Former student completes epic 30,000 mile journey to South Africa to raise money for charity

A Bangor University graduate has just completed an epic 30,000 mile drive to South Africa and back in a bid to raise £10,000 for two charities, Link Ethiopia and Alzheimer’s Research Trust.

Carl James from Buckinghamshire, who graduated from Bangor with a First Class Honours in Sport Science in 2009, decided to embark on the journey, that saw him visit 40 countries in 11 months, with a school friend as he wanted a new challenge after graduating.

Carl, 24, said: “Primarily we wanted to drive our car round the entire African continent and visit worthwhile projects such as Link Ethiopia (linkethiopia.org) and Right to Dream in Ghana (righttodream.com) along the way. Additionally we wanted to raise £10,000 for Link Ethiopia and Alzheimer's Research Trust UK, but we never expected this to be achieved by the time we returned home, that was always going to be a longer-term challenge.

 “We didn’t want to just drive for months on end looking at people and places through our car windows. We wanted to stop and stay in places, get involved, meet people, do something constructive and have purpose to the trip.

“Working with Link Ethiopia in Gondar was a fantastically eye opening and rewarding experience.

“The money raised currently stands at just over £4000, but with a host of fundraising events lined up we hope this will quickly reach our target of £10,000.

Now back in the UK, Carl said: “There were many highlights throughout the trip and they are hugely varied.

“Driving in Congo was an experience in itself. At one point we took six days to cover just 100km as the road was so poor and muddy, the car was getting stuck every few hundred metres.

“Naturally reaching Die Hel was also a highlight. The name comes simply from the difficulty in reaching it, for it is surrounded by mountains in South Africa's Little Karoo region and a hundred years later on it is no easier to reach. It took two hours of cliff-edge driving to reach after leaving the tarmac road.

On such a long trip, the boys invariably encountered a few problems along the way. Carl said: “From a mechanical perspective the chassis had to be re-welded in Kenya and the engine rebuilt in South Africa.

“In Angola, a mix-up with the dates on our visas meant we were actually illegal in the country and needed the British Embassy's help to find the best way out, asap! We also had to bribe our way in to a country as the regulations for entry changed, meaning we were going to have to fly home to get visas to continue on our route.

“But we also learnt a lot - how to deal with people, we were made to feel welcome by complete strangers all over the vast continent in a way which we have never experienced in the UK.

“Additionally we both had to deal with each other, driving, sitting, eating and sleeping within about three feet of each other for a year.

“On a more personal level, this project would not have left the ground without a huge amount of hard work and commitment, we now feel that we have that - there's not much we can't do.”

Asked to sum up the adventure in five words, he said: “Mechanics, bribes, paperwork, charity, hard work!”

Carl, who is now getting ready to study a master degree, added: “There are no immediate plans for another adventure as we've returned home with no money. But once our respective masters courses our out of the way we may be able to consider something - we did float the idea of Alaska to Argentina on motorbikes in the pub the other night!”

A website has been set up to allow those who are interested to read all about their adventure and donate money to the charities.  If you like the sound of what they did, visit their website www.tohelandback.org.uk

Publication date: 11 May 2011