Apparently, conquering the world’s largest continent was not enough of for everyone’s favorite English duo. Pushing the envelope of modern adventure, Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman continue their motorcycle escapades in the television series “Long Way Down”.This time, the lines drawn on the map lead from the northern tip of Scotland to the southernmost coast of South Africa. Three years after their first adventure, “Long Way Down” takes on fourteen of the African countries. That’s right. I said fourteen.
After traversing Asia end-to-end with Charley and Ewan in “Long Way Round” the twosome have become our friends. First name basis sort of friends. As a viewer, you share the enthusiasm and the excitement for a new “Long Way” trip. The same chemistry and wonder that made the original series so captivating is back and while certain things are different (the crew cars have logos, they are more experienced) it just takes an episode to get back into the same groove as before and you realize that it’s just the same two guys on a new road.
Traveling south from John o’Groats in Scotland, Charley and Ewan make their way into Italy where they take a ferry from Sicily to Tunisia in northern Africa. From here our friends ride east-words across North Africa into Egypt where they begin to travel south into Sub-Saharan Africa. Once at Malawi, the itinerary points west-word towards Nambia and finally to South Africa where they reach the southernmost point of Africa, Cape Agulhas, before their final destination in Cape Town. Eighteen countries in all. Border crossings were, once again, smoother than expected with the only real jolt of plans being that the two American citizens of the support crew could not get entry visa’s into Libya and had to leapfrog into Egypt from Tunisia.
Amidst the various scenes that Africa is so well known for (and some less known), the pair once again take the opportunity to visit various UNICEF humanitarian efforts in Ethiopia, Uganda and Malawi. The AIDS epidemic and some of the African political struggles are highlighted in both the UNICEF involvement and in some of their own experiences as they travel through the continent. Unplanned and unscripted, the crew visited with the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, where a greater understanding to the genocide of 1994 was gained. One of the most touching moments of the series was the UNICEF projects aiding the victims (primarily children) of land-mines in Ethiopia. The emotions experienced through their journey was as varied and complex as Africa itself.
The odyssey through Africa resulted in some of the most beautiful and stunning scenes captured through camera. Specifically in Sub-Sahara, the dialog of the boys consisted mainly of “Ohhs” and “Ahhs” where the narrating of the adventure was left to the footage alone. The footage is amazing on it’s own, but contextually different then any other movie or documentary depicting scenes in Africa. The context that you watch them travel, mile by mile, to get to the jungle brings to the viewers a very different perspective compared to a movie where, for example, in one scene you are in New York City and the next, magically through the power of the fade, you appear in Africa.
Unfortunately, while it seems Charley and Ewan have gained a lot of experience riding their bikes cross continents, I was disappointed to notice that they did not slow down their pace. Quite the opposite, they actually attempted to cram more stops and were constantly in a hurry, particularly in North Africa where it was crucial for them to get to a ferry that only runs once a week. Just as in the first series, the crew feels the pain of having to put so many miles per day and not taking the time to enjoy the trip. New to “Long Way Down”, for a rather small segment of the trip Ewan’s wife, Eve, rode with them on her own motorcycle. While I understand Ewan’s desire to take his wife on a trip of a lifetime, I have to admit it definitely changed the chemistry of the show for the brief period where she tagged along.
Charley and Ewan continue to inspire us through their journeys and keeps their fans waiting for the next “Long Way” adventure so that we can hop on the back of their motorcycles and see the world through a new perspective. The ten episode series is available on Netflix and the complete 3-DVD series
(affiliate link) can be purchased on Amazon by itself or via the Long Way Round 8-DVD Box Set (affiliate link) along with their other adventures: Long Way Round and Race to Dakar. There is a bit of speculation around the net with regards to their next big adventure, and it’s easy to see why. The series has consistently brought viewers into a new experience unlike any other travel documentary before.