Into Africa

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A few reflections from Ashley and I

1pm London Time, Monarch Air: Somewhere over the west coast of Africa

After 7 months of preparation, Ashley and I are finally on board the plane to Africa. We felt pretty surreal on the runway, like, “wow, it’s finally here for real.”

We got off to an exciting start to this second leg of our journey to The Gambia as someone on the plane was arrested. Don’t worry, it wasn’t me and it wasn’t Ashley! The excitement ended up not being worth the price it came at. It led to delay and we ended up sitting on the tarmac for almost an hour until police sorted the situation out. Seems a deportee was on the plane, being escorted by 2 deportation officers. Said deportee was getting out of control, swearing like crazy, maybe doing some other stuff. Police called and arrived. We waited.

Ashley and I just finished watching Running the Sahara- the perfect film to lead us over the Atlantic Ocean to Africa. I love the movie every time I watch it. This time the final scene where the team is walking arm-in-arm into the Red Sea at the end of their 111-day expedition was particularly moving as I can now imagine my team doing this on July 26. I can almost feel it. Ashley and I are so ready for this.

Watching a movie on my laptop was also a convenient way to ignore the dickhead white British guy on the other side of the aisle, who was putting on an impressive display of every stereotype of the white, British man in Africa.

I have a major case of butterflies in the belly, like I do before every major race. I think that there may even be 430 of them in there, one for each km I’ll run. As per usual, as soon as food is placed in front of me, the butterflies seem to take up a lot of room in my stomach and hunger disappears. Under my boss Ashley’s watchful eye, I dutifully ate all of the food in my airplane meal. Calories are required.

2:20pm London time. Still in air (I have my netbook with me).

Ashley is napping next to me and I want to nap too. I have Coldplay playing on my ipod which usually causes a pavlovian dog response. Coldplay = sleep. But not today. I have so much excitement and anticipation coursing through me that I feel like my heart is beating too fast.

I can’t wait to hug my friends in The Gambia. I keep picturing us at an outdoor table under a thatched roof at Leybato Guest House. Thatched roof under the stars of the African sky. We’re picked up friendships from 4 years ago.

I can’t wait to lace up my pink shoes and run. This 2 week injury-induced layoff, although a stressful and anxiety-inducing ordeal, was of course good for me beyond healing my groin. When I start the run on Thursday, I won’t be coming in with confidence from 2 strong training weeks (track workouts and long runs breed confidence in case you didn’t know). But I will be coming into this run with a mental advantage that I hadn’t considered: freshness. I’m not at all fatigued, mentally or physically, from miles or the hard work of vo2 max repeats and this must be good. I can’t wait to get out and let my legs work hard.

David Kachan (physio) told me to ensure that I did a full warm-up at least for the first 3 days of this expedition to help ensure my adductor muscle is warm and ready to run. In my world, warm-ups are usually reserved for track workout and races. I’m even excited to do B-skips on Thursday (don’t worry, PA runners, I’ll do some child skips for you!).

So. Some loose thoughts captured. I need to put the wonderful mental image of hugging Kebba, Pa Modou, Abbie, Yankuba, Spider and gang aside for a bit. Nap time.
8:30p, The Gambia. Paradise.

Sitting with a headlamp in the dark in our sweet thatched roof hut at Leybato Guest House in Fajara, The Gambia. Paradise.

Today was pretty incredible. I’ve posted some photos fo your on the Love4Gambia Facebook page- you can see how incredible there. The photos speak for themselves.
We got off the plane and were met by Pa Modou and Kebba, along with Pa Modou’s NSGA video camera AND a surprise Gambian tv crew! Pa had the video camera in his hand so I ran toward Kebba and he picked me up off the ground in a huge hug. They had a Canada Flag. They were cheering. It was amazing.

Then we were treated like royalty. Forget Will and Kate on PEI- Erin and Ashley are in The Gambia! My guys had everything set up so slick. They ushered us into a private air conditioned lounge. We were interviewed by the tv station. We had our own airport staff person who took our passports to get them stamped while we sat with Pa and Kebba on the couch. He returned and got our luggage tickets and then went and got our luggage for us. We were on a huge international flight and didn’t stand in a single line!

As Ashley and I waited for the guys to grab our ridiculously heavy bags, I told her to remember this moment, we would never travel like this again in our life. It was like we were Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie. Paris + Nicole. Erin + Ashley.

We left the airport happy, lovingly welcomed and feeling like we had come home. We spent some time with Pa Modou + Kebba at Leybato. They LOVED their Nova Scotian running gear (thanks to all of you generously donated). My friend and running partner Spider met us here and we enjoyed him. We ate spaghetti and meatballs by the ocean.

Though our air condition appeared circa 1944, we bravely turned it on and were delighted by cold air and no flames. We had about an hour of it before the 8pm power cut off happened, earlier than we expected. I managed to get a shower before the lights went out. Ashley is in the shower with a flashlight right now. For once in my African life, the cold water felt refreshing.

We drive 375 + km to Basse tomorrow. If you thought the travel to Banjul was long, wait until you see how long this takes!

Love Erin

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One Response to Into Africa

  1. Mel Connors says:

    I just loved reading about your warm reception… so awesome! Say hello to Spider for me!!!

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