The departure from LA was very smooth. We loaded the horses in the cargo box around 10 pm. Hoisted the box onto a big flatbed and drove them to the departure terminal. Karen DiCamillo was there with SR Sharee, and Christy Janzen's horse Tais was also travelling with us, with Kim - Christy's groom - scheduled to meet us in Dubai.
The cargo plane (CargoLux jumbo jet) was huge. We loaded the horses into a 3-stall box, lifted the box onto a big flatbed truck and drove them to the air terminal. We then lifted the box full of horses off the truck, and then hoisted it up into the belly of the plane - packed in there along with all of the other cargo. Mersant International was the shipping agent and they had a professional groom with us the entire trip. Great guy - big burly Irishman named Des. Has been shipping horses for 30 years and he made us feel relaxed and comfortable from the start. He actually rode in the box with the horses during the truck transit to the terminal, and while the box was loaded onto the plane. He also stayed with them during take-off and landing. He was loads of fun, and had stories about the old days - 100+ horses tied side by side in the cargo hold - packed in like cattle - stallions challenging each other... sounded like some pretty wild times.
It was really cool being able to walk around the ground under the jet - making sure our gear was loaded, so close to the rumble of the engines. It was dark out and made it seem even more exciting. Karen and I rode in the 'passenger' section - a few seats right behind the cockpit where the crew rode. We could watch the pilots and Karen even sat in the cockpit during the landing in Luxembourg. She came out with her eyes very wide. We had plenty of room to move around, comfortable seats (first class recliners) and we could climb down into the cargo hold and check on the horses whenever we wanted. Their box had canvas flaps that we opened for ventilation, and small doors up front on either side so we could walk in and offer them water, carrots, etc.
We landed in Luxembourg and unloaded the box from the CargoLux plane. Had a 2 hour layover but the horses stayed in the box. We had been flying east from LA, so had a brief period of daylight, then it was dark again in Luxembourg. We loaded the horse box onto a different plane - British Express - another big jumbo jet. Climbed up into the cockpit area and headed for Dubai.
We arrived in Dubai at 7 AM - 20 hours after we left California. The coast was in fog - and our first glimpse of the city was from the window of the plane as we descended for landing. The tops of the high-rise resort hotels were piercing through the fog. Karen looked out the plane window and said 'look! There's Atlantis!' - it was pretty amazing looking.
When we arrived at the terminal it was a wee bit confusing for a while. We had gotten pretty accustomed to just trusting that wherever we were, somebody else would know what was happening and what to expect- because we never did! We unloaded the horse and the tack/baggage and were sort of standing around when an official came up, scratching his head, flipping through pages in his clipboard ... some fellow with an Indian accent "you have horses? I don't have any horses scheduled to arrive..."
Oh great.... Des made sure the horses were unloaded and we took them to an area where we could walk them until somebody figured out what was going on. Somebody grabbed our baggage and started hauling it to the arrival area - until Des stopped him. The baggage was supposed to stay with us. But somehow some of the baggage ended up going anyway. Then a guy showed up along with a big horse van, looking very much in charge - he pulled out a card and flashed it to the guys who had thought they were in charge. As soon as they saw the card, everything started happening. The horses were loaded into the van for the ride to the Endurance Village, our baggage was retrieved (mostly), apologies were made, and we were rolling again. The van went ahead, and we went in the car with David (the guy with the card) to meet the van at the Village. A few more hitches - the fellow with our visas and permits had left them in the office in Dubai and gone home for the holiday, the horse van got lost for a while, I had to go back to the airport (75 km) for the misplaced baggage - but finally we made it. Settled the horses into the US/Canada barn (just completed the night before) - and then settled ourselves into our room at the village (a cross between a dormitory and a barracks) - decent facility, good food, but not very fancy. Once the next wave of crew arrived, we'd have rooms at the nice hotels in Dubai - pool, excersize room, the works.
John and Krusty just got back - lots of camels, lots of pictures. (we'll post them soon) -