Day 1 - off to South Africa!

I'm sitting in a 747 at 39,000 feet, somewhere in the air between London Heathrow and Johannesburg, failing miserably to get to sleep. So begins the Great Britain Rifle Team tour to South Africa 2012 . . .

Actually, saying that a tour begins on the flight out isn't quite accurate. The team have been preparing for this for some 18 months, with team training days, corporate fundraising events and last but not least, individually handloading the 13,000 rounds of ammunition that we will need over the next three weeks.

This is personally my first trip to South Africa, and indeed my first tour representing Great Britain, so the entries in this diary will be written largely from the perspective of someone who has little clue what they've let themselves in for, but hopefully will give the reader an insight into the tour, the team, and most importantly, all of the silly, amusing and downright daft things done by the team whilst on tour.

Today began at the Surrey clubhouse, at a time that was between 10 and 12, depending on how late various people arrived at Bisley. There then ensued a round of packing (for those team members who had been waiting until they got to Bisley to put stuff in a suitcase), weighing, and unpacking (once it was discovered that your suitcase was above the required weight, and you required access to the team baggage for the heavier items). Prizes go to Lauren, for having a cosmetic kit weighing in at a hefty 3.2 kilos, and James, for having the largest suitcase, one that most of the team could have travelled to South Africa inside.

After expending many more hours than it should be possible to spend packing, the coach arrived to whisk us off to Heathrow, and a date with the border agencies customs team. It was at Heathrow that the team split in two - one half heading to Terminal 5 for the BA flight, and one half to Terminal 3 to fly on Virgin. Speaking on behalf of the Virgin group, everything went remarkably smoothly with the rifles at check-in, with the ground staff shepherding us through the airport very effectively. We then proceeded to make the most of the two additional hours afforded by the later time of the Virgin flight by checking in an airport lounge and engaging in some friendly inter-team rivalry in the form of the Six Nations rugby match - Ireland v Scotland (Peter felt a little outnumbered by the three Irish members of the team.) This was unfortunately cut short with about 10 minutes of the match remaining by a call from the Virgin staff who were quite keen for us to board the plane, seeing as how everyone else was already on it. Julie was so keen to board the plane that she failed to notice the metal post in front of her (or as Julie would say - "I missed the first one") necessitating the provision by the flight attendants of a large ice pack to soothe a slightly swollen head.

One airline meal and a film later brings us just about up to date for now. More to follow in the coming days, so watch this space . . .