Long Way Down – John O’Groats to Capetown

Story by Stu Seaton//
May 1 2008

Ewan McGregor & Charley Boorman

A good book can always help fill the void when Mother Nature says ‘nada’ to Canadian motorcycle freedom. In this case, Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman come to the rescue with ‘Long Way Down,’ a story of their ride from the town of John O’Groats at the northernmost tip of Scotland to Cape Agulhas on the southernmost tip of South Africa that will quite possibly leave you with sand in your shorts.

Prior to investing a couple of leisurely evenings with this book, you need to put the whole package into context. To say it’s a hard core adventure ride report would be a misnomer. To say that Long Way Down is an adventurous ride through some strange lands that highlight very worthy causes would be spot on and this is where ‘context’ comes really into play. Don’t expect to read about trials and hardship of the most severe kind, because both Ewan and Charlie have something available to them that’s only a fleeting dream to most ‘adventure’ riders; money…bags-o-money. To be fair, one needs to couple copious amounts of dough with two guys that have a rock solid history as credible, personable and very capable riders. Add all this together and sponsorships towards the costs of a very expensive expedition seem to follow. Let’s face it, Ted Simons (Jupiter’s Travels) or Glen Heggstad (Two Wheels through Terror) never travelled with local fixers, paramedics, trucks loaded with spares, camera crews or a very competent producer (Russ Malkin) armed with a satellite phone pre-loaded with some pretty impressive telephone numbers. It is however, by anyone’s standards a damn fine ride and a very captivating read.

For those that recall Long Way Round, Long Way Down is a more polished version of a different geography and acute demographics. You can tell that all the participants have crawled up the ‘adventure ride’ learning curve and factored all the past nasty experiences into future solutions. Ewan and Charlie share the story telling from their own view point, which comes off as refreshing, unique and sometimes poignant. It struck me as a very truthful tale that at times lays the authors hearts open.

The ride highlights areas that have some nasty reputations which turn out to be somewhat overblown; it also features some genuine humanitarian work that by any standard deserves our support.

Long Way Down is a fine story and very much worth the price. Pick a miserable weekend and read it, you’ll be glad you did.

Now, I just need to figure out how much of this Africa trip that I’m envisioning is really gonna cost. What can I say, once the thought enters my brain it just stinks up the whole place by saying: “don’t just read about it…Do it!”

Sounds like sage advice to me. MMM

Long Way Down is 320 pages in paperback and is available at Chapters for $19.80.

Sphere HB ISBN 978-1-84744-053-2

Reviewed by Stu Seaton


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