Day three - Passau to Belgrade
The plan was to leave Brussels early but it slipped again. A combination of tiredness, admin and trying to squeeze in a bit more free hotel internet time. Paul was there, ready and waiting before the rest of us. He had slept well and the leg was not hurting as much so he hadn't had to take the mind numbing painkillers.
We boarded the car and wound our way back to the motorway. German autobahns are so efficient. It was a case of foot down and keep going. I'm a nervous motorway passenger - I hate not having control. I tried to not annoy the driver too much with my little sharp intakes of breath but sometimes they would just pop out.
Ken is doing a bit of a job on the driving. He has given up Christmas with his own children to be here, promising them that he will do Christmas with them around New Year instead. The days are extremely long and the roads unfamiliar. But he's smashing those miles like a hero.
Rola is creating a movement from the back of the car - liaising with medical teams in Denmark and France who want to do their own convoys under the banner of the People's Convoy. She spent the day liaising with her CanDo Action team to create a template that other teams can follow. We learnt the hard way how to pull this one off - it would be great if all that experience went into other convoys. The wheel has now been invented.So let's roll it out.
The landscape changed into Christmas card land - snow peaked mountains and fir trees sprinkled with snow. It was like a little reward for the eyes after two days already in the bag of driving. The temperature dropped and the smoke breaks for the inhalers were getting ever more brave. We were still in the land of smoking bans within public spaces so they huddled around doors. We knew that the closer we get to Turkey this would reverse as the smoking ban non-existence in the Balkans and beyond.
We had the truck in our range and were in regular contact with the driver. He was doing well on the home stretch. He is a Turkish driver with a Turkish number - plated truck. A vital lesson I learnt on preparing the truck side of the job was that only such vehicles would be able to get through customs. We worked closely with Anglo-Turkish - a haulage company - to get the truck. It was pretty amazing to think of it filled with important life saving equipment motoring along the autobahn towards the Turkish-Syrian border. There is equipment inside that truck which will make a life saving difference.
The day continued as it started. Driving. Paul Conroy pulled out his camera and we were lucky enough to witness him back at work. He said this was his first job since the terrible injuries he sustained in Syria five years ago. What a privilege. The stories are starting to come out and it's such a surreal situation hearing about his life and work and knowing that there have been overlaps. Chance near misses and mutual friends. Even reporting from the same wars but divided by different cities. He's a legend and we are all extremely fond of him. There's a little bit of light hearted banter going on in reference to the bromance developing between Mark Hannaford - the logistics lead and Paul. I can't help snapping pictures of them together - they photograph so well together.
We arrived at the hotel in Belgrade which Mark had booked on the move. We have decided to not book ahead and just see where we are on a day by day basis. It seems to be working fine. The hotel in was comfortable with wonderful Balkan decor.
Both me and Rola were doing interviews on the move from within the car. The media response has been pretty huge. We are amazed by how it's captured imaginations. But it's time something did when it comes to Syria - and this convoy is part of the changing tide.