I woke at 06:30 on the morning of August 8th, departure day, allowing sufficient time to relax and enjoy one last cooked breakfast and a pot of fresh coffee outside in the cool morning breeze. Thinking it wise to get the final life admin chores out of the way before I could allow myself the time to sit back, I applied to SORN my car off the road and change my address through the DVLA. To submit these changes I had to provide my personal details, unpacking my day pack to find my passport number, in absolute horror I saw the face of my friend, Steve, on the photo page. Somehow during our road trip home from France our passports had been swapped. Unable to get hold of Steve or his partner, Emma, I had to jump in my mum’s, road worthy car, fight the morning rush hour traffic and bang on the front door waking Steve, Emma and both daughters up in the process. Relieved to be reunited with with my passport, I returned home with only 10 minutes to say my final goodbye to my Mum. Feeling very little emotion up to this point, I knew that this would be the moment. Saying goodbye to my Mum has always been the most difficult part of any expedition. She has always been there and looked out for me, she has been a shoulder to cry on and an open ear to listen to my dilemmas and has provide the much needed Motherly advice. Hearing her voice break as we hold each other for the last time and seeing her eyes well up hit me hard, I felt it in the pit of my stomach but knew I needed to stay strong, I put on a brave face and smiled as I waved goodbye. Mum, you will be dearly missed. I will try to be in touch as often as I can and most importantly, please try not to worry about me. As you know, I won’t take unnecessary risks, I always make clear and concise decisions and Jacob and I will be looking out for each other.
Time dissipated. With 15 minutes to go I still had to: make vegan sausage and avocado pitta breads; scoff a bowl of porridge; drink my, what was now ice cold, coffee; have a shower; get changed and read my letters from my family and Eliza. There was no relaxing breakfast in the garden. After rushing around in a panic, I opened my letter with extremely kind and heartfelt words from my Mum, Sister and Brother, words that I can refer back to during hard times during the trip to feel a sense of family love and home comforts. I was then stunned by an incredibly work of art that I must pay thanks to Eliza’s younger sister for. A life-like painting of yours truly taking on Long John Silver from the TV series “Black Sails” at a game of chess, in my climbing gear while drinking coffee from my beloved orange mug. Awesome. This was accompanied by another bout of kindness, I was touched to hear such honest words a very close friend. Whom I have lived with harmoniously for three years, shared great times playing board games, watching TV series, cooking for one another and climbing together. I sincerely look forward to spending Christmas together in Kathmandu.
Dad arrived as I wiped my brow free of sweat. What was meant to be a relaxing final morning turned into a mad panic and an almost-disaster. We loaded the car and hit the road. The final hours spent with my Dad while he has taken me to the airport for all of my adventurous travels, have been a fond memory. We catch up on life and share music that will end up becoming a soundtrack for the journey that lies ahead. On this occasion, we listened to a somewhat eclectic music selection from musicals, movie soundtracks and a variety of songs that we have enjoyed in the past that have formed fond memories. Dad heroically puts in a shift driving his children to the airport, usually for the reward of a final pint before boarding. Unfortunately, due to the complex boarding sequence with the bikes, there was little time for alcohol infused extra curricular activities. Rather than feeling empty when his children inevitably walk under the ‘Departures’ sign at the airport, to not be seen again for what would feel an age. Dad experiences a proud sense of contentment knowing that his children are following their dreams, their chosen path, whether it be unconventional or outright ludicrous, living out their lives aware that time in the short lifespan of a human is limited, aware that time is the one thing that will never be recovered.
Jacob and I said our goodbyes, and proceeded through passport control. Cheese cobs and pitta breads were demolished in a frenzy and with very little time to stop and think, we were boarding the plane. We stretched out relishing the comforts of our emergency exit seats with extra legroom. Soon, we were in the air and off English soil. Feeling it appropriate to live up to our new profound ‘traveller’ status, we decided to order two Turkish coffees on the plane. This was quickly followed by a fit of giggles from the air hostess as she flashed my Monzo debit card to her colleague who both seemingly decided to find the bright orangey-pink hue very amusing. It was after the initial mouthful of strong, gritty coffee when we realised we weren’t ready to live up to the name and perhaps an instant Nescafe Gold Blend would have sufficed. Yet witnessing Jacob attempting to sweeten his coffee by casually pouring his refreshing citrus hand towel sachet into his cup thinking it was sugar made it a worthwhile decision. Donning inappropriate clothing for such temperatures, thinking that wearing long sleeves and walking trousers would prevent an overweight baggage charge, we sat back and could finally relax. The planning phase was over, Kyrgyzstan was in our sights and what had been the decade long dream was about to become a reality.
“There is a time in a parents life when they have to reluctantly let go of the bicycle seat and let their children pedal unaided into the distance”
– A quote from a friend of my Fathers.