Mac in Africa on the group's journey to Cape Town (Max Adventures)
Interview Words : Daisy Cropper | 19 October

On the road - Mac Mackenney

Max Adventures recently broke the world record for overlanding from London to Cape Town. Leader, Mac Mackenney tells us about the epic adventure

Where did the passion for overlanding trips come from?

Mac: I’m ex military which helps, but I think I get the travel bug from my mum as she had worked on the original Queen Mary and travelled the world. Dad is very much a sit at home type of guy, so it didn’t come from that side.

I spent four years in the Army as a helicopter technician and then three years in the RAF as a trainee fighter pilot, but had problems during training and didn’t make the grade.

The RAF was a huge part of my life and I’d dreamt about being a fighter pilot from the age of six. I didn’t get in at first as the RAF thought I had heart disease at 16, hence joining the Army instead.

To fail was a massive blow to me and my self confidence. I think I started travelling originally to run away from the reality of not making it in the Forces. Now I realise that it is what makes me come alive, so I just keep on doing it.

Why did you choose London to Cape Town?

Mac: I read about a British team in the Guinness Book of World Records going from Cape Town to London in 1983. Their time was 14 days 19 hours, which was the one we originally planned to beat.

It was a bit of a shock when we found out that this wasn’t the ‘out and out’ record, they had simply been the only team to have driven the whole way without taking a boat apart from the English Channel.

All previous record teams dating back to the 1930’s had crossed the Mediterranean and the fastest time on this route was just 13 days 8 hours. Still, I had decided that I was going to beat it anyway and set about the long process of planning.

There were three of you on the trip, why?

Mac: There are three drivers for safety. One drives, one navigates and one sleeps. The main role for the navigator though is to act as a second pair of eyes on the road and ensure that the driver is alert. With two pairs of eyes on the road it gives the guy in the back who's trying to sleep reassurance that things will stay safe up front. That way he can switch off and rest properly.

Chris Rawlings and Steve Mackenney joined you, why them?

Mac: Chris was a co-driver on our last driving record across Europe and I knew he was good behind the wheel. My brother steve is a very experienced driver and good land rover mechanic. I hadn't done any driving expeditions with steve, but knew he could handle the pressure.

Were there any fallouts?

Mac: Yes, quite a few and we each snapped at the other. Most of the time though we bit our tongues and text our loved ones back home to have a grumble about the others! We were still speaking at the end which is a good sign considering the pressure we were under.

Were there any moments you didn't think the three of you would make it in time?

Mac: I’d spent two years getting permission to drive through Saudi Arabia and a long time as well on the Sudan visas. When we cleared both countries I thought we were home and dry. I wasn’t expecting any problems at all thereafter, so when we got delayed at the Ethiopian border because we didn’t have the right paperwork, it all started to go wrong.

The team who tipped us off about border problems there had been stuck for four days before they were allowed to continue. By luck, we got the clearance through really quickly – what a relief!

Breaking the record meant you had to be constantly on the move. How exhausting was the experience?

Mac: Not as bad as I had thought, we felt pretty fresh when we got to the finish line. I had set three long distance driving records before and had driven all over Africa, Asia and North America, so was used to the driving routine.

The key to our success and safe driving was to have a full length bed in the back and drive like a chauffeur to allow the guy in the back to sleep properly.

Did you see much of the countries you passed through?

Mac: Unfortunately not. Half the time we drove it was dark. When it was light we would spent four hours sleeping or at least with our eyes shut, four hours driving where you dare not take your eyes off the road and four hours navigating – sorting out photos, writing blogs, calling UK ops and feeding the driver. We only probably spent two hours per day appreciating where we were.

How did you feel when you crossed the finish line in Cape Town?

Mac: Initially no emotion as the sat nav said we would make it. When we crossed the finish line and saw all the supporters we realised that we had actually achieved something. My brother started blubbing, which set me off as well!

What's next for Max Adventures?

Mac: Not sure as yet, got a few ideas, but overland driving expeditions are my thing. I learned that when I organised the logistics for the XTreme Everest medical research expedition in 2007. It was a great experience, but it was so boring to be stuck at Base Camp for months! I definitely need to keep moving.

The Max Adventures team: Mac Mackenney (leader), Steve Mackenney (mechanic) and Chris Rawlings (communitcations) broke the world record for overlanding from London to Cape Town in an attempt to raise £10,000 for charity.

More on their story can be found here: 'Three Brits break overland record'

Enjoyed this article? Get the best of Wanderlust delivered straight to your inbox

Follow Team Wanderlust