Day one – Kelvin gave me a lift to Colchester, collected me from the station at 05:33 – worry had only just begun to set in as the prearranged time was 5:30!
Arrived at the BT fleet depot in Colchester at about 6:30. Loaded up the stuff in the back of the van and drove to Witham to pick up the other lorry.
From there I drove the van directly to Dover – made extremely good time arriving at Lord Warden House to collect the export paperwork for the two lorries in an attempt to expedite the boarding process and drove the van straight into a height restrictor over the entrance to a car park – turns out that the van is somewhat taller than my Fiat 500. Customs wouldn’t allow us to collect the export licences so we had to wait for the two other lorries.
I’m sure that the town of Dover is lovely, however the port is a vial place. Messy and disorganised, lots of traffic, and smells funny. Think Mos Eisley Spaceport from Star Wars but a little wetter and you have the idea.
Unfortunately the 7.5 tonne lorry was then subject to a random customs check which delayed the convoy and we missed the 10:30 ferry. As the three vehicles had to use separate customs channels (and the coach was following a day behind) we weren’t able to present the 3 vehicles in context -the articulated lorry carried 35 tonnes of aid, the 2 axle lorry carried the tools and equipment and the van carried personal possessions (tents, water etc) – so any official looking at any one of the vehicles in isolation couldn’t be blamed for thinking their contents a little odd. This would haunt us at the Moldovan border in 3 days time!
There was then a problem with the van’s ferry ticket – as it was booked as a tourist vehicle and not freight it couldn’t be easily transferred onto a later ferry. Then we found out that the DKV card (like a fuel card for buying travel related stuff – kindly provided by BT who meet the charities transport costs) was incorrectly restricted to fuel and tolls only. Rob paid over £400 in ferry charges on his own credit card and we got on the 12:40 ferry – with only 10 minutes to spare.
Got into the Routemaster Lounge on the ferry so no screaming kids (reserved for commercial drivers only) and free drinks! Bought the most expensive batteries known to man (£7.99 for 4AA) because my rechargeable camera batteries mysteriously became discharged.
I then got a chance to do my first driving on the wrong side of the road – several port roads and a customs booth and then a whole bunch of bastard anticlockwise roundabouts to a service station and my shift was over. At the time of writing have just entered Oostend in Belgium.