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Episode THIRTEEN – over and out
After saying good-bye to Ben & Beth I headed back to Nat & Peer’s where Peter had just risen from his slumber, and we popped down to Doppio’s (supplier of the previous night’s Italian) for a spot of lunch. The car for the airport arrived a tad late due to bad traffic on his journey from a previous drop off at JFK but we still had plenty of time until the 7pm flight.
That was until we hit traffic ourselves and the ETA on the sat-nav started to edge up! Fortunately, it then started to come down despite still being in traffic and we ended up getting to JFK in good time and even had the opportunity to snap a quick iconic ‘yellow cab’ photo for the album!
Unsurprisingly we soon found our way to the lounge and had a pre-flight meal to try and give ourselves a chance of sleeping on the short ‘hop’ back across the Atlantic ‘pond’. Peter managed just that with the help of a couple sleeping tablets, while I took the glass of red route and watched ‘Seven Psychopaths’ before getting in a 4 hour snooze.
The final touch down at Heathrow and it was strange to part company with Peter after a great week or so – there were no tears, just a hug and catch you later as he headed for his connection to Aberdeen & I hopped on the Heathrow Connect to London.
Flying Time: 7 hrs; Travel Time 11 hours
So after an incredible journey around the world, here are a few thoughts on the Xodus 7 Continent Challenge:
- Each and every stage was incredibly special, as they all pushed the boat out, not only to make us feel welcome but to maximise what squash could get out of it
- It was wonderful to catch up with some old friends en route, some of whom we hadn’t seen for over a decade and within a few hours it felt like it was just last week
- It was great to see ex-pros taking such an active interest in moving the sport forwards in their club or country, and the federations will gain much by tapping into that resource.
- It was a relief that two 40+ players managed to not get injured, despite playing more squash in a week than we had done since retirement over 7 years ago.
- Despite spending almost every hour of every day with Peter for 10 days, I don’t think we disagreed at all, and ended up as good friends, if not better for it.
- Squash is definitely in a better position for the bid process, regardless of whether we get into 2020 or not, and the trip simply reinforced that.
- It ticked all the boxes that I wanted it to in terms highlighting the Back the Bid campaign, raising money for some great causes, and generally giving squash a boost.
- We won’t be doing it again!
And the 10 days by numbers:
- Total flying time: 76 hours
- Total travel time: 138 hours
- Flights taken: 12
- Flights missed: 0
- Breakfasts eaten: 14
- Strings broken: 0
- 7 Matches, 32 games, 376 minutes, 636 points
- TV interviews: 10
- Money raised: tbc, but £10k+
So this is me, Tim Garner, signing off from the Xodus 7 Continent Challenge.
Support the Causes: Natasha’s Steps | LV=SOS Kit Aid
Photo Gallery at the bottom of the page
Episode TWELVE – everyone’s a winner at Chelsea Piers
Saturday 20th April
Judgement day arrived after a luxurious 6 hours sleep; in a bed! Unfortunately, it had only knocked the edges off the tiredness and not kicked it in to touch, but definitely felt better than the previous day.
The cab was ready & waiting at 7.15am and we headed off to London Heathrow, where everything was going swimmingly until the check-in staff asked Peter if he had changed his passport recently as she couldn’t find his ESTA (US visa waiver).
The answer was affirmative, and for a second he looked concerned and I was picturing winning the deciding match and the overall Challenge with a walkover! Fortunately, such is the World we live in Peter was soon on the wifi and had his new ESTA within minutes, despite the slightly worrying authorisation can take up to 72 hours.
We completed the process and headed through security and into what now feels like our living room, and airport lounge, before boarding and settling in for the penultimate flight. Peter as is his wont pushed out some more Zzzs pre-movie, while I ticked off ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘I Give It a Year’ interspersed with some catch up work on next month’s Allam British Open.
Touched down on our final continent of North America at JFK and sped through immigration and customs to be met by Gabrielle, who was tasked with driving us out to Stamford. The drive was about 45 minutes, but I only saw 30minutes of it as had an unscheduled 15-minute power nap en route!
Pulled out to the impressive Chelsea Piers Club and wandered past the impressive facilities (inc.two ice-rinks) to the squash courts, which was a hive of activity as 20 teams of 5 players were battling it out playing 3 x 7 minute games against each other –clever link to the 7 Continent Challenge!!
Feeling slightly overwhelmed by the cacophony of noise, we said hi and then retired to the café for a spot of lunch before relaxing in the sports bar. My brother Ben & wife Beth then arrived from Baltimore, so spent a great couple of hours catching up.
At the completion of the team event, everyone piled on to the court for the presentation and then a group nBack the Bid photo. Luckily, it was a large international doubles court or the 100+ would not have fit!
Once the crowd had cleared there was a doubles match between Natalie Grainger & Damian Mudge v Jacques Swanpoel & Greg MacArthur as a little precursor to the Showdown on the Pier! …
An excellent crowd settle in for the culmination of the Xodus 7 Continent Challenge. It had been a long and arduous journey to get there, but remarkably Peter & I didn’t feel too bad (considering). It helped knowing that this was the final match and we both started off enthusiastically, which meant for some tough opening rallies and some heavy breathing by mid-way through the first.
Peter took that game but I came back strongly to win the second before Peter got back ahead after edging a tough third 12/10. Again I tried to force the pace (which makes no sense in the cold light of day, but seemed like a good plan at the time) and once again got back to parity. So after 70 hours on planes and 40,000 miles, we were down to a decider!
As two competitive individuals it was always going to be a tough final act on the Challenge, and the crowd were not disappointed as we both cranked things up. It was nip and tuck, until I felt I was nearly home in leading 9/7. Just the mere act of thinking that is fatal when playing against a player of Peter’s calibre (and I should know that).Two poor rallies allowed him to back to 9-9 and then he put together two excellent rallies having me cover every inch of the court, and some of those inches more than once!
Finally after 55 minutes it was all over, I was on the floor having not been able to get to a trickle boast and had no real interest in getting up!
Match 7: Peter Nicol beat Tim Garner 3-2 (11/8 6/11 12/10 4/11 11/9) 55 Minutes
Xodus 7 Continent Challenge: Peter Nicol 4 Tim Garner 3
As we regained our breath we answered questions and thanked Natalie, Cece and the team for their hard work in putting the North American leg together. It was a fitting finale for the Challenge. We then gratefully grabbed a beer and relaxed for a while, before heading back to Natalie & Pier’s house in Greenwich, picking up some Italian on the way. Along with Ben & Beth, we then made our way vey pleasantly through some wonderful bottles of red wine from the cellar before hitting the sack.
Sunday 21st April
My first thought on waking was ‘ouch’, but having shuffled to the shower and then had a much needed shave and started to feel much better, in fact I would almost say great! Headed into Greenwich with Ben & Beth and ended up at the Diner for breakfast. We knew we had stumbled on the best place, as Natalie & Piers came in later without knowing we had headed there! Seeing as it was a beautiful Spring day we wandered up Greenwich main street, and Ben & I folded to Beth’s request to head to Lulu Lemon. Managed to pick up a couple if nice pieces, and even discovered that the sales assistant had read about the Challenge, so the word is spreading!!
Day, Date, Location, Continent, Result
Day 1, 13-Apr, Falkland Islands, Antarctica, Nicol 3-2 (11/9 11/9 8/11 9/11 12/10)
Day 2, 14-Apr, Santiago Chile, South America, Garner 3-2 (12/10 6/11 11/9 8/11 12/10)
Day 3, 16-Apr, Sydney Australia, Oceania, Garner 3-1 (13/15 11/5 11/8 11/9)
Day 4, 17-Apr, Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, Asia, Nicol 3-2 (11/9 9/11 11/5 10/12 11/8)
Day 5, 18-Apr, Cairo Egypt, Africa, Nicol 3-1 (11/8 5/11 11/9 12/10)
Day 6, 19-Apr, London UK, Europe, Garner 3-1 (9/11 11/8 12/10 13/11)
Day 7, 20-Apr, New York USA, North America , Nicol 3-2 (11/6 8/11 12/10 4/11 11/9)
Will add a few more thoughts to this when hit the UK tomorrow, but for now if you have enjoyed the journey and feel you can donate, please do so now while it is fresh in your mind (only one more day to help Natasha as the site has a deadline!)
Support the Causes
Episode ELEVEN – Tim sets up the decider after London win
Friday 19th April London photos from Jordan Mansfield (www.jordanphoto.co.uk)
We met at reception of the Cairo Meridian at 5am to get the shuttle to the airport, and I took confidence (edged with sympathy) when Peter admitted to getting just 20 minutes sleep. My 3 hours felt like a definite power nap in comparison and surprisingly sets me up nicely for the London leg at the RAC later today.
We arrived at Cairo airport and had a small scare on check-in when only after labelling up our bags did the BA staff member check that we wanted our bags to go to JFK! Admittedly if the bags are go astray then London is probably the stage for this to happen but if they had arrived in the USA a day early then I am not sure we would ever have been re-united with them! Misunderstanding cleared up and we headed through to relax in the lounge before heading for London and the European stage.
True to form, I caught up on a movie (Dark Knight Rises) and some work, while Peter watched half a film and slept. At end of flight feel as though maybe he chose the better course of action, but despite my eyes feeling like they have been through a Saharan dust storm didn’t feel like nodding off. Sure that will change later, hopefully not when I step on court, but might have to invest in some eye drops in the meantime! I Always felt this was going to be the toughest stretch on the Challenge and it hasn’t disappointed. 11 hours sleep in 3 days isn’t ideal!
Flying Time: 5 hrs; Travel Time 9 hours
We landed at Terminal 1 LHR, which flagged up one immediate issue namely the fact that the cab had been booked for T5. Luckily, Addison Lee knows its stuff and had checked the when and where and quickly whisked us away from Heathrow and on to the RAC Club on Pall Mall by 1pm. We were greeted by head pro Greg Pearman who was quick to sort out our most pressing problem, laundry! That dealt with we checked in and grabbed lunch before running through the evenings programme to make sure everything was ok … it seemed perfect, especially having use of the lovely Terrace room.
We then hopped into can a can and headed to the Xodus offices on Cheapside in the City. Having used up most of our cash on the taxi from the airport, we needed a cash point and the cabbie pulled up so I could jump out and draw some notes. Turning round Peter was also exiting the cab as it turned out we had accidentally chosen the one next to the Xodus offices! On meeting up with Jordan & Faye + Eleanor from the Emelia Group, we got the Xodus staff together for a Q & A and a photo. In the process of the former, we managed to offend in a friendly fashion at least a couple of the employees which simply confirmed what a global organisation they are.
En route back to the RAC we hailed a black cab and stopped a few iconic shots at St. Pauls, Millennium Bridge (where was educated some Americans what sQuash is), Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace. Arriving back on the Mall, a stiff coffee and a quick shower helped as we got ready for a doubles challenge match against Richard & Jack.
They had bid the most to put towards the Challenge’s causes and we had a great 40 minutes, with some world class shots and court coverage (not from us) and some less high calibre action (again, not guilty). We then popped up to the Terrace to say hi to friends, family and guests who had turned up to support, and have a quick interview with Marianne from The Sport Review.
Soon enough it was show-time, and we entered the ‘bear-pit’ court to rapturous applause. It was a fantastic atmosphere to play in and we started slightly faster & more furiously than probably our bodies would have liked.
Peter drew first blood, but given the home support and the fact I had to win, I continued to step up the court. Peter held firm but I was not to be denied taking the second, and then the third on a tie-break. Peter was ahead all the way in the fourth leading 5/5, 7/5 and 9/7 but he was the one who had to save the first game ball after a frantic rally.
A forehand cross-court nick from me set up match ball, and this was followed by a 3-wall boast nick to secure the match and take proceedings into an eagerly anticipated decider at Chelsea Piers. Watch this space for the streaming address …
Match 6: Tim Garner beat Peter Nicol 3-1 (9/11, 11/8, 12/10, 13/11) 51 Minutes
Xodus 7 Continent Challenge: Peter Nicol 3 Tim Garner 3
A big thank you to Malcom Whitely for refereeing and we ended on court with an extended Q&A, which at times was more taxing than the squash given our mental fatigue. We then donned tracksuit tops and headed up to the Terrace for photos, lots of them including a great group photo that included England internationals Alison Waters & Daryl Selby who had turned up to show their support. After the formalities were done with we headed down to the Brooklands restaurant and had an enjoyable meal amongst friends before retiring to our rooms for a much needed sleep!
Episode TEN – Nicol edges ahead in Cairo
Ex-PSA player Mohamed Hafiz gave us a lift across town to the club, and en route we were treated to a full array (not by Hafiz) of hooting tooting mad cap driving. Why have 3 planes when you can fit 4, and if you need 5 then just (shoo) horn another to make 5! After an hour, we pulled up outside the impressive Wadi Degla Sporting Club in Maadi, home to the El Borolossy Squash Academy run by ex-Egyptian international Omar.
On Omar’s instruction, we used the side door, as there were 100s of kids around and apparently we would have been mobbed if they spotted us arriving. We chilled out for a bit and then headed out with Omar to the Maadi Boat Club for the now cursory iconic photo, this time with the River Nile in its impressive form as the back drop.
Omar filled us in on his academy while we grabbed a quiet moment at the Boat Club, and impressive stats indeed. Over a thousand kids across four clubs, boasting a total 44 courts including 20 at the Maadi base, must make it the most successful programme of its kind in the World. It was just exhausting hearing about it but Omar takes it in his elegant stride.
We headed back to the squash club, and en route Omar dropped the bombshell that it was the Egyptian league finals night and all the teams would be playing there before myself & Peter crossed swords with players of calibre – Ramy, Shorbagy, Momen, El Sherbini, El Tayeb, etc battling. This made us a little concerned that our jet-lagged act might look a little pedestrian in comparison, but he assured us that people were excited see the Xodus 7 Continent ‘gladiators’ battle.
Back at the club, we relaxed (via the side entrance) for a few more minutes before heading in to the melee and kicked things off with an interview with Nile TV before putting some of what was to be plenty of photos to be. On walking in, the first person we saw on the far court was PSA World no.1 Ramy Ashour and next door, World no.6 Shorbagy was playing World no.10 Momen! That set the tone for the evening as match after match featuring established pros or British Junior Champions followed. Unsurprisingly, given (a) the quality of the matches and (b) we were in Egypt, things ran late and the initial 8pm start eventually became an actual 9pm. First up, Peter & I tag teamed our way to a one game win over Omar and then we got down to business.
An Alka-Seltzer that that had managed to find its way into the corner of my racket bag at some point had helped with the tummy issues but it was again Peter that got the better start, leaping around the court like a youngster. However, a game of that nonsense took its toll a little and I was able to bounce back immediately. Poor starts in the third and fourth didn’t help my cause and although in the latter, I managed to get all the way back to 10/9 game ball up, it was Peter who again reigned supreme in the land of the Pharaohs!
A disappointing couple of days’ results given that in both matches, I felt I was actually the stronger physically at the end of both matches in KL and Cairo, but I guess that’s what made Peter the best player in the World—picking up victories in those situations. Grrrr!
There followed the usual mass of photos, most of which will probably be up on Facebook long before this gets read. We then headed off in to the night with Omar for some delicious Mongolian cuisine down by the Nile. Arriving back at the hotel at 1am, it was with heavy heart that we booked the alarm call for 4.45am as both us had been looking for a slightly longer stay in bed after 3 nights on planes!
Friday 19th April
We met at the reception at 5am to get the shuttle to the airport, and I took confidence (edged with sympathy) when Peter admitted to getting just 20 minutes sleep. My 3 hours felt like a definite power nap in comparison and surprisingly sets me up nicely for the London leg at the RAC later today.
We arrived at Cairo Airport and had a small scare on check-in when only after labelling up our bags did the BA staff member check if we wanted our bags to go to JFK! Admittedly, if the bags go astray, then London is probably the stage for this to happen but if they had arrived in the USA a day early, then I am not sure we would ever have been re-united with them! Misunderstanding cleared up and we headed through to relax in the lounge before heading for London and the European stage.
True to form, I caught up on a movie (Dark Knight Rises) and some work, while Peter watched half a film and slept. At end of the flight, I felt as though he chose the better course of action, but despite my eyes feeling like they have been through a Saharan dust storm, they didn’t feel like nodding off. Sure that will change later, hopefully not when I step on court, but I might have to invest in some eye drops in the meantime! I always felt this was going to be the toughest stretch on the Challenge and it hasn’t disappointed. 11 hours sleep in 3 days isn’t ideal!
Episode NINE – in to Africa
So usual routine at KL airport: Check-in, lounge, catch-up on mails/www stuff and then on to a plane. Leaving the One World Alliance behind briefly for a couple of sectors on Emirates, we head down to Africa, via Dubai.
As usual Peter goes for the longer sleep approach, while I look for quality rather than quantity by finishing off a film (The Impossible) and a snack before getting my head down for 3-4 hours. Wake up feeling ok, but no idea what time zone am in so as always adjust watch and stick to the current one.
Thursday 18th April
Touch down in Dubai and head to the lounge as have 3 hours to kill before moving on. Get to one lounge but turns out there is a closer one to our gate, so exit via the far end. And when I say far I mean far! Didn’t pace it out but the lounge has to have been at least 400m long and surely must be the biggest in the World, but guess that’s the way Dubai rolls as can see the tallest building in the World out of the window!
The new lounge is nowhere near as big but still nice, and its pleasant to have some time to relax before moving on. Peter heads for a shower and a shave, and returns looking as though he had seen a loss in the Xodus 7 Continent Challenge looming with cuts over his face. Apparently the razor supplied was no Gillette!! I decide that shower is a good idea, the shave can wait! #grizzly
Back on board the EK flight to Cairo and we had to cope with the traumatic realisation that we were not sat next to each other! Having got over the initial shock, we decided actually it would make a nice change and settled down for the short ‘hop’ (well after the flying we have done, 4 hours was going to a mere snippet in the travel log!). There was an hour delay taking off as some passengers clearly thought it was free-seating, whilst others were clearly enjoying the duty free shopping so much they had forgotten to head to the plane and their bags had to be off-loaded.
Once airborne there was time for a third breakfast of the day, on this occasion decided that the omelette was a better option than the unappealingly named ‘Foul medames with tahini’.
Another couple of movies (Killing Them Softly & Searching for Sugarman, the latter being excellent) and the flight still wasn’t over. It felt as though someone had taken the batteries out of the travel clock, maybe it was the lack of sleep or the lack of a sleep, but it seemed as though Cairo wasn’t getting any closer on the in-flight map until finally we banged down in Africa!
Flying Time: 11 hrs; Travel Time 21 hours
Got met by someone from the hotel and was soon through passport control. All brought back memories for Peter & I of many trips to Cairo during our careers, memories that were further reinforced by the drive to and the hotel. Plenty of horns, u-turns and squeezing through gaps and before long we had pulled up at Le Meridien.
Checked in, really enjoyed un-packing, albeit for 15 hours and then headed to the pool for some Vitamin D rays! Sadly the clouds had other ideas but did get the odd fleeting moment.
Talking of fleeting moments, its seems as though I may have eaten something that my body has taken exception in KL or en route, so tummy is a little delicate [too much info I am sure] but still looking for a strong performance tonight!!
Episode EIGHT – Nicol squares it up in KL
Wednesday 17th April
Landed at an almost deserted KL international airport at 4am (but to be honest it could have been anytime!), picked up our bags and hopped into a cab to town. Had forgotten how far out the airport is and am just relieved that tonight’s flight is at 2am leaving us plenty of time after our match.
Eventually got to the hotel by about 5.30am, checked in albeit only for a few hours and then tried to decide what to do whilst catching up on bits an pieces. To sleep or not to sleep, that is the question ….
It turned out that to sleep was the answer and a couple minutes later, it was four hours later and the power nap was obviously very much in need! Awakening to unfamiliar surroundings (aka a hotel room!) we soon realised that yes we did have another full day of PR and squash to get under our belt so showered and packed up our bags ready to move on.
We stored the bags and met up with long time and good friend Peter Genever, who is now firmly part of the Malaysian National Coaching set-up. He took us to a great vegetarian restaurant close by and we had an enjoyable lunch catching up. We then drove the short distance to Bukit Jalil, stopping outside the National stadium for the now customary banner photo! The warm humid weather meant that I broke into sweat completing that simple task, so was pleased get into the National Squash Centre and its a/c.
As we walked in Peter was regaling how he was unbeaten on the glass court having won Commonwealth Gold on it in 1998 beating Jonathan Power in the final. PG took the wind out of his sails by informing us that they had just replaced the original court with a new state of the art ASB one! However, he was still disturbingly upbeat!
Peter then met with some of Malaysia’s transition squad who are in the process of going full-time or integrating studying with a squash career. He explained the pitfalls he faced when starting out and what the attributes are needed in order to succeed. After a Q&A to wrap things up, it was onto to the glass-court, but not to play, as the media were ready for us with tv crews from satellite channel Astro Arena and state owned ISM1 both wanting interviews for their 7.30pm shows. That completed we headed on to the standard courts where Peter had a quick chat with some kids and members of the print media took photos. He also hit a few balls for the tv guys with a 6-year old who struck the ball beautifully and confidently.
Then it was in to the car to get down to the Petronas Twin Towers for another iconic shot. On the way we caught up with Xodus’ Andy Jones who had flown in from the Perth office to have their presence at mid-point on the Challenge route. Down at the KLCC we hopped out of the car, and walked around the foot of the towers working out angles and sunlight to try and see where we could get the best shot. We settled for a spot on the bridge, unfurled the banner and got off some good shots before security arrived and said no banners. We said ‘no problem’ and headed off happy knowing we had the shots in the can already!
Back at Bukit J, Peter headed off for the requisite massage and I soon followed suit, albeit as usual for a little less time! By now the clock had as usual sped up and we were nearly ready for the off. Azlan and his SportSpin team had done a great job of organising the day for us and the evening was no different.
First up Peter played one of the local businessmen that is a great support of squash, I then played Tunku (Prince) Zain who lulled me into a false sense of security and then squeezed the one game win with clinger! After Azlan had wowed the crowd with a game against another support of the event, Peter and I took centre stage and enjoyed (mostly) a competitive game on our only glass court (and low tin) outing of the Challenge.
Peter has definitely played more glass court games in his career, I think I said 10 times as many but in reality it is probably 50-100 times and he drew first blood. I pulled one back, but he was soon back on top in the third and eased ahead 8/5 in the fourth. A number of uncharacteristic tins helped me on my way to levelling it but a frame to save one game ball should have been an indicator of what was to come. The fifth was even all the way to 6-6 but from then on, in amongst traditional winners, Peter used his full repertoire.
Without sounding bitter, that’s a couple of frames and a sidewall nick!! He saved one of the former to close out the match after I had pulled a couple back! He was a worthy winner and remains unbeaten in that centre, but I did point out that when you used to be the best player in the world you should be using the strings not the frames.
Match 3: Peter Nicol beat Tim Garner 3-2 (11/9 9/11 11/5 10/12 11/8) 49 Minutes
Xodus 7 Continent Challenge: Peter Nicol 2 Tim Garner 2
There followed numerous photos and autographs, before it was in to the shower to try and stop sweating. I had to be careful when signing my name as they got drops of sweat as well as my paw print if I wasn’t careful!
The shower didn’t work, but that wouldn’t really have mattered as it was curry for supper so the pores opened up once more!
After thanking Azlan, Jafaar & Jang for their efforts we were packed off in cab back to KL International and ready for the next leg on Emirates via Dubai.
Episode SEVEN – Tim takes the lead down under
Australian immigration passed smoothly enough, though the highlight was the Vietnamese lady in front putting she had come from Australia and that she was Vietnamese as she handed over her Australian passport.
After that the lady behind the desk was clearly relieved and amused to be dealing with a couple of mad squash players only being there for 12 hours!! Baggage claim was a little on the slow side until noticed that they had actually put our ‘fragile’ bags to one side, which once spotted were dutifully collected.
Coming out at arrivals for the first time in my life there was a camera pointing at me/us, and not in error, as SKY News had turned up to record our arrival!! As we met reporter Elise, Peter spied over my shoulder a little surprise I had tee’d up.
An old friend of ours Matt Rudd was also there to meet us, and Peter had no idea he was coming! We worked out we hadn’t seem him for over a decade, and he had in tow sons Jack & Sam and his Dad ‘G’! It was great to see him, and we were delighted that they were going to be around to drive us about all day.
We caught up on the decade’s news en route to Willoughby Squash Club where we met up with ex-World no.38 Aaron Frankcomb, and club owners Ian & Pete. Aaron had lined up a massage from Jane, which Peter took full advantage and I enjoyed a quality 15 minutes on my back before we had to head into town and meet up with SKY News by the Opera House. We unfurled the banner and got some quality shots of the Harbour Bridge as well as answered on tape questions about the Bid and the Challenge.
Having finished media duties for a while we grabbed some lunch at the Opera Bar before taking a stroll around Circular Quay to show Peter some Aboriginals playing their instruments. According to ‘G’ they were there every day, except it appears today! As compensation for the lack of authentic culture, we treated ourselves to some quality ice-cream for the stroll back to the car.
Matt then took us around town so that Peter got a bit of a feel for the city of Sydney before we head off. Back at the club, both Fox Sports and SBS online turned up for interviews and some on court action., which Peter and I duly delivered. I then caught up with another friend, Christina, who has made her home down under while Peter went and lay down!
Before we knew it, it was show-time and as a special dispensation Peter agreed to play one straight game with Aaron. A decision he was ruing a couple of rallies in as they put the a/c on late and Aaron is still pretty handy!
The capacity crowd (squeezed in on specially constructed seating) loved it, but Peter no so! A short break after he was back on with me and the 13/15 first did him no favours either.
Having pulled back the second, the third was crucially mentally as much as physically having got that under my belt I managed to push on close out the match in four [dispelling the myth that every match would go to12/10 in the fifth!] to lead 2-1 in the series.
Match 3: Tim Garner beat Peter Nicol 3-1 (13/15 11/5 11/8 11/9) 45 Minutes
Xodus 7 Continent Challenge: Peter Nicol 1 Tim Garner 2
Episode SIX – the IDL claims a day
Check-in completed and we were in to the lounge before boarding for Stage 3 in Sydney.
It’s a long long way round the world but the first 12 hour leg passed quickly enough. Peter went for the ‘express’ meal and a little bit of Dark Knight Rising before popping a sleeping tablet and crashing out for 8 hours. I took the more ‘leisurely’ approach with a full meal and every bit of Life of Pi! Still cover on, head down and managed to push out 7 hours of sleep/dozing. Dreamt my right hip was sore but maybe it wasn’t a dream!
Touched down in Auckland for transit that ranged from 1 hour to 3 hours, depending on who you asked! It turned out to be closer to the latter, so we hit the lounge but not before a still groggy Peter had been into the Gents and the Ladies by accident! See sleeping tablets …!
We were soon back on board and getting ready to bounce in and out of Sydney.
NB: Missing in action due to the International Date Line: Monday 15th April
Tuesday 16th April
Or so we thought! It was all looking good as we took out seats and settled in for the hop across the straits between NZ and Australia.
There was still no sign of what was to come as the plane taxi’d away from the terminal and took ups its position at the end of the runway, but then rather than a surge of power we continued to trundle back down the runway and we both agreed a left turn wasn’t going to be a positive move and sure enough left it was and we slowly made our way back to a remote stand!
On the bright side we had 14 hours in Sydney, on the downside they were a very full 14 hours with media as well as the squash!
The pilot let us know, exactly what we, well already knew, that there was a technical problem and that they would look into it. Despite the potential problems to our journey, it’s always preferable that the plane doesn’t take off if there light is flashing or not! So my brain started to go into overdrive calculating all the options based on possible scenarios, none of which were ideal but the show would obviously go on!
The engineer boarded the plane and after some checks on the radar issues, the plane was given a clean bill of health as there was no danger of us ending up Brisbane rather than Sydney. Surely, they could have hit the coast of Oz and then looked out for Opera House?!
An hour later we were finally airborne and 14 hours on Australian terra firma was going to be 13 hours, plenty of time to wrap things up and from my point of view try and get ahead in the series before hitting a couple of Peter’s favourite old hang outs in Malaysia & Egypt! Though I did have a great Al Ahram tournament in the latter, so lets see if its misplaced confidence!!
Flying Time: 15 hrs 40 minutes; Travel Time 24 hours
Episode FIVE – Tim levels the score in Santiago
Sunday 14th April
Breakfast at the Atton hotel was top notch, and the natural honey just divine. After a quick catch on the internet we met up with Jaime & Sergio (El Presidente of Chilean) who had generously agreed to show us around the city.
First stop was Barrio Bellavista (literally beautiful view) where we headed to the house of famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. The first tour of his house was full was as is the South American way we grabbed a coffee and watched the world go by for 30 minutes before joining up with the next one. Unfortunately, this was in Spanish but a combination of their translation and some pigeon Spanish, we got by more easily probably since the guide was an attractive local girl!
The house was just incredible, split into 3 main areas built into the rock face it was the perfect example of how to ingeniously use the space you have. Peter was clearly taking mental notes and I won’t be surprised if I recognise odd bits and pieces in future Nicol homes.
Next stop was the lunch stop, which turned out to be a wonderful Sushi restaurant close by. We all tucked in but passed on the alcoholic beverage menu as that is clearly not what the Olympics would view as pre-match hydration!
Having refuelled on some wonderful locally caught salmon dishes we headed up Cerro san Cristobal for a breath-taking view of the city and the iconic photo that has already spread the word on the www!
We then headed to Club Jaime Pinto, and were greeted like royalty by the Pinto family who were all involved in putting this stage together at their club. Mr & Mrs Pinto live in the house next the club and we chilled out there for a while before being welcomed to loud acclaim by the capacity crowd.
In fact the crowd was well over capacity as the Pinto’s had decided that there was not enough viewing behind the court so had taken out the windows and built covered seating the car-park looking in! Now that really is commitment to the cause!
Augustin & Jose then put on a junior challenge match to warm the crowd up, before Jaime took on first Peter and then me with excessively generous handicaps! In fact so generous, that he easily won the racket and t-shirts that were up for grabs, without having to sweat over the forfeit!
So it was on to the main show, and having enjoyed so many enjoyable times over the years I was keen to put in a decent performance and started so much better than in the Falklands.
The first was tight, but I edged it, Peter came back strongly in the second but I got off to a flyer in the third and at 7/0 had visions of delivering a ‘bagel’ to him with the world watching on streaming before he tucked a ‘lucky’ killer length down the wall and then nearly staged a big comeback only losing it 9/11.
The effort to eventually close that out hurt more than I thought and I felt a little heavy legged in the fourth, and Peter was able to even things up.
The fifth was tight all the way, and a couple of delicate drops into the tin got Peter to 9/8 but with the crowd on my side (and even maybe the referee) I got to match ball but a perfect lob from Peter tied it up at 10-10.
However two points later the victory was mine and we head off to Sydney at 1-apiece.
Match 2: Tim Garner beat Peter Nicol 3-2 (12/10 6/11 11/9 8/11 12/10) 60 Minutes
Xodus 7Continent Challenge: Peter Nicol 1 Tim Garner 1
Pretty much all of the 185 strong crowd then made their way on to court for a Back the Bid photo, and most of them then had photos/autograph requests for the both of us. The enthusiasm was wonderful to see and staved off the tiredness for a few minutes atleast.
To try and keep it at bay a little longer we decided an icy dip in the swimming pool was in order, and given the water comes up from the Antarctic (a little poetic licence but it was cold!) its no wonder Peter was crying out like a baby. I am just glad there was no video footage of me going in!!
We then showered and had a lovely speciality sandwich before sitting down for 45 minutes of golf pleasure watching the culmination of the Masters. Well done, Scotty. Should be a decent party down under when we get there, shame we are only there for 14 hours!
The Pinto’s then completed a ‘perfecto’ day in Santiago by giving us a lift to the airport in plenty of time for out midnight flight. I knew the South American leg was going to be great and I really wasn;t disappointed and can’t wait to come back again soon.
Check-in completed and we were in to the lounge before boarding for Stage 3 in Sydney.
Episode FOUR- from the Falklands to Santiago
Sat 13th/Sun 14th April
Post match there was time for a quick Q & A, for Peter to get a quick massage (see I knew he was suffering!) and for me to stretch in a nice warm shower, then it was grab the bags and drive around the corner to the Air Terminal for check-in.
Unfortunately, we timed our arrival with the mini-buses from Stanley and with the queue extending out of the building we retired to the West More Store & Café for some substance as there was unlikely to be much in on our flight that apparently was more domestic than international in terms of catering!
The LAN flight is the only one allowed over Argentinean air-space each week, a concession to the fact that there are a number who live on the Falklands, and as a result is always full. Today was no different and by the time we returned the queue was still in place albeit now in out of the biting wind.
Just behind us was Keith Watson, friend of Squashsite webmaster Steve Cubbins, who lives on the Island but was heading back to Tynemouth on holiday and was clearly a pro at the journey given his lack of baggage!
As always check-in was interesting, not in the least that they couldn’t find my pre-printed boarding pass so hastily wrote another! This was soon obsolete as the original had been found in the hands of a Russian, whose name I can’t possibly have a guess at (other than to say there were atleast 12 characters and not many vowels), so was duly returned and we waved good-bye to Roger who had looked after us so royally and focussed on the journey ahead.
A biting wind helped us across the apron to the LAN plane with the horizontal wind-sock pointing in the right direction it was up up and away soon after. As the flight is a cross between an international/domestic it touched down after just over an hour in Punta Arenas so that the international passengers from Falklands could be processed through immigration in double quick-time before the flight picked up some domestic passengers.
There was just time for Peter to (smugly) enjoy a beer, while I drowned my sorrows with a similar local ceverza. Back on board we headed north to Santiago and while the squash wasn’t going as planned at least I edged 2-0 up in the card game!
Three hours later it was touch down in Santiago, home to stage 2 South America.
Flying Time: 5hrs and 20 minutes; Travel Time 9 hours
We were met at the airport by Jaime Pinto and his friend Mattias, who gave us the expected friendly South American welcome and got a photo taken within 30 seconds!
I hadn’t seen jaime for over 15 years, but recognised him straight away and it was as though it was 15 days as we caught up and the guys filled us in on what was going on. With Peter not being a fan of plan food and me always able to eat we were more than happy to take up the offer of food and we headed straight to the El Golf area of town and to Tiramisu, a popular pizza place.
Despite it being nearly 11.30pm the place was still buzzing and had a great feel immediately. We settled into our seats and soon after the local speciality the Pisco Sours had arrived! A fun meal followed with a couple of bets shaken on for the following evening and it was with heavy hearts that we turned down a trip to the night club and headed to bed.
It is the Xodus 7 Continent Challenge after all and the clock was showing 2am so we had done pretty well, especially when they told us they had thought there was no way we would come out to eat!
Episode THREE – match #1, Falklands
Saturday 13th April
Switching to a Landrover with wide-tyres we arrived at the rendezvous point just prior to 9am and waited for Kevin & Hattie to arrive before turning off the bitumen and on to the rough terrain to Bluff Cove.
The Landrovers revelled in the off-road activity and half an hour later we were at cove for an audience with around 1000 Gentoo Penguins and 5 King Penguin chicks, whose parents were off looking for food. Indeed it turned out that by nightfall all the hunters & gatherers would return and the numbers would swell to 3000!
The Kilmartin’s run the award winning Bluff Cove Lagoon Penguin Tour, whose season was nearly at an end and we felt privileged, if a little chilly, to see the birds in their natural environment. A cup of coffee and a couple of Hattie’s legendary biscuits and we were all set and headed off to the Mount Pleasant Complex for Match No.1!
The crowd gathered expectantly and we headed off to change and get ready.
Surprisingly I was a little nervous, not so much about the result but more pulling a muscle in the knock-up and there ending the Challenge series! Peter started the better, a fact I put down to the him having hit on the court the previous day but in reality I was a little slow out of the blocks and he seemed unusually quick out of them!
Having worked hard to get back to 9-9 in both the first two games, it was Peter who edged them both putting me firmly under pressure of starting the Xodus 7 Continent Challenge with a depressing 0-3 on the score-card.
However, Peter’s early exuberance started to hurthim mid-way through the third and 7/5 was as closed he got to the straight games win as I managed to pull first one back and then another to tie it up at two apiece.
At this point complacency took firm hold of my brain, and the ball starting to lose any life it had had Peter was soon up 9/4 and looking good for a first win. A couple of clipped tins by the narrowest of margins and there was still hope for me as started to reel him in eventually tying it up at 9-9 before a poor error gave Peter his first match ball.
A frantic rally ensued and the end result was we were back at parity before he again edged ahead to another match-ball. This time he made no mistake with a quality length followed by a deft drop that may as well have been back in the UK as had as much chance of getting it!
Match 1: Peter Nicol beat Tim Garner 3-2 (11/9, 11/9, 8/11, 9/11, 12/10) 65 Minutes
Xodus 7Continent Challenge: Peter Nicol 1 Tim Garner 0
Episode TWO, Hello Falkland Islands
Friday 12th April
After a reasonable 6 hour sleep I woke to the smell of toast that told me Peter was already up and it was time for action. Despite the previous long day, the change in time zone made getting up less painful than it might have been.
A long look out of the window, and had I been there, I might have thought I was in the Shetlands such was the vista. Peter was already downstairs having risen earlier, polished off some beans on toast and was going through some stretching exercises on the foam roller, so called as it is just that! He is clearly taking the challenge/challenger seriously!
First stop on the Falklands, as one would expect, was morning tea with Governor Nigel Haywood! Popped in to the Governors House for tea & scones! Nigel was very enthusiastic about sport in general being a keen Marathon runner himself, and was interested in using our visit to help rejuvenate squash on the Island, hopefully another benefit of our Challenge!
Next stop was a quick IT stop at Falkland Island Company, locally known as FIC for obvious reason, to keep the insatiable www up to speed on what we were up to. Having plugged into the internet super highway for a quick data burst, we were soon on our way to Stanley Leisure for some media and community work.
First up were sound bites for the local radio station, swiftly followed by some face time with Falkland Islands Tv explaining why we were here and what we were up to! A quiet rumble in the distance soon grew to a cacophony of noise announced the arrival of 30+ students from Year 8 at Falkland Islands Community School.
After an explanation about squash in general and why we were there in particular, a Q & A ensued with most questions revolving around when they could play us – always a healthy line to follow even if on this occasion the best we could do was demonstrate what squash was all about.
A short time later and we were on our way back out to the Mount Pleasant Complex to take on the RAF’s finest, fortunately at squash and not aerial manoeuvres! A keen bunch of ‘victims’ stepped forward and battled hard for scant reward, particularly against Peter who was clearly conserving energy before the first Challenge match tomorrow by barely leaving the ‘T’ while leaving his opponents gasping for breath.
We were then treated to a massage from PT Steph to help leave us in tip top condition for round 1!
Back into Stanley with Roger and it was an enjoyable evening at the Malvina Hotel. A couple of beers watching Tiger give a couple shots back to the field at Augusta before enjoying the local fish & chips washed down with a glass of white, and in Peter’s case 3 scoops of ice cream! Surely that gives me the edge tomorrow?!
Despite the offer of a visit to a local watering hole, we headed back to the accommodation knowing full well that it’s a big week ahead! Game on tomorrow, please show you support by backing the bid and the causes we are raising money for.
Ding, ding, round 1.
Episode ONE, Aberdeen to Ascension
Wednesday 10th and Thursday 11th (combined!)
It started for Peter on the Xodus Court at Aberdeen SRC and me on the steps of the Reform Club of Phileas Fogg (Around the World in 80 Days) fame. Peter then flew to Heathrow, while caught the Heathrow Connect from Paddington.
The flight was fine, but the latter had a minor issue with an ‘incident’ (whatever that means) delaying theT5 shuttle before we met up to start the adventure together. To help us on our way, SLG taxis aka known as Mum picked us up and took us up the M40 to RAF Brize Norton.
The only moment of slight concern was Peter’s BA App showing flight into Santiago on Sunday as cancelled, which given there are only one a week could to be problematic. After a bit of nervous scrabbling around, American Express Travel thankfully were able to confirm it was the App that needed to be cancelled as the flight was still on.
With the flight not departing until 23.59 that night we eased past the base and into The Beehive pub for some fuel for the journey. A full set of ham, egg & chips followed by sticky toffee pudding and we good to go!
Never having flown from an RAF base we entered, at the second attempt having discovered the need for a pass, with some trepidation but it all went smoothly enough. Bags were checked in and we were even allowed a normally prohibited photo albeit with strict instructions not to show the departure board.
By now it as little after 8 and the waiting began, Mum departed and were left to our own devices. From then on it was an evening of staging points first the terminal, then the departure lounge before finally making it on to our plane.
Having started off with visions of flying down to the Falklands on a Hercules waving to Peter across a space occupied by an armoured vehicle or tank, the Airbus 330 was a pleasant surprise one with the icing on the cake being the delivery of personal iPads for in-flight entertainment.
As we boarded we were given strict instructions not to move seats until the flight was committed, ie. the doors were shut and everyone was on board. Peter dutifully took has seat but mine was occupied and the air steward said sit where you like.
Never being one to miss an opportunity I hopped forward into a row of 4 and set up camp, which soon after chocks away became a bed! With Peter tucked up in just two seats by the window it was one nil in my eyes already!
Nine hours later after a movie, a reasonable sleep (not for Peter 😉 and a bit of reading and we were touching down in the Ascension Islands for a two hour stop-over while the plane refuelled, or so we thought.
Having been through the niceties of disembarkation the voice on the loud-speaker matter-of-factly explained due to adverse weather conditions the flight was delayed by 8 hours! Not the ideal news in the midst of a 19 hour journey, but looking on the bright side it was better this flight than any other on the Challenge!
A short shuttle to the Travellers Hill accommodation, which was described as Spartan and proved to be so but we hadn’t expected much more than that given our isolation in the middle of the Atlantic. We whiled away the time with a bit of internet surfing, though the ‘waves’ weren’t exactly speeding in and at times it felt it would be quicker to write a letter than send an email, some decent ‘scram’ in the canteen and a touch of sunbathing.
Having been warned the sun was very hot and the wind made it seem cooler, I was very careful and only sat out for about 30 minutes …and got burnt much to my travelling partners delight. It was then back to the airfield and more waiting before finally boarding the plan to continue the journey south. The amusement about my red arms almost cost Peter my goodwill to swop four seats for two, but given I didn’t want any excuses come the last stage in North America I let him have the ‘bed’!
Landing at Mount Pleasant and we realised we the flight had been delayed as the blustery wind had supposedly died down a notch or two, not that you would now it as we disembarked into what felt like a minor gale. Immigration passed quite smoothly though there was a slight raised eye-brow at the fact we didn’t actually know where we were staying other than a name of the person meeting us.
However, the smart branded tracksuit tops gave authenticity to our claim that we were indeed on the Xodus 7 Continent Challenge and would be playing back at the base on Saturday! We were through, collecting our bags after another delay and eased past customers to meet local host Roger Spink a full 40 hours after leaving our respective homes!
Roger was the ideal host filling us in on local information as we sped from the airport along one road to Stanley ‘village’, as he called it, and population of 2,500. Pulling into Stanley at 2am, Roger gave us half the tour en route to our accommodation, which didn’t take long given all the major amenities & points of interest are with a half-mile stretch of road!
The holiday home they had rented us was a welcome sight and not long after crossing the threshold we were gratefully both in bed!