They’re off – to Timbuktu!

Ben Atkinson and Karen Burns do a few last minute checks before their 6,500 journey to Timbuktu to raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society

Ben Atkinson and Karen Burns do a few last minute checks before their 6,500 journey to Timbuktu to raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society

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A CHARITABLE couple have set off on a cross continent journey to raise money for a cause close to their hearts.

Ben Atkinson, 28, and Karen Burns, 31, are en route to Timbuktu in a bid to raise thousands of pounds for the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society.

The pair, who run the Bond Hotel in Blackpool, accommodation for people with disabilities, have already beaten their target total of £1,000, seeing £1,150 donated despite only having set off last Wednesday.

But they are hoping to raise much more as they take on the 6,500 mile journey – after adding an extra twist to the tale by setting out in an old three-wheeled Robin Reliant.

After journeying across two continents and eight countries they will be donating the £150 vehicle to a children’s centre in Mali.

Karen’s dad Martin Burns is closely following the couple’s progress as they post photos on social networking website Facebook – including one of a minor breakdown just two miles from their starting point in South Shore.

He said: “We’re very proud of them, hopefully they’ll make it to the finish line. Since the breakdown they’ve been off without incidents.”

The duo are travelling in convoy on the annual Timbuktu Challenge, driving with others from across Europe in case of breakdowns or hazards along the route.

This year the group will be unable to travel to Timbuktu due to instabilities in the region but will be skirting around it on the journey.

They are today driving through Western Sahara, where Ben said the journey was getting interesting.

He said: “Travelling down into Western Sahara the going gets really tough, you can see hundreds of miles without a town on broken roads at best, isolated desert at worst.”

Along the journey the couple are spurred on knowing their fund-raising will help so many people, including visitors to the Bond Street hotel who have the physical disability MS.

Ben added: “We all know how hard life can be for sufferers of MS and maybe one day we can find a cure.”

To donate, visit www.justgiving.com/blackpool2timbuktu