Well the day, that seems like it would never be a reality finally arrived. After 7 months of preparation, fundraising, competitions, sleepless nights, late night calls and stress, we set of to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for the 10th WUKF Karate World Championships.
Getting to the departue day has not been easy, and at times it seemed like the universe was throwing every possible obstacle in our way at every step. From being 4 months out and not really having anything to show yet for our fundraising efforts, to one of the parents waiting 15 weeks for a simple passport renewal and only receiving it 4 days before departure, and fundraising money set to be released, being held up in the ether.
As a team we've worked well to pull off this feat. A huge thank you to Hannah, Anna and Fouzia, who without their help the trip just wouldn't have happened.
Thank you to each and every individual and business that donated and assisted us in our fundraising efforts. Every little effort, favour and penny is very much appreciated.
Thank you to Gipton Together and Cllr Salma Arif for also supporting the fundraising efforts and helping to make the dreams come true for some very hardworking and talented children from Leeds. The children are particularly excited to visit Disney Land thanks to Cllr Arif!
Over the next 12 days we will try our very best to write at least a short post to keep everyone, that is interested, updated on our exploits in Florida.
Day 1 - Departure Day: Leeds to Fort Lauderdale
Google says it's approximately 4,331 miles or 6971 km from Leeds to Fort Lauderdale. Some of the team travelled down to Heathrow themselves, whilst the rest of us set of at 4am from Ichiban for Heathrow. 24hrs later we arrived at our hotel in Fort Lauderdale, fairly incident free and exhausted.
Having heard about all the travel chaos caused by the train strikes and personnel strikes at Heathrow we allowed extra time to get to the airport and expected the worst. Fortunately, the travel down to Heathrow went smoothly, and whilst it did take us about 2.5hrs to get checked in and through security at the airport, we managed it without a hitch. We did sit on the tarmac for over an hour waiting for the bags to make it onto the aircraft.
As we finally took off there was lots of excitement about the cabin, with everyone especially keen to watch Alex's reaction at take-off, with it being his first ever flight.
10.5hrs after boarding we finally touched down in Miami.
Again expecting the worst, with US passport control, we were a bit apprehensive, but again everything went smoothly and although we did queue for the best part of 40 minutes to get through passport control, we were greeted by one of the friendliest boarder control officers I'd ever encountered, who was keen to tell us how much she loved Cobra Kai.
Once we finally got our luggage we managed to find our way to the car hire terminal and eventually after an epic game of suitcase and passenger Tetris, managed to fit all luggage and passengers into our two hire cars and set off for the hotel.
Merging onto the motorway (intersate) at 21:30 we had expected it to be quiet on the roads. It wasn't, it was busy and very 'whacky races'. Fortunately the hotel was only 35 min straight down the I95 and whilst the drivers may have a few more grey hairs than when they started we arrived at the hotel at 22:20. Exhausted but hungry. A decision was made to order a takeaway for those wanting food.
Frank, at 7 years, apparently only slept for about 30 min in the coach to Heathrow in the 24hrs travel. Needless to say, when we arrived at the hotel, completely crashed, and was not interested in dinner. A very exciting day for everyone, let alone a seven-year-old surrounded by his friends on a very action-packed day.
Whilst most people only went to bed nearer midnight last night the energy and excitement is pulpable amongst the team. We'll see how that energy survives today in the heat and dealing with little jet lag and fatigue whilst also getting a good training session in.
Thank you to the amazing group of parents who remained patient and supportive throughout the trip so far, and aced the epic game of minibus Tetris in 80% humidity.
Thank you again to all the individuals and businesses that made this trip possible.
We'll do our best to post an update here every day whilst away.