Epic journeys require epic levels of planning and consideration. Usually by the time we are due to leave I am so overcome with what has to go right when balanced with what could possibly go wrong that I find myself lost in all the commotion. I knew this was the case, on past trips I have felt that the ‘holiday’ part has come toward the end, when we landed in Dubai last year for example. It is only when you get home that you realise that in fact the entire trip has been nothing but fun, good times and lifelong memories.
And so as I leave on a mini trip with Jack I feel somewhat different, it has consisted of very minimal planning and so I have managed to not get caught up in the chaos. Packing was done ad hoc without a list, a couple of hotels have been booked – Namely our first hotel, and last hotel. But outside that we have complete free rein.
We are headed to Egypt, but with a slight twist. We fly to Hurghada perched on the Red Sea and then head North to Cairo. From Cairo we expect to head South West into the Western Sahara and then through a few isolated oases before hopefully finding ourselves back on the Nile somewhere in the South of the country where we can hopefully brush off the sand and finish up in Luxor and the Valley of the Kings.
The initial issues surrounding the trip is the Western Sahara, supposedly transport links are snide and so getting from A to B is going to be something we have to figure out on the go.
I did consider just flying to Hurghada and then staying there, the weather is good, the beach is nice and the snorkelling world class. Or maybe head over to the Sinai and our new favourite beach bum, cum hippy retreat Dahab. But as I flicked the pages of the Egypt guide I realised that behind the Pyramids the country offers up world class history served with sand dunes, hot springs, ancient villages and the odd palm fringed oasis thrown in for good measure. There was so much more to Egypt and flying to Hurghada and chilling would be a waste. With that in mind, and with a sense of excitement rarely experienced we packed our bags, dusted the sandals off, revamped the first aid kit and boarded the 1640 from Wakefield to London.
Now you have to understand, Jack has bad luck. Seriously, whereas Charlie tends to create his own misfortune and Abi floats along with a gram of body weight unable to hurt herself or anyone else, Jack attracts bad luck.
I remember back in Thailand, when he hurt is foot, by the time I knew anything about it the sole of his foot was infected. He went to the island doctor and had to have his foot injected with anaesthetic and them sliced open whilst the object was removed and the wound cleaned. His screams of agony and his look of fear haunt to me to this very day.
Then in Indonesia he fell and smashed his face open leaving a gash about 2 inch on his forehead. Due to the fact we was on Bali (an island) the medical facilities weren’t great and so I physically had to hold jack down whilst his face was sewn up without anaesthetic. It was the worst moment (as a parent) of my life and it still is. Thankfully Jack is probably too old to remember it, but it was an awful situation. In any case the story goes that after his face had been sewn up the bill was something stupid like $300. We didn’t have cash available and so left his mothers passport as security. Once back at the hotel I was working through the costs and one of them was $30 for a teaspoon of Vaseline. The dressing was something ridiculous like $80 and it was clear we were getting pumped. The problem was we were on an island, and a passport short. And so a plan was hatched. I had hired a jeep and the medical centre was down an alley, Gemma (Jacks mum) would go into the the medical centre and say she needed her passport for the travel insurance. She would then claim she had to go outside to make the call since she had no signal, once outside she would run down the alley and out to the road where I was would be waiting for her to jump in and make our getaway.
As I sat waiting I wondered what could be taking so long, I was parked in an awkward place and traffic was mounting behind me. I was just about to set off when Gemma comes bolting out of this alley and hops in the jeep “quick lets go”. I sped off and saw the staff running out the alley chasing her. The bags were in the Jeep and we sped to the port. I ditched the vehicle and we hopped onto a boat that would take us out of Bali and toward Java. At every checkpoint and border we excepted to get busted but it never happened, still, Gemma has vowed to never return to Indonesia and I don’t blame her.
Anyway, the plan was that we would be tucked up in bed at our hotel at Gatwick North Terminal for around 10pm giving us a good nights sleep before getting up at 6am, having a fried breakfast, coffee and the catching our flight to Hurghada at 9.10am. Naturally things didn’t quite go to plan and the train to London suddenly came to a stand still. Turns out, some cheeky little shits had been nicking cable from the railway and deciding it was too long and heavy to carry, needed it cutting down. So they determined in their pea brain minds that the best way to do this would be to lay the cable across the railway so a train would come along and cut the wires. This was just outside Doncaster which in all honesty is the pea brain capital of the world and exists purely to churn out idiots to Jeremy Kyle, and so obviously the plan failed. What actually happened was the the signals for the entire East Coast mainline from York to Peterborough went out. Meaning every train was at a stand still for 2 hours whilst the issue and then resulting congestion was cleared. For us this meant our puny Grand Central train was to cancel at Peterborough where we would be loaded onto a different train. We eventually pulled into London around 9pm and made a bee line for the Underground. My tickets had timed out and wouldn’t work and as I was explaining to a staff member Jack suddenly had somehow opened the gate. Turns out he had picked up a random ticket in Peterborough and decided to put it in and it had worked. I couldn’t believe it and we made our way to London Victoria.
Naturally the next train to Gatwick had been cancelled and so we quickly grabbed a McDonald’s and found a new train. We climbed into bed around 11.30pm and slept through until the alarm at 6am.
Knowing we had a long flight ahead I had sorted breakfast for us and so we made our way through the breakfast buffet and Costa coffee on tap. Speaking of which I can really recommend Premier Inn Gatwick North, it is located right on the terminal doorstep and was faultless.
We was just about to walk into the airport terminal and Jack was running around being an airplane when he decided he would face plant the floor. It was bad. He literally made like a plank of wood and nutted the floor. Jack had decided that rather than use his hands to break his fall he would use his nose and so within a second his face was an explosion of claret and his nose had seriously swelled. He was in serious pain and I instantly thought he had broken his nose. We made for the terminal quickly whilst Jack screamed in pain and held his jacket to his face to stop the blood. I grabbed the attention of a Thomson desk worker who quickly called for medical help which arrived within a minute.
I really cannot fault the airport help, the medic cleaned Jack up and determined that his nose wasn’t broken. Once Jack had calmed down and was cleaned up the guy said “let’s get you through security so you can relax” I said it didn’t matter but he insisted, taking us to the front of the check in queue and chaperoning us to security. We were very grateful and so Charlie, if you are reading this, next time we get to an airport you know what to do 😉
The flight took off on time and as it ‘boosted’ down the runway Jack shook with excitement. I have to admit, as I saw a snowy England gradually get smaller beneath us I was looking forward to getting my shorts and my funk on.
After about 30 minutes into the six hour flight Jack proclaimed “I’m gonna die if I don’t get a drink dad”. Since I’m on a plane as I write this, and knowing Jacks luck I begrudgingly handed over £1.80 for a can of Pepsi. After sipping a mouthful from the plastic glass Jack decided to see whether the plastic glass would break if he squeezed it, right above his Playbook. Though the plane defies physics, the glass didn’t and as Jack looked at me with his wide “sorry eyes”, Pepsi all over his Playbook and himself I found myself smiling and looking forward more to spending time with him than I had before. He might have bad luck, might be hard work and might be a tornado of a boy that just whizzes around creating chaos, but he is Jack, my Jack, and I wouldn’t want him any other way x