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Round-the-world driver Les is reunited with his family
“I GOT out of the taxi and gave her a big cuddle.”
Round-the-world driver Les Carvall has described the moment he was reunited with his wife after completing a marathon 18,478-mile journey that saw him cross three continents and 12 time zones.
Les and a group of fellow Hampshire pensioners have finally returned home after completing a challenge that would have taxed men half their age.
Apart from the ever-present possibility of illness, accidents and breakdowns they faced a series of deadlines and pushed themselves to the limit to comply with a punishing schedule that often left them exhausted.
In more remote parts of the globe they also had to contend with primitive roads surrounded by an endless expanse of sand and grass.
At one point the two Suzuki Jimnys became separated in the Mongolian desert, resulting in the two crews losing sight of each other. Knowing it was vital to re-establish contact as quickly as possible, Les, 73, drove as fast as he could, creating a dust trail that enabled the other driver to locate him.
But the five-month journey almost ended in disaster in Russia when the retired businessman tried to overtake two lorries.
His heavily-laden vehicle was unable to cope with a slight incline in the road and was almost involved in a head-on collision.
“I got it wrong and nearly killed myself,” he admitted.
Gruelling 12-hour days behind the wheel and the occasional cross word also took their toll. But the drivers were feted wherever they went and were overwhelmed by the hospitality they encountered in each of the 16 countries they visited.
Highlights included a 45- minute meeting with Poland’s former president, Lech Walesa, who founded the famous Solidarity movement.
Les and the others were greeted by his 92-year-old assistant and ushered into his office in Gdansk, where the man still referred to as “Mr President” asked them a series of questions about their epic expedition.
“I’ve always admired him and he turned out to be a really super guy,” said Les.
Now the elderly adventurers are adjusting to life back home after completing their 150-day journey in aid of the charity Heaven Can Wait, I’m Busy, which is raising funds for Save the Children and Oakhaven Hospice, Lymington.
Les, the only driver to undertake the whole trip, had an emotional reunion with his wife Vi at their bungalow near Lymington.
“I got out of the taxi and gave her a big cuddle,” he said.
“I missed her a lot. We’ve been married for 52 years and the longest we’d ever been apart was three weeks. While I was away we spoke on the phone every day – but it wasn’t the same.”
Looking back on the trip Les said he and the others felt a great sense of achievement, tinged with sadness that their adventure was over.
Paying tribute to his fellow drivers he added: “The project wouldn’t have been successful without their support, perseverance and camaraderie.
We were a team and proved that age is no barrier to tackling a challenge such as this.”
One thing they will not miss is the poor diet they had to endure in various parts of the world, including America.
Les said: “I don’t care if I never see another burger in my life.”
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