Fundraising for Save the Children
With generous donations coming in at home and en route, the fundraising side of the trip has gone way over its official target of £10,000 for Save the Children. Mark has also achieved his own unofficial goal of bringing in £1 for each one of the 14,030 kilometres he travelled.
'The choice of charity was simple for me – the work Save the Children do to ensure the safety of children in times of crisis, and provide them with a better future, is incredible,' he says.
'I had hoped the trip would be well supported, but I was always surprised by how generous people were along the way. On one occasion, on top of a mountain near Almaty in Kazakhstan, I met a mother and daughter who were visiting from Palestine. 'They were interested in the trip and the fact I was doing it for Save the Children. But I couldn't believe it, when the next day, I logged into Just Giving and £100 had been added.'
A dream road trip
Mark had been dreaming of travelling the Silk Road route ever since he picked up Lonely Planet's 'Epic Drives of the World' two years ago, and thanks to huge support from Lou and the Cornwall team as well as colleagues in the Xiamen office, his dream took shape at the end of July.
Over 30 days, Mark navigated through vast steppes, mountain passes, bustling cities and remote wilderness, where herds of wild horses were sometimes the only other travellers on the road.
'The most interesting thing was simply the changing view from the road,' he reflects. 'The sheer emptiness of the landscape got to me in places. 'In Kazakhstan especially I was fascinated by the herds of camels and wild horses. There was one place where I doubled back to take a photo because I'd seen a group of horses looking for all the world like they were waiting at a bus stop – they must have been seeking shade!
Mark stopped off to visit many religious sites along the route.
'Seeing the changes in these buildings as I drove, from Taoist temples to ornate churches, was really interesting. You can see how the architecture reflects a country's culture and people.'
Keeping up with work tasks was a necessity along the way and Mark made time in Xi'An at the DaYanTe (Big Wild Goose Pagoda) taking promo photos for our Pandarama range of cute panda-themed gifts and accessories.
The BMW X3
While Mark had to contend with potholed highways, torrential downpours, sandstorms and even prairie fires on his journey, not to mention corrupt police officers, fuel restrictions and complicated border crossings, the BMW X3 he had chosen proved itself more than a match for the route. Incredibly, a puncture from a nail in the road was the only vehicle related hitch on the entire trip, and this was a relatively painless problem thanks to the X3's drive-flat tyres. The car even doubled up as a comfortable room for the night in some of the most far flung spots on the route.
You can read all about Mark's adventures and see more of his amazing photos on the blog he kept here.