September 2, 2010

779 words 4 mins read

Long Way Round and Long Way Down

Recently, I watched Long Way Down, which is the sequel to Long Way Round. Both of these star Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman. You probably recognize the first name, but possibly not the second (unless you are a huge fan of Deliverance).

I’m not sure if a documentary about guys riding around the world is really something that can be spoiled (after all they are still alive, obviously didn’t die as part of it), but if you feel it could be spoiled, then be advised this will contain spoilers.

In Long Way Round, Ewan and Charlie start out in London and then drive east… all the way around the world on motorcycles. During the first part of the series they are discussing what bikes to use; Ewan wants to use

BMWs, while Charlie wants KTM (a brand I knew nothing about, apparently they are an Austrian company that makes motocross/off-road bikes). Ewan acquiesces to Charlie’s request and the Long Way Round team goes and talks with KTM. KTM after learning what they are trying to do opts to NOT provide bikes to them as they think they will fail and it would look very bad for the brand. Charlie gets super pissed (which is of course part of the show), but then agrees that they should instead get BMWs. The bikes are the very beautiful BMW R1150GS Adventure.

Their is a third biker with them, Claudio, who is their cameraman and rides with them. They also have 2 SUVs filled with support personnel (including the director and a doctor). Throughout the show they encounter a variety of people and situations, the former are in general very welcoming and more often than not they ended up spending the night in someone’s house, rather than at a hotel. The situations (specifically the off-roading) do get very trying for everyone, but thanks to the technical expertise they gained before the trip, they are able to surmount all the obstacles they are presented with.

Toward the last part of the trip, they get a few other bikers joining them, forming a small gang, if you will. The last episode has some teasing about them wanting to do this again, which is what lead to the Long Way Down.

Long Way Down once more sees Ewan and Charlie on BMWs, though this time they are riding BMW R1200GS Adventures (the successor to their previous bike). This time the journey is from John O’Groats, Scotland to Cape Agulhas in South Africa.

The situations in this series were a bit more problematic, specifically, trying to organize so many border crossings (which required delays of up to 12 hours). Additionally, at the start of the series, Charlie decided “to use the ‘bomb’ word” in the airport while leaving England, which of course caused a major ruckus. Most of the crew went on without him and he was eventually released without charge. It doesn’t happen very often, but throughout this show and the last you see Charlie acting like the big time movie star, demanding various things and causing various problems (such as accidentally splashing petrol in Ewan’s eyes, repeatedly), whereas Ewan acts so congenially that he really comes off as just an incredibly nice person, a real everyman.

Partway through the journey, Ewan’s wife, Eve, meets up with them and rides with them for a bit. Her personality is similar to Ewan’s and I think she really helps us all to understand how we would react in that situation (riding for hours and spending the night in a random village by the side of the road, for instance).

In the final bit of the show, as Ewan and Charlie arrive in South Africa they are followed by a very large number of motorcycles. Some of the shots they show… you can’t see the end of the line. This is a gang of motorcycles.

In summary: 2 guys riding BMW Bikes show us an adventure. These guys did not ride alone and they did have support personnel and vehicles with them. This means it isn’t something you or I could do by ourselves. As much as Jon and I like riding our bikes (and we are fairly decent at it), we would not be able to attempt this journey. I’d say the most we could do is cross country. Personally, I’m fine with that.

Lastly, if you’d like more info about these trips, I invite you to take a look at the movies or read the books: Long Way Round and Long Way Down.

(Note: Added to Category: Stupid Companies, because KTM lost out on a lot of business and publicity when they shot down Ewan and Charlie)