30/09 Departure

After flying for all of one day
London-Brisbane without a delay
The guns made it through fine;
We made fair dinkum time
Until Parag took us the wrong way!

After two years of team selection and training, the main party met at the Surrey Rifle Association clubhouse on a delightfully warm Wednesday for a fish and chip (or surf ‘n’ turf) dinner to be followed by packing for the early morning departure the next day. A few drinks later and most of the team had turned in for the night, but one or two hardier souls would stay up all night to try and synchronise with Brisbane time more quickly.

At 05:45 on the Thursday morning, we all met again at the Surrey for breakfast and final weigh-in of suitcases. Nigel Ball the baggage master seemed to deal well with the variously disorganised and over-packed members of the team. Ross McQuillan won the overweight award from DC by a kilo, despite our having shipped over 6kg of kit each not including our mats, gunslips and scope stands. Shortly before we left on the coach, the captain called out that he seemed to be down a blazer. “Check Ross first” the adjutant cried. Many a true word is spoken in jest, and it was clearly so in this case because Ross owned up to having accidentally pinched Webbie’s blazer shortly thereafter.

The trip to Heathrow was notable only for the double circuit of the roundabout at the junction of the M3 and the A322 in response to the massive traffic jam on the motorway. A swift diversion to take the A30 via Sunningdale was called for and the coach made it to the airport in reasonable time thereafter. We were on a roll; check in proceeded fairly quickly and customs were helpful and efficient, even if they did insist on checking all 40 rifles. We boarded our Singapore airlines A380 and departed more or less on time for our 13 hour flight to Changi Airport, where a two hour layover awaited us before the connecting flight to Brisbane.

We arrived in Brisbane some 27 hours after our departure from Bisley and briskly made our way through passport control before picking up baggage and heading to customs to wait for our rifles. With 21 members of the team travelling in the main party carrying a total of 40 rifles, we were expecting the necessary checking to delay us significantly; however Aussie customs were helpful and efficient, keeping the delay to a relative minimum while we chatted with the U25s who had arrived 10 minutes behind us.

With the bureaucratic formalities behind us the drivers headed off to the rental car desk to pick up the keys for the wagons so we could make a quick getaway to the hotel, which was only a brisk 15 minute drive away. The plan was for the Adj’s van to take the lead with former Brisbane resident Parag Patel navigating; however this proved to be a minor tactical error when a coordinated u-turn was required around the junction onto the tollroad. What we initially believed to be Parag channelling James May was in fact Watty channelling Jeremy Clarkson. To give both of them their due, we did arrive at the hotel with no further difficulties a short while later.

As our journey started with fish and chips in the Surrey, so it ended with steak sandwiches in the Colmslie Hotel’s bar/restaurant before bed.