UK to Timbuktu By Road Challenge

£7,857 of £21,000 goal

Raised by 131 people in 10 months
Created September 26, 2018
UPDATE – I have a fee of several thousand pounds coming from a national newspaper. The managing editor has agreed to pay it straight into our charity fundraising page. This means that all our expenses are more than covered so that every penny people put in goes straight to NUJ Extra and the Journalists' Charity, plus the British Heart Foundation.
To clarify, this means that all money donated in the past and from now on goes straight to the charities, plus some of my fee as we are not going to spend several thousand pounds! We are staying in fleapits or in a tent... the glamour of international travel.

The legend that is Nick Redmayne and I leave on Friday.

Feel free to contribute! #TheTimbukTwo

The challenge
I and fellow journalist Nick Redmayne are heading from the UK to Bamako, Mali; we expect the journey to take about a month. We’ll be driving down through France, across the Pyrenées into Spain and, from there, by ferry to Morocco. We’ll carry on down through Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal and, finally, Mali.

Our Timbuktu Challenge is due to depart the UK 26th Dec 2018, heading south across Europe, through Morocco, Western Sahara and Mauritania, crossing the Sahara Desert and ending in Mali’s capital, Bamako – a journey of approximately 4,100 miles.

Our vehicle, a former British Transport Police 4x4 (presuming it makes it) is destined for donation to the Rotary Club Control Committee in Mali.  Funds from vehicle and parts sales support the important, on-going work of the Eden Medical Centre in Dinfara, where medical provision, though basic, is crucial.

Eugene’s story
In early August 2018, I was on holiday at my brother’s house in a tiny village high in the Pyrenées when I began to experience severe, extremely painful chest pains that caused me to break out in a cold, clammy sweat. They went from three or so per day at the start of the week to as many as ten by its end.

After landing at London Stansted, I toyed with the idea of going home, but on balance took myself straight to Whipps Cross Hospital in east London.

It’s just as well that I did. After an immediate ECG, I was taken straight to the front of the queue of about 50 people, put into an ambulance and “blue-lighted” to Bart’s Hospital in central London.

I was already having a heart attack when I had turned up at Whipps Cross; it seems the chest pains were likely to have been a series of minor heart attacks. And I was having another heart attack when we arrived at Bart’s. I was taken straight to the operating theatre, where they attempted and failed to insert stents. I then had a massive coronary, leaving them no option but to carry out open-heart surgery, using a vein from ankle to thigh to graft triple bypasses.

During surgery, I suffered a stroke and they found a blood clot on my brain. There were serious complications with my lungs and kidneys.

My body shut down and I stopped breathing; I was on life-support for about ten days, unresponsive. 

The surgeon later described the events as “catastrophic” and said they would not have been “survivable” had I not been at a hospital – given I was in a tiny village in the Pyrenees 12 hours earlier, it is a miracle I am here.

Those who know me won’t be surprised to know that during a bout of “delirium” (basically, hallucinations) I shouted at nurses, called the head of press to complain about a dirty tricks campaign by the hospital’s “managing editor” (I have since apologised profusely) and had a huge row with my ex-wife and daughter for not taking my account of having been shot in New York seriously or being mugged the next day in Rajasthan. I also insisted that my friend, whom I told I had terminal cancer, find a bookshop to buy me a copy of The Time Traveller by EJ Thribb. Needless to say, he was unsuccessful.

Three weeks later at time of writing (October 1 2018), I am in recovery.

Three days after my own attack (hereditary and lifestyle-related coronary heart disease, CHD) my poor brother, only 48, suffered a wholly unrelated sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). He remains gravely ill and unresponsive six weeks later. We don’t know what will happen next. To have two of three sons on life-support with both cases looking unrelentingly bleak was a cruel trick of fate for my elderly parents; I came round eventually and now I want to put something back.

Since I am freelance and have been told not to work for 12 weeks minimum, money would have been a problem. A closed Facebook group for freelance journalists (A Few Good Hacks) read of my plight and created a fund-raising page that topped £2,500, largely from people whom I have never met, an incredible display of solidarity.

The journalists’ charity NUJ Extra have also been remarkable, giving me financial assistance in this life-changing scenario.

Consequently, we wish to raise funds for two charities:

• The British Heart Foundation (especially to fund more research into Sudden Cardiac Arrest, SCA, because of my brother’s terrible situation) 

• NUJ Extra

(Any revenue to be split equally, with all expenses to be met by us)

Thanks for reading!

Nick’s story

This journey wasn’t conceived as a fundraising charity event.

I was 52, fit and healthy.  An occasionally sore knee didn’t point to any particularly worthy cause.

I couldn’t claim a motivation any higher than the fact an independent overland journey across north and west Africa still carried a sense of adventure, and I liked that.

The last ‘long drive’ I attempted, in November 2011, started in North Shields and ended in Amman, taking in Aleppo, Damascus and Beirut along the way.  In Aleppo I slept in Lawrence’s room at the Baron’s Hotel – they were understandably quiet and offered a ‘special’ rate.  Despite having given the barman ‘a holiday’ the hotel still managed a couple of tins of beer, and boiled eggs for breakfast.  I was probably one of its last guests.

When I first mentioned the possibility of this Timbuktu Challenge, Eugene was immediately enthused.  His proceeding, in-depth exploration of NHS emergency services was not part of the plan.  I assumed I’d simply be looking for a new co-driver.  Not so.

The journey of over 4,000 miles will have its travails.  If Eugene shares just some of his obviously immense reserve of resilience, any difficulties relating to mechanical failures, digestive uncertainty, bribery, bandits and minefields will be as nought.

Look out for postcards from Bamako.


Individual sponsorship
Any little helps… whether it is the price of a latte, a sandwich, an after-work bottle of wine, dinner out, we would be hugely grateful for your help. You know what to do…

Corporate sponsorship
We are seeking one overall sponsor whose name and logo will be prominently displayed on the side of our vehicle. We will also put together reports, podcasts a video for YouTube and so on, all of which can be used on your website. Please get in touch if you think your company might help or if you know someone else who might be able to!

Existing sponsors offering some support are:

• Bradt Travel Guides (leading travel publishers championing unusual destinations, sustainable tourism and high-quality writing) - https://www.bradtguides.com/

• Kamageo (African adventure tourism experts) - https://www.kamageo.com/

• Undiscovered Destinations (adventure travel specialists) - https://www.undiscovered-destinations.com/

• The Narrow Nick micro-pub, Rothbury, Northumberland - https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Pub/The-narrow-nick-Rothbury-772125912944456/

• DFDS Seaways - https://www.dfdsseaways.co.uk/

• Land Rover Explore - https://landroverexplore.co.uk/

 We are now seeking a headline sponsor to act “in association with” to help fund this huge challenge!

Press coverage
The trade publication for journalists wrote a very supportive piece on October 15, which was very kind of them:
Former president of the NUJ Tim Dawson wrote a lovely piece for the NUJ website:

The Northumberland Gazette featured us and The Narrow Nick - https://www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk/news/pals-drive-4-000-miles-to-africa-just-months-after-life-saving-surgery-1-9491528


We have decided on a motto for our adventure. Our "determinate voyage is mere extravagancy", said by Sebastian in Twelfth Night. 'Extra' is Latin for "outside" and 'vago, vagare' means "wander". So it's a posh way of saying, our plan is to just wander about outside. We laugh in the face of itineraries. A sleeping bag in the Sahara under the "this most excellent canopy the air, look you, this brave o'er hanging firmament, this majestical roof, fretted with golden fire" (OK, that bit is Hamlet, to be fair) – what could be more liberating?

Plus we can't be bothered to plan distances and where to stay.
+ Read More
Nick Redmayne’s account of our 31-day overland trip fromLondon to Bamako, Mali.

We didn’t kill each other.

+ Read More
We're continuing with the fundraising. My mum has promised £200, which will appear as a donation from me ass she is not au fait with apps, online banking or even transfers... And a good friend has put in £300.

On a housekeeping note, all monies from here on in will be split 50:50 between the British Heart Foundation and NUJ Extra (but I might have already said that...)

Thanks for being so supportive!

Euge x
+ Read More
Following my month in Africa, the NUJ has asked me to do an evening at Headland House talking about it. All funds to go to NUJ Extra. Non-members welcome. Description and link below.

To adapt an old QPR joke...

“What time is kick-off?”

“Well, what time can you get here?”

In August 2018 freelance journalist Eugene Costello suffered a massive heart attack, followed by a stroke. Doctors all but gave up hope, but after nearly a month in hospital he was sent home to convalesce.

Instead, he immeadialy hatched plans for a madcap fundraising drive to return the help he received from NUJ Extra and elsewhere. He would drive from Britain to Mali in Africa with a man he had never met before.

Predictably all did not go according to plan. He did, however, collect scores of pictures, tales and experience that he is keen to share.

Come and hear the best from his own lips, toast his recovery and help NUJ Extra lend a hand to a few more of our trade when they face seemingly insurmountable challenges. Food and drink will be available at the venue.

Please note that all donations from here on in will be split on a 50:50 basis between the British Heart Foundation and NUJ Extra.
+ Read More
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£7,857 of £21,000 goal

Raised by 131 people in 10 months
Created September 26, 2018
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