It was pissing down with rain accompanied by a small gale when we arose. An early breakfast and off to the nearby Eurotunnel train station at 0730 for our 0850 train.
Sitting around in queues to pick up car tickets and through Passport Control at the station, meant the car was leaking badly, we had towels across our knees to mop up the drips. Generally at speed the rain gets channelled away, but at a standstill it finds its way through every crevasse. The windows fogged. The demist fan puffed ineffectively while the windscreen wipers flapped back and forth smearing bugs. And we were damp from running around packing the car in the rain. Welcome to Europe.
The border crossing only involved a Passport check and stamp. There was no Customs inspection or checking of car documents. As far as I am aware they have no idea that we have brought a car into England. Maybe we will find out some more when we fly home. They could be checking in our baggage for it.
The train was delayed. There had been an “incident” in the tunnel, which we determined later to be an electrical issue that had closed one of the two tunnels. So the trains could only go in one direction at a time. Normally the trains are 4 minutes apart. A combination of the Eurostar passenger trains, the Eurotunnel car trains and transporters carrying 30 trucks at a time. The advertising material in the train says they carry 1.6 million trucks a year. It all sounds pretty busy and meant we were running an hour late.
You drive off the train, up a ramp, around a corner and you are feed straight on to the motorway. Before doing so, there was a large sign reminding you that you were now in England and that they drove on the left hand side of the road. We had to remember this.
We for some reason decided to follow the A20. In normal circumstances (I mean normal countries, like Australia, China and all of Europe), the A road is the premier route, at minimum a four land divided motorway. In England these are the quaint little cobbled roads, bordered by hedges with lots of traffic lights through the towns.
We only had 130 miles to cover to Abingdon. The Garmin said 3.5 hours. It should have been a doddle, at least that is what we were expecting. After and hour and a quarter, getting lost multiple times and only covering 21 miles, a call was made to re-evaluate the decision to travel on the A roads. We headed for the M25 (M is for Motorway – unlike every other country on this planet – and I am becoming a bit of a self professed expert in this area after having had some practical experience in evaluating them over a number of countries).
Off we sailed like Toady in Wind in the Willows, the breeze streaming in our hair, for a short while, until this M (for Motorway) ground to a halt. The lack of speed was compounded by the driving skills of truck drivers. It would appear they are not aware of, or are not compelled to follow the European standard of driving in the kerbside lane and not overtaking. Most of them must have been taught to drive in Melbourne, as every time we came to an upward incline, they decided to TRY to overtake the truck in front. I emphasised the TRY, as in many cases they failed. They had to abandon the manoeuvre and pull back, because the outside truck had managed to maintain enough speed to fend them off. Meanwhile about 100 cars were banked back watching the failing snail pace drag race.
Needless to say our 1230 ETA at the MG Car Club in Abingdon had to be continually pushed back. The journey was taking so long, we had to make an unscheduled Happy Stop as everyone was in need of a pee.
Our arrival at the Club was closer to 1430, but still met with great fanfare (well you would like to think there was). Our friend Megan from Oundle made it across and was the first person we spotted jumping up and down, waving and carrying a lovely bouquet of flowers for Loris. A number of MG Car Club members had come over to welcome us. There was a new cameraman from China TV recording the event and a number of people who ran the Club. Plus a table full of sandwiches and drinks.
First we congratulated each other for making it, breathed an enormous sigh of relief, were then welcomed by the assembled crowd and then posed with the cars for all and sundry to take photos.
I won’t get philosophical about the achievement or the arrival. Over the past few days we all seem to have regained some energy and shrugged off the tiredness that had set in half way across Europe. I am not sure whether the driving through Germany and France had been a bit easier, the decision to split up and take things at our own pace, or the adrenaline of being so close to the finish was driving us.
The car made it. The body is unscathed, surprisingly. Mechanically there is some work to do, starting with rebuilding the gearbox, replacing a few shock absorbers, a radiator fan and replacing the broken steering wheel. The car could also do with a good clean, but I may get that courtesy of Australian Customs when the car is shipped back.
My body is in need of a diet and some conditioning to get fit again. Otherwise it’s in good shape. Loris’s sciatica was a constant worry, but never an impediment. The rheumatism in my thumb joints, slowly got worse over the trip as the effects of the cortisone injections wore off, especially after a long day of rough roads. However, it never amounted any significant pain, maybe the Mobic was keeping it at bay.
As I climbed in to the car this morning I was thinking that despite the leaks and drips, it was remarkably comfortable. Maybe my body has moulded to the seat. It has certainly got used to the cramped space, less so to the heat. But it felt remarkably at home. And now it has nearly ended.
Tonight a celebratory dinner with the team and a few hangers on. We each must make a short presentation and show some photos. Tomorrow, after breakfast we will each be off on our own.
Over the next 10 days we will catch up with some friends, enjoy a couple of days walking in the Lakes District and start the process of getting the body back into shape again, and of course preparing the car for shipment home.