For hundreds of years the Silk Road served as a trade route between Europe and Asia, opening early commerce between numerous cultures and countries. For generations it facilitated international trade for a major portion of the world before being all-but abandoned in favor of faster sea routes. But even in the 21st century the Silk Road still holds an undeniable allure, as two Irish adventurers recently discovered when they embarked on an epic 9000-mile journey along its length on foot, bike and raft.
Last March, Maghnus Collins and David Burns set out on the first leg of their expedition which would eventually take them across most of Asia. The two men began by riding their bikes from Istanbul, Turkey to Kathmandu, Nepal, covering nearly 5000 miles in the process. The second leg of the trip didn’t get much easier, as they then proceeded across the Himalaya on foot, at one point running 25 marathons in 27 days on the Tibetan plateau. They covered another 600 miles in this fashion before transitioning to the third and final stage of the journey, a 3900-mile paddle down the Yangtze River. They finished that leg of the trip last Wednesday, arriving in Shanghai after 10 months on the road.
As you can imagine on an excursion such as this one, Collins and Burns faced a number of challenges along the way. Beyond the physical and mental obstacles that come along with a human powered expedition of this length, the boys also faced an extreme range of temperatures, unpredictable weather conditions, arid deserts, high mountain passes and various other geographical issues. They also managed to lose much of their gear in a rafting accident, including Collins’ passport, which slowed progress to a degree as well. In the final days of the expedition, they found themselves racing the clock in an attempt to reach the finish line before their Chinese visas expired, which would have created an entirely different kind of challenge.
Collins and Burns undertook this journey not just for the amazing adventure but also as a way to raise funds for a cause. While biking, running and rafting across Asia they also managed to raise €25,000 ($33,450) for charity. Those funds will go to Self Help Africa, an organization dedicated to helping inhabitants of rural Africa gain economic independence.
While on their trans-continental odyssey, the two men blogged about their experience and shared plenty of photos from the road. You can read the entire account of their journey at Sand2SnowAdventures.com.
By Kraig Becker
[Photo Credit: Clifford Coonan]