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Series / Long Way Round

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Long Way Round is a travelogue series starring Ewan McGregor and his good friend and fellow actor Charley Boorman. There have been three editions:

  • Long Way Round (2004), in which McGregor and Boorman travel from London to New York—not by flying on a plane or anything, but by hopping on their motorbikes and traveling east, all the way across Europe and Asia and North America, visiting thirteen countries and traveling 18,887 miles. Countries visited included the UK, France, Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, the United States, and Canada.
  • Long Way Down (2007), in which the motorbike-crazy duo ride from John O'Groats at the northern tip of Britain to Cape Town, South Africa. Countries visited included the UK, France, Italy, Tunisia, Libya, The Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa.
  • Long Way Up (2020), in which the two reunite and travel north from Tierra del Fuego in Argentina, through Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico. Unlike their previous trips, they don't travel as far as they can but stop in Los Angeles, Californianote . Also, McGregor, Boorman, and their team chose to use all-electric vehicles (including prototype bikes from Harley-Davidson) for this trip, which added the challenge of finding suitable overnight charging locations in remote areas with limited infrastructure.

The series features a theme performed by Kelly Jones of Stereophonics. The lyrics are slightly altered for each iteration to incorporate the changes in title.

Boorman has gone on to film solo travel series entitled By Any Means and Right to the Edge: Sydney to Tokyo By Any Means.

These travel series provide examples of:

  • Amusing Injuries: Ewan's body reacts poorly to mosquito bites. One got him on the forehead, causing his face to swell into a "manimal" appearance. He also shows off several bites on his butt and mentions bites on his penis.
  • Artistic License – Physics: When they hit the Equator in Kenya, Ewan and Charley watch a demonstration of the Coriolis effect (how water goes down a drain in opposite directions in the Northern and Southern hemispheres). Charley admits via voiceover that they later found out they were fooled; twenty meters on either side of the Equator is not enough to make any difference to water drainage.
  • Advertisement:
  • Awesome, but Impractical: It would have been easier to just fly to New York, wouldn't it?
  • Badass Biker: Yup.
  • Broken Pedestal: Charley heavily lobbied for he and Ewan to ride KTM bikes and eagerly expected that a company that marketed itself as the premiere off-road motorcycle company would support them on their adventure. He was shocked to hear that KTM decided to pass on sponsoring the trip and was furious to learn that the company justified the decision by saying that KTM didn't want to support a project that could possibly fail. Charley could then be seen angrily ripping down the KTM posters he'd hung around Long Way Round's production offices.
  • Circumcision Angst: Ewan and Charley spend the night with a Kenyan tribe that is getting ready to circumcise its young males. Charley in particular is bothered by the description of the ritual.
  • Confession Cam: Or, rather, video diaries.
  • Cool Car: In the second episode of Long Way Down the group camps for the night inside Silverstone Circuit, a race track in England. Ewan and Charley get driven around in some racing Ferraris the next morning.
  • Crazy-Prepared
    • The special ten-episode edition of Long Way Round spends all of the first two episodes on preparation. Boorman and McGregor practice not only off-road riding and camping, but more unusual situations like how to give a bribe and how to escape ambush by bandits.
      • Also their equipment. Locals who repair the cameraman's bike laugh that they have such a great set of tools yet no clue how to use them. They ditch some of their gear midway due to excessive weight.
    • In Long Way Down they do things like work out with a strength and conditioning coach and practice what to do if they are taken hostage.
  • Creepy Cathedral:
    • The "Church of Bones" (Sedlec Ossuary) in the Czech Republic.
    • In Rwanda they visit a church, since made into a memorial museum, where Tutsi refugees were massacred during the 1994 genocide. There are bones piled everywhere as well as the clothes of the dead.
  • Crossover: Ewan and Charley meet the fellows from American Chopper and ride with them for the last few miles to New York City.
  • Darkest Hour: The dirt "roads" of western Mongolia—rock-strewn trails in the higher elevations and bike-swallowing mud ruts in the lower elevations—prove so tough that Boorman and McGregor briefly consider abandoning Mongolia for Russia and its more reliable roads. When they finally reach tarmac, Boorman lies face down on the ground and kisses the road.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: At one point in Long Way Round Boorman says that he is sleeping in a separate tent because he wants to wank in private.
  • Dented Iron: As shown in the first episode of Long Way Up, Charley Boorman broke his pelvis during pre-production while recovering from two broken legs from a prior road accident. As a result of his injuries, one leg is shorter than the other, leaving him with a permanent limp.
  • Description Cut: McGregor pronounces the Siberian town of Tynda "grim" and wonders "What do they do here?". Cut to Ewan and Charley getting down in a Tynda disco.
  • Farts on Fire: Charley Boorman actually does this in Italy. Yes, he really does.
  • Foreign Queasine: A roasted sheep's head in Kazakhstan; assorted animal testicles in Mongolia.
  • For Science!: Part of the goal of Long Way Up was to see if a long-distance trek through remote territories with sparse infrastrucutre could be undertaken with all-electric vehicles. In support of this, Harley-Davidson provides two specially made touring bikes while Rivian accelerates its development timetable to give the production team the first two trucks they ever built. Because everything had to move quickly to meet a tight shooting window, proper testing of the bikes and trucks wasn't possible, meaning the trip itself became a proving ground for the vehicles.
  • For Want of a Nail: In Up, Ewan recounts the rough terrain he and Charley had to endure in Mongolia and how they seriously considered turning north to ride on better roads in Russia. If they'd done so, they'd have never gone to Ulaanbataar and visited an orphanage where Ewan met a toddler whom he adopted. He's amazed and emotional at the thought of how one turn to the left would have meant he'd have never met a daughter he loves so much.
  • Hero of Another Story:
    • In Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia's capital, during Long Way Round, Ewan and Charley arranged to meet Ted Simon, a British travel writer who has circumnavigated the world twice by motorcycle (a 4-year, 64,000 km trip in the 1970s, and then another in the 2000s following more or less the same route) whose book Jupiter's Travels inspired the two to attempt their own journey.
    • In the Long Way Down, they run across a bicyclist named Jason Lewis in Sudan, a British adventurer headed northbound on the same road, who was completing a thirteen-year-journey around the world using only human power. Lewis had crossed the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in a paddleboat. He finished his journey a few months later.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Ewan and Charley.
  • Humble Pie: Charley and Ewan try to refuse a police escort while in Kazakhstan as they're getting tired of being brought to welcoming parties with media coverage and because it goes against their adventuring objective. They're immediately forced to admit that they need protection after someone points a gun at them.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • As the group approaches Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, they reach a rickety-looking bridge. Charley, not trusting the bridge, decides to test whether the river is fordable. As he is wading through the river without any pants on, he looks over and sees a local zipping across the bridge on a motorbike.
      Charley: I look like a right idiot.
    • Happens to him again in Long Way Down, when he got into an argument with a rude airline employee for insulting an economy class passenger for waiting for their flight in the business class lounge. The woman then tells him to move his bag from the wall despite being too few people at the lounge for that to be any sort of problem, prompting Charley to stupidly snap "it's not like there's a bomb in it", which gave her the excuse to call the police on him. It were not for the airline manager and the airport head of security accepting Charley's apology, the trip could have ended before it started and his name could have ended in the no-flight list.
  • Indy Ploy:
    • In Long Way Round, Ewan and Charley have to board a train in Tynda, Russia because the road to Magadan is unfinished and impassible to motorbikes. Train station officials refuse to let them get tickets and load up their bikes in the cargo compartment—so Ewan and Charley ride in the baggage compartment with the bikes.
    • Something similar happens in Long Way Up. Ewan's prototype motorcycle stops working and he decides to cross the Darien Gap in the same cargo plane that will take it to repairs in Costa Rica just in case Harley-Davidson engineers will be able to fix it fast enough for him to ride back to Panama to reunite with Charley without causing further delays to the trip. When told that only employees can travel with the cargo, they arrange for Ewan to get hired for a day by the chartering firm that runs the cargo plane, thus fulfilling the letter of the regulations.
    • Due to security concerns regarding recent cartel-related violence in Mexico during Long Way Up, the team had to find to cross the country without alerting potential robbers or even kidnappers. Their solution was to convert an old school bus into a mix of camper and motorcycle carrier with built-in electric generators to be able to travel almost non-stop until the border while recharging the bikes at night, all while looking like a regular bus for tourism on the outside. The fact they managed to pull off a 2-week conversion in a four days A-Team Montage is a Moment Of Awesome on its own.
  • Irony: In Long Way Up, Ewan is really enthusiastic about testing electric motorcycles in a trip across the american continent due to his fondness of green technologies, while Charley remains unconvinced of their reliability for the first weeks of the trip. By the end of it, though, Ewan's bike malfunctions badly enough that the entire battery unit needs to be replaced, whereas Charley's bike endures the whole trip without complain after they figure out that the batteries won't take a charge if they're near freezing temperatures.
  • Lighter and Softer: Long Way Down is this. In Round Ewan, Charley, and Claudio spent most of the series apart from their support team, except for border crossings, and as a result they ran into some real difficulties. In Down they are continually accompanied by a support truck that includes a security guard and a medic, and local "fixers" help guide the team on their way.
  • The Mafiya: The travelers are warned of this when entering Ukraine. After going further in Ukraine, they are invited to stay by a local electronics salesman who seems unusually prosperous and has a startlingly large collection of automatic weapons. (The scene where their host comes down the stairs sporting a guitar and a Kalashnikov is a highlight.)
  • Manly Tears:
    • Ewan cries as they cross the bridge over the Hudson River to New York.
    • During Long Way Up, Ewan recounts the story of how he adopted his youngest daughter after meeting her in an orphanage in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, but that he and Charley had actually considered abandoning their trek through Mongolia because of the rough terrain. He weeps at the thought of never having met someone so important to him if he'd taken a left turn in search of paved roads.
  • Miserable Massage: Ewan and Charley go for a spa massage in Almaty, Kazakhstan to relax them after a grueling ride. In a case of possible cultural differences, they basically get the crap pummeled out of them by two huge guys with stinging soap, and it's about as far from the relaxing experience they wanted as you could imagine.
  • Mood Whiplash: Long Way Up is mostly cheery, with much emphasis being placed on how friendly and helpful everyone is. In Colombia, they take time out of the trip to show how the country is moving past decades of civil war. Then, the group arrives in Mexico, and suddenly local fixers start talking about no-go zones, the treat of kidnap and ransom, and how cartels have lookouts everywhere.
  • Politician Guest Star: In Rwanda they get to meet President Paul Kagame.
  • Previously On…: Each episode begins with a summary of the project and a recap of the trip so far.
  • Product Placement:
    • Defied with KTM. Charley plasters the production offices with KTM posters, fully expecting that the company will sponsor the trip. When KTM rejects the project, Charley rips them down angrily.
    • Played straight with BMW. Ewan, Charley, and Claudio don't just ride BMW bikes. They also wear BMW-branded gear with the logo clearly visible.
    • During Up, lots of attention is given to Harley-Davidson and Rivian and the capabilities of their all-electric vehicles.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: Part of Long Way Up's first episode is dedicated to Ewan and Charley re-establishing their friendship having drifted apart after Long Way Down, followed by the two reuniting with David, Russ, and Claudio from their previous adventures.
  • Running Gag: Ewan and Charley keep decorating Claudio's bike with local souvenirs during the Long Way Up. By the time the arrive to L.A., it looks a bit like parade piece covered by dust.
  • Scenery Porn: The series delivers some beautiful scenery. Ewan and Charley marvel at the beauty of Mongolia even as they are driven to the edge of madness by the difficult roads.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Those aren't pillows" (when Ewan and Charley are going to bed in a tent).
    • Appropriately enough, Ewan likes to reference his roles in the Star Wars prequels. After having a little spat with Charley he says "you must do what you think is right" and then exclaims "I can't do it without the cloak!".
    • At one point Ewan calls their little show "Travels With Charley".
  • Sticky Fingers: Thieves are a constant worry on the trips. Charley and Ewan become especially irate when Claudio's camping gear is stolen in Siberia, as they feel stealing someone else's shelter is particularly heinous. Claudio, for his part, takes it in stride. Charley, meanwhile, had his wallet, containing a lot of cash and credit cards, stolen in Canada.
  • That Russian Squat Dance: Briefly seen in Kiev.
  • Travelogue Show
  • Universal Driver's License: Averted with Claudio, their Swiss cameraman and fellow traveler. During preparation for the Long Way Round trip Claudio discovers that his Swiss motorbike license is no good in Britain. He takes a motorbike test and fails. This delay causes him to miss the beginning of the trip. Consequently the first three days of the journey are almost entirely omitted and the filmed journey only picks up after Claudio flies out and meets them in Prague.


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