Today we walked from Harrow and Wealdstone station to Gilly's parents' house. This is a 1.1 mile journey. We did this whilst carrying our fully loaded backpack/daypack combination, and have come to the following conclusions:
- Not properly packing your backpack can result in pain.
- Not properly adjusting your properly packed backpack can result in pain.
- 12kg worth of stuff is not fun to carry on your back for any length of time in an ill-packed, ill-adjusted backpack, as it results in pain.
- 12kg worth of stuff is probably 4kg worth of stuff too much to take with us.
Tomorrow's task will be a concerted effort to shave off precious weight from an already fairly sparse inventory. I'm now only taking flip-flops and wearing the Keens (sod the trainers...), and I'm going to seriously reduce the amount of over-the-counter medicines I'll be taking. I also need to decide if I have too many clothes. The answer is probably yes. I've got about 6 bottles of sun cream for both of us. Plus a bottle of after-sun. I think that's 5 bottles too much. I may burn more easily than a Tesco Express during a UK riot, but I'll be damned if I'm going to put my back out lugging 5 litres of the stuff around. I'll just wear more clothes. That'll make my back lighter, need less sun cream, and make me feel like less of a tourist. Granted, I'll probably sweat more, but I hear that backpackers are supposed to reek anyway otherwise they're not considered hardcore. I've got some wicking tops. It'll be fine. It'll be completely fine.
Other things I've learned in the last few days:
- If you have voicemail switched on whilst abroad, and someone leaves you a message, you will get charged for it...even if you don't listen to it. My provider's tariff du jour is 60p per left message, regardless of length. Here's a fun wheeze - if someone you dislike is going abroad and you have their number, help rack up a massive phone bill by leaving a crazy amount of voicemails for them. Not only will they have to sift through 35 messages to see if anyone has left them anything worth listening to (which will cost them), but they will get landed with a bill on top of that, just for the courtesy of having the messages there in the first place. You're getting charged for something completely beyond your control, which is madness. The sooner there is a global crackdown on this kind of nonsense from network providers (as there has been in the EU), the better.
- You can SORN your car online. That is, as long as the DVLA isn't busy "upgrading their system". Apparently, this can take up to 48 hours. That's one hell of an upgrade.
- You don't need 3rd party fire and theft insurance for cars being kept off-road. You just need something called "laid-up cover" or "off-road cover" (depending on who you talk to). I learned this to my cost after buying TPF&T and later fuinidng out I could buy laid-up cover at a fifth of the cost - thanks Fi! - from certain insurers. I'll be using Footman James, but Direct Line will do it for existing customers, and there are a couple of others too; have a look on Google if it's something you'll need.
- Santander have possibly the worst telephone customer service I've ever experienced. This is in stark contrast to their branch staff, who couldn't be more helpful. If there was a way to transpose the two, this would help our journey immensely. As it is, I fear I'll be forced to navigate the murky waters of Santander's telephone banking on a frequent basis to unblock cards, ask why money hasn't been transferred, and tolerate "supervisors" who have even less inclination to help than their call centre monkey subordinates. Tip:- if you are with Santander, move. You probably haven't heard it here first, but there's a reason why they are consistently in the bottom three banks for customer service.
- Kindle 3G connectivity in the UK rocks. Fact. I hope it's the same worldwide...
- The Student Loans Company want you to tell them if you're out of the UK for 3 months. This is presumably so they can send a P.I. after you and check you're not busy making lots of cash waiting bars abroad, whilst neglecting to pay them. They also want you to prove how you're supporting yourself. For us, it's not a problem as we've saved up so can show them bank details. If you're staying with family and/or friends though, I'm not quite sure how you can "prove" this...
6 days to go and still lots to do. Tomorrow we have a whole day free so should be able to get the rest of the admin work done and make a start on converting heavy bags to light ones. Perhaps I can get a small canister of helium and fill up the bag. Hmmm...I may have stumbled upon a possible Dragon's Den pitch. I think I'll call it Heliobag. I've just checked and no-one has trademarked that name. I can practically hear Bannatyne salivating as I type.