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Driving a fire engine through the Sahara

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By Ben Murray
Dumfries and West
Driving a fire engine through the Sahara
RALLYING TOGETHER. . . President Elect John Maxwell with Alastair Johnstone and Malcolm Johnstone

DUMFRIES Rotary Club listened to a hearty tale of an exotic trip in an unlikely vehicle last Friday afternoon.

Alastair Johnstone, son of club treasurer Malcom Johnstone, detailed the epic journey he undertook on a rally from Budapest to Bamako in an old fire truck.

Described as the world’s longest amateur rally, the journey begins in Budapest, Hungary and finishes in Bamako, Mali covering 10,750 miles over a five week period.

The route took in several European countries before crossing from Spain over to Morocco and then through the Western Sahara via the Moroccan Southern Provinces, Mauretania, Senegal Mali , Sierra Leone and Guinea.

The rally was designed to encourage fundraising for West African aid, and usually brings around 700,000 – 900,000 euros worth of aid to the continent. On this occasion it was supporting irrigation projects and the development of a school in the village of Magbondoline in Sierra Leone

Upon learning that rally entrants would not need to pay an entrance fee if their chosen rally vehicle was regarded as uniquely outlandish or at older than 30 years, Alastair chose to compete in a 1977 West German Firetruck.

He went as far as purchasing a second fire truck of a similar vintage to upgrade the original and allow it to make the overland trek.

Alastair and four others loaded up the truck with all of the necessary supplies and began the rally on October 21.

The members of the Rotary club were engrossed by the journey Alastair took, detailing experiences such as the gruelling night drive over the Atlas Mountains, taking a detour to save a fellow competitor that had crashed in the desert, navigating a UN buffer zone filled with landmines and donating school supplies to a school in Magbondoline.

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