Toby Savage on Exploring and Photographing the World by Land Rover and WWII Jeep

Show notes for episode #155
Toby Savage on Exploring and Photographing the World by Land Rover and WWII Jeep

Scott Brady interviews desert explorer Toby Savage, professional photographer and Land Rover enthusiast. Tony shares his many adventures in his Land Rover, and his significant work with the Long Range Desert Group historical society. 

Guest Bio:

Toby Savage

Professional Photographer and Adventure Writer on all things Land Rover related. A lifetime as a Professional Photographer with an overlapping 25 years experience of writing for Land Rover and 4x4 related magazines. Teacher of Photography in UK, in China at Hanghau University as guest lecturer and running Photography themed holidays in Morocco twice a year in conjunction with Helicon Arts in London.

Host Bios:

Scott Brady
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'm your host, Scott Brady, and for today's episode, I spend time with Toby Savage. Toby is a longtime friend and someone that I've long admired as a traveler. He's also an expert on land rovers of all vintages and also has spent quite a bit of time working on the long range desert expeditionary group content and history that goes all the way back to World War II. So, enjoy my conversation with Toby. We talk a lot about historical places, we talk a lot about travel, and we talk a bit about land rovers.

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Scott Brady: Thank you all for watching. I'm here today with Toby Savage. It is so great to have you on the podcast. What a joy.

Toby Savage: Well, I'm, I'm flattered Scott. I'm really, I'm flattered. Thank you very much for coming over, especially from the States, just to interview me.

Scott Brady: Yes, and we just, we just had a nice [00:02:00] little drive in the Grenadier. We drove about, drove about 10 miles over to get some food at a pub. Because all the pubs in this little village were closed.

Toby Savage: Yeah, yeah. Well, I'm a part of London Pride, which is a very good bit of it.

Scott Brady: I did have a Guinness, I did, which is, I do like a dark beer. If I'm going to have a beer at all, it'll be a dark one. And we're actually recording the podcast right now in a, in an old horse stable so that they've turned into an Airbnb and it seems to be working out just fine.

Toby Savage: It's very comfortable.

Scott Brady: Yeah, it's nice. I think it'll be a good home base for me over the next couple of days. So there's, there's so much to talk about your career as a journalist, your career as a professional photographer, your exploits as an adventurer around the world. But I think it would be interesting to know, where did it all start? Where, where did you grow up?
Toby Savage: Well, it has always been there. And it doesn't come from my mum and dad, who were pretty stay at home really. [00:03:00] My grandfather on my mother's side, he, he did a lot. He was in the First World War. Sadly, he was in Gallipoli, Passchendaele, and the Somme, and survived. So he's seen some action. He traveled a lot. So he, they moved out to Singapore when he was in his twenties and, and then moved back to Britain. So there was a, a bit of travel there. But I really didn't know about that when I was growing up. It was more camping trips with my friends from school, which I always enjoyed. And I remember making lists of how many tea backs to take and slices of bread. And I was obsessive with it and I probably still am. That, that organizing of events means as much to me as the actual event itself doing the planning. Because it shows it has.

Scott Brady: It brings a lot of joy.

Toby Savage: And, and if you planned things properly, you have less mistakes, hopefully. But then we had a teacher, Mr. Kirby, Jeff Kirby, when I was probably 13. Who had what he called an old Land Rover, but in 1967 it can't [00:04:00] possibly have been that old. And he used to take groups of us camping at weekends. And there was no paperwork, it was just ask your mum and dad if it's okay. And it was. So, you know, that can't be done anymore in our teaching environment, it's too difficult. But then it was, it was great. And that really did. Give me an appreciation of getting out there in the countryside and camping. Which has lasted to this day. And I'm actually camping in France next, this weekend. Under canvas, can't believe it. Anyway, that sort of formulated the, the outdoor part of my life. Which continued, as I say, to today. Yeah.

Scott Brady: What would you say was your first big Land Rover adventure?

Toby Savage: I'm this year celebrating 50 years of dicking about with Land Rovers. Now, not because they're Land Rovers. You know, I like them and they're pretty [00:05:00] good. But they were the key to doing the things I wanted to do. They had four wheel drive, they were simple to bend and they were cheap. And that sort of applies today really. They are a means to an end. As are other things, but for me, it just happened to be a Land Rover. So, I bought this thing in 1973 for 120 quid. It was a 1954 86 inch series one. And we lived, I was at art college. We lived in a 22 foot caravan, just below Figsbury Ring and Iron Age Hill Falls. Behind the lorry yard for two pounds a week. It was hippie stuff. And I had long hair and wore snakeskin trousers. But, I had that.

Scott Brady: As one does.

Toby Savage: As one does. Yeah, so we, we thought we'd take this on holiday. So we took it to Wales on holiday. And the thing's enormous. And of course we got it stuck on the beach and we got into trouble from the beach management. And then we got it [00:06:00] stuck trying to get it into a farm to camp the night. But all those experiences, you realize that when you are stuck, you will get unstuck. You know, and that is an important thing to remember. We didn't have a winch or anything. We just had some planks of wood and some rope. But we did get unstuck. And I think that sort of must have sunk in. Because every time I have got stuck, and there's been many. I see it as an opportunity to get unstuck. And I think we're all a bit like that.

Scott Brady: Well, and it makes for a great memory.

Toby Savage: Well, yeah, it's another couple of paragraphs. It'll feature how we got unstuck.

Scott Brady: Exactly. So, let's talk a little bit about, your, the first time that you wrote about Land Rovers. Because you, you've been featured in Overland Journal many times. and you've been featured in publications around the world. What was your first feature article?

Toby Savage: There was a bit of luck involved. So, I'd been to a Beaujolais Nouveau [00:07:00] tasting, in Leicester, in 1992. And I bumped into an archaeologist who I knew. This was nine in the morning, and I had four glasses of red wine. So, it wasn't the best time to have a business meeting, but he said, oh, you're a photographer, aren't you? Do you fancy I said, yeah, yeah, that'd be great. So, I thought I'd learn more of it. And then he contacted me and said, If you're on for it, we've got this dig going on, and we'd like you to come take some pictures. And I just assumed it would be some muddy field. But it was just outside Rome in the hills. It was just a beautiful spot. So I thought, well we're on to something here. That has the gravitas of a decent story for a Land Rover magazine. And also I can do some, travel photography, which I used to do and sell through a library in London. I can do that, and I've had a client who did tourism. Page and More Elevators in Leicester, they were quite well established at the time. So I thought if I could pull in three little [00:08:00] bits of income, and, like a car, it would work. Without worrying about it anyway. So I contacted Land Rover, who, this is the, the days when they were owned by British Aerospace, I think, and Colin Walkie and Josefina Zaccaroli Walker, with the PR department, press office. And I put this plan together, I said, this is what I'm going to do. And they said, yes. We'll drop it off at your house. I can't believe this. I could not believe it. Anyway, the brand new Range Rover. Classic now, TDI, it was dropped off at my house.

Scott Brady: What a beautiful car.

Toby Savage: Well it was perfect, it did about 30 to the gallon, I wasn't in a hurry. It was comfortable, it was brand new. So I set off, I went up into, where did I go? Austria and Germany and then dropped down into Italy. And because there's no mobile phones or satellite navigation there, there was a map, [00:09:00] a pretty vague indication of where the archaeologists would be. But I did find them in the end, and spent 3 or 4 days with them. And we got some, I did some video, and I did some still pictures of what they were doing. And I did some nice pictures of the Range Rover. Which then went on to make the front cover of Land Rover Owner. Which was like a big deal, 5 pages inside. So, I thought, I'll do something here, this is good, I'll pay for it. So, with a bit of pay from here and a bit of pay from there, the trip cost me nothing. I thought, I like this. So, I've based the rest of my life on that really. Travelling and doing things for other people, and having a great time.

Scott Brady: When we were talking earlier at the pub, you talked about, a series of yeses moving you in the direction that you wanted to go. And, and it is, that's one of the greatest challenges in life, is knowing what to say no to and what [00:10:00] to say yes to.

Toby Savage: Yeah, I tend to say yes to most things.

Scott Brady: Well, it's worked out well for you.

Toby Savage: It has, but you sort of weigh it up, don't you, and think, well, yeah, that sounds fun. I've never been materialistic, so as long as I've got enough money to live. That'll do. So if I'm left with 10 and that's all there is, I'd spend it on diesel and, you know, eat, eat something. But, you know, that urge to travel, and it gets more so as I get older as well, you know. 100 here, I could do that, you know. I'll do it.

Scott Brady: Well, and recently you did, so let's talk about the trip you just got back from. So you, you left the UK on your 650GS, and where did you go?

Toby Savage: I, I had it in mind. So, through the winter I've been sitting down with Google Maps and Street View thinking, I can go there, and I can go there, and I can go there. And I didn't think I'd do it. I thought, I'll have the plan in place. And then if there's a suitable period of time and I've got nothing [00:11:00] else, then I'd bought the motorbike the year before with a view to doing a trip on it. Because I don't ride a motorbike just for A to B, it's for a trip. I do have a little Honda one, too, a fire truck was around, but this was proper. And I've got all the luggage and all the gear, and no idea, I have to say, because I've only been riding for, I suppose it's 20 years now, but I came into motorcycling late. So the plan was in place, and then various circumstances conspired to think, well look, I could do this next week. I booked nothing. I booked nothing. So the weekend came, I thought, yeah, Monday I'll go. So it was that short a time, because I had six weeks with nothing much on. So I booked a ferry from, from Portsmouth to Santander in northern Spain. So it was one hop down to Portsmouth. Which is relatively straight forward, in the cold and the rain. So I arrived there with, [00:12:00] with three bikers waiting to get on. The funny thing about bikers, they assume you want to talk about the bike, and not about the trip. So, oh yeah, what's that bike, what do you do, I don't know, it's a bike. I really don't know and don't want to know lots about the workings of them, as long as it goes. Anyway, I played the game, and then we got on the ferry, and the next day I stepped off in, Santander in Spain, where it was still a bit iffy, the weather. And I went along the north coast into France, and then up into France for a bit, and then dropped down. And I just had no timetable. And what I liked about being on a motorcycle is, you can't carry too much clobber. You can carry your clothes and something to keep warm and dry, and that's it.

Scott Brady: And that's about it, yeah. Maybe a few snacks.

Toby Savage: Yeah, a few snacks, yeah. And some water to drink. But I was always intended to stay in hotels. There were a couple of times when I had difficulty finding one. But I got into a rhythm of sitting in bed with [00:13:00] my laptop in the morning and going on and thinking I'll stay there. Then plotting a route that avoided motorways and big roads. And it was beautiful, you know. The roads I travelled on were just gorgeous. Empty of traffic, good tarmac. And, you know, I'd probably do 100 to 150 miles a day. Which is doable.

Scott Brady: Yeah, very modest.

Toby Savage: Very modest. I didn't want to be a hero, you know. I wanted to have a good time. So, I went up through France, then down through Italy, where I stayed with a friend for a couple of nights in Northern Italy, and then down to Bari on the southeast coast, and then got a ferry over, like, to Albania, where I'd never been, and I heard lots of good things about it. And it lived up to expectations, so.

Scott Brady: Now, how does Albania compare, like, with Croatia, for example? Because they, they share the same coastline. But, but they're, you know, of course Albania is much further south.

Toby Savage: It's further south, and it's poorer, but it will [00:14:00] catch up. So, it, it came across to me as a, it was definitely poorer, things were cheaper, but the Albanians were very friendly, and the mountains, were just gorgeous. And again, nobody there. So the groups I was picking were exactly what I wanted. I wanted to be riding up a gentle slope through woodland, getting to the top, seeing a huge view, taking a deep breath and thinking how lucky I am to be able to stand here and do this.

Scott Brady: Yeah. We are so lucky. Yeah.

Toby Savage: Yeah. You know, people, they'll sit in the pub saying, well, think I might go and do this, and they don't do it. You know.

Scott Brady: And time flies by if you don't do it.

Toby Savage: Yeah. Well, yeah, and you get to, you know, you think, well, one day I'm gonna do this trip. Oh, get out there and do it, you know, Anyway, I go, I bang very, I ended up in a sort of seaside resort at the end, which was quite sure very comfortable, really in a, in a nice hotel, which was only 50 quid a night. And for what it was, it was good. And then it chapped it down in [00:15:00] rain. So I thought, well, I'll stay another night. So I did.

Scott Brady: Oh, fantastic, fantastic. And then you ultimately made it to an island, and then you had to leave the bike behind.

Toby Savage: I went down through Greece and crossed over on the ferry to Kos, because my aim was to go to Turkey to see some friends there. And Kos is a beautiful island. I rode around that and stayed in actually in the town of Kos, which is where the port is. And a ferry, daily. But they said, oh no, it's every other day now, because it's off season. So I was in this hotel, near the port, and I went back and said, OK, I'll have a ticket for me and a bike. They said, what bike? A bicycle. I said, no, a motorbike. They said, oh no, you can't, you can't, there's no cars or motorbikes going over until the summer. The boat's being serviced. Oh, shit. Righto, so I said to the hotel, Do you mind if I leave my bike right outside your [00:16:00] office window for a couple of days? He looked at me as if to say, Well, of course we don't mind. They’re just so friendly, I had to take a lot of stuff off, put it in the panniers, lock them, cover it with a cover. It looked a bit of a mess. But he said, No, it's alright, leave it there. So I did and I was a foot soldier over to the, to Turkey. I thought well I'll come back in two days. But then the wind got up and the ferry was cancelled. So I was stuck there for a week. There are worse places to be stuck. But I had to phone the hotel and say look I'm really sorry but, can I leave the bike there for another few days? And he said, of I thought oh, thank you. I got back and everything was fine and the ferry back to Greece. I had been intending to ride up through Turkey. I passed the area of Gallipoli and the Bosphorus and do that, but that didn't happen. So, I went up the east coast of Greece and then into Macedonia, which was quite a culture shock, really, because [00:17:00] it's such a poor country. Yeah. It was like a quarter of the prosperity of the other places I've been to. Which was fine as a tourist because you get a lot for your money. But, you could just see that that was a huge generalization. The women seem to stay at home, the men go out drinking and gambling and smoking, and they think, this is your life isn't it? It probably was for a lot of people. It was quite a shock. But I stayed there for three nights before coming up into, What's next? Serbia. I think Serbia was next, but where it became more civilized again.

Scott Brady: In Macedonia, what was the terrain like? Was it mountainous? Is it?

Toby Savage: All of the geographies, fairly similar. All through Greece, and Macedonia and, and Serbia. Pleasant, nice mountains, good roads. Macedonia's roads were a bit potholed, but, in fact, I remember Rick Peewee saying to me, when we were driving with him through the desert... Long eye, short eye. So you keep your short eye on [00:18:00] the potholes and your long eye you. And that mantra has stuck with me. So thanks, Rick, if you're watching.

Scott Brady: Yeah, you know, yeah, Rick is, he's just a legend within the Jeep community. And I forgot about the fact that you did that long range desert group. So let's talk about that for a minute. Cause that was, that was, I thought, a very ambitious and it was generally like a very well regarded expedition that you did.

Toby Savage: A combination of saying yes and a lot of luck. And a bit of down with the bad luck. We had to postpone it for a year because of the Arab Spring. So we had everything in place. We had the two Jeeps ready. We had some excellent guests. Rick being one of them and Bob Atwater from the Explorers Club. And Jason also from that. And a Swedish author had just written a book of the Long Way group, so he said, oh, I can't believe we're gonna [00:19:00] go. Yes, let's go. And it was all in place. And then they, they kicked out, the was it Maba the leader of the Egyptian, Egyptian leader, I think. Yeah. So they booted him out and it all kicked off and it was just too dangerous to go into Egypt. And Mahmooda Egyptian friend said, look, you can't come. You can't come. It's all wrong. We were ready to go, and, so I had to send an email saying, Look guys, this is the situation, we're planning on postponing, and I hope you'll stick with us, because we might not do it next year. And Rick's comment was, Can't we just fit machine guns? Probably not, but I like your style. So we did it the following year and we shipped the Jeeps to Alexandria in a container and it was a hassle getting them out. But it was always going to be a hassle because it's North Africa. And we got them out and we completed 1,200 miles of pure desert [00:20:00] in two 1943 Jeeps. With backup we had a truck, two Toyota's, an army, a Toyota with and a tourist policeman. You have to have one. There wouldn't have been any use if anything had happened. But that's the rule that you have to pay. So it was always quite a big budget production, really, but we managed to pull it together, and we, we achieved it. And we, to this day, I, I'm sure that was.

Scott Brady: What was the history of the Long Range Desert Group? Why is that significant? I mean, I know some of it, but for the reader to.

Toby Savage: They were a big part of our victory in North Africa. So there was a guy called Ralph Bagnold, who between the wars was stationed in Cairo. And they were from universities in England, but they had to do their national service. And they ended up in Cairo. Half a dozen bright people who are [00:21:00] adventurous hold up in Cairo. So they started to go out into the desert in their Model T Fords and map it. And then their trips got more and more ambitious to a point where Ford were giving them the new Model A and they'd take all the body work off and put a flatbed on the back. Load it up with jerrycans and they'd do a thousand miles into the desert which nobody had ever done before. And being academic and clever. They mapped it and were accurate. And they, they used the radio to communicate with Cairo, with their friends back there, over distances you wouldn't even imagine. So when the war started and the Italians were very active in Libya and wanted to come into Egypt, which was owned by the English, Bagnall suggested to the, the, the, He should perhaps form a little group to go and create havoc. And it was rejected, twice. They said, we can, we can, we've done it. So in the end, they did. [00:22:00] And to start with, they were just doing road watch. So they'd go to the middle of nowhere and watch the trucks come down that way, on the track that wasn't linking Italian bases. And then count them going back and note that they were lighter or heavier. And then they'd radio that back to Cairo and say, 20 trucks gone south, 20 trucks gone north, and log all the times. So they built up a picture of what the enemy were doing. And it's a fantastic story. And then they got involved in some action and did a few raids which were, they snuck in from, Nowhere. And they've disappeared. So they were called, the Ghost Patrol, by Vitalik. Where did they come from? They were in the desert. And they'd come and blow everything up and clear off. So we wanted to recreate some of those routes that they did. And we, we didn't find them because they were known already. But there's trucks still out there, upside down and blown up that we visited. And you just think, yeah. We're here. We're looking at the [00:23:00] various trucks.

Scott Brady: And did the Long Range Desert Group actually use Jeeps at some point?

Toby Savage: It was sort of, their truck was the Chevy. A big two wheel drive Chevy. Which you'd think were why. But they were lighter. And they had big flotation tires on them. And their drivers were skillful. So they did. And a lot of us used two wheel drivers. You only need it if you get stuck for a while. But then the SAS sort of came out of the Long Range Desert Group with Stirling, David Stirling, who was more of an action man. And that coincided with the launch of the Jeep really, so the Jeep was far more maneuverable, quicker, lighter, and could be in and out much faster. So that's, so we weren't strictly true having a Jeep, but the Jeep was perfect.

Scott Brady: And I remember looking at the images and it looked like they cut out quite a bit of the grill to increase the airflow, is that right?

Toby Savage: There's [00:24:00] mixed theories, but a lot of people in the pictures commented, why did you cut the grill out? Do your history, you know, that's what they did. And it, I can't say it made much difference to the cooling, but if you've taken in a load of sand, in a sandstorm, and that front bit is full of sand, you won't be able to scoop it out. One theory, because we did have a sandstorm, and it didn't fill, but you could suddenly see, oh yeah, we can scoop the sand out in front of the radiator.

Scott Brady: They wanted to have access to it?

Toby Savage: Yeah.

Scott Brady: Interesting.

Toby Savage: We had a mesh actually over the radiator, so stone damage. You couldn't see it, it was painted black, but the mesh stopped stones going through the radiator. Yeah. You learn these things, don't you, with experience.

Scott Brady: Yeah, for sure. Simple solutions. Let's talk about after the, the Long Range Desert group, what were some of the other trips that you did into, well, anywhere in the world that you found you just really loved?

Toby Savage: I think [00:25:00] Libya was, will always be my favorite. I was working with some good guys, groups of archaeologists, and it was a project run by Professor David Mattingly at Leicester University, you will know. And he just said, do you fancy coming out? We could do with a photographer who knows a little bit about land rovers. So I pretended to be both. And I got away with it. So, they had some old Series 3 out there, that had broken down catastrophically the year before 1997. So I, The truth is, when you say to an academic, what was wrong with it, broke. Yeah, but any more detail?

Scott Brady: Any kind of detail.

Toby Savage: Did it sound like, bluh duh duh? Or did it, boom boom? Or did it, you know, did it go wee wee? Anyway, we ascertained that it had a couple of burnt out exhaust valves and a slipping clutch. So a minibus went out with those bits on it, and I flew out with them. Because it was, it was when Tripoli Airport was closed to UK. We couldn't fly there, because of the embargo. So, we all met up, got there, took the thing apart. [00:26:00] I was, I was pretending to be a mechanic as well at that time. So we, we did get the engine out, put the new clutch on, took the cylinder head off, put the new valves in, and it worked.

Scott Brady: Oh wow.

Toby Savage: Yeah. So I got away with it, and then we drove it down to the desert, and then the next year I thought, I'll bring mine. Yeah, it's better. So, I took my caravan out in 1999. And I combined that with, I came back the pretty way, so they came back via Tunisia and back. I went up to Tripoli and turned right, and went on to Cairo. On to Jordan, Syria, Turkey, and back. So it was a big trip.

Scott Brady: How was, how did you go from, from Egypt into Jordan?

Toby Savage: We, I took the ferry from Aqaba.

Scott Brady: And what did you think of, of Jordan?

Toby Savage: Well, it's, it's very English. They've got Marston Spencers and stuff. The king is English educated with an English wife. It was civilized. Syria less so. And that was before there was any trouble. [00:27:00]

Scott Brady: Yeah, because I was looking at a route that would take me through. Through Jordan and then into Northern Iraq. Northern Iraq is actually a better route than Syria now.

Toby Savage: Oh, sure it is, yeah. Has it opened up now? You can go to Iraq now?

Scott Brady: Yeah, Northern Iraq. Yeah, yeah. It's starting to open up. Genuinely.

Toby Savage: Yeah. Oh, I'd love to go there.

Scott Brady: Wouldn't that be amazing? Yeah. Ah, fantastic. So now you have, you have written about Land Rovers for 50 years. And you've owned a few of them yourself. What’s your favorite?

Toby Savage: I've owned them for 50 years, I've written about them for 30 years. That's a long time, isn't it? It only occurred to me this year. God, it's 50 years since I bought my first one.

Scott Brady: And you don't still have that one, do you?

Toby Savage: The 86 inch? No. I sold it and I bought a VW Beetle, it was cheap.

Scott Brady: Yeah, it was a, and you said the hippie thing.

Toby Savage: Yeah it was a hippie you know, you have to have a weekend. Yeah. [00:28:00] And then a friend of mine bought a 1948 Land Rover, Steve Teague, who I was at college with. So in his last year at college, he bought this 48. I thought, you know, I really fancy another Land Rover, and I wanted an 18 inch one. So, I kept an eye open. And I, sure enough, one cop took it. We had a magazine called Exchange in Marlborough, and everything was advertised. It said 1948 Land Rover. It was in London. I was in Salisbury at college. So I caught the train to London, and it was, it was 85 pounds, which was a lot in 1974. Lot of dollars. And I went into the bank and I wanted to draw out cash knowing I had nothing in the bank account. So in those days, you have to write out a check. Pay cash, a hundred pounds. I pushed it over there, thought they'll never pay it. Said, how would you like the money, Mr. Savage? Tens. I said, okay. Gave it me. And I walked out. So I was a hundred pounds overdrawn [00:29:00] like that. But, I caught the train. To, to London. Saw the Land Rover report and there was no heater. But I was fine. And then, so that was, April 1970.

Scott Brady: And then you had to work really hard to get the bank paid back.

Toby Savage: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I've always sort of put that to one side. But I've still got it. So that's, that's the great thing. I still have that same Land Rover. And it's still in use.

Scott Brady: And how many Land Rovers do you have total?

Toby Savage: Well, I'm thinking I've got, I've got four. But I've just, that's enough, isn't it? Yeah, there's one more coming in here.

Scott Brady: And you have, like, you know, like on Amazon, you can have a subscription to bring in, you know, vitamin C or whatever. Yeah, you have oil comes in.

Toby Savage: Yeah, you need a bit. Yeah. Well, I have the, the two I use is the 1948 one on a hot sunny day with a screen down. It's [00:30:00] fantastic. And I'm 19 again. And then I have the Land Rover Carrawagon, which I've had for 25 years. The one I've done most of the trips in. So that's been to Libya, I think seven or eight times, been to Algeria with Chris Scott, been down through Tunisia. And Egypt, and all of Europe, and Portugal, and, well, yeah, all of Europe. So, I've done a lot of, probably a hundred thousand miles of travel with it.

Scott Brady: And if I remember, that one, either it's permanently up, or it, it lifts up.

Toby Savage: It pops up, yeah.

Scott Brady: It pops up, but it has two, kind of, half circles, doesn't it?

Toby Savage: Yeah, it's really weird. Very interesting. bespoke upmarket conversion. So, the, the, the top is a sheet of aluminium that does that. And there's some hinging wood. It's very good design. Last year I had that all replaced. It cost a fortune, but the wood, you could, you could crumble it in your hand, if's wrong. It is from 1970 wood. But in, you know, since in the last 20 years it's had a t d i engine [00:31:00] and discovery transfer box, so it's faster big alley sport intercooler. So it's more powerful and it, I mean, all this stuff's old now, but. At the time I wanted it to be the vehicle I needed to do expeditions. And it is. And it's, you know, it had a service earlier this year so it's ready to go again this summer. Wherever I go, you know. It's ready.

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Scott Brady: When you plan these trips and you've had all of these experiences, when you look back on that, [00:32:00] what were, what were some of the things that you learned, you know, like as a traveler, what would, what advice would you give to a new traveler? I, to use the, the, the Nike term, just do it because I've learned that you don't really need much. I mean, all you need is diesel and a washback. Really, isn't it? You can go in any car. You can go on a bus. You can fly, bus, taxi, bicycle. You can do, you don't have to have all the, I'm sorry to upset your advertisers, but you don't have to have all the gear.

Scott Brady: Well, that's the advantage of what we do. We keep our advertisers completely separate from our editorials.

Toby Savage: Yeah, yeah, it is good to be, but if you’ve got two weeks, you don’t want to be faffing around getting stuck. Yeah, and you want your beer cold out of the fridge. Yeah, I can understand that. A bit of me is the same in the caravan. I have the fridge, I have the winch, I have the solar panels, I have the gear. But the simplicity of the motorbike [00:33:00] travel is you can't take a lot, and then when I turned 60, I, you'll find this, these decades, you feel you have to do something to prove yourself to yourself. So I cycled from here to my friend in Italy, a thousand miles, on a bicycle. Well then you can't take anything. And yet I did, I did a lot of camping, so I had a lightweight tent, lightweight sleeping bag. Some nights in hotels, other nights camping.

Scott Brady: And what did you, what did you think of, you know, traveling by bicycle? How was that?

Toby Savage: You're accepted by everybody. Because you're not.

Scott Brady: No intimidation.

Toby Savage: No, no. And, oh, can you fill my bottle up with water? Yeah, of course I can. Yeah, and they're happy to help. And if you're stopped at the side of the road, people stop and say, are you okay? And you say, yeah, yeah, I'm fine. Thank you for stopping. But it's similar on a motorbike. If you stop on a bike.

Scott Brady: It is very similar.

Toby Savage: Other bikers stop straight away and say, are you all right? Which you don't get if you put this sort of great wall of [00:34:00] aluminium and glass between you.

Scott Brady: And it's very true and and if you go even beyond that up to the big expedition vehicles like the Unicats and the Unimogs and everything else then you're like another planet.
And people just have a hard time relating to who, even who you are. Very, very intimidating.

Toby Savage: Yeah. And in some of the places that we've all traveled to, poor places, you're, you're projecting an image of wealth. And, you know, your accessory probably costs his annual salary. So you, you're going to be the target for theft, really, but hopefully not, because most people are very honest. But you just think, well, hang on, you're sort of putting sweeties in front of the children here, whereas my old caravan, it doesn't look as though it's worth anything. Yeah, it's got dents and scratches. And there's, there's three sides to the argument. One, I quite like that. Two, I can't afford to do anything about it anyway. And three. It, it doesn't look as though I've got any money, which is pretty [00:35:00] accurate, but, you know, it's, it's.

Scott Brady: But it allows you to travel freely. You're not, and you're, and if something happened to the vehicle, you'd be sad, of course, but it wouldn't be like losing a half a million pound expedition vehicle.

Toby Savage: No, no, no. Yeah. And here, as in the States, people like to borrow that. You know, we go to shows and we see something on display and think, you're kidding, aren't I? And by the end of the weekend, it's gone.

Scott Brady: Yeah, no, for sure.

Toby Savage: Yeah, but it keeps the whole industry going, so that's fine.

Scott Brady: Well, and I think, I think people making the modifications that they find that they really need in order to do their trip, and some things you need, you know, like if you go into the High latitudes, or if you wanna cross glaciers or whatever, you have to have a certain piece of kit. If you go into the, if you go into, into the desert, yeah. You might benefit from some traction boards and things like that. And, and it's highly specialized, but for the most part you just really don't need much. You [00:36:00] just don't.

Toby Savage: Well, when you see there's, there's a range of sand dunes in Libya, which are a bit of a tourist place. It's a, you go around three oasis, it's beautiful. But the first bit is a climb up through some soft sand dunes, big. And you're in a little tea place down at the bottom watching people mess it up and all the locals are there all the twirig drivers with their tassie old toyotas on bald tires you know they just go straight up.

Scott Brady: They have no problem.

Toby Savage: I have to say I did it but then you get to the top and find there's a peugeot 504 pickup is up there as well on whatever tires it happened to have, and you think, well, how did he get up? Well, he's local. He knows.

Scott Brady: Power of local knowledge. They can read every grain of sand.

Toby Savage: Everything. With huge skill. Yeah. It's an eye opener. So I'm more for less than more now.

Scott Brady: And now that you look back on all of these amazing journeys, Toby, how did it change you as a [00:37:00] person? Like, how are you different today?

Toby Savage: I think I'm far more accepting of other cultures. I think if you don't travel, And you stay in your own city or country. You have this fear of all foreigners, which is totally unfounded. And I think travel reinforces that. It's a, it's a big generalization. But, you know, I have, you know, I've been in Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Ethiopia, Guatemala, a lot of lovely places, and I've met nothing other than friendship and a smiling face. You smile at them, they smile at you. It's as simple as that. If you go in thinking, He's going to rob me, catch, stab me, you know, whatever, then you have your defenses up. Whereas if you go in with a smile and that's stupid, you know, they usually help you. Well, I can't think of any occasion when I have felt uncomfortable, actually. [00:38:00] Yeah, well, crossing Serbia during a ceasefire in 1994, would it be? That was a bit hairy. Because I got to the border, and they all got collateral costs, you know. I had the right documentation. But, I showed them, they said, what's that? I said, it's a map, you know, I said, I'm going there, I'm going there. And they obviously wanted to keep the map. I said, I need it, you know. And they had my passport, and I said, get the map back, get the map back. He was sort of a sweaty and unshaven military guy. Well, this is a bit serious. I said, I need my passport, please. So I smiled and was very polite, never lose your temper, you know, because otherwise you're there forever and he did give me my passport, and it was a, I was very relieved to get over that bit of no man's land into Greece. But that was, it wasn't the people. The people were fine. It was the official, the military official, who was a bit iffy, you [00:39:00] know. But nothing happened. It was all right.

Scott Brady: So, that's an interesting point in time. So, when you were on that side of the Adriatic. I was on the other side of the Adriatic. Because I was in the U. S. Air Force. And I was stationed in San Vito in Southern Italy. During the whole Slobodan Milosevic, the whole Bosnia.

Toby Savage: Nice posting. Yeah, Italy.

Scott Brady: It was a nice posting. So, we were, we were both on, and I was there in 1994. So, it would have been.

Toby Savage: About the same time, yeah. Yeah, yeah, it was just that window of opportunity to get across. And I borrowed again, Land Rover lent me a P38 diesel. Yeah. Wow.

Scott Brady: Fantastic. Fantastic. Yeah. It was good fun.

Toby Savage: One of the things that I love to ask in the podcast is your favorite books. Are there anything, like, any books that you've read, even if they're totally quirky, out in the middle of nowhere? [00:40:00]

Toby Savage: Yeah, it was Ralph Bagnall's, trips through Libya that he wrote in, I think he must have written it just after the war. Travels in a Dead World or something, where he was describing their trips across the Sinai and down into the Sand Sea. And I was reading that whilst traversing that terrain in 1999.

Scott Brady: Incredible.

Toby Savage: You know, he'd be writing about somewhere, I'd think, Yep, I'm there. Yeah, so that, that, that work by Bagnall was really good.

Scott Brady: That sounds like a great one.

Toby Savage: Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's, In fact, I just remembered, you'd remind me actually, I lent it to Ben Stowe, who does Land Rover work, up in Yorkshire, he's got it.It's not even mine, it belongs to, an archaeologist. So, so, so, If you see this, Ruth, I'll get it back. Yeah, so that, yeah, that was definitely good. It's a great book to read whilst there.

Scott Brady: Yeah, for sure. So, so what's next for you? What's next on your plan?

Toby Savage: I'm thinking of a bit of a change of direction. Because [00:41:00] the old age thing, you can't avoid it. You know, I'm not... The Land Rover, the CarrowWagon is fantastic, but everything's a bit heavier. Changing a wheel is heavy. Putting the roof up with its solar panels on is heavy. It's easy to drive, but I'm thinking if I reach the end of my time with this big, heavy Land Rover. So At the moment it's just a plan that might happen this year, but I think I'll sell the bike anyway, which is the plan anyway, sell the CarrowWagon and then sell the Audi that's out here, and buy a VW camper. You can get a 4x4 one, synchro. With a good camper conversion. And it'll be a lot of money, but it'll be so easy.

Scott Brady: Yeah, you'll be set.

Toby Savage: Yeah, and I'll still be able to do trips, but at 40 miles per gallon, 70 miles an hour. And it'll be lighter. Everything will be lighter. So it's, it's, it's sort of giving into old age a bit. But I see it as a new chapter, really. You know when you buy something new, you're a bit more keen to do things on? [00:42:00] You buy a new camera, suddenly you take 5, 000 pictures. You buy a new car, you drive, or you buy a new motorbike, you're out on it. So I need that stimulus, so I'll keep the 48 Land Rover, because that's part of my life. But the CarrowWagon, which I've had for 25 years, I think it's days are done really. Because, you know, this summer.
Scott Brady: Someone else can use it.

Toby Savage: Someone else, it needs to be on a trip, you know, it's ready to go. And then I'll, you know, then I'll move that money into the Volkswagen. Sounds a bit boring and a bit sort of granddaddish, but, you know, I'm, I'm not, forty years ago, I mean, I'm nearly 70, and whilst I'm in pretty good nick, I can still be seeing myself doing it when I'm 80. And the last ten years have gone by like that.

Scott Brady:I know, it's unbelievable.

Toby Savage: Yeah, yeah, so.

Scott Brady: Unbelievable how fast it goes.

Toby Savage: Yeah, changes have to be made. I think it's better to be ahead of the game rather than behind it.

Scott Brady: Yeah, playing for it. I saw an interview with Michael Caine, an old [00:43:00] one, where it was Billy Connolly and they were talking about drinking wine. And Billy Connolly was at the time, this was probably 20 years ago, but he was quite a big drinker. And, and Michael Parkinson said to Michael Caine, I said, well how do you, how are you on drinking? He said, well, I've cut right down. I just, I have a couple of glasses a night. He said, because I don't want to get to the stage where the doctor says. You've got to stop drinking. So I'm a bit like that. I don't want to dictate you've got to stop doing these trips. Which I still do anyway. But if I make the trips easier. On me, then I can carry on doing stuff.

Scott Brady: I think that's a great lesson then. It's, it's also the nature of life. We, we, we change.

Toby Savage: Sadly, yeah.

Scott Brady: Our needs change, yeah, for sure.

Toby Savage: Yeah, we, you know, you're still thinking it, but the body is less able to do these things.

Scott Brady: Yeah, sure. Yeah, no, absolutely.

Toby Savage: Having said that, we're off cycling around the vineyards of Burgundy next week.

Scott Brady: That's how you're staying in good Nick?

Toby Savage: Well, yeah, because you're doing, doing that, I get an adequate amount of exercise. You can always get more, but [00:44:00] yeah.

Scott Brady: Oh, that's great. I still do. Yeah, now how, how do people find out more about your adventures? Any books that you've been featured in or?

Toby Savage: I'm a regular contributor to Classic Land Rover Magazine, which is grumpy old blokes writing about rusty old Land Rovers. But we have a good time and we're all mates and the magazine sells pretty well. But, I've also started building up a YouTube channel. Films I've made over the last 30 years anything down to a very precise five minutes, so nothing too long and it's called I should be back on the 10th Which is a sort of random date as I used to give to wives and partners meaning I might be back. Yes, yes.

Scott Brady: And they may or may not be there when you get back. That's good.

Toby Savage: Funnily enough, yeah. They've all been pretty understanding really. But, yeah, so the YouTube channel is sort of growing very slowly. I don't push it much, but it's good fun doing it.

Scott Brady: So [00:45:00] the name of the YouTube channel is I'll be back on the 10th.

Toby Savage: I should be back on the 10th.

Scott Brady: I should be back on the 10th.

Toby Savage: Yeah, so if you put that into YouTube, it should come up with a few.

Scott Brady: Toby, it's been such a pleasure to spend time with you. It was great to go to the pub and have a pint and catch up. Your travels have been a great inspiration to me and so many others. The work that you've put into Overland Journal, it's all incredible stories. And, you know, people can buy the back issues with your long ranger.

Toby Savage: The LRDG, yeah.

Scott Brady: The Long Range Desert Group. And other stories that you've done for us as well.

Toby Savage: Yeah, I did the Libyan stuff.

Scott Brady: That's right, and that was just fantastic.

Toby Savage: Well, as I said earlier, I took a picture there out in the desert and I knew you'd use it. It was the sort of picture no one else would use. It had the carcass of a lamb hanging in the foreground. It had just been slaughtered. We were like, I don't know, three days out.

Scott Brady: Sure. I love it. Yeah. I love it.

Toby Savage: It's been a great pleasure, Scott. And you've [00:46:00] brought out the memories that I've had in there, so thank you very much.

Scott Brady: No, thank you, Toby. And we thank you all for listening, and we'll talk to you next time.