London to Cape Town in 11 days

Plenty of sunrises and plenty of sunsets are what three British adventure drivers recently witnessed.

Up to 12 of each in a row, if my math is right.

The solar spectacles were not viewed from a lawn chair on a pristine Caribbean beach or from a lonely perch on the side of a Himalayan mountain, though. They were observed through a bug-splattered windshield along a seemingly endless ribbon of highway, back road and desert track that led the crew of intrepid drivers on a 16,000-kilometre motoring jaunt into the record books.

When the Max Adventure team of Mac MacKenney, Chris Rawlings and Steve MacKenney horsed their grubby, 10-year-old Land Rover Discovery into the parking lot of the Automobile Association of South Africa in Cape Town on Oct. 28, the 47-year-old record for the fastest drive between London, England and Cape Town, South Africa was finally trumped.

The daring 1963 drive made by Eric Jackson and Ken Chambers in a Ford Cortina GT was relegated to a historical milepost in the long-distance driving record books.

The new ‘best-ever’ stands at 11 days, 14 hours and 11 minutes, which is one day, 18 hours and 37 minutes faster than the Jackson/Chambers time.

Lady Luck lent a hand to the guts, determination and skill of Team Max Adventure and a coveted motoring record passed to a team of new owners.

I wasn’t surprised, though. I’ve known Mac MacKenney for a decade, since he began toying with the idea of breaking the London-to-Cape Town record. Fit, affable and curious Mac possesses the tenacity, courage and logistical know-how to put together a plan to move a motor vehicle and three team members from London to Cape Town in record time.

Mac recruited a team of former British military colleagues, who together demonstrated the stubbornness and determination required to drive day and night, keep the rig on the road and get along with each other.

Evidently, their visas were in order. The years of paperwork, letters, faxes, e-mails and face-to-face diplomatic meetings paid off at the lonely frontiers where the dreams of Max Adventure hung in limbo, dependent on the mood of the border guard.

I had done a similar run in 1984 when Ken Langley and I set a Cape-to-Cape Guinness Superlatives record by completing the 21,066-kilometre run from the bottom of Africa to the top of Norway in 28 days.

Aside from a first-rate adventure fraught with a smuggling boat, blizzards and bureaucracy, the highlight of that escapade was not being hit when Shifta bandits in Kenya’s Kasuit Desert ambushed us with assault rifles. Bullets flew, metal tore, glass shattered and the good guys escaped. I couldn’t help but think of that as Max Adventure headed right through the Kasuit Desert.

Part of the team’s mission was to raise money for ‘Help for Heroes,’ which supports British soldiers who have been wounded in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The fact the team looked like they were going something noble and heroic, along with the burning determination in their bloodshot eyes, obviously cracked the moods of officials at dozens of roadside checks and at border after border.

Then, with the frontier post behind, came the euphoric adrenalin rush that fuels the rationalization that it’s all worth it. Yahoo!

But that is what they did day after day as they crossed Europe, the Middle East and took a ferry boat from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia across the Red Sea to Port Sudan, Sudan.

Only they know how they kept up their spirits through the long drive south through the Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and into South Africa to victory.

Half of the drive was at night, so the trip will not go into the annals of a beauty travelogue, but the taste of the trek will stay with the team forever.

It will also fire the dreams of a long line of road trippers who will use Max Adventure’s success as a stimulant for record-setting adventures of their own.

“I can’t believe that we are actually here, it hasn’t sunk in yet,” writes Mac in his blog at, after their arrival in Cape Town.

“Looking at a map of Africa makes it even more unbelievable. Did we really drive all that way in just 11 days?”

To contact Garry Sowerby at Odyssey International, send e-mail to: odyssey// or follow him on Twitter: @DrivenMind99

Photograph by: Garry Sowerby, handout