I have just sat and read a few of my last blog posts and the sounds, smells and feelings of West Africa have coming flooding back to me after six weeks in the UK.
It may have been challenging, frustrating and at times downright hard work, but I have missed everything about it with every atom of my being! Don´t get me wrong, seeing friends and family again after 6 months away has been wonderful – my family in particular are my rock – and everyone here is the reason why we will never stop coming back to the UK no matter where in the world we are.
My last blog promised a return at the end of February so I thought I would write a short interlude to keep you all updated on where things are. And it´s not bad timing as well – things are getting quite exciting again!
So let´s go back to where the last post left off. We delivered Henry to the house of a shipping agent in Abidjan on 21st January, a man we had met once and knew nothing about other than visiting his office and looking him up on the internet.
In actual fact we had done as much due diligence on him as was possible and, as our Cape Town agent said, at some point we just had to make the leap and trust him. But as we drove away from Henry – and then flew away from Abidjan 4,000 miles back to the UK – I felt physically sick. We had handed a complete stranger our most cherished possession including his keys, registration document and carnet….and just walked away.
Let´s not dwell on that too much! Until we open the container in Cape Town nothing is certain, but as of today we are pretty sure we´ve made the right choice of agent and my stomach has starting accepting food again!
However things did not go smoothly. First the shipping line bumped us off the ship (rather like being bumped off an overbooked flight apparently) but our agent got us back on the manifest. Then the global shortage of shipping containers meant Henry couldn´t even be packed for 12 days after we left him and was left sitting on the roadside waiting.
Finally the container arrived and work began on getting customs clearance. Only once customs had signed him off could Henry be packed, strapped and lashed.
In the midst of all this the ship arrived and the agent was sent into a panic as he had much to do before the container could be delivered to the port. But he was confident.
Maybe too confident! Inevitably we waited four days and were finally told we´d missed the ship.
The next one was due four days later. Four days in the shipping industry means about ten days. Ten days became two weeks. Time slipped and slipped and continues to slip.
The day Henry´s container was loaded onto the Hammonia Baltica we threw party poppers!
The day the Hammonia Baltica set sail for Belgium we opened the champagne!
As I write, the Hammonia Baltica has just docked at Tanger Med in Morocco and is due into Antwerp on 10th March. From there Henry is transferred onto the MSC Stella and starts his long journey back south to Cape Town. He´s doing his own world tour without us!
He´s due to land on 2nd April. Chances of that date being achieved are as close to zero as it gets! My guess is three weeks later, James thinks I´m being optimistic….
And us? We arrived at Abidjan Airport with mixed feelings – excited about going back to see everyone but nervous at the uncertainty of when we could return to our real, nomadic lives.
And landing in a murky and freezing cold UK didn´t help – 30 degrees colder than the world we had just left!
Since then, we have spent 6 weeks seeing as many friends and family as we can. We´ve jet setted from London to Warwickshire to Birmingham to the Lake District to Bristol, Peterborough and Oxford. It has been life affirming and also a lot of fun to see so many of the people we care about in such a relatively short period of time.
We feel like tourists on holiday here now, taking a break from the day job!
But we are champing at the bit to get back and plans have finally been made.
We fly to Cape Town on Sunday 13th March and have 3 weeks worth of AirBnBs and a hire car booked taking us to 2nd April.
What happens after that until Henry actually arrives and is released from port is anyone´s guess! But we grabbed life by the shoulders back in September when we left our old lives behind and had an absolute ball, why stop taking risks now??
My stomach is wobbly and full of butterflies just as it was when we walked away from Henry in Abidjan, but this time for a very different reason!