‘Silk Roads to Shanghai’

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IN a fortnight’s weeks time, a pair of young adventurers will set off on their latest incredible expedition which will take in seven countries, three methods of man-powered travel, and over 16,000 kilometres, all for the benefit of Irish charity, Self Help Africa.

Maghnus Collins Smyth, from Limerick, and David Burns, from Coleraine, will start their journey in Istanbul, from where they will cycle 8,500 kilometres to Lhasa in Tibet, taking in Iran, Pakistan, India and Nepal along the way.

Upon reaching Lhasa, they will begin a 1,000 kilometre run through the Himalayas to the source of the Yangtze River in the Qanghai Province in Northern China. The final stage of their journey involves rafting and kayaking over 6,300 kilometres along the river to its mouth in Shanghai.

The path they will take across Asia will closely trace the Silk Road, the historic network of interlinking trade routes across Europe and Asia, hence the name decided upon for this trip, Silk Roads to Shanghai.

Apart from sating an appetite for adventure, the purpose of the expedition is to raise funds for Self Help Africa. The Irish charity aims to empower rural Africa to achieve economic independence and has been the beneficiary for all of Maghnus and David’s expeditions.

In 2009 Maghnus and David travelled 17,550 kilometres on bike, starting in Cape Town, travelling through 19 countries and three continents to finish back in Limerick and Coleraine respectively.

In 2010, they again returned to Africa for a much shorter but no less exerting challenge as they ran over six marathons in just five days as part of The Sahara Race, with all funds raised again going to Self Help Africa. On that occasion, both Maghnus and David were marathon novices but that didn’t prevent them from both finishing in the top 25 and being the youngest men in the top 100 finishers.

“I have always had a love of the outdoors and adventure, but ‘Bike Africa’ opened my eyes to what is possible,” says David.

“Since then I have never looked at a map in the same way and see endless possibilities all over the planet. What intrigues me about this next adventure is the mystery of Persia, the remoteness of the Himalayas and the chance to raft on one of the world’s great rivers.

“I am both scared and extremely excited which probably means I am on the right track. For the first time in a few years I have no idea what the coming months have in store, it is a feeling I have greatly missed.”

When asked what it is that motivates him to undertake such a potentially perilous trip, Maghnus says a number of factors have contributed but that he began leading this life less ordinary more by accident than design.

“It’s difficult to articulate my motivations for undertaking expeditions and in truth I am not even confident they are clear in my head. However, I think that maybe it is what you find out about yourself. Adventuring forces you to confront your self-perceptions head-on,” he said.

“Silk Roads to Shanghai is an amazing undertaking. The funds raised will help to set thousands of African people on the path to self sufficiency,” said Ray Jordan, CEO, Self Help Africa. “An expedition like this is incredibly empowering. At Self Help Africa we too believe in empowerment, as our work does not give African people hand-outs, but rather it gives them a hand-up so that they have the power to shape their own futures.”

For details on how to donate to Self Help Africa and to track Maghnus and David’s progress go to www.sand2snowadventures.com