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January 17, 2013

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Irish duo concludes epic adventure

TWO tired but happy Irish adventurers arrived in the city yesterday, 292 days after they set off from Istanbul, Turkey, on a 16,000 kilometer journey to Shanghai in an effort to raise money for charity.

David Burns and Maghnus Collins started their trip on March 28. It included cycling, running and kayaking through some demanding terrain.

Burns told Shanghai Daily they cycled through the deserts of Turkey, Iran and Iraq. They also cycled across Pakistan and northern India to reach Katmandu, capital of Nepal.

From there, they started a 1,000 kilometer run over 26 days through the Himalayas and across the Tibetan Plateau to the source of the Yangtze River - the longest river in Asia - in Qinghai Province.

From there they rafted about 6,300 kilometers along the Yangtze to Shanghai, Burns said.

"During the trip, the most dangerous things were the rapids in the Yangtze River and wildlife in Qinghai," Burns said. "The bears, wolves and a lot of wildlife, when they saw us it was beautiful but quite scary."

Collins said his raft flipped over at one point.

"I fell into the river as my raft was flipped back due to strong rapids," Collins said.

He wrote in a diary entry in November that the "swell sucked him under a few times before he could right the raft and clamber back. "The current condition of the river is pushing us further and further toward what we cannot handle. It is also demanding more and more of us mentally just to get through the day," Collins wrote.

"The river is often referred to as 'The Dragon's Back' and at the moment we are barely clinging to the reins," he wrote.

Despite the difficulties, they were grateful to Chinese people, who helped them considerably along the way.

"Chinese people were incredible for the whole journey as they offered help everywhere," Burns said. "The fishermen gave us tea when we were cold and gave us food when we were hungry. We were well looked after."

Collins said that locals, policemen and the fishermen would always offer them Chinese liquor and shout "Ganbei!," which means to drink a toast.

A kayak company provided two sea kayaks for the Yangtze River portion of the trip.

The duo said that they started the journey as a way to raise money for Self Help Africa, a charity that works with rural communities to help improve their farms and their livelihoods.

They raised money by writing about their experiences and uploading photos on their website, They have raised 24,500 euros (US$32,500) thus far, according to the website.

The duo were greeted yesterday morning at the Bund by members of Shanghai's Irish community.


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