Long Way Down: Through Europe and Africa by Motorcycle

A few years back I happened to stumbled upon a book called Long Way Round, by movie star friends Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman. It was the personal account of their east-bound trip around the world, from London to New York, by motorcycle. I bought the book to give as a gift to my brother who has a passion for both travel and motorcycles — it seemed like a perfect fit. Before his birthday rolled around, I sat down to read the book first (like any self-respecting cheapskate would do). Long Way Round started off solid: discussing their route, planning the trip, working out the visas, but then they decided to bring along a camera crew and document the trip.

Great, I thought. A couple more movie stars traveling the world with video cameras. The idea sounded lame, but I pressed on and finished the book. The story turned out to be pretty good, and definitely compelling, though I couldn’t escape the fact that Ewan and Charley’s “adventure” seem spoiled by a trailing camera crew. I wondered how much of an adventure it really could be with camera men, producers, directors, and whoever else following them around. And the fact they were movie stars made me think they used their money to make the trip a lot easier than it would be for the average Joe.

It didn’t occur to me until about a year later that — hey! — since there was a camera crew following them, I could probably watch the book. I did some research and found that Long Way Round (the show) aired on Britain’s Sky One in 2004, and went to DVD in 2005. I ordered the DVD from Amazon, and was blown away when I sat down to watch. This was easily the most interesting, compelling, funny, adventure-inspiring show I had ever watched. And you know what? Ewan and Charlie really did do all the hard work. They pot-marked roads didn’t treat them like celebrities; remote Mongolian farmers didn’t know who they were. They struggled, they endured the pain and homesickness, and traveled like the best of them. I was truly impressed.

This is why I was so excited yesterday to find out that Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman are teaming up again for another adventure. This month the two will set out — camera crew in-tow once again — from John O’Groats, Scotland and ride their BMW R 1200 GS Adventure motorcycles to the southernmost tip of Africa, Cape Agulhas. The show, dubbed Long Way Down, will premiere on BBC in Autumn/Winter 2007, but those of us outside of Britain (or without fancy satellite television systems) might have to wait for the DVD release.

You can sign up for email alerts on LongWayDown.com, as well as view some video of Ewan and Charlie talking about the upcoming trip.

Related: Talking Travel with Lois Pryce (she roder her motorcycle from the northern tip of Alaska to the southern most point of Argentina — 20,000 miles in 10 months, passing through 14 different countries)