The Challenge Begins.
We have arrived in Darwin to
carry out final logistics and to do some acclimatisation training.
The last six weeks have flown by and at times there has not been
enough hours in the day. In that six week period the team and I were
to be confronted with many extra challenges and changes.
started , in the first instance ,with Derek being told that he could
no longer have the extended leave he had accumulated,as the prison
where he worked had become short of staff. This was made worse when
Sgt. Robbie Roberts was then told he would not be able to go because
of the crisis in Kosovo, for which he might be called up. Once again
I would have to call upon the Royal Marines to see if they had two
bodies who might like to fill the places. Obviously both Derek and
Robbie were really disappointed ,to say the least, but both have
stayed involved and helped out as much as possible.
arranged to do a team-training run from Exeter to Bristol. I would
organise things from my home town of Bristol and Robbie was to carry
out all of the logistics at the Exeter end as he was based at
By now the new chair made by British Aerospace in
Brough had arrived and everything was going well, that is until the
second day of training using the chair. I was out with my son Robert
,putting the chair through it's paces and ensuring that there were
no alterations or adjustments required when suddenly the handle of
the chair came off in my hand, leaving me to flip the chair over
several times. Both the chair and I were damaged,we were two days
away from having to cover the 104 mile route that had been arranged
and the chair was not in any fit condition to move, let alone
kind of distance!
I spent the evening at the local hospital, having x-rays
and then cuts and bruises attended to. I knew I had to find someone
who could repair the damage to the chair quickly as it was now
Friday and the May bank holiday loomed. There was no chance of the chair going back to Brough as the local aerospace were already on
Once again my good friend Shaun Davis stepped in to
help. He arranged through Mike Gimber,a friend of his, that Rolls
Royce in Bristol would do all they could for me. They spent most of
the Friday morning and part of the afternoon working non-stop to
mend the damaged front forks of the chair, finally the job was done
and we could continue with our training and PR exercise.
though he was no longer on the team travelling to Australia, Robbie
had continued to organise the logistics at his end. We were to be
seen off from Exeter by the deputy Lord Mayor and proceed to Bristol
via the barracks of the new unit Robbie had been posted to in
Taunton. As we had planned to take a respite at the barracks in
Taunton, Robbie had arranged for us to travel to Bridgwater and
visit the Royal Marines Association there, as they had done some
fundraising for the Wheelchair Sports Worldwide Fund. They were
excellent hosts to us and finished off the evening by presenting us
with a cheque. We finished the weekend trial in Bristol, where the
Royal Marines Reserves from Clifton met us and also gave us a
cheque. We raised a total of £586 that weekend for
During the last six weeks the team worked virtually
non-stop to consolidate deals with sponsors, both old and new to
ensure that all the equipment was on it's way to us. Time was
becoming more and more precious as we tried to raise much needed
funds for the charity and fit in our normal working
We continued carrying out several PR initiatives in those
last weeks from radio and television programmes to press interviews.
We also made two more visits to Exeter for a joint PR exercise with
'Mud Dock' who were sponsoring the cycling festival there along with
the local council and had asked us to attend. They presented each
member of the team with a pair of D'arc cycling glasses.
were now within days of leaving and still there were many important
items of equipment arriving by courier, some were delayed due to a
local postal strike. I had only just managed to secure sponsors for
some of the equipment we needed to use for the comparison tests, I
know my nerves were
already being tested!
It was now
Thursday17th June and we were still having a few link -up problems,
between the GMP 2000 satellite telephone and the other equipment.
Alistair and Alan , friends from Kerridges along with myself worked
late and finally the link was made.
Peter Hooper of Vitech had
agreed to his company supplying us with an Osmometer and Sarah
Cordell Casella had assisted us in obtaining the meteorological
equipment that was necessary to ensure that accurate readings of
humidity,temperature and wind speed could be recorded.
now Friday 18th June ,just tow days before we were due to fly to
Darwin,the final pieces of equipment and information guides had
arrived, I breathed a small sigh of relief, all that was left to do
was to check out the equipment and get it packed for the air