Eve of Departure – The #Expedition #adventure #travel book excerpt 11

A departure date of July 12 was set in stone. Kenny still didn’t have his own camera, though. Repeated requests to the BBC and other UK broadcasters for even a loaner had drawn a blank, and we certainly couldn’t afford one. What was the use in having a cinematographer along if he didn’t have a camera? Out of options, Fingers from the squat staged an insurance job: renting a camera from a hire centre in Milton Keynes, having one of his cronies slip off the train with it en route back to Euston, then reporting it stolen.

The Guildford Street Gang threw a squat party to raise money for the cost of transporting Moksha to Portugal. Martin had volunteered to drive a van loaned by the international courier company DHL, towing a trailer borrowed from the metropolitan police Heavy Boats Section – the upshot of a serendipitous referral from the now friendly booking sergeant at Plaistow Police Station.

Plates of homemade vegetarian curry and rice were priced at four pounds, and wholesale beer and wine flogged at retail prices. Kenny rigged up a bungee jump in the back garden – a pound a pop – using shock cord cannibalized from an abdominal muscle builder, and bed-sheets tied together. A couple of old mattresses tossed underneath offered a cursory nod to health and safety.

Aside from Catriona’s friend breaking his arm, the night was a raging success. Nearly two hundred people turned up and cut loose. By the end of the night we’d raised over £1,500.

After just an hour of sleep, I tottered down to the kitchen to grab some breakfast. I had a meeting with a journalist from Lonely Planet at the Royal Geographic Society in half an hour.

The kitchen was a bombsite from the night before. Beer cans, wine bottles, and plastic cups filled with stale beer and cigarette butts strewn everywhere. The cupboards were empty of food. My eyes came to rest instead on a plastic container with the words SHIPS BISCUITS printed in black marker. Terry, a partygoer from Manchester, had taken the trouble to bake us some brownies for the Atlantic crossing.

What a nice guy, I thought, stuffing one in my mouth, another in my pocket. No one will notice a couple missing, surely…

I stepped over a pair of snoring bodies, grabbed one of the newly sponsored Madison Ridgeback mountain bikes, and tiptoed out the front door, closing it gently behind me.

Outside, it was a gloriously sunny July morning, and being a Sunday, the streets were virtually empty. Riding down Oxford Street I felt buoyant, euphoric even. I rode straight through a red light at Oxford Circus, swerving easily through traffic that seemed to move in slow motion. By the time I reached Marble Arch, my bicycle felt like a winged horse soaring above the clouds, the streets of London tapering to an elaborate tapestry of intricately woven threads below.

Bloody hell! Those Ships Biscuits are good shit!

I never made it to the interview. Somewhere between Marble Arch and Queensway I became distracted, dismounted Pegasus, and struck off into the wilderness of Hyde Park. Everything had become exuberant and scintillating, the viridescent leaves radiating a surreal, incandescent glow as they danced in the sunlight. Overhead the clouds had turned into freshly baked meringues. I was a panther now, crawling through the undergrowth, stalking lovers entwined on park benches, scaring the crap out of them as I leapt up from behind.

In the back of my mind, a voice was nagging: You’re leaving in less than 48 hours you dickhead, and there’re still a gazillion things to do…

The call to reason was lost, however, drowned by the roaring wind and crashing waves. A passer-by could have been forgiven for thinking they’d seen a drunk swaying in the branches of an elm tree that morning. What they really saw was a buccaneer swinging in the rigging of a brig somewhere off the Spanish Main, cutlass between his teeth, wrestling desperately with a topsail as the deck plunged in the swell.

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