Having finalised my packing at the weekend, it remained only to charge my electronic devices and pack the last bits of hand luggage on Wednesday morning. As I clipped my walking poles to my daypack, an uneasy feeling rose from the pit of my stomach. Walking poles have spiky ends, even if they are encased in rubber tips — hmm, this might make those nervous chaps in airport security a little concerned. A quick Google search confirmed my fears. The problem was that the poles didn’t fit in my suitcase and I’d definitely need them on trek. Only one thing for it, repack everything back into the Exodus kitbag. I knew they’d fit, but previous experience had shown that lugging a 17kg kitbag through the streets of Sheffield, St Pancras and the tube is not for the faint-hearted (or weak-bicepped). Ah well, I’d just have to hope that all those gym sessions had paid off, or failing that, treat it as the final piece of fitness training. It seemed that as usual, half my luggage was diabetes-related: glucose tablets, jelly babies and cereal bars in case of low blood sugar, spare blood sugar meter, plenty of insulin, test strips, infusion sets and other pump-related paraphernalia, emergency syringes, spare batteries for all the electronic stuff, plus cool bags and thermal bags to keep everything at the right temperature. Just think of all the luxuries I’d have room for if I didn’t have diabetes! Best not to think about it. The other minor snag with no suitcase was that I’d have nothing to store my spare kit at the hotel during the trek. Oh well, a strong plastic bag should do (actually it fell apart later, but that’s another story).
When I got on the Tube to Heathrow, I clocked a few fellow travellers wearing walking boots and clutching heavy-looking rucksacks, and idly wondered if any of them would be on my trek. What a ridiculous notion! The chances of that would be pretty slim — millions of people travel through Heathrow every day. But once at the checkin desk, I thought I’d be bound to spot a few fellow intrepid Exodus explorers. A bleach blonde 40-something from Essex with a huge rucksack was blathering into her phone about what a terrible ordeal she’d just had going through airport security. The worst part of her ordeal? That she had had to remove her trainers. My heart sank. She was bound to be on my trip, and I’d find it hard not to kill her after 5 minutes, let alone 10 days! I had her type pinned to a T: recently divorced, looking for a new challenge, didn’t have a clue about the realities of slumming it on a gruelling trek, without washing for more than a week. No doubt she’d be applying her inch-thick mascara every morning before breakfast and eyeing up the virile young Africans. Thank goodness I’d decided to opt for a single tent, so at least I wouldn’t be sharing with her!
The plane turned out to be only half full, mostly of people with rucksacks and walking boots, but who oddly all seemed to know each other. I mentioned this to the young Ghanian chap seated next to me, and he explained that they were all part of a VSO group going off to work in various parts of Sudan. Thank goodness!
Oddly, having been full of excitement in the last couple of days about my impending doom (trip, I mean), by the time I got on the plane the excitement had been replaced by frustration and tiredness. Probably due to the fact that I’d only slept about 3 hours the previous night. Given my inability to sleep on flights, and the short time I’d get to sleep on the plane anyway, this did not bode well. But years of insomnia have taught me to go with the flow, so I eagerly embraced the disgusting red wine for medicinal reasons, trying not to make comparisons about the last supper before the gallows. Since we wouldn’t have any alcohol on trek, I felt I should celebrate the start of my journey somehow at least!