Bluey helps with charity run

DESPITE guards wheeling baseball bats, the constant need for bribery, a plague of locusts, and a broken exhaust two intrepid postmen from Ipswich are celebrating today in the African sun.

DESPITE guards wheeling baseball bats, the constant need for bribery, a plague of locusts, and a broken exhaust two intrepid postmen from Ipswich are celebrating today in the African sun.

Roger Markham and Gary Turley left Ipswich on Boxing Day for a three-week fundraising car rally to Banjul in a motor which cost them just £350.

And their secret weapon was . . . a stuffed toy of Ipswich Town's mascot Bluey!

Last in contact with the outside world on December 29 the pair had got as far as Gibraltar and were due to set foot in Morocco the next day.

Today they are in a hotel in Banjul after completing their trek in just less than three weeks.

Roger, 42, of Kingsgate Drive and Gary, also 42, of Brunswick Road contacted The Evening Star to let us know they were safe and well.

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He said: "We made it to Banjul. We are very tired but we have just had a hero's breakfast, the first food in 24 hours, we have booked into a small hotel for the few days wait before we fly back.

"Those who predicted we would never get past Capel can keep very quiet!"

Their trip seemed to be dodgy even before they left Suffolk - at a press call before their departure they couldn't get the car to start and it needed a push.

But they were sure this was only a teething problem that could solve - and it seems they were right.

Roger explained their progress after leaving the Rock.

He said: "We whizzed through the Moroccan border with the help of an Ipswich Town Football Club furry horse mascot.

"We offered one to the customs official as a 'gift' and before we knew it we were waved to the front past a line of cars."

But it was after passing through Rabat and Marrakech that the left-hand-drive 1992 Mazda 626 finally began to show its age.

Roger said: "40 miles outside Marrakech the exhaust fell off. The next day we set off to get it welded up and managed to find a very good back street welder who did a fantastic job for not much money."

The lads spent New Year's Eve sober - Morocco is a dry country - in Marrakech.

A few days later the friends arrived in Laayoune the capital of Western Sahara.

Roger said: "It was full of UN troops and Moroccan soldiers. It was a bit of a dump. The night-watchman stood over the cars with a baseball bat."

After a rest day during which the pair welded on a sump plate and lifted the remains of the exhaust the pair were ready for a trip across the desert.

Roger said: "After a long run down to the Mauritanian border we picked up our desert guide. We had two nights and three days of hard digging and dragging and sand getting everywhere as we travelled through the desert. We didn't think it could get any worse then we had a plague of locusts."

By January 7 Roger and Gary had made it to Nouakchott , the capital of Mauritania. The next day they were on the road again to Senegal.

He said: "We had another long journey with distances on the map proving meaningless. It cost us 60 Euros each to cross the border into Senegal."

After a few days crossing Senegal the pair made it to The Gambian capital, Banjul, yesterday and the end of their journey.

The daredevils will sell their 1992 Mazda in The Gambia to raise money for African Aid charities. With sponsorship they are hoping to generate about £60,000. They are expected back in Ipswich in the next few days.