WITH 13 boxes of dental equipment neatly packed into her Suzuki van, Newport human rights campaigner Pippa Bartolotti was ready to embark on a 3500 mile road trip to war-torn Gaza.

But from the moment she set off on September 17, the next 36 days would be more of an emotional rollercoaster than she had imagined, driving one of 160 vehicles carrying £5 million pounds worth of human aid, as part of the 'Viva Palestina convoy five.'

Carrying just a handful of clothes in a rucksack to save space for hundreds of tweezers, probes and dental x-ray equipment in the van, the 57-year-old set off to meet her co-driver Abdul Ghafoor in Luton, to join 36 other vehicles also packed to the brim with aid.

Travelling by the Eurotunnel from Folkestone, the pair took it in turns to tackle the arduous long periods of driving, through Italy, Greece and Turkey.

Occasionally, some of the vehicles would get lost, with Pippa's van, nicknamed 'little toot' due to its much quieter horn, sandwiched between the French and the Swedish.

As they made their way to Gaza the 300 plus members of the convoy were cheered on by crowds waving and clapping them past.

"All along the road people would be pushing food into your car and offering to do our washing," she said.

When they reached Syria, Pippa had picked up a stomach bug, as they stayed at a refugee camp in Latakia, where they were forced to stay for 17 days due to problems at the border.

She said: "When we got to Gaza, we just cried. The first person to meet me was a Palestinian woman and she hugged me saying 'Thank you for not forgetting us'.

Their stay was cut short as there was not enough food in the country to feed the large convoy but she became friends with Alla, a translator.

She heard a harrowing tale about a man who was slowly dying from shrapnel in his head, as the hospitals do not have the equipment to operate with.

She said: "I can't tell you how bad it is out there- some people are living 60 to a house. When we were leaving, Allah's little face, which was so happy, just crumpled to pieces. They are living in fear".