BELARUS 1997


   

It all started during a conversation with Ray Montieth Smith of Trailmasters when he asked if I wanted to to go greenlaning in Romania. I declined the offer, but asked him to keep me informed of similar adventures. A week or two later, I rang his office to be told that he was away, so I asked which wonderful part of the world he was visiting. Expecting an answer like Morocco or Canada, I was a little taken aback when the reply was Wrexham!

Probing further, I discovered that he was at the offices of Operation Christmas Child, organising a return trip to an orphanage in Blon, Belarus. Once he had returned to the Trailmaster office, I contacted him again and subsequently joined the team for the return trip.

With the trip six months ahead, it seemed that there was plenty of time to get everything organised. However, one of my main problems was taking a fortnight out of the magazine schedule, which would need some careful planning and certain deadlines would need to be brought forward. As it happened, final preparation took a lot longer than anticipated and an expected rather busy few weeks, which included the London Motor Show and the Superwinch/Safety Devices Hillrally became exceedingly hectic to say the least! In the meantime, I had formed 4x4 Aid (which was later shortened to FourAid, as we also use two wheel drive vehicles) along with John Bracewell and tried to raise as much sponsorship as we could.

I made a long list of things that were required, including passport, injections, international driving license, visas, vehicle insurance, documents, MOT, foreign currency, etc, etc.

Then I started to work my way through it.

Finding a vehicle became a major problem, a lot of the manufacturers were reluctant to loan a vehicle for a trip into Russia (although Belarus is now independent, it was until recently part of the USSR and even now, you have to first enter Russia, before Belarus) and those who were happy to, had a problem with the dates as it clashed with the recce for the Network Q RAC Rally and a couple of other events.

 Above: The orphanage in Blon, Belarus had been worked on by cowboyski "builders" and needed plenty of work to stablise it.

On a visit to Avon Land Rover Services of Bristol, Barry Cambridge had told me if I had a problem with a vehicle to contact him, so, as the leaving date neared, I called in to see him. A 110 normal aspirated diesel was selected and a week later I went down to pick it up, part exchanging my Land Rover Lightweight. The lighweight was about the same in noise levels and was faster!!!  The 110 had been fitted with a roof rack, extra tank and worklamps, the next stage being to run it up to Oldham, where Bob Christie of BJ Acoustics had offered to fit a soundproofing kit. The journey back was a lot quieter!

Bernie Morris of Liverpool's LR Supermarket had kindly donated the whole team a pair of Camel Trophy Adventurewear boots each, so I called in to pick mine up and take the opportunity to purchase some spares.

The gearchange had got a little wooly over this period, so a call to LEGS of Oswestry for some advice was made. Two hours later they had rebuilt the gearchange mechanism and it was like driving a new vehicle. Thanks!  The final week was spent trying to finish the off-road magazine I was working on, check that everything had been done, liaise with the other members of the team and load everything into the vehicle. Chamberlain's had supplied a set of seat covers, Bakers 4x4 had loaned a bed conversion and Simoniz had donated antifreeze and de-icer (which we used a lot of!!). Climair sent a pair of wind deflectors and a set of Olympic ECLs were supplied by A&A Tyres of Cardiff.  Ryders International had supplied a Warn 8274 winch and fitting kit, but my last minute problems meant that I was unable to get it fitted in time.

All of a sudden it was time to pick OOC's Ian Mackenzie up, make our way over to Widnes to meet up with John Bracewell, who had taken over the co-ordination of the excercise on the absence of Ray. We then ran in convoy along with the ambulance, that Staffordshire Ambulance Service had donated, to the M6 to meet up with the Scottish contingent. The journey continued down the M6, M1, M25, A12 to the docks at Harwich, where the remaining (southern) members of the team met us. Then we prepared to board one of Scandinavian Seaways luxury ferries, as they had very kindly given the whole team free return passage.

I assumed that I would be sick as a parrot on the boat and it was suggested that I undertook alcoholic beverage so that I would at least have something to be sick with (well, I thought it was a good excuse!), so a trip to the bar was made. With 22 hours of sea travel in a force six/seven gale, I wasn't looking forward to the journey, but after team member after team member fell by the wayside, there was only two of us left drinking. And all that beer.

It seemed that every time a round was ordered, someone fell out.

We wondered along to the cabaret. This was easier said than done with the boat wallowing about, but at least you couldn't tell who was drunk or not! Come midnight, I was up next to the bridge, singing (badly!) the theme from Das Boot as the ship crashed through the waves in brilliant moonlight. Superb!

We docked in Hamburg around lunchtime after a long run up the Elbe. We quickly disembarked and formed up in convoy outside the docks. Then the long journey started, out through Hamburg and along the autobahns. Unfortunately, the route to Poland goes through some of the flattest German countryside, so the members of the team from Norfolk obviously felt at home!

One of the vehicles had a problem on the autobahn with loose wheel nuts, which resulted in a wheel coming loose and landing in the fast lane of the Autobahn and took out a hatchback on its way (fortunately without injury). The repair to the trailer was solved by the combined use of an airjack and a hi-lift jack. We drove on through the night, swapping drivers as and when the need became necessary and eventually we reached the German/Polish border. The controls on the German side had closed, so we preceded to the Polish side.

The paperwork we were carrying allowed us to go to the front of the queue and after the necessary inspection of passports/visas/etc, we were into Poland. A few miles into the country, it was decided to stop for food and fuel, so a convenient petrol station was located. We quickly set up the cooking appliances, well away from the refuelling areas and tucked into a wide selection of meals, keeping the local prostitutes at arm's length.

Above: As you can see, a lot of work was required to stop the building fall into the swamp!

After hunger had been satisfied, we drove on further into the night, before stopping in a 'layby' for a few hours sleep (or lack of sleep in my case). Carrying on through Poland, along their two lane roads, with a wide "hard shoulder", which you were expected to move over onto, when being overtaken. Nice in theory, but this piece of tarmac was also used for horse drawn vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians!  The roads also suffer from subsidence and have "tramlines" made by heavy lorries (bit like parts of the M6). It was fun at times to try and keep the 110 with one set of wheels in and one out of the ruts!


Certain members of the team had been winding others up and convincing them that we when reached the Polish Alps, they would have great trouble ascending them with their loaded vehicles and trailers. As I had researched the route beforehand, I didn't fall for this, but one or two nameless members of the convoy got quite concerned. The route actually took us along some of the flattest roads I have ever seen, the nearest thing to the Alps being the occasional railway bridge!

One of the vehicles in the convoy got stopped by the Polish police, so the whole convoy stopped and I did a three point turn to find out what the problem was, nearly causing another by driving off on the left hand side of the road. Funny how you get disorientated. The problem turned out to be that you need to drive on dipped headlights in Poland, even if it is a bright sunny day. One rebuke later, we were all on our way again.

We reached Warsaw, which looked very interesting as we drove through, it would have been nice to have spent some time exploring, but as this was an aid convoy, not a tourist trip, we continued. As night and snow started to fall we began to reach the Polish/Belarus border. Well, that's what we thought, but apparently, when Russia granted Belarus its independence, it kept a small strip of land between Poland and Belarus. This means that you leave Poland, go into Russia, then into Belarus. The paperwork we carried again meant that we pushed our way to the front of the queue, only beaten by a vehicle with CD plates and passage was "reasonably" smooth, until we got to the Belarus control, where it was found that we only had passes for two people and there were three in our vehicle.

After much waving of hands and pointing at phrase books, it was realised we needed to return to the Polish control to obtain the missing stamps on the piece of paper. No problem, so Robb and I ran back.  Mistake. In running back, we ran straight through the Russian control, this made one of the armed guards rather nervous and reach for his Kalashnikov. We immediately stopped running.  Quickly explaining (mainly by pointing!)what we were doing, running back through his country to try and get a missing stamp in Poland. Luckily, the possession of the piece of paper, with the stamp missing, convinced him that we we not trying to escape from Belarus and he directed where we should go.

Politely pushing our way to the front of queues we eventually found the man with the correct rubber stamp. Next problem was that he needed to see the passport of the "missing" person, who happened to be Ian, back in the Land Rover in Belarus. So it was back through Russia, walking slowly this time, into Belarus to collect Ian, then back through Russia into Poland to get the necessary stamp. Once we had this, it was through Russia again, back to the vehicle in Belarus and continue on our journey. Into Brest. Not the most pretty of cities, to say the least, with a large amount of tower blocks. A supposedly wrong turn meant we all had to U-turn on a piece of waste ground, the first bit of off-roading so far!

However, it was found that we were on the correct road after all, so after another bit of off-roading, we were heading in the correct direction. The main roads in Belarus are reasonably well tarmaced, but have controls every so often. These are left over from the days of communism, but a lot are still in use today. We joined the Belarus M1 (yes, really!) and headed towards Minsk. Contraflow systems are in place, just like our own M1, the main difference being that in Belarus, they occasionally forget to direct you back on to your correct side! Makes for interesting motoring. Luckily there isn't the amount of traffic that there is on ours.

This section, up to Minsk, consists of large areas of nothing, interspersed with large areas of forest, and I mean large areas. This is known as bandit territory and was time for "tight convoy" mode.

We eventually found a "layby" where we decided to stop for a few hours, this came complete with a 24 hour cafe. This establishment, run by two friendly Russians, served some very interesting coffee and local "rocket fuel", which they call Vodka. I declined the rocket fuel, but unfortunately Ian didn't and came back to the 110 p*ssed, which was annoying for me as it was his turn at the wheel, so I started my "double shift".

Starting time came around very quickly and the convoy headed off towards Minsk. We had to drive into Minsk, which was obviously designed by the same person who did Brest and used a standard house brick with black squares painted on it as a scale model for the buildings. stacking them up as and when required. Heading out of Minsk towards Blon, avoiding the trolleybuses and trams, it was decided that it was time to refuel. A garage was located but, although there was plenty of petrol available, it was sadly lacking in the diesel department. So much for the legend that in Belarus, petrol is exceedingly scarce and diesel in abundance. Time to empty a jerry can full of diesel into the tank.

As we neared Blon, there had been a fall of snow overnight, but road conditions were fine, especially if you are driving a permanent four wheel drive vehicle on Olympic ECLs! Seriously, even the two wheel drive vehicles had no problems, probably due to the fact that they were carrying a rather heavy payload. Blon is in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of nowhere. The white landscape making the area even more bleak than it actually was. Eventually we arrived in the small town and after a couple of wrong turns, located the road to the orphanage. The orphanage is even more in the middle of nowhere.

At this point the Scottish lads were asked if they felt at home. Something about the lack of mountains is about the only printable part of the reply...

So, after a good few days, over 1,300 miles of "B" roads, plus a 22 hour ferry crossing, we had arrived. Locating the building Ray had described needing supporting before it collapsed was easy as we drove in, as there were cracks in the side of it you could put your hand in. There was going to be a fair bit of work done in the following few days... Ian from OCC, went to locate the Director of the orphanage, Vladimar, whilst the rest of us parked our vehicles into the areas where we could unload. Backing up to the door in turn, we started to unpack a varied selection of clothes, toys, baby food and medical supplies. Phil reversed the ambulance into a parking area with the "assistance" of a local boy who kept waving him back. Unfortunately, this was until he hit the post!

The smell of stale urine that hit you as you walked in was at first overpowering, but as time passed, you got used to it. It was from the nappies that had to be washed ineffectively over and over again and it was eventually partially relieved by the use of the new nappies we had brought with us.

During the unloading crowds of people appeared and at one point it seemed that things were going out of the doors quicker than we were putting it in. So we removed everyone from the room that shouldn't have been there and put a barracade up. At least the majority of the clothing that went "missing" went to help the locals, some of whom live in crude conditions to say the least.

As with most aid convoys, some of the stuff delivered ends up on the black market and at night, there were a few Ladas queued up by the back gate, which moved off after I illuminated them with the Nitech searchlight. Effective in Russia as well as Wales for detering people! Once everything had been unloaded, we sorted out the sleeping arrangements, which comprised of ex-USAF camp beds, brought on a previous OCC convoy. Although some members of the convoy were ill or very tired, there was enough still standing to start sorting out the work that was needed to be done. The lads from Scottish Power's Longannet Power Station started working out the best way of supporting the building that was about to collapse into the swamp and how another building which had been subject to a "Fawlty Towers" extension could be stabilised. They worked out that the most effective way to solve both problems would be to remove the "extension" from that building and use the timber as supports for the one near the swamp.

The children that were in the orphanage ranged from healthy youngsters to very serious cases of babies with terminal illnesses. We assisted entertaining the children as much as possible and hopefully, brought a few seconds of sunshine into what will be a few cases, very short lives. Some of the children "assisted" us in carrying out the laying of the floorcovering and brought rays of sunshine into our lives. They were fascinated with beards and every male was called Da-da. Moments I will always treasure.


Over the next few days, the other jobs undertaken included replacing the corridor floor and covering it with hardboard and Nairn floorcovering, which they had donated;  weatherproofing the outside walls on two of the three buildings with a special preservative which would work effectively in very sub-zero temperatures and thining out the branches of the trees that were in front of the main building. Late evenings were taken care of by tasting the local vodka, of which the local shop variety was just about drinkable, but the home brew was something else.


It tasted like a mixture of diesel and surgical spirit and was extremely effective as a falling over liquid. Or a not being able to stand up liquid. Certain members of the convoy mixed it with whisky; whether one cancelled the other out or made it doubly lethal a don't know. On a walk up to the woods the following day a lorry passed us and we recognised the smell, which was the same as we were drinking the previous night! It must have been their equivalent of four star.

The waste wood from the "extension" was loaded into a tipping trailer on loan from Great Eastern and Robb and I drove it around to unload it for the bonfire which was going to be the highlight of an evenings's entertainment, supported by a firework display. They didn't tell us it was a hand operated hydraulic tipping trailer, but luckily the action was quite effortless to raise the body.

Anyhow, it was a good excuse to drive the Land Rover in the snow.

Temperatures were dropping to minus 18 centigrade in the night, which, as I key this into the computer, is around the temperature in the Glasgow region just over a month later. At least the Scottish lads will be used to low temperatures! Apparently, it was warmer in Moscow than Scotland. The One Ten did not have any problems, with the exception of a puncture at night in the rear nearside tyre, which was quickly replaced by one of the spares using a high lift jack and a Nitech searchlight. The antifreeze and de-icer donated by Simoniz worked well in the sub-zero conditions, I just topped up the radiator with neat antifreeze as a precaution, as some of the locals reckoned it might turn cold. Apparently, temperatures of below minus 40 centigrade are not unknown. And that is cold. But it is a dry cold, not like the type we experience. Still cold though!

Some nameless person had arranged for a team from the convoy to play the local school at volleyball, the same night as the firework display. Chris and I were "nominated" as taxis to take the "team" to the next village. This was a wonderful experience - driving at night in about a foot of snow, with the villagers lining the road. In an area where even Lada Nivas are rare,

In Belarus, Land Rover Discoverys and One Tens are an exceptional sight and to have one of each appear together is something akin to having Thrust 2 drive along the M25. Now, that's a thought!...

We arrived at the school, which was very similar to those built in this country in the 1950's. After the usual friendly local greeting, the team was told that it was Basketball and suffice to say they got thrashed. The Russians take their sport very seriously. The next game was Volleyball with similar results. Chris had a game of table tennis with one of the local lads, which seemed to be going quite well in our favour, until we discovered that it was just a warm up until the local champion turned up (It might have been Putin?). Russia 3 England 0.


After the game the team went for the usual drink of rocket fuel, but the two drivers went to the car park to warm the engines. I was bending down fiddling with the accelerator pedal that had suddenly become prone to sticking, when I noticed Chris speed past. Initially, I thought that everyone had got into his vehicle and they were on the way back to the orphanage, but he returned shortly and explained he was taking some of the children home. He made another couple of trips and in the meantime I gave rides up and down the road to the children who were waiting for the staff. On one of the runs, I shoved in one of the tapes that were lying on top of the dashboard and the Beatles "Back in the USSR" blared out over the speakers. Great amusement!


Eventually the team appeared and we made the return journey to the orphanage through the snow with all the worklights, spotlights, stereo CB and heater on. All this fun resulted in a flat battery on the One Ten the following morning. The bonfire was just a small glow by the time we reached our destination and everyone told us how good the display was... Luckily, they forgot to ask how we got on... At least there was the remains of a meal to finish off. Wild boar pate is recommended, apparently. And rave music, which isn't, so I replaced it with ZZ Top, that is.


Far too soon it became the morning of our departure. The ambulance had been handed over to the Director of the orphanage by the Staffordshire Paramedics and a group photograph was taken in front of a statue of that nice Mr Lenin, with some members of the convoy still suffering the effects of drinking rocket fuel the previous night. Farewells were said as vehicles were loaded and final preparation undertaken. It was exceptionally cold and "dubious" quality diesel had gone waxy in my 110 and Tony Cable's Range Rover. A drop of petrol in the fuel tank and a start assisted by jump leads, soon had the 110 going, but Tony's still refused to start. It was decided to put the Range Rover on the trailer and I would tow Tony's trailer, so the vehicles were shunted around and the Range Rover pushed onto the trailer.

A good way to get warmed up on a cold snowy morning. John Bracewell and Ritchie Tyrell were staying on to locate other orphanges that needed help and Operation Christmas Child's Ian McKenzie was also staying on to complete some work, flying back later in the week. He would get home long before us.

We eventually started on the journey home, along the snow covered roads of Belarus. There were a few slight uphill gradients on the way and I was having difficulty keeping up with the Tdi's. Not any different from usual, but with the weight of the trailer, progress was even slower than normal. None of the vehicles had any trouble with the snow and ice, but I for one was glad to have the security of permanent four wheel drive. At one stop we tried Tony's Range Rover and as it started, unloaded it and hooked up the trailer I was towing. We passed a few vehicles parked in ditches and witnessed one take to the bank alongside the road.

Driving through Minsk, we found it to be a hive of activity, a change from the last time we drove through, when it was virtually deserted. Running at the rear of the convoy, by the time we entered the refuelling/stopping areas, the lead vehicles were usually on their way out, this was to become a feature of the journey.

On the first night, we arrived at the Belarus/Russia/Poland border and pushed to the front as usual. The first two borders not presenting a great problem, but at the Polish border, they were concerned about the amount of fuel that was being carried. Not from a safety point of view, but because of the fact that fuel is considerably cheaper in Belarus and a lot of people smuggle it in to resell at a profit. I had filled up in Belarus and paid $25 to fill the main tank, the reserve and some jerry cans. Anyhow, we managed to persude/confuse/bore the Polish guards into letting us through, not before they had charged us "trailer tax" and they tried to charge me "non-trailer tax". Nice try.


Driving in to Poland, the first vehicle in the convoy managed to get stopped for speeding, so we all pulled in behind. Chris pointed out, by shouting and waving his hands about in the confines of a Discovery, that they were obeying the speed limit, just that theirs was in kilometres per hour and ours was in miles per hour. Eventually, the policeman laughed, saluted and let us go, with a promise that we would convert to kms. It might have been the fact that seven vehicles all covered in strange writing had stopped and he didn't fancy the paperwork.

Anyhow, we were on our way. We found a lay-by to park in, so we stopped for a few hours sleep. When dawn broke we found it wasn't a lay-by but someone's garden. We were gone before anyone complained.

It was a cold but sunny day as we drove through the flat expanse of Poland, eventually stopping at a petrol station which sold food. This suddenly increased in price when the penny dropped that we were English/Welsh/Scottish. I took the opportunity to add some more diesel, but this was considerably dearer than Belarus, which is still considerably cheaper than in the UK. Still, I managed to get a receipt off the cashier. The vehicle performed considerably better on this diesel.

The Polish/German border appeared and this time we joined the queue of vehicles waiting to pass through. We were not too long in getting to the head of the queue and were passed through without problems, and plenty of banter about G-Wagens/Land Rovers/Winches/Kalashnikovs/etc!!!

It was decided to head for Berlin and spend the night and, as we were all self funded, preferably in a cheap B&B. During the search for somewhere to sleep, we found the proverbial McDonalds and caused chaos in the carpark, both entering and leaving. Eventually a small hotel was found, but they would not accept $, AMEX, Barclaycard, Access or any other form of credit card or currency, with the exception of Deutchmarks.

Ray and Mark needed to return to the UK before the rest of us and had decided to catch a flight from Berlin. I was elected to drive them to the airport, which was "just down the road", which was also a good opportunity to change everyone's dollars to Dmk's. We trundled down the road and found the airport remarkably quickly. I went to change the currency and on the way back saw Ray and Mark coming towards us. Wrong airport.  We were in East Berlin, the required airport was located in North West Berlin. So off we went, Ray usefully having an underground map to guide us. We went round in circles for what seemed like hours on end.

And when we looked at the time, was. Eventually arriving at the Brandenburg Gate, which looked superb lit up, I decided to ask a policeman the way to the airport and luckily found one that could speak English. After being told that there were eleven airports to choose from, we decided on the most likely and he gave directions. He also asked why we were driving a sticker covered Land Rover around Berlin late on a Sunday evening, so I explained where were had been and what were we doing and he wished us well, before pointing out that Land Rover was now German. Goodbye.

We drove through the Brandenburg Gate and headed towards the airport and dropped Mark and Ray off. driving away quickly before they found it was the wrong airport again.  Apparently it wasn't and they got home days before us. Now we had to get back to the hotel, which was right the other side of the city. My son, Robb who had accompanied us, decided that he didn't feel too good and it was not a good idea to read the map on the way back. This left me to guess the route, drive on the wrong side and occassionaly glance at a map when we became stationary. Good fun. Not.

Driving through a nightime Berlin was impressive and made up for all the problems encountered. After a few wrong slots and U turns, we eventually headed back out on the Dresden road, which was in the direction required and Robb asked a bus driver the way. To cut a long story short, I spooted an Ikea sign and remembered it was near the hotel, so we soon arrived back at the hotel, found that nearly everyone else had been to the local, and went to bed, after a long awaited shower.

The following day, we all piled into the two vans and drove into Berlin. Been there. Done that. In daylight, it was nowhere near as impressive as the nightime run. Thanks Ray! We returned to the hotel, collected our stuff and we all drove off. Well, not quite all of us. We noticed later on, quite later on, that Phil wasn't in any of the vehicles. He had been swapping vehicles from time to time and everyone had assumed he was with someone else. One of the Scottish crews were elected to return to pick him up, as I was having trouble with a leaking radiator and the service station we had pulled into had everything except Radweld.

Continuing up the autobahn, we headed to Hamburg, the idea was to find a cheap hotel and have a good night sleep before the long ferry trip the following day. One of the Scottish crews, wandered off the motorway and headed off towards Poland again. They rejoined the autobahn later. We had no problems on the autobahn this time, apart from the need to keep a watchful eye on the temperature gauge.

Arriving at the outskirts of Hamburg, we played follow my leader down through the busy roads to the docks. The route chosen into the docks had width restrictors, obviously to stop lorries from using it for access, but it also stopped Land Rovers with wide trailers. As I was behind and blocking traffic wanting to filter left, I drove around the block. Unfortunately, this was a rather large block and, by the time I got around again, everyone had vanished again! Lost in Hamburg.

Not quite. We knew the name of the hotel and eventually found it. Parking outside, I was suspicious that it was not the right hotel. This was the German equivalent of a four star hotel, not the cheap B&B we were looking for. Anyhow, I left Robb on the CB trying to contact the rest of the convoy and ventured into reception. One of the girls was just coming off duty and greeted me in German.

I apologised for my lack of fluency in German, most of my German coming from war films and Auf Weideshen, Pet. Which, as it happened, was quite appropriate.

She answered with a "It's alright, Petal, I'm from Manchester."

A few non-alcoholic drinks in the bar later, I returned to the 110, to find the rest of the convoy had been in touch and were just about to arrive. When they did, it was in one van, as the remainder had been left in a secure compound. I was right about the hotel and we went in search of the correct one. We never found it, but we did locate one in the red light district of Hamburg. Reasonably cheap and you could park outside. I made sure the Low-Loc was fitted. We went to our various rooms then met in the foyer later to go in search of food and drink. McDonalds and Burger King were in evidence, along with a selection of pizza houses and some places with pictures of naked ladies outside. The girls in the area were very chatty, as were some of the blokes!

Suffice to say, we all made it back to the hotel and Robb and I returned to our room where we watched TJ Hooker in German and Jingle Cats (a short film, where cats meow the tune Jingle Bells!) on the satelite channels. We sank some German wine before calling it a night.

The following morning, we ensured everyone was together before heading off towards the docks. We arrived there about six hours before our due time, so Robb and I went for a walk back up into the main street of Hamburg and wandered around the shops, indulging in cakes and such delights, before returning to the docks. Whilst most of the convoy members stayed in their vehicles, Robb,

Phil and myself discovered the Scandinavia Seaways hospitality lounge which was warm, had a small cafe, toilets and a view over the river. So we drank coffee and watched the ships pass by. About half an hour before our boarding time, we ambled back to the vehicles and waited to board. There was a sudden burst of activity, passports were shown and we were aboard. It was a very calm sailing and much of the time was spent in the bars, eating, watching the cabaret or in the disco. All too soon, the English coast was spotted and shortly after, it was time to disembark. This was delayed somewhat by a Montego that didn't want to play and had to be pushed out of the way. Ultimately, we left the ferry and drove down the ramp towards customs.

We were waved past and parked up alongside the remainder of the convoy. Ray Monteith-Smith from Trailmasters was there to greet us as promised and after a brief conversation, I popped over to the ferry shop to replace a translation book that had been given away. By the time I returned, the Avon Landrover Services 110 was alone in the car park. Surprise, surprise!!!

The remainder of the convoy had left. As usual. At least, we had said our farewells on the ferry.

There was now just Robb, Phil and myself to head back up to North Wales. We called at Aceville Publishing in Colchester on the way back, before picking up the motorway system.

One final problem was a noise from one of the wheels, which turned out to be a foreign object stuck in it. After it was changed, we enjoyed a quiet ride back home, with no banter over the CB!




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