Hey there Travel Tarters. Today I’ve got an interview with Riku Rantala and Tuomas ‘Tunna’ Milonoff from the really cool and out there television series called ‘Madventures‘ which is shown on the Travel Channel. These Finnish guys do ‘real’ backpacking – and definitely re-define the term ‘off the beaten path’. They do all sorts of crazy stuff on their journeys, and they film everything themselves.
Anyway, they were crazy enough to want to talk to me about the show, so here it is!
The Madventures Chat with Riku and Tunna!
The Travel Tart: Hi Riku and Tunna, thanks for the opportunity to chat. If you were able describe yourselves in a paragraph, what would be your silliest description?
Riku: I don’t know about the silliest, but we are two guys who travel the world on the cheap in order to keep the experience authentic. Perhaps the silly part is, we use a lot of time, effort and money to make the documentations of these trips the highest quality possible.
The Travel Tart: How did you come up with the Madventures concept? Most of my silly travel ideas are usually produced after a few beers!
Riku: We have always been interested in different cultures. We were travellers long before we had a travel show. Bringing the camera along for the ride was natural progression.
Tunna: I was working in directing and cinematography. Riku was a crime reporter. When we decided to travel around the world in eight months, documenting the journey was a no-brainer, really. That material became the first season of Madventures.
Riku: It was a combination of gonzo journalism, cinema, classic travelogue, humor and social consciousness – I’m not sure that’s what we were after, but after all that time on the road, that’s how it turned out. So that’s how we came up with the Madventures concept – by travelling.
Tunna: But we have to admit, most of the planning was originally done at nighttime in a local pub in Helsinki’s Kallio district, where the beer is cheap and bad.
The Travel Tart: You guys go to places that package tourists would avoid like the plague. There’s a few on the list there that some might see as having a ‘high likelihood of a fatal visit’. With all the off-the-beaten-path destinations that you have visited you must have found yourselves in your fair share of ‘hairy situations’. From the Aghori who tried to force feed you chickens blood during puja to the miss-firing bazooka missile in Cambodia. What would you consider biggest ‘crap your pants’ moment that you have been in and what advice would you give to anyone else who found themselves in similar circumstances?
Tunna: In Rio de Janeiro’s Rocinha favela we were greeted by coked-up teenage gangbangers with AK-47’s who ruled the place. You could feel the crosshairs on your back during the whole stay.
Riku: The gang members liked to mix their marching powder with straight vodka. They were totally out of it even at noon when we arrived, shoving automatic weapons at our faces. Very unpredictable chaps.
Tunna: There actually was almost a literal “crap your pants” moment, when one of the guns was fired during our interview of one of the gang leaders.
Riku: Luckily, they weren’t shooting at us. You see, the gang has this little eagle’s nest at the top of the hill, where they can see the whole shanty town. If the denizens are unruly, every now and then the gangmembers dispense a little sniper rifle justice.
Tunna: Yeah, Rocinha was scary, and so was Yemen. Kidnapping the westerners is a bit of a national sport among some tribes there – though most of the country is actually pretty safe for a traveller.
The Travel Tart: Do you (Riku) still have the 1 carrat diamond that you had surgically implanted in your arm for travel insurance? And if so, have you ever come close to having to use it?
Riku: The diamond’s long gone by now, but don’t tell Tunna.
The Travel Tart: During the show, you have a ‘MadCook’ section where you try to eat the most unusual (and sometimes disgusting) dishes of the world. We have witnessed you ‘cowboy up’ on monkey brains in the amazon jungle and chow down on a “sashimi-like” sheeps liver with the Bedouin people. I’ve eaten some weird crap like Cow’s Nose with Peanut Sauce in Indonesia and Guinea Pig in Peru, but what’s been the most vile food you have ever eaten that hasn’t left you sitting on the toilet for a few weeks?
Riku: The worst one we found close to home. Our dear neighbours the Swedes have this thing called Surströmming, fermented Baltic herring. Basically, it’s rotten fish in a can.
Tunna: The can should always be opened underwater, because of the pressure that has built up during the year-long fermentation process, but also to keep the pungent odor at bay.
Riku: There’s no nice way to describe the smell – it’s a combination between heated urine and dead person’s farts. Should you visit Sweden, you can find this treat in supermarkets. You’ll find a clip about this from our Mad Cook spinoff-television series in YouTube.
The Travel Tart: With your combination of creative, quality film-making and compelling story lines it is often easy to forget (and quite amazing to realize) that Madventures is captured with no major production crew. What production equipment do you travel with and what difficulties have you encountered along the way.
Tunna: Just the camera, a few lenses, some clip-on microphones. Very basic stuff. Lots of batteries and shock-proof flash drives to keep double copies – the other backup we always keep hidden.
Riku: When we went to Myanmar, everything had to be disassembled before the border-crossing, because no foreign press were allowed in the country. We hid the individual pieces of tech in our clothes and bags and got over the border. We got a hotel room in Yangon and proceeded to put the camera back together again. At some point of that endeavour we realized, the hotel was owned by the government and was probably bugged with hidden microphones.
Tunna: Whoever was eavesdropping didn’t speak Finnish, since we were not arrested at once. We did find another lodging after that.
The Travel Tart: I’m guessing that because you are both based in Finland, that you would use the national carrier Finnair quite a bit. They made headlines a couple of years back because they were offering plastic surgery as one of their frequent flyer program benefits. A couple of hundred thousand points for a boob job! I wrote a silly post on some alternative names for the program which I thought would be more adept! (see ) Do you know of anyone who’s actually taken them up on the offer and burned some points in exchange for some cosmetic surgery?
Tunna: I’ve never even heard of that, wow.
Riku: Sometimes when you’ve been staring at your mate’s mug for months on end, little plastic surgery might come in handy.
Tunna: Riku doesn’t need a boob job, he’s well-equipped in that department as is.
The Travel Tart: Just to prove that the world is indeed a small place, one of my mates told me about Madventures which made me want to investigate further (check out his travel videos at Curious Drifter). Ironically, he dated a Finnish girl who Riku went to school with. She thought my mate was a Madventures groupie because he kept asking her what Riku was like! Anyway, I think he does have a man crush on both of you because he loves the show so much! On your travels, do you often bump into some of your fans, and does this lead to some crazy experiences?
Riku: Wondering who that classmate chick is, hopefully she’s still getting to travel! Sad to say – or glad to say – we rarely ever bump into fans on our travels. It’s Finns mostly, who recognize us. These encounters are more along the lines of fellow countrymen meeting abroad, changing vital information about the destination we happen to be sharing. If it leads to a toast or two, so be it. As an Aussie I’m sure you understand, since our nations seem to have that in common – the appreciation of fine distillery products.
Tunna: But we get loads of feedback through Facebook & Twitter from our international fans. It really means a lot to us. Messages for example from all over the Indian subcontinent, Arabian peninsula and from all the main islands in Indonesia make us happy
The Travel Tart: There is a Pakistani reality game show also called Madventures (which is based on Fear Factor, where contestants try to win something big by facing and sometimes conquering their biggest fear). I was wondering if you thought of auditioning for the show just for the hell of it! Now that would be ironic!
Riku: Sometimes life on the road definitely feels like a Pakistani reality game show.
The Travel Tart: If you could host a party for 5 people that you have met on your travels, who would they be, what would you serve to eat and drink, and how would you entertain them?
Riku/Tunna: OK, this is not an easy one! There’s so many interesting people we’ve met and so many we’d love to party with: all the great guys and girls around the world who’ve helped us on the way! It’s just impossible to pick up a few. We’d serve some Finnish delicacies, fresh fish, rye bread, game, mushrooms and berries with cold beer, frozen vodka and lingonberry juice. The entertainment? Like the Finnish saying goes, did we come here to drink or to enjoy?
The Travel Tart: What Madventures do you have planned for the future?
Riku: Right now we are in the middle of our new series Docventures for the Finnish Broadcasting Company. It’s a 360-degrees multimedia mutant of a programme, a combination of a late night chat show and a carte blanche movie club, where we watch and discuss the best documentary films in the world. Next we’ll present the great feature docu The Act Of Killing in it’s Finnish tv-premiere. We’re quite sure that film’s going to win something in the 2014 Oscars.
The Travel Tart: Finally, I ask all people I chat to where and when did you discover that you loved travelling?
Riku: As long as I remember, it has always been there, the wanderlust.
Tunna: The longing to see what’s over the horizon – I don’t think it will ever go away, really.
The Travel Tart: Thanks for your time, and please have some more Madventures!
Cool, I’d love to meet these guys in person! But check out their TV shows, they’re great!