Sitting in the port with a café con leche, we are recovering from yet another super early start and mulling over the journey ahead and the journey we’ve had already that brings us to this point.
The concept of Shifting Sands began 17 months ago and what a ride it has been so far.
After months of planning we set off from Stoke by Nayland at 5.20am on Wednesday 12 March with blurry eyes but in high spirits. 2683 kilometres later and minus one diff, one prop shaft, two half shafts, and a handbrake (now reinstated) we find ourselves in much the same frame of mind as we anticipate our arrival in Morocco.
In the last few days we’ve done hours of solid driving with the background noise of Landy humming gently to us through our earplugs and ear defenders…interspersed with the odd bone-shattering clunk to keep us on our toes.
Avoiding the monotony of the motorways we have travelled through some spectacular scenery in France and Spain, the highlight being the beauty of driving over the lunar lit Pyrenees just before midnight feeling like fugitives with the mountains to ourselves. Landy was kind enough to save the broken handbrake until just after our snowy descent from the Tunnel Routier d’Aragnouet-Bielsa. Surprisingly it was not the Pyrenees that marked the coldest point of our journey but Teruel where we stopped for a couple of hours kip in the Landy and later discovered to be one of the coldest towns in Spain – we can certainly corroborate that. Our first glimpses of the Mediterranean overlooking Malaga came this morning, and sitting in the sun right now the extreme cold of our night drive is a distant memory.
There are those who might say that we have got to this point through sheer obstinacy and bloody mindedness and – whilst we won’t try and dispute that these are factors – we have also benefited hugely from the advice, support and gifts of many many people and without them we would probably still be sitting at our desks in London. So there are lots of people we would really like to thank.
Starting with Andrew and Jill Rigamonti: thank you for donating your beloved Land Rover (and we hope you are enjoying the space we have created in your barn). We promise to look after her.
Thanks Henry Morshead for spending a whole weekend sharing your encyclopedic Land Rover knowledge with us, for getting under the vehicle with a hammer, and for lending us useful tools and parts. David Pledger, thank you for putting hours of work into getting her shipshape in the final couple of days. Thank you to Duncan, Jim and Richard at Britcar for helping us out with so many parts and good advice. And a huge thanks to all of the above for your help in resolving the matter of the differential that broke in France on the way down…our GILB Construction hi-vis vests came in handy at this point too so thank you for those Harry.
Thank you Robert Carter and James Oxford for welding jerry can compartments on to the Landy, securing the back door and for digging out all sorts of useful items from various barns. Thank you to all at L.S. Eaves garage in Stoke by Nayland for ensuring that we left with a full tank of diesel and apologies for flooding your forecourt. We’d forgotten about that leak…
Big thanks to the gorgeous Mark Rigamonti for building our bed and then returning at the last minute to make us some curtains. Thanks also to Ian Murray who surprised us with two parcels full of maps covering our entire route kindly donated from his private collection – it’s thanks to you we haven’t got lost yet. Thank you Dan Rigamonti for your socket set, Sheba for your towel, Kevin Knott for the varnish and paint brush, and Mrs Jefferies for lending us your trowel – we are not looking forward to needing to use it but loos are few and far between in the desert so this is an important piece of kit.
Closer to home, thank you Sophie and Andy Vaughan, John and Mary Engleheart and Rowena Mackay for your massive moral support and dedicated re-posting of our tweets and liking of our Facebook posts. A special mention is due to John and Rowena for making so much marmalade that we were able to steal 10 pots – they are going down very well with the people we have stayed with en route to North Africa. Thanks to the Carruth parents for sharing your invaluable logistics knowledge. Huge thanks also to the Engleheart parents for sponsoring our much needed soundproofing, two new tyres and various other items that you probably haven’t yet noticed have disappeared…thanks for coping with the Shifting Sands team en masse over the last month or so and all associated mess and disruption.
A big big thank you to Monique and Chantal in Sable-sur-Sarthe, Alice, Charles and Eleanor Loftie in Cazals, and Paco at the Don Gonzalo Hotel in Montilla for putting us up and feeding us on our journey down through Europe. You all went way beyond the call of duty: food parcels, calls to local Land Rover garages, curtain wire, 70 year old fino etc – in fact, we have just realised that apart from the odd baguette we haven’t paid for a single meal since we left home. So we are extremely grateful to all of you.
Thank you to everyone on our support web for all your links, advice and contacts as well as the fantastic and knowledgeable people who have responded to our email, Facebook and Twitter requests for advice. We also want to thank the people who have helped but asked not to be mentioned – you know who you are.
And finally to the thousands of people who have listened enthusiastically to us going on and on and on about Shifting Sands at every available opportunity – your good wishes, tact and patience is hugely appreciated.
More posts and pictures to follow over the next few days and months so please keep checking in.
Morocco here we come!