On Long Way Down

Long Way Down was a good series. Back in 2007, Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman set out on a motorcycle trip from John O’Groats to Cape Town. I just finished reading the accompanying book, that’s been on my book shelf for quite a while.

All in all, it was a good book. It’s laid out as a dialogue between the two, and in general split into chapters at country borders.

I think it is a book where, through the eyes of the authors, you get an idea of what travelling through many different places is like. For me at least; it’s spurred me on to other books, like Ted Simon’s Jupiter’s Travels, the story of another adventure on a Motorbike.

In the process of tweeting about it, I did the (probably stupid) thing of reading the reviews from Amazon. All-in-all, they were pretty awful. Most of them were centred around them being well known elsewhere, or the ghost writing. Others on the convoy they travelled with.

I can certainly agree with some of it, the travelling does feel a little bit over done for what they talked about in both the series and the book. Mostly, the book replays the series, not adding much to the original story.

I think this is a shame. Whilst some come would come to a book to hear about the adventure, I hoped it would come with the hope that it would give a far greater depth. There’s no answer to the ‘Why?’. Why did they pick this route? Why the specific bikes? What about the choice of the rest of the equipment? None of these were answered.

Another point made was the focus on the timetable. Whilst it’s quite easy to plan traveling around somewhere like Europe, travelling through Africa is unpredictable - almost entirely because of the road surfaces. Setting up commitments to meet with Aid Agencies, or ferries seems to me to have been a mistake. Though; I suspect some of this comes from their status, and the filming.

All of these things aside though, it’s a good read. I think it’s a good springboard onto other books, like Jupiter’s Travels, or classics like Thesiger’s Arabian Sands (which I must read).