Show Notes for podcast 151
Mac MacKenney on Leading Expeditions and Breaking Records
Scott Brady interviews Mac MacKenney, overland expedition leader and Guinness world record holder. Mac started life with dreams of being a pilot and joining the Royal Air Force, overcoming incredible odds to accomplish the goal. As a veteran overcoming PTSD, Mac found his calling in leading significant expeditions with Sir Ranulph Fiennes before earning the Guinness Record for his London to Cape Town drive. Mac works with veterans on their (and his) journey to recover from PTSD.
Mac Mackenney is an expedition specialist, having planned and led expeditions to the most extreme locations on earth. The more extreme the environment, the more he thrives on the challenge. Right-hand man to the renowned Polar explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes; head of logistics for the largest-ever medical research expedition on Everest, London to Cape Town driving record holder, team member for the first amphibious crossing of the Bering Strait; provider of challenging vehicle adventures to military veterans suffering from PTSD, and leader of an extreme driving series on Discovery Channel in which Hollywood actors drove some of the coldest, hottest and toughest roads on the planet, are just some of the many projects that he’s undertaken. He also has an adventure motoring channel on YouTube, Driven to Extremes.
Scott is the publisher and co-founder of Expedition Portal and Overland Journal and is often credited with popularizing overlanding in North America. His travels by 4WD and adventure motorcycle span all seven continents and includes three circumnavigations of the globe. His polar expeditions include two vehicle crossings of Antarctica and the first long-axis crossing of Greenland. @scott.a.brady
Scott Brady: Hello and welcome to the Overland Journal podcast. I am your host, Scott Brady. And for today’s guest we’ve got Mack McKenney. Mack McKenney is one of the most notable overlanding professionals in the world. So Mack has literally made a living, he’s made a career out of traveling overland, so he has led some of the most significant overland expeditions, to date many of them also for television. So Mack has worked with a-list actors like Adrian Brody, Tom Hardy, and others on several expeditions, including ones to the pole of cold in Russia. He also held the record for the fastest time from London to Cape Town, Overland, and he has done things around electric vehicles, but also just a master planner, a master navigator, prioritizer of equipment. So there is a lot that comes into this [00:01:00] conversation. We also talk about his time with the Royal Air Force. We talk about his career shift from being in the military and some personal tragedies that happened along the way. So there’s a lot to learn from Mac, and I did in the conversation with him. I really enjoyed spending time with him at his family farm in the south of England. So please enjoyed my conversation with Mack McKenney. And a special thanks to Rocky Talkies for their support of this week’s podcast. Rocky Talkies are back country radios designed by a small team in Denver. The radios are extremely rugged, easy to use, and compact, weighing in at just under eight ounces. They have a range of one to five miles in the mountains and up to 25 miles line of sight. The batteries will last from three to five days, and you can recharge them easily via USBC right in the vehicle. Our team uses Rocky Talkies and we also use them recently at the Overland Expo. The next Overland Expo, stop [00:02:00] into our booth and say hello and check out the radios for yourself and as a listener of the Overland Journal podcast, you can get 10% off a pair by going to rocky talkie.com/overland journal. Thanks again, Rocky talkie. So Mac, thank you so much for being on the podcast, and thank you for hosting me at your beautiful home here. I mean, where, where are we at approximately? In the uk?
Mac McKenny: We are in East Devon, so you are about 150 miles south west of London down on the, sort of the, the narrowing pointy bit of England in the bottom left hand corner of the uk.
Scott Brady: Oh, I had it. So just a beautiful drive. Today I was driving the Grenadier that we’re gonna take across to Africa and part of the goal with this trip was to get miles on it. To take it out to Millbrook and get some miles on it, and then take a longer drive like I did this morning. Just to make sure everything’s functioning properly and what a beautiful day to be in an adventure vehicle. In the uk, so gorgeous.
Mac McKenny: You, you’ve, [00:03:00] you’ve bought the best weather with you, I tell you. It’s not normally like this. It’s, yeah. It’s normally wet and miserable, but today doesn’t get much better, so, well, yeah. Thank, thank you for bringing it with you.
Scott Brady: Yeah. Little bit, little bit of Arizona with us for sure.
Mac McKenny: I’ll drink to that.
Scott Brady: Yeah. And we’re actually, we’re having a beautiful cider right here. This is a local cider, is it?
Mac McKenny: Yep. Just over the border in Somerset. So that’s made, you know, no more than 10 mile away, so, yeah.
Scott Brady: Oh, incredible. Well, one of the things that, that I don’t know about you, and I’d love to to learn more, is where you grew up, what your, what your experience was as a young person that drove you into this passion for the outdoors.
Mac McKenny: I’m a London lad by birth. Only spent six months of my life there. Luckily, I’m, I’m more of a country lad at heart. My dad was a, a traffic cop in the Metropolitan Police, so he used to go out on the motorbikes escorting, Margaret Thatcher and the Queen and all the rest of it through London. Both my parents were brought up down here. They were evacuated down here during the war as young children. So I’ve always had family here. And then my dad, when he got promoted, a sergeant had fortunate enough, managed to buy a [00:04:00] second house, so that meant that we spent even more time down here. So this has always been kind of my, my real home in terms of where I feel most comfortable. So as a young lad, from the age of about seven, eight up until I, when I joined the military, we would be exploring all of the fields around here. So always out, you know, building camps and playing soldiers and that was kind of, where I felt most comfortable. You know, out in the middle of nowhere, my dad hadn’t troubled much.
He’d been posted to Bermuda. I think he was there for about two years, but I guess sort of genetically. The sort of the adventurous dna travel bug within me has come from my mum’s side. So she was a stewardess on the original Queen Mary, which I think is more, is it.
Scott Brady: It is in Southern California. Yeah.
Mac McKenny: Somewhere around that way. Is it, is it a floating hotel or something?
Scott Brady: Now it is. That’s fascinating.
Mac McKenny: So she did a couple of laps of the world with that one and then some other Cunard ships. Yeah. Once you start hearing stories of New Zealand, Australia, the Panama Canal and all the rest of it, you know. But I think one of the, the key [00:05:00] factors, one of the, sort of the real defining moments of my life, I was in middle school, so what would that been? 10. And a friend of one of the teachers was a Canadian, and this Canadian was on holiday to see their friend and, and obviously their request was, can you come and give a talk to the school kids about where you live in Canada? And they must have lived somewhere, slap bang in the middle because there was, you know, 150 little kids sitting on the floor. And this person said, most of the people in my village have never seen the sea. Of course you’ve seen the sea. It’s, you know, in the UK you’re, I think you’re never more than 70 mile away from the sea. Even the most remote part in the middle, which is, you know, a couple of hours drive. But of course in the middle of Canada, you’re talking thousands of miles in every direction to go to the sea. And so I just sat there and was baffled by that. And clearly it then dawned on me that the rest of the world isn’t like where I was brought up in Surrey. There are different places, different people, and I think that just stuck with me and I thought, crikey, I wanna go and see these places where you are so far from the coast, or you are so high up a [00:06:00] mountain or so deep into a desert or jungle. Yeah, I guess that’s, that’s kind of where it all started, that sort of fascination with the rest of the world.
Scott Brady: And is that part of what was the motivation to join the military?
Mac McKenny: I’d always wanted to be a pilot. My, my father, he too, had wanted to be a pilot in the Air Force, but he never made the grade, so he didn’t get the qualifications at school, so he just did his national service. He was a signals officer. So he, a bit like you now with your headphones on and all the kids, he was there listening to the Russians and the Morse code. But I, I wanted to be a pilot, so I, from the age of six, so I joined the Air Cadets. And that was my one and only aim in life. I didn’t think about adventure or climbing mountains or driving vehicles. It was, it was, I was gonna be a fighter pilot and that was my one and only focus in life. And that was throughout my entire schooling. So apart from messing around here and messing around playing soldiers in the air cadets, it was flying, flying, flying. And that’s all I ever wanted to do.
Scott Brady: How did that, experience go for you in the [00:07:00] military?
Mac McKenny: The path of, of my life didn’t go quite as I had hoped. So I was awarded a flying scholarship when I was 16. So basically you do the, the medical and the aptitude tests. You don’t have to do the leadership test cuz they don’t really expect too much out of you as a 15, 16 year old. But you do all the other tests and if you are of pilot material and you have to sit one interview, they will basically pay almost to get your private pilot’s license. And I was awarded one of them, they only give out like 10 a year or so. So I, out of 10,000, 50,000 cadets or whatever it was, there’s, there’s a lot of cadets. I, I was one of the very lucky few to get, get awarded this flying scholarship. I then get a letter, no, it wasn’t even a letter, it was a phone call one morning. Not long after having done this aptitude and medical test saying you need to get into hospital right now. Straighten, drop, drop everything. Get straight into London immediately. You’ve got suspected heart disease as a 16 year old. So in I go into London, a week of all [00:08:00] sorts of tubes and tests and treadmills and oxygen and things being poked up inside me and operations. They couldn’t find any heart disease, but they found an irregularity and that’s what had been picked up on this ecg. Trace this heart test. But the, the underlying result was you will never fly in any capacity, military or civilian, and you will never join the Royal Air Force in any capacity. That was it. My world just folded because there was never a Plan B. So for 10 years, all it ever focused on, and before I’d even really got to the proper start line, but also having been awarded a flying scholarship, you know, we’re gonna give it to you on one hand, and then we’re gonna immediately take it away from you. So from elation to utter despair, within probably 24 hours, it was you know, it was, it was very, very difficult. I don’t really remember too much of it, but my mom said, I just kind of locked myself away for a week. My dad’s never gonna hear this, so I don’t, I don’t mind saying it, but unfortunately, because I think there was quite a lot of jealousy from him because he wanted to be a pilot and didn’t make the grade. So throughout my [00:09:00] entire childhood, his attitude was, well, if I didn’t make it, you don’t understand a chance, so forget it. You’re not good enough. You’re not good as me. So I think there was a certain amount of, sort of glee from him that Haha told you so, because I guess he didn’t wanna see me do the life that he wanted to lead. I, I didn’t get the support from my parents. My mum, I, I think she was just trying to be a bit more realistic and level-headed. You know how many people who apply for fighter pilot make it? The percentage is tiny, so the odds are you’re not gonna make it. So better have a bit more of a realistic head on you. You know, she sent me off to some supermarket to. Do a sort of a managerial course and I thought, you know, really stacking beans on shelves. You, you, you don’t even know who I am as a child. That’s never gonna fulfill, fulfill my needs. But it was a, it was a school teacher, it was my old geography teacher that was the one that basically kept me on the straight and hour. I owe him so lot, I’m still in touch with him.
Scott Brady: Oh, that’s wonderful. We got those mentors in.
Mac McKenny: Yeah, yeah. He, he, cuz he said, look, cause I literally thought I was gonna pack a rucksack and run. And he said no. He said, you’ve, you’ve gotta get your O [00:10:00] levels, which is the, the first proper grade that we have to do here in the uk. Your dad’s not gonna retire for two years, so stay at school and do a levels don’t, don’t run. You know, just focus on your education. And, and so yeah. So I basically chose subjects with him as the teacher because he was such a good bloke. And, and he kind of kept me on the straight and narrow and, and thank God he did, because as I will explain later, things changed. And without those qualifications, I would’ve been screwed. I would’ve thrown away the, you know, an opportunity. So I, I owe him a lot.
Scott Brady: We need those people in our life.
Mac McKenny: Absolutely.
Scott Brady: That remind us that there’s something to fight for. Hopefully to keep us on that straight.
Mac McKenny: Yeah, very much so.
Scott Brady: I certainly am grateful for the, for the Air Force for me, I was, I was just a firefighter in the military, but yeah, I did. I felt like I was a ship without a rudder. And it really made a difference for me. For me, for sure. So what happens next? Do you, go to school for a while?
Mac McKenny: Yeah. So I did, I did my own levels and got enough grades to get a good job. I just didn’t know what the heck I was gonna do in my life. So my dad retired from the police, as you did in those days, at the age of [00:11:00] 46 with a full pension, moved from the London area down to the west country where we are now. And I thought, okay, if I can’t fly, I’ll fix aircraft. You know, in fact, tell a lie. I thought if I can’t fly, I’ll travel. So I actually applied to Shell to be a deck officer on tankers. I didn’t know the front end of a boat to the back end of a boat. I didn’t have a clue. Not a clue, but I thought if I can’t fly, cause I’d heard about my mum traveling the world. I thought I’ll just travel, get whale. I’ll escape from where I am. Anyway, I failed the eyesight test. So tornado fighter, 600 mile an hour, a hundred feet off the ground, perfect eyesight, sitting on a, on a big boat doing two miles an hour on my eye. Eyesight wasn’t good enough. Anyway, so that one went out the window. So then I thought, okay, well I’ll, I’ll apply to the Army cuz they’ve got helicopters. I can’t fly them cuz the Air Force has got final say. So I’ll become a helicopter technician. Kept failing the medical. I thought, well, they’re not, they’re not gonna know about what I did in the Air Force, but they, they did. Because the records kind of followed me. So I kept failing army [00:12:00] medicals and I got really frustrated. So I said to the careers officer, I said, look, had I come to you, never having had a heart, a heart test like I was going air crew, you wouldn’t test my heart anyway. There could be a hundred other guys like me with the same irregularity. It’s not causing me any problems. I’ve done aerobatics. I can run a marathon, you know, clearly it’s not, physically affecting me, but you’ve now labeled me as having a heart problem. And he said, oh, there’s nothing I can do, you know. Anyway, he obviously thought about it and about a week later, having, having had failed three Army medicals, I get a phone call saying, Mac, what are you doing? I said, oh, nothing much. He said, get up to Thornton. It’s about 20 miles north of where we are. So I drove up there, he gave me a brown envelope and a return ticket to Plymouth, and there’s a naval base at Plymouth. So, Off I go on the train, knock on the door. Found this bloke with a nut guy’s name on it, handed the brown envelope over to him. He opened it, took a piece of paper out, signed it, handed it back. Congratulations, you’re fit to join the army. He was a naval doctor and [00:13:00] falsified my medical papers to get me in. And to this day, I’ve not been able to track down the careers officer or the naval doctor because my God, do I owe them a pint or two? And that’s how I got in. So I joined the Army, and as a helicopter tech, different trades, you have to sign on for, different lengths of service. So if you’re a basic infantry soldier, You could probably just do three years. If you’re a technician, they’re gonna spend two years training you. So they don’t want you to leave after another year, so you have to sign on for a minimum of six. So with the helicopters, as with probably most aircraft, if you do anything to it, you’ve gotta take it for a test flight, you know, change a rotor blade, change an engine, change a spark plug, whatever it is, you take it for a test flight. And I would go, yeah, I’ll do it. I’ll volunteer for that test flight. And I was forever up there with my little diagnostics kit, next to the pilot, checking that the aircraft wasn’t gonna fall out the sky. And they said, you’re a bit keen, aren’t you? You know, you techies like to keep your feet on the ground. I said, oh God, no. I’d sooner be flying. They said, well, why didn’t you apply for air crew? Clearly, you’re clever enough. If you can fix them, you can [00:14:00] fly them. Gave him the whole medical story of all failing all these medicals and his heart problem. And they said, oh no, we’ll help you out. So two of our pilots in our very small unit, we were part of a rapid deployment unit. We weren’t special forces, but we were kind of rapid forces. So we were always on standby to go to the extreme north of Norway where Russia and Norway have 150 mile long border. They did, or the very extreme of Turkey where they border Georgia. So what was, you know, part of the Soviet Union. So we would be part of this multinational NATO force.
So we were working alongside the Americans with their hues. The R E F were with their Puma helicopters. So all of these, NATO helicopter units were very much mixed in. So if any the Russians did attack, you couldn’t single out who you wanted to hit, you would get casualties from all sides basically. We were like cannon fodder. But basically, it was a brilliant unit, Arctic warfare training, desert training, and all the rest of it. Two of our pilots were, were doctors. We only had 12 pilots and two of them were doctors. And they said, right, we’ll send you back to the [00:15:00] regimental doctor. Got sent back, did a test, nothing wrong with your heart, got sent all the way through the system back to the same ref doctor had failed me as a cadet, did the same test and went nothing wrong with your heart, you’re fit to join the Air Force. And I went, oh my God. Seriously? I’d been in about, oh, how long had I been in 18 months at that point? I’d just done my basic training. Of course I’d signed on for six years. The six year point would’ve made meant I was 25 before I could leave. You have to be in pilot training the Air Force at 20 by the time you’re 24. Otherwise you’re too old. So it was a two and a half year battle to get out the army basically. I always had to go on strike.
Scott Brady: Yeah, sure.
Mac McKenny: To get out. Anyway, I’m, I got pushed higher and higher and higher up the chain. Ended up in front of this brigadier and he said, if you, if you promise me you’ll go down the careers office, the REF careers office, the day I let you out, I will let you out. And he did. And I was true to my work and I went and signed up to the Air Force. And started, officer of training about a year later.
Scott Brady: Oh, wow. So, so you did get to fly after all?
Mac McKenny: Yep. I started, fast jet training.
Scott Brady: What a story. I didn’t know that.
Mac McKenny: So it was a long, it was a long battle. It wasn’t like, oh, I saw a top gun. I’m gonna be a pilot. [00:16:00] It was quite a long-winded battle to get there, which unfortunately then makes. The later part of the story more heartbreaking because it was, it was such a battle to get to that point. Yeah.
Scott Brady: Yeah. So you, you make it into the Air force. What happens next?
Mac McKenny: I excelled as an officer and was made the senior cadet of all 150 that went through training. I then did my first pilot training course on the little chipmunk, which is a, piston engine aircraft, fully aerobatic, 6g, wonderful little aircraft to fly. In fact, I’ve just got my daughter a flight in one only about a week ago. There’s one up at the local airfield here, and I know the pilot, so I’ve got her a flight in an aircraft that I’d actually phoned. When I was in the military. Then I went onto to the second aircraft, it’s called a Tono, so it’s turbo prop. I was holding my own and I’d been earmarked for Jaguars, which is single seat. So I was good enough to not need a, navigator and then I came home one weekend and it’s about 250 mile away.
Good five hour drive, so it’s a long old [00:17:00] haul. UK roads aren’t brilliant. Takes a long time. And I came home one weekend. And a good friend of mine, her mum worked in the bank and I just happened to go into the bank, to get some money. And the mum drags me to one side and says, I’ve gotta talk to you. I’ve gotta talk to you. My daughter, I won’t say who it is, but my, my daughter has just been raped and we’re really worried about her. She’s a nurse, we’re really concerned. She’s gonna do something stupid. Can you come and see her? So I did and I went to see this girl and then, I don’t know how it really happened, but I ended up finding myself every weekend driving from Lincoln to the Devon to basically sit with this girl to stop her killing herself. And the mum was kind of feed, I dunno, now that I’m a parent, you’d, you’d kind of, you would say anything to anybody if to, to keep your child alive. You know, you don’t care what you do. And I’m sure I would do the same, but I think the mum was feeding me a bit of a line saying things like, the doctors and the psychiatrists are telling us you are the only one keeping her alive. If it wasn’t for you, she would’ve killed herself by now. So you get a lot of pressure put on [00:18:00] you every weekend. I was driving back and forth and back and forth. Now when you’re trying to be a fast jet pilot, the last thing you need at the weekends is to be doing a 10 hour round trip. Probably more stuck in traffic, sitting with someone day and night to try and make sure they don’t kill themselves and all the mental pressure associated with it. You’re supposed to de-stress, you know, you’ve had a hard week of fast jet training, you’ve just gotta decompress and chill, chill out and yeah. You know, take time for the next week.
Scott Brady: Sleep.
Mac McKenny: And, and I wasn’t doing that. And this is before Red Bull had been invented. And I remember, you know, downing two liters of full fat Coke just to keep me awake, to make the journey home. I, I got back late one Sunday night, looked on the roster first thing Monday morning, eight o’clock Mac solo flight, one hour, off you go. And these are multi-million pound aircraft, you know, and they’re high performance and a lot of the time you’re flying very low or very high, you know, full ejector seat and all the rest of it. And so I off, I, off I went and I was, I wasn’t high 13, 15,000 feet and I was doing aerobatics and you’re pulling 6G now. We didn’t [00:19:00] have G suits in these aircraft. It’s only when you move onto the hawk you to get a G suit. And so you’ve so.
Scott Brady: Just bear down.
Mac McKenny: Yeah. So you’ve gotta do what’s called the anti G straining maneuver, which, without sounding too crude, is like having the world’s worst constipation. And you’ve got to stress every muscle in your body to keep the blood pressure in your head as high as you can by tensing. And I’m doing that. I just didn’t have the strength to do it, and I just, I’m absolutely knackered. And something just snapped. And I had this horrible, I want to get out of this plane right here. Right now. Now if I’d been in a car, I would’ve thrown it over to the side of the verge. I would’ve swung the door open and I would’ve been collapsed on the floor hyperventilating. I had a massive panic attack. But I’m up there on my own on a clear blue, the daylight, this and it’s hot. You’ve got the canopy on you, you’ve, you’ve got a full flying suit, which is kind of fire resistant. And you’ve got the gloves and you’ve got the oxygen mask and you’ve got the visor down. So you’ve got a little bit of air just around where your neck is, and you can pull your flying suit up or roll your glove down and you get a [00:20:00] little bit of air and there’s tiny vent, but it’s a really claustrophobic environment. It’s like being in a greenhouse and that just exasperated the situation. And you’re up there on your own. Now I was now 25 and I’d wanted to be a pilot since I was six. And I had that whole battle of the flying scholarship, the Army getting out. The army, getting in the Air Force. So the last thing I was gonna do was put out any form of emergency call over the radio to say, I need to land now. Because they had to kicked me out, or at least I assumed they would kick me out. Yeah. So I kept quiet. So for 50 minutes I had to try and keep this thing in the air and I was talking to myself saying, calm down, you know, just breathe, relax, calm down, calm down. But of course it’s got a black box in it, so they could hear, or they would’ve, if there’d been anything happened to the aircraft, they would’ve been able to hear what I was saying to myself, and they could tell that there’s, there’s nothing wrong with the aircraft. There were no system failures. The wings hadn’t fallen off. Yeah, the weather wasn’t bad. I was getting to the point thinking, I’m gonna literally pass out with fear. I was getting to such a state. So there were, there were two reactions, there were two thoughts in my head. [00:21:00] This thing, if I pass out my last conscious moment before I black out through fear is to reach down and pull the ejector seat and punch out. But I thought, well I can’t do that because this plane is gonna hit a school or it’s gonna hit a hospital. It’s gonna la and I’m gonna come down on a shoot perfectly okay, but I’m gonna kill people. You know, the odds of it landing in a field probably quite good, but at the time I was thinking this is gonna hit and kill people and I can’t do that. And I couldn’t face the consequences. It would be all over the news. It would be court marshal, it would be, you know, I wouldn’t be able to live with the consequences of, of having done that. So I thought if I black out, I’ve gotta go down with it. But I was only 25. I don’t wanna die it. So I, there, there was no way out. And so that just built me into more and more of a panic anyway. Somehow. I don’t know to this day how I managed to keep that aircraft in the air and keep control of it. Cuz I was just a complete mess. You remember the scene at the, right, at the beginning of Top Gun? The, the original. When his mate’s coming into land and he’s sweating and he is looking at the picture of his wife and his kid. And Tom Cruise flies alongside and he’s just all over the shop. Well, I was kinda like that without any help and couldn’t talk to anybody. [00:22:00] It was bloody awful. Anyway, I came into land first time. I didn’t put my undercarriage down. Of course flares went up and I got a big rollicking over the radio and I managed to land it the second time. I never told a soul. I did go flying solo a few more times, but that was all low level when the things were happening. But eventually there was a day when the, weather was bad, low cloud from about 2000 to 15,000 feet, and the instructor said, right, go up through the cloud, do some aerobatics, and come back down again. I’d had a panic on a clear blue sky. And I just looked at him and I said, I can’t. I can’t do it. I had to put my hand up. And then my world fell apart. The Air Force was brilliant though, because at that point I’d, because I’d excelled as an officer and I’d done so well as a pilot, they, sent me off to see a doctor. I ended up in a, in a hospital. And I, to this day, I dunno if I was there for three weeks or three months. But the problem is I felt like I had a problem then. Cause I was in like a psychiatric ward. And that made me feel worse. Cause I just thought, now I do have [00:23:00] a problem. But then they sent me flying at, Farmborough, which is on the west side of London. With an American colonel. He was a doctor. He was an F 16 instructor. Colonel McCarthy. I would love to meet him again. What a cool dude he was.
Scott Brady: Right on.
Mac McKenny: And we flew a hunter, which is an old 1960s seventies fighter, but it was a two seat training version. And they would, it would put me through everything that I could possibly ever experience as a, as a fully qualified pilot, high level, low level, super hot, super cold. They were in the centrifuge, the one that Roger Moore had to destroy with his watch. They still had that as a 1950 centrifuge, nine g sitting there. They were using me to test the typhoon anti G suit. So the, the normal G suit kind of presses your abdomen, squeezes your legs a bit. This is full inflatable socks. Full inflatable legs right up to here. And then someone decided the best way to compress a muscle is not just from the outside, but from the inside and the outside. So as you’re pulling G high pressure air is being forced into your lungs. So [00:24:00] your rib cage is being compressed from both sides. So that squeezes everything. So I could sit in this centrofuge at nine G. The only problem is that with your hands below your heart, all the blood pools down and all the, capillaries start bursting looks like you come out with measles. So you have to sit there with your sf 116 has, has got the controls propped up for that very reason. Cause your hands down low.
Scott Brady: You have to stay up above the level of.
Mac McKenny: Of your heart.
Scott Brady: Interesting. Fascinating.
Mac McKenny: So, Got through all that and then got sent back to my unit and I was, I think, a course behind where all my mates were and I was given 20 hours to catch up with the course that I joined. I started off really well, but the closer I got to flying solo, the more on edge I got. And basically I, I’d, I’d lost it, I’d, I’d lost that edge and so that was it. That was the end of my Air Force career.
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Scott Brady: But is, isn’t it interesting something at the time that can feel. So disruptive or not the course that you want for your life, it sets you up to do something that you were meant, you were meant to do.
Mac McKenny: Well, it, it’s, it’s, it’s driven me to start with. I, there was never a plan B, so I thought, okay, I, I need a, I need to escape. This was 1993, so people, particularly blokes, British blokes, big tall ex-army, six foot two British blokes. You don’t talk about your feelings and, you know, mental health problems and all that kind of stuff. So you kind of keep it quiet. It’s just embarrassing really. You know, you let yourself down and you let your team down, you let the military down. I, I, they offered me ground jobs, but [00:26:00] I didn’t, I didn’t feel I was worth or worthy of holding the Queen’s Commission, you know, I thought, I don’t deserve it. I’m not good enough. So I, although I probably was, but I quit. So I, I needed to take time out to go and, Rethink what the heck I was gonna do in my life cuz there was never a plan B. And so I got a job with a company called Dragon Man. Overland, they run a fleet of Mercedes trucks and anything up to say 25, 27 sort of backpacking tourists. And you drive, and they do it all over Africa, south America and Central and, and Southern Asia. And I got, a job with them driving a truck, but I got the East eastern, Southern Africa bit and it was good. It was good. It was, it was brilliant. You know, the gorillas of Aire, Victoria Falls, Serengeti, Maasai Mara, Okavango Delta. You know, I spent about a year out there. It was amazing. But it wasn’t, it wasn’t tough enough for me. I think the people that were attracted to the [00:27:00] Eastern Southern Africa route, it was a bit more sort of like a mobile game fair. You know, it wasn’t grizzled hardcore adventure. So it was a bit too tame, but gave me an inkling about what would fire me up, grisled. What would replace the flying.
Scott Brady: Yeah, for sure. Yeah. So, so from that point, when did you do your first big trip?
Mac McKenny: Well, one of the guys, so a girlfriend at the time, she had a mate who lived in Joberg. So we went there and an ex-boyfriend of hers all a bit convoluted, but basically he had won Camel Trophy, but he won the Camel Trophy, South Africa. And it was pre, the abolition of apartheid, so they weren’t allowed to compete in internationally. A guy called Steve Gray, really good guy. But, so that’s the first time I heard about Camel Trophy. So I came back to the UK thinking this Land Rover stuff, camel Trophy stuff that is, that’s proper, hardcore. I love that. Adventure Africa, big, long distances, traveling to remote places. I love that as well. [00:28:00] So I applied for Camel Trophy.
Scott Brady: What year did you apply for?
Mac McKenny: Nine? It would’ve been for the 96 event. And I think there were, I dunno, someone told me like 10,000 applicants or something. Anyway, I got down to the last four and went to the International Selections in Spain. The, the Land Rover guys, like the Bob Ives and the Joe Ives and sort of the Camel Trophy guys in the Land Rover guy. They, they, well, I was being, people were coming up to me at the very end saying, congratulations, Mac, who are you taking with you? And I said, well, I, I dunno if I’m, you know, there’s four of us here in the, it’s trying to compete for team, team gb. I said, I know if I’m going, I said, oh, you’ve got it mate. We’ve watched you for the last four days or five days. You’ve got it. You’ve breezed it, you know, absolutely no problem at all. My understanding is the PR girls didn’t, didn’t like me and I didn’t get it. I was mortified cuz I really thought I’d put in everything. So I never, I never got to go to Callam Manan, which is a real shame.
Scott Brady: Yeah. And that was one of the last years that.
Mac McKenny: That was the proper one.
Scott Brady: That it was, January. Cause I, I applied the next year in 97.
Mac McKenny: That was [00:29:00] Mongolia, wasn’t it?
Scott Brady: I was still inactive reserve military, so yeah. I couldn’t do it. What an incredible event. I mean, it’s shaped for so many of us that do this thing. The Camel Trophy either inspired us initially or inspired us in some way.
Mac McKenny: Oh, it’s, it’s the ultimate and I think, I think it always will be. And there’s, and there’s, there’s elements of it that I still try and introduce into all the projects I do. You know, there has to be a strong team identity. You know, you look at the, the Rainforest challenge. Probably tougher than Camel Trophy. Very highly tricked up vehicles. Yeah. You know, horrendous conditions they’re trying to drive through. Every vehicle’s different and every body looks different. You take Camel Trophy, every vehicle’s, you know, got the same markings, the same color scheme, everyone wears the same uniform. It’s very military in its way. But because of that, there’s a sense of belonging.
Scott Brady: No question.
Mac McKenny: And without even someone telling you, you need to be part of a team by putting all, putting on the same shirt, you automatically know you are part of the team and therefore you will automatically [00:30:00] look out for each other. And we always make sure that we do that doesn’t matter where we go, everybody will have that strong team identity cuz it just, it’s, you know, groups do it. You know, religions you have a certain look.
Scott Brady: Sure, landover might be a religion.
Mac McKenny: Well, it, it, it, well if, if you are a true land, and they did this in a, in a Land Rover magazine and they did this once, you know how true a Land Rover fan are you? And you had to answer all these questions. You know, do you wear a bush hat? Yes or no? Do you have a beard? Do you have a love of real ale? Do you carry a utility knife with you? And the more of these things you had, the more real and, and so, yeah. So that, I think people need to know they belong to something. I think that’s just within human nature.
Scott Brady: I would agree. And I think it also is why the Camel Trophy has stood the test of time. If you look at, if you were to look at a, a rainforest challenge of 15 years ago, it looks dated. Yeah. Because the accessories that are used and the, the clothes that the people are wearing [00:31:00] or the colors that they use or the, or whatever, whereas a Camel Trophy event, they, from the very beginning until the very last one, They looked so similar. Yeah, they looked, I mean, you could mix the years. And it was just a different backdrop. No, very, very inspiring event. So let’s, let’s pivot a little bit into your expedition trips, cause some of these are just absolutely fascinating. But I’d like to start with your London to Cape Town, which was one of the first things that, I mean, we met for the first time at the RGS Explorer event. In London, which is, I’d highly recommend it. It’s, it’s intended to support young people coming into explorations. Into, you know, either their own expedition, scientific work, humanitarian work. And you were the panel leader for the vehicle based expedition.
Mac McKenny: Yeah. So the, the RGS explore weekend is brilliant. So it’s basically, it’s those that want to do it can be, can be advised. And mentored by those that [00:32:00] have done it. Doesn’t matter what it is. You wanna climb Everest, you wanna sail an ocean, you wanna do some, you know, scientific work. You wanna trek across a desert or through a jungle, somebody would’ve done it very similar to what you want to do. It’s, I worked with those guys for like 20 years on the vehicle side.
Scott Brady: Yeah. I remember Benji. Edmundson was there. Benji. Davenport. Excuse me. Davenport was there, he was getting ready to go around the world in his defender one 10 and he did, he.
Mac McKenny: Absolute legend. That guy.
Scott Brady: Yeah. Absolute legend. Yeah. So, and I was so impressed by, the care and the insight that you had with those young people and it was so great to meet you. And it was shortly after that, I believe is when you did the London to Cape Town trip.
Mac McKenny: Yeah. 2010. We did London to Cape Town. I’d done quite a few projects up until that point. But, but automotive was definitely my thing and I’d read about it in the Guinness Booker records years ago. You know, someone had done London to Cape Town and then you start reading about the history of all these other amazing, [00:33:00] huge transcontinental driving records. And I just thought to look to that and thought, I’m gonna beat that one day. And it was always in the back of my mind. I met Lisa in, 2000 and when was it five? And then in 2006, I went off to Chou, the world’s sixth highest mountain to practice for Everest in 2007 as part of the world’s largest ever medical research expedition on Everest. Huge 60 intensive care doctors, 208 volunteers tracking the base camp. We had a Russian helicopter. We had 300 yaks, 300 porters, 40 tons of kits, 150,000 items of equipment. And we had to build medical laboratories at Katmandu, Nashi, Ferrisi, base camp, camp two, camp four, and then almost on the summit. So I, I never went above base camp, but some of my, my logistics team did. So I was in charge of all the logistics, communications base, camp manager, expedition manager, had quite a lot of roles. And Lisa. My good lady. She was one of the, daft volunteers to [00:34:00] trek, to base camp to be tested on medical grade excise bikes till they were flat with exhaustion to see how their body was coping with a lack of oxygen. So we came back from there, back to the uk and having been, she was still working. Where she does now was she was the boss of the world’s Strongest man competition. Which you, which you may have heard of.
Scott Brady: Yeah. Fantastic.
Mac McKenny: So she had the proper job and I didn’t, cuz we finished the expedition and then so little Sophie came along. She was referred to as, what’s the first of the Everest babies? A whole series of kids were born sort of, once everyone got back home safely, nine months plus later, all these little kids arrived and she, she was the first of the Everest babies. I’d been banging on about this London Cape Town record and Lisa said, oh, for God’s sake, just shut up and go and do it. So there I am Daddy daycare, having very cleverly trained my daughter to sleep by day and be awake by night when mom was home so I could be scheming away. And planning how to beat this record took me two years to plan it. Yeah. Cuz we were trying to get through Saudi Arabia and then finally in 2010 under the [00:35:00] patronage of, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who I’d done a North Pole expedition with and was in Alaska with him, with this bearing straight crossing. And, so Sterling Moss, a very famous, formula One racer. We set off to try and beat a record that stood for 47 years and no one had been able to beat it, mainly because there’s always a bit of a punch up somewhere in Africa and you can’t get through and. Basically, if you want to cross from the northern part to the southern part, I’m not quite sure what it is now with South Sudan, but it used to be if Sudan or Zaire, which is now democratic Republic of Congo, if, if either of those were no go areas you couldn’t cross because each one of them met in the middle and both had a coastal border. So there are only two countries that basically controlled you moving from north to Southern Africa. It was, it was okay. Sudan was okay. This was just before the Syrian conflict, so we went through Syria. We eventually got permission to drive through Saudi Arabia when we did our reconnaissance trip, because when you leave, the clock stop starts at the beginning. So we left at the, [00:36:00] Royal Automobile Club in London and finished at the, the Automobile Association building in Cape Town. There was only one ferry to take, and that was from, well, apart from, we went on the channel tunnel between the UK and France, but the ferry went from Saudi Arabia to Sudan, and we were told we had to be there nine o’clock on a Wednesday morning. So the only way to work out when to leave was to go and do a full reconnaissance. Drive all the way. Log everything. How long does each border take? How long does it take to drive? Because yes, you know, even if you had a Garmin system that could tell you it’s 83 hours, but that doesn’t really take into account the border crossing times and the complexity. It’s not like a lot of places where you just rock up, there’s a booth passport, next booth, vehicle documents go. You park up as you know, in the middle of a square somewhere and there’s just huts everywhere. And you’ve gotta wonder from one to another and say, oh no, you can’t come here until you’ve paid your $20 environmental tax. Give us that bit of paper, then you can come back and see us. So it takes a long time. I [00:37:00] think it was, we left, new Year’s, not New Year’s Day. Yeah. It was like the 1st of January. We left, 2010 to do a wreckee. Got all the way there, fairly high speed, got to the Saudi border.. We were let in and the customs officer was just standing there going, man, sorry, mate. Not coming in. Went what? Steering wheels on the wrong side went, oh yeah. Nobody knew him. We were sponsored by Landover, Saudi Arabia. They didn’t know either. So I had to come home and we finished the recce off in a higher car. So I came home and had to buy the vehicle that we did the recce, in the end. I think it was October, 2010. 21 countries. 10,000 miles, 11 and a half days.
Scott Brady: Unbelievable. And is, does the record still stand?
Mac McKenny: No, I think we basically put it back on the map. And there was a guy called Phillip Young, have you heard of, I’m sure you have done, the peaking to Paris rally. The classic car rally. So he’d set that up. Very wealthy, very influential. And he ran a classic car rally from London, the Cape Town, but I think he was doing it as a reconnaissance for his own attempt. Got to Cape Town, worked it all out. [00:38:00] He had a little Fiat Panda, the Twin Air one, only two of them, and they honed it back to the uk. So they took it from 11 and a half days to 11 days. But clients on that same London, the Cape Town Classic car rally obviously as well, had an inkling that they were gonna do it. So rather than going south to north, when you arrive in Tunisia, waiting for the ferry to Sicily, and you could be there 19, 20 hours cuz you don’t really know when you leave at the start, when you’re gonna arrive. If you leave from London, you can pretty accurately work out when you’re gonna arrive for that ferry and you can time your departure within an hour or two, not waiting a day. So they got it from, so it went from hour’s time from 11 and a half days. Phillip got it down to 11, and then, I can’t remember the name of the girl guy, but I have met him. It’s now down to 11 days. No, sorry, 10 and a half days. 10 and a half days. Yeah.
Scott Brady: That’s unbelievable.
Mac McKenny: But now of course you can’t go through Libya. You really, you wouldn’t want to, you can’t really go through Syria and even Sudan, who knows what’s going on at the moment. So basically the route, the quick [00:39:00] route, which is the, the right hand side of Africa is, yeah, I’ll try and get it back one day. But we need, we needed to calm down a bit.
Scott Brady: Yeah. You, you know, you had it for a while.
Mac McKenny: We did, yeah. Two and a half.
Scott Brady: Long enough.
Mac McKenny: Two and a half years. I think we had on two, four. Yeah.
Scott Brady: Maybe that was long enough. But we did get to, to meet the, the, the, the previous record holder, a pity. He’s no longer with us, but, oh my God did he have some stories to tell. They did it as a global launch of the Ford Cortina in 1963. They set off. Going the route that everybody had gone before down to Southern Spain, across to Morocco, and then go into Algeria right through the middle of the Sahara Algeria, Niger, sort of Ben Benin, Nigeria. And then probably cut across towards late Victoria and then down the right hand side of Africa. So there he is, him, Eric Jackson and Ken Chambers in his Ford Cortina. I think it, there’s maybe a 1600 or two liter engine. Get to the outskirts of Madrid. And all of a sudden there’s a whole delegation from the Ford Motor Company there from the Ford Madrid standing in the middle of the motorway going, stop, stop, stop. Don’t go any further. What do you mean the [00:40:00] Civil War is broken out and they’ve shut the border between Morocco and Algeria. You can’t now cross. Oh my God. You know, this is, you can’t just give up. This is the global launch. You know, Ford have pumped in a huge amount of money into this. So they thought, they very quickly went, okay, well, right, we’ll have to go down the righthand side of Africa. So they went, turned round, went right the way over the top of sort of southern France into Italy, all the way down through Italy to Sicily, to Tunisia. And to then turn left and go through Libya, Egypt and down that way. So most, you know, half of their route to Africa, they had no maps for it. They had no idea, they hadn’t looked at it at all. But on the ferry there was a postcard and that postcard had a map of Africa with the main cities on it, and they bought it. And that’s how they navigated from Tunisia, from Tunis. Basically to Nairobi with this postcard. Oh yeah, I’ll do Addis Ababa. That’s the next one. And we got this fantastic. We gotta spend the day with him. What a character.
Scott Brady: What was their record?
Mac McKenny: Theirs was 13 [00:41:00] days, eight hours. And they beat the previous record that had been held in 1952. They beat it by 18 minutes. That is the ultimate top gear challenge. 18 minutes. So yeah, I’ve still got loads of accounts and I, I collect anything I, if only the day I’d found it on eBay. Another, paper, a newspaper cutting from a guy. There’s a guy called George Hinch Lift that had held the record before. He did it twice in one year. He did it in January and Hillman Minks. And then they launched this thing called the Humber Super Snipe. Part of the same group of family of cars. And, the boss of the Roots group said, can you beat your own record? You know, mental, I love it. Absolute proper adventure as those guys.
Scott Brady: Yeah. Well, and the, and the logistics around that. So talking about, cuz border crossings are obviously one of the biggest considerations around a record like that, what were some of the things that you learned about border crossings that helped you be more efficient or effective?
Mac McKenny: Well, the first one is utmost patience. You know, when you think the guys that are sent out to these borders, a lot of them, no disrespect to them, but a lot of them are probably [00:42:00] poorly. Educated or very little education, they’re at the lowest of the low rank. They’re stuck out there for months at the time in some remote border posts, the best. As with any relatively boring job, the, the best way to make it go quicker is to kind of do stuff. You know, you know, entertain yourself for as long as possible. With these poor tourists that have arrived at your border, because it just make the day go a bit quicker. If you just wave them through, then you’re just standing there for another six hours waiting for the next car to arrive. So you might as well have a bit of fun. Now, a lot of people can get quite irate with that. And think, you know what? I’m not having this, you know, I wanna see your superiors. But if you just see it from their point of view, they’re stuck out there. You’ve just gotta be very calm, very relaxed smile. Absolutely no problem at all. You know, always shades off. Eye contact is so important when you travel, people find it quite not offensive, but it’s, it’s, it’s, you know, there’s a barrier. Yeah. You know, so just take your shades off. Let [00:43:00] this, let them see your eyes be a bit more vulnerable. Just be totally relaxed. If they tell you to wait, just go and wait. And then eventually just get bored of you because they’re not having the fun they thought they were gonna have. And they, okay, well, we’ll let them go and we’ll find someone who’s gonna get a bit more riled up about it, and they’ll have a bit of fun. So that, that’s kind of one of the key things with borders is just, just remember the poor soul that’s stuck out there.
Scott Brady: Yeah. That’s a good.
Mac McKenny: And, and just be very, very polite and very respectful to them and just appreciate that they’re probably not really enjoying enjoying that job or the posting they’ve been given for however many months they’re stuck out there. So, yeah.
Scott Brady: The other thing that came to mind for me around your record trip is, you know, one of the, other than the efficiency around borders, the second most important thing is to make sure that the vehicle doesn’t stop working. Cause that would be a huge delay. In your trip now you took, a Land Rover discovery too, if I’m not mistaken, with a diesel motor. Yeah, how did you optimize the vehicle for reliability and then what was your routine [00:44:00] around checking the vehicle? Did you do that when you stopped for fuel or how did you do your daily and weekly or?
Mac McKenny: To be quite It wasn’t my first choice of vehicle.
Scott Brady: Yeah. I remember you had tried to get somebody else to.
Mac McKenny: It was always gonna be Land Rover, you know, proud Brit doing it for, to raise money for help for heroes. This sort military charity that supports injured soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan and all the rest of it. So it was always gonna be Land Rover. We’d get more sponsorship because we were using a Land Rover product. We’d get more coverage through the land of magazines and just basically being a good, proud Brit. You wanna fly the flag? A discovery one would’ve been my choice. Land Rover defenders, when we, I did a project where we had to drive all the way to Istanbul, across Turkey, to Georgia, up to the highest mountain in Georgia. And oh my God, I’m too tall to sit in a defender for too long. It was too uncomfortable, so that was never gonna happen. Range Rovers were too complex and Free Landers were too small. But I’ve always felt that discovery has basically been Land Rover’s finest hour. It’s an absolute jack of all trades. And when I was training for this Camel Trophy, we had the discovery one. I could [00:45:00] not believe the places this thing could go with slightly taller at tires. It was basically keeping up with any defender. Yes, it’s got a bit more of a backend hanging out and you could ground out a touch, but really there wasn’t much in it. And the comfort levels. Now the problem with, although we wanted a discovery one because it’s 300 T D I engine, it’s all mechanical. Much simpler to fix. I’m six two, my brother’s six two, and the other guy driving was a six footer. We couldn’t sleep in the back. It was too short. We tried sleeping across the back seats and that didn’t work. We tried sleeping length ways that didn’t work. And in fact, the only thing that did work was almost diagonally with your feet behind, cuz it was a left hooker behind the co-driver and your head is far away from possible, so you, you didn’t hear the chatter up front in the rear left of the car. And the discovery two, I think is like seven or nine inches longer.
Scott Brady: It is longer.
Mac McKenny: So unfortunately with that came a TD five engine with its ecu. So I wasn’t happy about that.
Scott Brady:It’s a good motor though, actually.
Mac McKenny: It’s, it’s a good motor. A lot of them have [00:46:00] got air suspension. Well, we rip that out and put coil springs on, so we, we remove that possible failure point. A lot of them will have, active suspension. So, with the hydraulic rams, all that went, and even since I got back, I’ve even taken the air conditioning off. Anything that if it failed, could stop that engine. You know, if an air conditioning motor seized it would throw the belt, the belt could seize something else. So I don’t need it, you know, I’ll just acclimatize. So yeah, we went for the TD five, but we made sure that we had another E C U pre-programmed and we checked it. It was a complete plug and play. Pull it out, put it in. Yeah. There was no sitting there with diagnostics kit. We did take a diagnostics tool with us, but the, the thing was, every bit of effort was put into the basic mechanics of the vehicle. It was not, The accessories that we could bolt onto the outside of it. So there was a particular bolt that hold held the oil pump on, and there was reports that some models in the factory didn’t, either weren’t talked correctly or didn’t have the right thread lock on. And [00:47:00] because it was a. We don’t know.It’s quite a major job, you know, to pull the bottom of the engine off and replace this bolt. But that was done. A new clutch was done. New brakes were done, the suspension was checked. The boring stuff was done. New water pumps. We took the fan off, the viscous fan, we stuck an electric one on for fuel saving. That wasn’t, it didn’t cause us problems, but in hindsight I probably wouldn’t have done that cuz that could have been a failure. But it was all the boring stuff that was focused on alloy wheels removed. Heavy duty steel wheels are put on, cuz as we know, you can just beat them straight with a hammer. Anybody in an African village will have a welder. They may not have the welding rods, so you carry them, but who can weld Alloy? In the same matter. No one can weld alloy. You know, if you need be, you just start jumping batteries together and you can weld, you can weld steel. But welding alloy, it’s a completely different ballgame. So alloy wheels off, we did fit an external roll cage, but that was just for safety. We did carry two spares, didn’t need any of them, but it was just that kind of stuff that we, we checked. And we took it up to a company in the, in the northeast [00:48:00] called a live tuning and they tuned it for economy, not for performance. We did fit a long range fuel tank, but I’m very, anything that’s permanent, I’m very wary of, yeah, you puncture a long range fuel tank and, and if that’s the only source of fuel you’ve got and you could drain the lot, you might be able to repair that tank, but you’ve now got no fuel in it. So we would carry jerry cans of fuel because one, you’ve always got that safety. I’m always carrying 20 or 40 liters in a can, and the odds of that getting damaged are pretty minimal. Plus, there may be occasions when I can’t get the car near the fuel source. It’s abandoned. I need to go and get fuel. What am I gonna go and get it in? You know, you can take a, jerry can. The same with water tanks. I’m not a big fan either, you know, that’s very important in what I call your survival rule of three water’s. Number two, sorry, number three in the list of your survival priorities.
Scott Brady: Let’s go, let’s go through the list.
Mac McKenny: Don’t carry all your water in a tank. Cuz if you split the tank, you’ve lost a lot.
Scott Brady: So, so what’s number one.
Mac McKenny: Number one is oxygen. Stuff it up.
Scott Brady: The ABCs.
Mac McKenny: Yeah. If you [00:49:00] get it wrong. And, and this is, this is, goes right down to the basics of building a vehicle. So, for example, if you decide you’ve modified the suspension too much, you’re carrying too much weight, you’re traveling too fast, You’re driving at night and you haven’t got the right lights. There are a whole load of things that could ultimately end up with you screwing it up and having an accident. And if you get it wrong and stick your head through that windscreen and you have a catastrophic bleed, three minutes. Yeah, that’s your life expectancy. So you have to then work back all those little decisions you might’ve made before.
You don’t want to cause yourself a three minute failure. Don’t pick the wrong brakes, you know, don’t do this, don’t do that. Get the right training, you know, so that you don’t smack it into a pothole. And just rip, rip the front of the car off. So three minutes is oxygen, the next one is shelter. And we’re talking more extreme environments. We’re not talking, you know, lovely sunny day now, or in the deserts, we’re talking the cold, but it doesn’t have to be that cold. And we’re not talking about shelter, tent, shelter, which is what most people think. We’re talking naked body [00:50:00] shelter. Yeah, the clothing that you are wearing. So I’m not a big fan of roof tents because shelter’s your number two. So if it’s all wrong, when you are in a, a cold environment and you don’t have any shelters three hours, so you could be going up to Scotland now. You know, I’ve been up there in June, so it’s what now? 18, 20 degrees. It’s lovely here. I could sit here in my underpants and I would survive all night, go up to Scotland, which is not an extreme place in the middle of the summer. I’ve had minus 18 windchill up there. If I’m up there in a pair of swimming trunks, three hours, I’m gonna be a bit of a mess, you know, probably incapable of doing anything. So that’s my three hour rule. So your shelter is number two. So if you’ve got a roof tent and your car goes up in a, in flames, which is not uncommon, it’s, you can never say no car has ever caught fire in the middle of the desert. And your shelter is going up in smoke. That’s your three hours gone.
Scott Brady: No, that’s good. That’s good know.
Mac McKenny: So you’ve got a, even with a roof tank, you’ve gotta carry something. You’ve gotta have a, a small, cheap, 40 quid millets you know.
Scott Brady: So we were just finishing up talking about the, the top [00:51:00] three. So we’ve got, you know, don’t make decisions that keep you from doing a fatal injury to yourself or to the people that you’re with. Honoring yourself and honoring your travel mates, their safety. And then the second one is make sure if you have a breakdown and you’re in someplace remote, that you have a way to stay out of the weather. And you and I have both been in conditions where it would be counted in probably minutes, not even hours. You were at minus 60.
Mac McKenny: In Siberia.
Scott Brady: In Siberia. Yeah. You know, I’ve been to that area, but not during the winter like you did. And the coldest that I ever experienced was minus 57, which was actually in Canada.
Mac McKenny: But your hands, you know, I, I, I think, I even at minus 40, I went out and did a reconnaissance out there about, oh, a couple of years later. And I was wandering around Yakuts, the world’s coldest city, and I was taking, I was doing some video with my, my phone. I didn’t realize I could have pressed a button, so I took my glove off to press the one minute. One minute and my hand is absolutely useless. So you think like doing up a jacket or opening a car [00:52:00] door or getting into a building and you’ve got dead hands. One minute is all you’ve got. It’s, it’s quite scary how quickly it can go so horribly wrong.
Scott Brady: Yeah. The frostbite that I experienced was from that exact same situation. It’s taking photographs of an Aurora in Greenland on the ice sheet. Minus 40. A few minutes. And I, my fingers stopped working. Yeah. I didn’t even, I was so enthralled by the, by the image and the view that I saw that I wasn’t, I forgot about myself. Yeah. And the only reason why I knew it was happening is cause my fingers stopped moving. It actually stopped moving. And the joint lock up. And then I realized I couldn’t feel the hand at all. Yeah, which is, you know, terrifying. So that’s number two then.
Mac McKenny: And then the number three is water. The average person and average conditions can survive three days without water. So three minutes for oxygen. You know, really, that’s all you’ve got. Bad conditions, you know, it could be a lot quicker, shorter, but on average three hours, three hours, three days without, with average person go for three days without water. And then three weeks without food. So your last [00:53:00] priority. And so a lot of people you’ll hear about, you know, crikey, you know, you’ve gotta drive hard through the night. You know, we can’t stop here, we’ve gotta get to somewhere to get food. So we’re gonna risk driving in the dark, wild animals, unlit vehicles, poor lighting on the vehicle. We’re tired. You’ve got shelter, you have a tent, you have, you could be in the car, you have water, but you are pushing, pushing, pushing to try and get to somewhere before the restaurant closes. And all of a sudden, bang, big accident through the windscreen. You’re trying to achieve something that, you know, if you knew you could go three weeks without, but now you’ve just taken it from three weeks to three minutes cuz you’ve cocked up. You know? So as long as you know the order, what’s gonna kill you first? A lot of it you can just push right back to the very back and go, do you know what? I don’t even have to worry about that. I just gotta keep myself safe and my team safe and we’ve gotta keep out the weather. And definitely with the roof tent thing, you’ve gotta carry another tent. And with the water, don’t, don’t have it. Don’t have it in one big tank. Yeah and carry some jerry cans.
Scott Brady: I don’t know that, that [00:54:00] for a lot of it, it depends on what your goals are, but for a lot of people, I don’t think the roof pen is the best choice. I think for the weekend travels or, you know, you’re, if you’re in the, if the deserts, they’re, they’re fine. But if you’re in very technical terrain or if you’re in very extreme weather, they just, they just aren’t the best choice.
Mac McKenny: Yeah. Well there’s the, there’s, there’s the weight factor. Well, one, one, a lot of it for me is just the sheer expense of them. You know, you’re basically paying a couple of grand for a scout tent from the 1950s. You’d never find one of those tents at Everest Space Camp. You know, it’s all high tech materials now. But there’s the weight that that’s up there. You’ve got.
Scott Brady: Weight resistance.
Mac McKenny: Less fuel range. So, you know, how power would you feel if you conked out of fuel? Because this thing’s now doing 15 to the gallon, not 25 to the gallon because you’ve got this brick on the roof, it won’t handle so well. But it’s really this, if it all goes wrong, you know, there are a lot of little factors that are just niggly, but it’s the all go wrong. And my worry is if a car went up in flames or ended up, you’ve rolled it, you’ve got out. But this thing’s halfway down a ravine and it’s all [00:55:00] upside down and your, your shelter is now underneath the car.
Scott Brady: So unusable.
Mac McKenny: I, I see they get their place, but he, I had a chat with Andrew San Pierre White for one of his things, and I think he told me he fell out, fell out the tent. He slipped coming down the ladder. Now, I dunno whether he knackered his arm or his leg, but he was on his own and it was a bit touchy as to whether he could actually then drive himself out of that situation.
If it’d been a ground tent, doesn’t, doesn’t matter how, doesn’t matter how drunk you get, you’re not gonna, you’re not gonna fall off it, you know?
Scott Brady: Well, that’s why normally I like to just, if I, if I have my choice to sleep inside door. Yeah. And then the food thing is an interesting one. A few years ago, I just as a personal test, I just, I just decided I wasn’t gonna eat for seven days. And I, you know, I’ve got a little bit more calories on my frame than the average human. So, yeah. I mean, the first couple days you feel like you’re gonna lose your mind. But, that’s just you, you just realize that you’re, you’re fine and you body’s just screaming at you. It’s trying to take back control. By the day time you get through the third day, then you, you’re not thinking about [00:56:00] it as much. The fourth day, you’re not thinking about it at all.
Mac McKenny: No, and the, the other thing weirdly is if because of knowing the order, water is more important than food. If you say you are in a situation where you’ve got tons of food, and particularly things like meat products or chocolate products, But you’ve got no water. Don’t eat. You’d want to be thinking, guys, I’ve gotta eat. I’m so bloody, he’s starving. But in order to digest that chocolate or that meat in particular, you, your body needs an awful lot of water, so it’ll dehydrate you quicker. So actually you’ve just gotta sit there and just look at that food and don’t touch it. Cuz water, water’s more important. You could, obviously, if you can extract any juice out of it, that’s one thing. But yeah, in a really bad survival situation with loads of food and no water, don’t eat it.
Scott Brady: The next thing I want to talk about is, is kind of your, when I talked to you earlier, we discussed the fact that travel. How has travel changed you as a person? Like what, how has travel influenced your life?
Mac McKenny: To start with, when I went off to Africa, having, you know, had that horrible, [00:57:00] situation in the Air Force where I had that panic attack, it, it was just, an escape. And then I, I came back and I, I, I kind of led almost sort of a, I dunno, it’s like an identity crisis or whether I was leading almost like two different lives back in the UK because I wanted to do expeditions and therefore I had to be available at the drop of a hat to go off and do stuff. And when I was working with Sir Ranulph Fiennes, it was a big plan to go London to New York via the Bar Straits to celebrate Land Rover’s 50th anniversary. And I got out of however many applied for it. There were lots, I I, I was the guy who got selected for that team. So we spent three months on the Alaskan side with these tracted amphibious Land Rover defenders working out how to get across the, the sea ice from Russia to Alaska in order to be, to do that. And most of ’em were unpaid. You couldn’t accept a normal job in the UK because you had to be available at any moment to go. Right. I’m outta here. I ended up kind of sleeping on mate’s floors or lodging with them, or, and just taking, I, I was a off-road driving instructor. I was a [00:58:00] rally driving instructor. I used to drive a truck for one of the Formula One race teams, but very, Bity work, which didn’t really make me feel particularly good about myself because it was relatively low paid. It wasn’t, you know, and, and particularly with the guys I went through training with, so two in particular went harriers, you know, the vertical jump jet aircraft. One of them then became a pilot in the Rat arrows. One of them now is second in command of the entire Royal Air Force. He probably will be, and I’ll almost put money on it. He will be chief of the air staff. He will be the boss of the Air Force in about three years time. Absolute brilliant guy. So when you hear about the life that you should have led, or you wanted a lead and you are, you know, driving a truck or no disrespect to truck drivers, you know, any, I’m not trying to disrespect anybody, but I felt I should have been doing something different and I wasn’t. And I couldn’t, and I just felt that my life was kind of going downhill. But it was, it was expeditions. It was getting on those expeditions, getting in the team, and the more challenging the expedition. It was kind of proving to myself and proving to [00:59:00] others that I wasn’t, I kind of felt like I was a nutter. You know, I had this mental health problem, you know, I had this panic attack. So I, I felt very inferior, to other people, to other blokes in particular, and very embarrassed about the whole situation. And so I was leading kind of two lives. My life in the UK was one of kind of loneliness and depression and not being able to cope and not, I didn’t wanna hear about what, and I used to shut, I shut myself away. So it was definitely a form of kind of ptsd where you kind of withdraw into yourself. You don’t really wanna talk to people about it cuz it’s just too embarrassing, you know? Oh, I had a mental health problem, you know, I, because, and then it manifested itself into other problems. So, and I probably haven’t divulged this to anybody. I only probably Lisa knows about it. So, you know, I used to have problems going on the underground going into on a, on a, in a lift. Even, certainly a big problem was driving, the race truck through a tunnel. A long, long tunnel was called the, the Frazier’s Tunnel between France and [01:00:00] Italy. It’s like, 16 kilometers long or something. It was like being in that plane. And if I had a panic and had to just stop at any point in that tunnel to get out and have a, I’D block the whole tunnel and then the emergency services would turn up. So I used to get really, really anxious about going in this tunnel and I, and then it started to get to the point where you go on a contraflow, so there’s roadworks on the motorway, and they force you onto the opposite carriageway, but you’re running between two lines of cones. There’s nowhere to pull over. So if you can’t make the 3, 4, 5 miles to the other side, when you can get over and pull over on the hard shoulder, you’d just block the entire motorway. So I used to get really anxious about that. My life in the UK was going the wrong way. It was, it was spiraling down. Now, I used to lodge with a mate up in Surrey and then I ended up living in a caravan. I then ended up living in a.
Scott Brady: Nothing wrong with that. People pay to do that now.
Mac McKenny: They do, they do. I ended up living in a garage roof. With a little camping stove in the corner. Now I was never a, a hobo on the [01:01:00] street, but I could see how easily it is to get there. You know, really easily. So, expeditions, when I did get on a project with s funds, cause if you would, if you’re working with rental fires, you know it’s gonna be tough, it’s gonna be challenging. It’s not a holiday. This is a proper, it’s never been done before. Or if it has been done, we’re gonna do it quicker, faster, better, or whatever, or tougher. So when you get onto that, then I felt alive again. And so expeditions, it wasn’t a question of making me feel alive, as in I just felt good about life. I think it was actually keeping me alive because I ended up starting, I think I knew when I started to really have problems when I used to have to start drinking before I went to bed. So, I had a bottle of scotch, bottle of whiskey next to me and I used to have to have a glass of, cause my brain would not switch off. And it didn’t matter what I tried to do, I just didn’t seem to be at a break out of the situation I was in. I never seemed to be at a, where’d you ever find a job advertising expedition person know you.
Scott Brady: You just don’t.
Mac McKenny: You don’t, you [01:02:00] know, and I didn’t wanna be a plumber or an electrician or a driver. I wanted to be a, an explorer, an adventurer, but I wanted to do it with vehicles. But you don’t find those jobs. So you can’t go to the careers office and go, oh, you know, can I look at all the jobs, please, to be. And so you just had to somehow have this self-belief that it was gonna get better, but the longer it went on and wasn’t getting better and you weren’t finding those jobs, the more depressed you got. And so when opportunities did come and you’re in those situations working with the best people ever, you’re in that team. You’re tightly knit. It’s a remote part of the world. You’re meeting the most incredible people who are so friendly. And the more remote you go, the more friendly and hospitable they are. The more wonderful stories they have, the, the culture, the food, the things they drink. The way they live. I’m fascinated by it all. I love it. And so each time I store that in the back of my head. So when I came home and I’m back in my garage roof and I’m shutting myself away from all my mates that are pilots and executives and directors of [01:03:00] companies and nice big houses and fancy holidays and BMWs, and now I am with squat. You know, I could just hang on to that thinking it will work out eventually. And then I got together with Elisa and she probably doesn’t get anywhere near the credit. She should for basically. She kind of saved me. Really, she, I dunno why she thought, she obviously saw some potential that I couldn’t see or she was just desperate. I think it was probably the latter. It was once there was some stability with her, things started to pick up and then I got outta the blue. I got this, asked to do this, Everest, this big medical research expedition on Everest. So I go off and see these doctors. Now we’re talking the best of the best, you know, medical science in the uk. And there they are. They’re gonna try and do the largest ever medical research expedition on Everest. It’s a three month project. It’s huge. BBC are gonna be there, two one hour documentaries, primetime television. We’ve got, Sherpa Tenzing’s son is part of the team.
Scott Brady: Incredible.
Mac McKenny: They’ve got the imax, film crew are there filming him, but filming us. And I turned up to, to, to meet the expedition leader and I thought, what can I bring to, you know, these guys are [01:04:00] superheroes, these doctors, anything they could do, you know, far goes beyond anything I can do. Didn’t take me too long to realize that actually as brilliant as they are in their medical profession when it comes to expedition, logistics and planning, no disrespect to them, but my God, they haven’t got a clue. And so I could actually contribute something to it. And actually I managed to contribute a heck of a lot to it. And so.
Scott Brady: That would be like, that was like you or I needing to remove a gallbladder. I didn’t even know where to cut. So we all have our strengths.
Mac McKenny: Yeah. And so I really. Found a place and then, and then it, and then it just started to build. Yeah. And you know, the, the garage roof I lived in was half a mile down the road. I live in a four bedroom house with an acre of land. We got horses and, you know, beautiful countryside. It’s, it’s a totally desirable. So you can, you can always.
Scott Brady: Lisa was the key then.
Mac McKenny: Yeah. Yeah. And you, you can always imagine that life can spiral that way incredibly quickly. You can always imagine if it all goes wrong, if you lose your job, [01:05:00] you get divorced, you know, whatever. You can always think, crikey, I can see how it goes that way so quickly. But you can never really imagine how it can go that way. So equally as quickly, and that’s what happened for me. I don’t know how the heck it happened. But well.
Scott Brady: It’s persistence for sure.
Mac McKenny: Yeah. I, I think, I think I had, I had to, I had to stick with the dream. I had to, cuz that was the only thing that was gonna replace the thrill and the excitement of being a fast jet pilot. And it, and it wasn’t just the flying, it was the people you were with. It was the confidence that it gave me the self-respect, the self-esteem. I could hold my head up in society and fun amongst everybody. And when all that fell apart, I didn’t just lose a flying career, I lost my best mates. You know, as you know, as an ex-military person, they’re more than just mates. They, they’re real brothers, aren’t they? You know, you do anything for them. Cuz you, you’ve, you’ve been through it all probably a lot more than your own, your own flesh and blood, you know?
Scott Brady: A lot of times. Yeah.
Mac McKenny: And so you lose that, you lose your self respect, your confidence. So that’s why PA lost everything and it all went wrong. And so it was the [01:06:00] expeditions, it was being back amongst those like-minded people that just kept me going the right way. And so anyway, so Lisa said, for God’s sake, shut up and just go into London to Cape Town. And I did, came back to the uk. I got a call, I kid you not, it was something like five days somebody had read about it or heard about it or something. They were putting together an extreme driving series for Discovery Channel being paid for by Shell to promote the, the Shell Helix Engine Oil. And they needed somebody to plan it, deliver it, lead it, everything. And they’d obviously looked at the website and thought, crikey, he’s done the, the Alaska thing with Ranulph Fiennes. He was his right hand man on his last North Pole expedition. If he’s good enough for Sir Fiennes, he’s good enough for us. And I just got Mac, here’s the job. It was a six word brief. It was originally hottest, coldest, highest Russia, China, India. That was it. Make it happen. That was it. There was no interview. It was six words. Make it happen. And so the highest, actually I did the REI for it. The Indians like to say it’s the highest road in the world. It’s not Kaung la, [01:07:00] but they like to say it is.
Scott Brady: What is?
Mac McKenny: It is. Ooh, now you’re asking there. (inaudible) Well, you’ve got oil, tel salad. That’s all the world altitude records have been held on oil tel salad lado. So there is a track that goes to 5,800 meters. Ang LA’s about five six.
Scott Brady: You talking about the one in Chile?
Mac McKenny: Yeah. Well, the world altitude record is, there’s another one, I don’t think it’s on ua. There’s another mountain. There’s a, there, there was, they were mining at something like 6,000 meters. Driving these trucks up there. But I’ve been, I’ve taken classic cars over, over pass in, in Tibet. They were five six. So definitely higher than Kala in the Indian Himalayas. But yeah, so I was given this six word brief, make it happen. And it was a, it was still to this date, the most expensive advertiser funded program produced in the United Kingdom. I think it was like 5 million or something. So we took the Hollywood actor, Tom Hardy, who plays Mad Max. He was the Batty and the Batman film. Bain with the Mask. We took him to Siberia with.
Scott Brady: And it seems like he’s, he’s a bit of an [01:08:00] adventurer.
Mac McKenny: Oh yeah, yeah.
Scott Brady: Sound right. It’s surprising the number, the number of, of actors that, that love what we love, you know, you know, I mean, obviously, you know, the long way around with Ewan McGregor and all that comes to mind.. Tom Hanks comes to mine. He, he’s got a synchro Volkswagen Synchro.
Mac McKenny: Oh, good man.
Scott Brady: Has done a bunch of over landing with that. I mean there’s, I mean, it’s surprising the number of, of actors that, and it makes sense. It’s a way for them to escape from what is, has got to be a very intense life.
Mac McKenny: Well, that, that was the other thing. So one, you know, you’ve got, you’ve got Tom Hardy there. He just earned, what did he tell us he earned? It was something ridiculous, like 16 million as, as for, for being the Batty and the Batman film. And then we’ve got Micar, an ex Ferrari F1 racer there. That was Siberia. And then we took Henry Cavil, who plays Superman. And Neil Hodson, former world Superbike champion to the desert of Western China. So we’ve gone from minus 60 to plus 50. And then Adrian Brody, the youngest Oscar winner. What a cool bloke he is, you know? So we took him to the Malaysian jungle. And Mika Salo [01:09:00] enjoyed Siberia so much. He came and did that one with us. Absolutely brilliant guys. But so there, you know, there we are. So Tom Hardy’s, you’ve, you’ve been there Ku so we’re in the, polar Hotel or whatever it’s calling in your, probably everyone who goes to. And so we’re sitting there, everyone looks the same. And I made it very clear, I don’t care how much you want for your last film, if it all goes wrong, you ain’t getting outta this situation any quicker than the rest of us. We’re all in it together. We all look after each other. There’s no. I’m worth this amount of money. I’ll sit in the car when it’s warm. You guys are outside fixing problems or dealing with stuff. We all look after each other. We buddy buddy all the time and they just got it. Just, you know, straight away, you know, I didn’t.
Scott Brady: They were probably relieved to be just a part of the team.
Mac McKenny: Yep. And basically what goes on tour stays on tour, you know, so you, you could be very open about stuff, you could chat about stuff. And they just knew it just wasn’t gonna go any further. The press were never gonna hear about it. So any, any of the funny things that we got up to, it was just gonna be whatever was gonna show on camera and it, it meant they could really relax, get away from it. And I think this is [01:10:00] why Prince Harry probably got on very well in the military. Same sort of approach. The life he’s leading at the moment, I’m sure isn’t doing him any favors. Yeah, he probably needs to get away. And do a few more expedition type things with like-minded people.
Scott Brady: He seemed pretty happy when I saw him in Antarctica. He was doing hard things.
Mac McKenny: It’s more than just, it’s more than just travel. It’s, I did have a, a proper saying for on what it is now, but it’s certainly, it’s, its certainly is as, as kept me on the straight and narrow. Yeah. You know, it fires me up. And I think the, the main thing is the people that you’re doing it with, you know, because you’ve got those shared stories.
Scott Brady: But isn’t that so much, you know, an, you know, an anecdote for life is that we think that our status will make us happy. It can’t because status can be removed so quickly. We think that, money can make us happy, but we can lose money. And, and statistically after you make about 70, $80,000, you don’t get any happier. So maybe 50, 60,000 pounds, you’re not [01:11:00] any happier than you are, you know, if you’re making 2 million pounds. In fact, a lot of times people are less happy. At the end of the day, it is about the experiences that we have. And that was what you were searching for. You were searching for connection with the people you traveled with. Going on that Everest expedition, you met your partner. You now have a daughter with her. These are things that are far beyond any amount of money or any amount of staff. And those are the things that bring you the most joy. Doing hard things and hard places with, with people that you want to be there with. And having memories and experiences from that. And I, so I think that that’s an anecdote for life. I think that we’re supposed to do hard things. We’re supposed to do it with people.
Mac McKenny: Yeah. And I, I think the other thing is, I’ve just quite stubbornly, you know, I could’ve bailed and I probably got quite well, did I ever get quite close to it? Part of me was telling me that I needed to give up, I needed to go and get a proper job, you know, and, and there was another big part of me, probably bigger cuz I’m still doing what I love, was I, I was [01:12:00] never gonna be happy doing that. This makes me, you know, incredibly happy. A good mate of mine that I went to school with, all he ever wanted to do when we were kids was be an ornithologist. He wanted to work for the, the Natural History Museum, bird Preservation. He wanted to travel the world, you know, study bird species, protect bird species, educate people, you know, inspire children to look after the environment. That was his absolute living, breathing passion. So we finished, A Levels, which is, you know, about 18 years of age. He wanted to go to university, but his parents who were, you know, they were, they lived in the bigger detached house. Dad had his own private practice, so, you know, financially they were much more able to support him through uni than say my family were. Cuz you know, people, kids didn’t really go to uni when I was, you know, that often when I was a kid, his parents looked at him on ornithology. Well, that’s not a real job. Could not support him. And they gave him three weeks after having done a Levels. To go and get a proper job. So there were lots of insurance companies near where we lived in Surrey, and so we just went to get a job with them processing motor claims, you know? [01:13:00] Oh yeah, I’ve crashed my car, you know, send me the paperwork and I’ll fill it in. And you know, he’s still there, you know He’s a broken man. Absolute broken man. Because of the, the relatively unsupportive environment he lived within at home. He had to get his own place and now he’s got a mortgage, so he has to stick with the job to pay the mortgage.
Scott Brady: You’re done.
Mac McKenny: And that’s it. And you look at him.
Scott Brady: You’re done.
Mac McKenny: Yeah. And I used to actually look up to him. I used to lodge with him for a couple of years and you know, he, yes, he had the nice house, he had the BMW on the drive. He used to go on holiday, he still did his bird watching and stuff. And you know, he’d run around the countryside and spend weekends doing stuff and go off on holidays to different parts of the world with mates doing bird watching. And I used to be quite envious thinking, oh crikey, I, you know, I’m getting on for 40. I’ve really cocked this up ever. I’m sleeping on mate mate’s floors. I’ve got nowhere to live and still haven’t got a proper job. And then somehow, because of my persistence, self-belief, dogged determination to make it work, I’ve kind of been rewarded for it. He had the proper job, he did the sensible thing. [01:14:00] And he’s actually not been punished for it, but he doesn’t live in a very nice area. It’s all gone a bit wrong for him. Yet I’ve been blessed with living in a wonderful part of the world, which most people, you know, people come on holiday to this part of the world, you know?
Scott Brady: So do I feel, I think staying, staying true to our true, to our passion.
Mac McKenny: Yeah. I think because if, if, if you don’t have any passion and, and enthusiasm for whatever it is that you wanna do in life, you’re not really gonna, you’re not gonna excel in other, other areas because, you know, he never wanted to be an insurance guy. So of course he’s never gonna get picked up to become a manager or a director or anything. So he is just sit at the bottom, you know, processing his motor claims. I, I’ve wanted to always do this kind of adventurous stuff. And it’s, it’s just fires me up. It makes me come alive, you know, every time I, I get the call, you know, can you plan this for us? Can you, you know, create that? Can you design something? Can you, you know, put something together? I’m, I’m, I’m loving it. Absolutely loving it. It’s not a job. It’s a.
Scott Brady: It’s kind of amazing at times. Me to do what we do. What, [01:15:00] what advice would you give to someone that’s just getting started with Overland Travel? What pieces of wisdom, which kind of your elevator pitch that you would give to someone that was getting ready to. Do a big trip.
Mac McKenny: My, my elevator pitch is, spend the least amount of money you can on the vehicle and just go and do it. You know, any vehicle will take you around the world. We’ve all heard of the Mongol rally. You know, a Nissan Micra. You could pick one up for 500 quid. What’s that? 600 $700. Little one liter engine. You can fix it yourself. You’ll learn so much. Just get on the road and go worry about the, the, the big fancy four by fours and the roof tents and the special suspension and the long range fuel tanks and all the trimmings that you can see in the magazines. Worry about that later. Just get something and get out there.
Scott Brady: And see if you even like it. Just start off with building some experiences. Yeah.
Mac McKenny: Yeah. And that’s what I said to Benji Davenport. He came to the, the Royal Geographical Society, I think it was like three years on the trot, wanting to ask very specific questions about particular components of the [01:16:00] vehicle. Very detailed stuff. And I looked at him at the end of the third year and I said, Benji, I do not want to see you here next year. You know.
Scott Brady: A postcard from someone that’s interesting.
Mac McKenny: Yeah. You know, everything. That vehicle is good to go. You know, you could take that out of the, out of the factory ready to go. It’ll take you around the world. Just go do it. And then he did, and he’s, he’s thanked me for it. Yeah. You’ll, you’ll just have a blast. You’ll meet the most amazing people and you’ll learn so much about yourself and others and cultures, and it’s just the best life on the road. So when we, the driven to Extreme series, so we airlifted the cars to the start point, to the coldest city. So that was quite expensive. Chartering a Boeing 757, as you can imagine, got them to the coldest city. We’re about there. Me and the mechanic, Paul, we were about there a week before the film crew and Tom Hardy and Micas came out.
Scott Brady: So you had to drive the Alda and frozen.
Mac McKenny: So, yeah, so we drove, we drove out to Omnicon back, that was about 10 days, and then they went home. So the next film is to be run in Western China. So the, the best way was for me and, and the mechanic to drive our Nissan patrols from far East Eastern Siberia. All the [01:17:00] way down to the bottom of Lake Baikal, all the way across Mongolia, all the way across China. Getting ready for Henry Cavil and Neil Hodson for the next one. And then once they’d done that, we drove to Singapore. I’m being paid for this, but the best thing was with Overland Travel is if you do regular travel. I’ve never been, I’ve, I’ve done two holidays in my life and they were both skiing trips and that’s all I’ve ever done since the day I was born. Because as a kid, We’d come down to the west country to the cottage, and I’d run riot all around the fields and the woodlands around here. So I’ve never looked in a brochure and, and paid to go on a holiday apart from two skiing trips. That’s all I’ve done in more than more years than I care to remember of my age. But I guess with regular holidays, you are looking a brochure and you’ll have preconceived ideas. Oh, Taj Mahal, it’s gonna be amazing. It’s gonna be this, that, and the other. And if you rock up and you go, oh, actually it’s not quite as good as I thought it was gonna be. I thought it was gonna be, you know, grander and this, and the food was gonna be better and the view, and it wouldn’t be, you know, 10,000 people here. You know, with over landing, [01:18:00] if you just have a start point and a finish point and you don’t really know what’s in the middle, you are gonna come across the most amazing things and meet the most amazing people. They’re not gonna appear in any travel brochure. You’re not gonna know about it. You’re just gonna stumble across it. And those memories will last a lifetime.
Scott Brady: Well, that’s what you did for me today. You were sending me all of these little spots to visit between where I left north of London and it was magic. Yeah, it was magic.
Mac McKenny: And so when we, when we relocated from far East, Eastern Siberia, we’re heading down towards Lake Baikal. We’ve got our guide with us Slava, we just round a hill and we go across a bridge and then we look to the left and there’s like a thousand people out on this frozen river. And I said to Slava, well, what’s, what’s going on there? No idea. He said, so we turned round and it was the annual reindeer festival and we didn’t know, we just happened to be there on the right day. And that’s it, you know, we’ll park the vehicle up, let’s go and have a look. And it was incredible. And even, even basic things like when you do a lot of traveling, you don’t wanna have too much of [01:19:00] a heavy lunch. But certainly if you’ve gotta drive in the afternoon. So you can imagine, you know, particularly in the uk. You know, Sunday roast is quite a traditional thing. Family comes together big Sunday, roast all the men of the family. Come three o’clock, they’re all flat out on the sofa, snoring away like mad because what happens is your body drains blood into your stomach to digest all that food. So after having had a very heavy meal, you become very tired. And so it’s quite dangerous driving to have a heavy lunch. So you want a really light lunch, save your heavy evening meal for later. So, or yeah, once you’re done driving. So it was only a little bowl of soup and some bread and so we are just stopping at these truckers calves. They wouldn’t appear in any brochure. You know, just really rough.. And we’re having this soup with 14 different types of meat and an olive and a slice of lemon. A little bit of, oh my god.
Scott Brady: So good.
Mac McKenny: It was to die for so good. It was absolutely. And it was just really, really cheap unpretentious basic food. And it was just [01:20:00] wonderful.
Scott Brady: Well, you think, if you think about it, the, the, the truckers are, that’s their professional and they’re gonna, they’re not gonna stop at the places that isn’t good. They do this trip.
Mac McKenny: Yeah. All the time.
Scott Brady: Yeah. Where you see the trucks parked, it’s usually pretty good food.
Mac McKenny: Yeah. And it’s, it’s little stuff like that that I still remember. And that’s from 2012. And it’s still of hugely fond memory in the back of my head because then.
Scott Brady: Yeah. I remember being, I was in the walk-on corridor of Afghanistan and, and Tajikistan and we stopped at this little village and I had this rice pilaf that, and it had a goat or sheep or something. And it was just, it was so delicious. It was the only thing that they had, there was no menu. You sat down and that’s what they served you. Cuz that’s what they made that down. And it was one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life and, and I think a lot of it was because of what we talked about before, which was I was doing something difficult. I was doing something that I was passionate about. I was with someone that I cared about, my good friend Charlie. And I think that that’s why that meal is so memorable. But all of it came [01:21:00] together in that moment.
Mac McKenny: And this is, I think over landing is the only experience that can give you that as soon as you start jumping on a plane from one international airport to another, you know, you could land in anyone. If you, you know, went in blindfolded and you didn’t see the signs that were where you’d landed, you could, you could be anywhere. They all look the same. They all taste the same. It’s all the interesting stuff that you’d have missed in the middle. Jump on two wheels, or get inside four wheels and just go and find it. And it’s, it’s, I cannot recommend it enough. In fact, my game plan when, when eventually Lisa’s had enough of me and kicks me out, I’m just gonna get a truck and head East.
Scott Brady: Just start going. Well, Mac, thank you so much for your time.
Mac McKenny: No, my pleasure.
Scott Brady: I have been a long admirer of the work that you do. You’ve given back so much to the community. The expeditions that you’ve conducted are some of the most notable in the history of overlanding, and it’s just a very rare joy to sit down and spend time with someone of your professional and caliber. So Mac, thank you so much for not only doing the interview with me, but letting me stay here at your [01:22:00] beautiful home.
Mac McKenny: No, absolutely My pleasure.
Scott Brady: Beautiful home.
Mac McKenny: Anytime. Much, much appreciated. Thank you, Scott.
Scott Brady: Thank you. Thank you all for listening and we’ll talk to you next time.