to get a taste of what the remainder of our trip was going to be like. I was excited as I knew that my wife was also coming out with the sponsors.

We had a great long weekend in the Desert it was great to see my lovely wife as I was missing her loads. Charlie Boorman was also with us and I felt lucky to be able to have a long chat over a bottle of wine or two. After buzzing him on his motorbike a few times with my paramotor I am sure that he will be coming to learn how to fly a paramotor soon.

The desert camp is also where the advance party get the details of the horrific crossing of the Gibraltar straight.......

More when I have time to write it :D

SW :D

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