I just had one of the most extraordinary days on The Road of Bones. We started at 7:30 and we didn’t stop for a break ’til 6:30 this evening. They were twelve of the most exciting hours of motorcycling I’ve ever done in my life, unbelievable. The roads were just deteriorated and deteriorated. We were riding on mud, gravel, and puddles, and pot holes, and rivers, and bogs. It was just everything thrown at us at once. – Ewan McGregor
“Adventure” is one of those interesting words. It really means something different to everyone. There are adventure movies, adventure books, and adventure sports, and then there are adventure toys and adventure games. Each of these carrying a different definition and with each definition a different interpretation. At some point in history, maybe when fewer and fewer discoveries were being made, adventure has become an adjective and not a noun. Most recently, I had the pleasure of coming across what I believe is a genuine adventure, noun, not adjective.
Long Way Round is a modern adventure. The kind of adventures that little boys (and little girls) dream about. The recipe for Long Way Round is fairly simple: two guys, two motorcycles and 19,000 miles. Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman ride their motorcycles from London to New York City. “and what about the Atlantic Ocean!” you exclaim. Assuming they were riding west-word the Atlantic Ocean would be a problem, but these adventurers are riding east-word from Europe, into Asia all the way to eastern Russia into Alaska and continue to New York City – hence the name, “Long Way Round”. All of this documented by a camera crew preparing the adventure in nice neat 45 minute episodes for our enjoyment.
The geeks all know McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star War Movie prequels while everyone else may know him as Christian in Moulin Rouge or the padre in Angels and Demons. Boorman, also an actor, carries fewer blockbusters in his portfolio. These two have a very rare on-screen chemistry that has the viewer cheering them along through every episode. Both are quite charming their own way and together there is a “bromance” that rivals any that I have seen. The production is also stellar – giving viewers an insight into their pains and joys as if you were riding right there along them through the rocky roads and washed out bridges. You can’t help but reflect the enthusiasm of this adventure.
McGregor and Boorman check off twelve countries from their list in this adventure. The starting country, UK to France, Belgium, Germany and Czech Republic make up the European countries leading into Slovakia, Ukraine, Russia (including Siberia), Kazakhstan, Mongolia in Asia and the North American countries of Canada and USA finish off their journey. Pavement (or lack thereof) was not the only thing that they came into contact with. The dynamic duo made various stops at UNICEF projects to support and bring attention to them including an orphanage in Ukraine dealing with the aftermath of the Chernobyl Disaster, a youth center in Kazakhstan and a community project working with the orphaned children living in the streets of Mongolia. While this could have of easily been a face put up for the viewers, both McGregor and Boorman share personal stories of how each of UNICEF’s efforts impact them. It is worthwhile noting that the McGregor family adopted a Mongolian child a few years after the completion of the series.
In the ten-episode series, they made stops at various sights, villages, and cities. They were invited into the homes of locals in more than one occasion – giving them, and the viewers, an insight into various cultures from west to east. Border crossings were also documented, shining a light on the process that is often thought of as very complicated and tedious and sometimes this proves to be true, but more often not. As with any adventure, a number of things did not go according to plan, risks were made as often as friends and in the end, it was all very remarkable. The only criticism I have of the series is that sometimes their travels felt very rushed. A feeling that is shared by the both Boorman and McGregor. McGregor mentions it on more than one occasion in his desires to slow down and take in the experience. Very much in agreement with the philosophies of Rolf Potts.
“Long Way Round“ while being a modern documentary, brought back the old-school meaning of adventure and the series takes viewers through every step; from the crucial planning to the highly anticipated outcome. The series can seen via Netflix (although at the time of writing this it is not available to watch instantly). The original series has been discontinued, it is now packaged together with their follow up adventures “Long Way Down” and “Race to Dakar” and can be purchased from Amazon as the Long Way Round 8 DVD Box Set (affiliate link).
Ewan and Charley are a great inspiration reminding us that true adventure still exists and that the impossible is always possible. We just have to go out there and conquer our fears and put those that say is impossible in their place.