The Timbuk-Two return to Hornchurch

THEY dodged mines, fended off Kalashnikov-wielding military men and avoided sand-traps laid by hard-up herdsmen.

But against all odds a daring duo last night (Monday January 17) returned from a once-in-a-lifetime charity road trip from Hornchurch to Africa.

David Noakes, 21, and Oliver Godfrey, 22, undertook the danger-laden 4,800-mile drive in a battered �200 Peugeot 205 - which at 17 is nearly as old as the boys themselves.

Known as the Timbuktu Challenge, the trip destroys one in three vehicles that undertake it, as adventurers meander across Africa, from Morocco in the north to Timbuktu in Mali in the west.

But amazingly, David and Oliver beat all other contestants in their group – including those in a Mercedes and Cherokee Jeep - to complete the trip,

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“By the end we had leaking break fluid, a broken exhaust and no front bumper.” said David, a ramp agent at Stansted Airport. “We were the wildcards; we were in the cheapest, oldest car and the youngest people there – but we were the only ones to make it into Timbuktu and back to the base elsewhere in Mali.”

The journey took the pair from David’s home in Garland Way, across Europe, into Morocco, north Africa, along the Western Sahara, Mauritania, and finally into Timbuktu – a remote city in Mali with almost mythical status.

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“There were definitely some hairy parts: some of the roads were so potholed they looked like they had been hit by meteors and we were stopped by dodgy-looking army people wanting money along the route a few times.”

Surviving on camel, goat, “dodgy chicken” and Pot Noodles, the pair drove for up to ten hours a day to meet daily deadlines

They also spent an hour driving through a minefield littered with destroyed vehicles in Mauritania – a country so dangerous the British Foreign Office warns against visiting it.

There, they also avoided vehicle traps laid in the sand by locals who then offered help in return for money.

“Mauritania was by far the most beautiful country, but I was definitely nervous before we crossed the border. We were meant to get an armed guard, but that didn’t happen.”

The pair - dubbed the Timbuk-Two by family – set out on Boxing Day, reaching Timbuktu on Saturday (January 15).

“When we reached Timbuktu we were so happy but also so exhausted,” said David. “We had missed out on so much sleep over the weeks that we just wanted to finish it.

“Now I want to tell everyone who said I couldn’t do it: ‘I told you so’.”

David’s mum, Barbara Noakes, said: “I have been really worried but am also very proud of his achievement.”

David and Oliver, from Essex, are urging people to donate to the completed challenge, with all money going to armed forces charity, Help for Heroes.

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