While the rest of us were wondering what to do with the leftover turkey on Boxing Day, pals Mark Anderson and Steve Moody were embarking on the trip of a lifetime.
Mark– who lives in Tring with wife Amy and their two sons Jacob, seven, and Oscar, 11 months – left London on December 26 and spent three weeks travelling 4,100 miles south.
The route led through France and Spain before they boarded a ferry across to Tangier in Morocco and then on through the Western Sahara and Mauritania, all with one goal – reaching Bamako and donating their car to charity.
Even though the journey is technically called the Timbuktu Challenge, the last 200 miles to the city are considered too difficult and dangerous to travel by car, so the official finish is billed as the Mali capital.
Before he and Steve set off, Mark purchased the postbox-red 1990 Volkswagen Golf from a Polish chap for £500, and it was in pretty good nick considering it was more than 20 years old.
Mark, who works in London, said: “It had seen a lot of love and was in good condition. It held up very well – we only lost the bumper.”
During their journey, the gang enjoyed an unforgettable New Year’s Eve in Marrakech andcamped out under the stars in the Sahara Desert, which Mark said was an incredible experience.
The 31-year-old said: “The desert is lovely at night. There’s no light pollution and you can see the Milky Way.”
The travellers finally reached Bamako on January 15, where the left-hand drive VW raised £500 for local charities in Bamako – including African Child and the Rotary Club.
Mark said: “The car raised £500, which we were pretty pleased with. After we’d donated the equipment as well, the total was about £1,000.
“We got to see a beautiful part of the world, and because we were driving we got to see the gradual evolution between all of the countries.”
After leaving their faithful motor behind, Mark and Steve joined the others on the seven-hour night flight back to the UK – a journey which had taken them three weeks to drive.
An excited Amy, Jacob and Oscar were at Heathrow airport to greeted Mark off the plane, and he said his wife and two boys were very pleased to see him.
Mark said: “It was a shame we flew back in the dark, because we couldn’t see what we’d just driven.”
The daring dad now has a taste for banger rallies after his first was such a success, and he plans to take on another in the future.
He said: “I’d thoroughly recommend the challenge to those who want to do something a bit different. The group of people we went with really made it. It was brilliant.”
To find out more, visit www.dakarchallenge.co.uk.