Long Way Down is a simply subliminal must see documentary series detailing a journey between John O' Groats in Northern Scotland down to the Southernmost tip of South Africa of epic proportions, directed by Russ Malkin and David Alexanian.
It is a follow up to Long Way Round which details a 19000 mile journey on motorbikes from London, through Asia, to New York, in 2004.
The series was filmed in 2007 and features Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman and their BMW R1200GS Adventure motorbikes on the 15,000 mile journey, and of course key members of crew such as a medic, camera folk, a security officer, although they used local repairers whenever they encountered problems with theiir machines.
In the beginning, the team flew from london to John O Groats to begin their journey. Well, apart from Charley Boorman who became delayed after making foolish comments about bombs whilst at the airport and was detained for questioning.
The whole journey sees them of course passing many country borders and this of course does not always go as smoothly as was planned back home in the UK. A setback included American members of crew not being permitted to enter the country of Libya.
The highlight of the series for me personally was when the crew visited a set of Star Wars in Tunisia and Ewan McGregor went completely unnoticed, not a single person recognised or acknowledged his presence which was actually pretty funny.
Many important and interesting historical sites are also passed through, the pyramids of Giza in Egypt, the Victoria Falls in Zambia. They passed through 15 countries in Africa hence the term long way down!!
The series is addictive. You can sit there watching back to back episodes ever so easily. You get a delightful sense of the places where they are currently at. You might think that the whole concept of 2 'rich boys' and their camera crews on such an epic adventure be a little self indulgent but it could not be further from the truth. Ewan and Charley are massively likeable and down to earth. The chemistry between them is engaging.
A major part was Ewan was surprised when his wife suddenly announced that she wanted to join him for a bit on this trip and ends up on a bike with them in Africa. Apparently she had never ridden a motorcycle in her life. "I'm going to learn," she told him, and he told the press that he was thrilled about it. "I just thought it was the most exciting thing." But of course he has to say that, right? Unfortunately, the others in the group were not quite as excited, but it turns out Eve only joined them for a few days, which made everyone happy including me, I found this portion of the series slightly uncomfortable viewing.
Anyone with an interest in travel or maybe motorbikes, or travel using motorbikes, is going to enjoy this. Do not forget the original Long Way Round which is a longer and I feel a bit more detailed experience.
I have to say I honestly love this series. It also gave me a hobby last time I was travelling in Africa, just on the off chance they were repeating the trip! At the most basic level, it's a series about two friends who follow their lifetime ambitions and ride motorbikes from John O'Groats to the tip of South Africa. But one of those friends happens to be Ewan McGregor, which changes the set up somewhat...
This series follows the Long Way Round documentary, when Ewan and his friend, Charley Boorman, rode from London to New York in much the same fashion, with accidents, swearing, and moaning just to shake things up a bit. The Long Way Down series follows in quite a similar style, but with some major differences. I felt the budget for the new series was probably bigger, resulting in a much shinier and what felt like a less spontaneous nature to me. I know that Africa is a different kettle of fish, but it really did feel that the more "basic" nature of the first series was lost, and the support crew took on a much bigger "nanny" role in this one. Whether rightly or wrongly, I won't debate here, but I felt it changed the way I saw the programme.
The motorbike aspect may not appeal to all people, but at the end of the day this is a travel documentary, and there's no ongoing spiel about the technical specifications of the bikes, so I was happy.
I only watched the DVD recently after hearing about it from a friend but can honestly say it was absolutely brilliant. Many people like some people I know didn't want to watch a DVD on which they thought it was just about motorbikes but I can honestly say there is so much more to it than that. It has bits of real good comedy in it and other parts which really make you aware of the history and problems many people African people face. There are some parts that really grip the viewer both seeing some of the effects of the genocide and other parts where Charley and Ewan are just feet from amazing wildlife like gorillas and elephants. Overall I think it is as good as or if not better than the first trip and would recommend it to many audiences as it has some parts that are really quite moving and other parts which are really quite amusing.
This is the second mamouth adventure of best friends Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor as they travel from John O Groates to Cape Town, using their trusted BMW motorcycles.
Despite my huge anticipation for this series after Long Way Down, I was a little dissapointed as this series didn't seem to manage to capture the same sense of adventure as the first series did, it has lost the feeling of two mates out on an adventure.
Many people complained about their extensive use of a back-up crew, which weren't as 'present' in the last series. However, I can understand this as their trip was through Africa, not the safest of places.
There is lots of moaning and groaning in this series which really detracts from the overall spirit of the programme. However, if you buy the extended dvd, the episodes are not so heavily edited and the moaning and groaing is significantly reduced (or you see extra bits explaining and fully justifying their gripes).
Altogether, a great series.
Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman first gave us an insight into their lives as friends when they travelled round the world in Long Way Round. This time, they have made a TV series based on their travels to go from Scotland all the way down to the bottom of South Africa on their motorbikes.
This proves to be a challenging trip, with a plethora of border controls and political problems hitting them along the way, as well as having to fight often against the terrain and even the nightlife. They are not living the life of luxury as they go down, although they are accompanied by a crew for the purposes of staying healthy and being able to plan their route as well as film the entire experience.
In Long Way Round, I half expected to see a little arrogance, but was pleasantly surprised to see how very down to earth and funny they both are, and the same is the case with Long Way Down. The pair make a great team and they are very considerate people. They make good use of the wonderful countries they travel through by stopping regularly to try and understand some of their cultures and how they live, adn it is nice for us to gain an insight into this as well.
There are many elements of comedy as well as sadness, and the contrast of the emotions the two of them experience is quite grounding, as are some of the conditions of the inhabitants of some of the countries they visit.
Long Way Down is a DVD release, shown on 2 discs, and was first released in December 2007. Earlier this year, a special edition was released, with some unseen footage included on the discs. Either copy is worth owning and the documentary is enthralling and interesting. There is also a book out based on Long Way Down. The DVDs are currently available from amazon.co.uk for around the £15 mark and under, a bargain price.
This is a double DVD of the entire television series. It follows Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor on their journey from John O'Groats in the north of Scotland right down to Cape Town in South Africa.
There journey was on BMW GS motorcycles with a support crew in off road cars. It is an excellent documentary especially for those who love motorcycles. It is the sequel to their previous adventure Long Way Round.
The bikes are a newer model than they used on the Long Way Round and have snazzy paint jobs, one is blue and the other red. They also have a bit of zebra paintwork on eone bike and leopard on the other.
The DVD features episodes 1, 2 and 3 on Disc one along wtih some extras. Disc two has the rest of the episodes, namely 4-6 and also some extras. The case is the same thickness as a single DVD so even though it is a two disc vesion it should fit in nicely to your DVD storage library.
The format i have the discs in is region 2 but im sure other versions are available depending on where you are situated in the world.
If you have the DVD's Long Way Round this collection is a must but also stands up on its own perfectly well.
Having the extra features allows you to feel more involved with the journey, you get to take in the cultures of the many places they travel through. These features are alot of unseen and footage and also extentions of what was omitted in the television show. There is a photo gallery and maps showing the route that the intrepid travellers took. The shows trailer is also included.
They have to do more training for the African parts of the adventure than they required for there previous adventure and this is covered in the first episode. The majority of this was what to do in the event of a hijack situation.
One highlight is where they visit the place in Africa where some of the original Star Wars movies were filmed so as you can image Ewan particiularly enjoyed this part of the trip.
In total the discs have many hours of entertainment around about the 6 hour mark, and are well worth the price you pay, shop around for the best price as usual.
It is presented in dolby digital stereo and is a must for all bike fans and those who enjoy adventure programmes. As usual the Stereophonics are doing the title music.
The Phantom Penance
Move over Michael Palin there's a new kid in town! The Pythons travelogue thing had got as old and predictable as the Dead Parrot sketch of late and after the tedious Eastern European series (not the Brtis favorite place right now) it was refreshing to see Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman unleashed on the bikes again, this time celebrity trailblazing down the spine of Africa, two movie brats spitting sand in the face of starving Africans by revving that back wheel. Ok, they didn't, and were suitable humble at all times, especially when the flies got too much.
Although our Ewan and Charlie kept bleating on how they wanted to see the real Africa and stop at every place of beauty and interest on the route the BBC felt they needed a Palin style deadline to give the show meaning and a pinch of mild tension. If they didn't catch the ferry from Sicily to Egypt then it would be all over folks. Well it wouldn't, actually be all over passé - they are not going to scrap the series if they don't get to bloody Egypt in time! Why do they do that? Alan Whicker didn't have to bomb around with a rucksack and air tickets I seem to recall.
The Journey begins...
In 2004 the BBC had the brainwave to send a precious actor and son of a famous film director (famous for being a son of a famous film director) on a trip around the world on their manly motorbikes, and a likewise success on global DVD sales by all accounts. Shame they didn't send Ewan while he was making the Phantom Menace! So why not milk that particular BBC cash cow and send them down to Cape Town, again on the back of chunky motorbikes (and accompanying dialogue), instead of deploying Palin and his more observant and intelligent wit.
The highlight of the second travelogue adventure for me (recently on BBC2) was when Ewan arrived at one of the original Star Wars locations in Tunisia and none of the fans or tourists recognized him. It was pretty obvious that the huge diversion through Europe at the start of the trip was so he had to confront his own ego at this movie location, Ewan with the biggest grin on his face at anticipation of the adulation to come, or not as the case may be.. Either the fans did indeed notice him (his poster was on the wall of the caves after all) and it was a very cruel edit by the producer for an ego busting moment for the cheeky and likable actor, an engineered funny moment on screen, or the people didn't recognize who he was and Ewan finally realized just how hated the Phantom Menace was. Either way this should feature comfortably in Channel Fours top 100 TV moments of 2007.
So, just two bikes and two buddies driving from John O`Groats to Cape Town, a hand held camera to capture it all, the obvious dangers from wild animals and Africans a constant threat to the exposed and precious pair to give it real drama. Well not exactly. Ewan is an international actor of note so we will need at least an 8 man back up team, the help of every African country they pass through, a doctor, a security expert...well you get the picture. The only ever present danger to Ewan was his make up may run in the intense desert heat or maybe some 'piles' from his rock hard seat.
That obvious support presence aside we did discover that Ewan is a likeable bloke and Charlie rather normal alongside this huge star, and yes, perhaps that was the documentaries objective. They did fall off the bikes and hurt himself, and at times they really were in the middle of nowhere and beyond help if they had a serious smash. But what ever this was it seemed to work on many levels, the chemistry between the goggle eyed Boorman and Ewan and the team, an extra dynamic to how these movie stars are treated outside of the comfort zone.
The plan was to bike from the tip of Jockland to the ass of Africa, rigorous planning meaning most of that time was sat on the bike eating sand and being machine gunned by rocks. After wiggling through Europe on lush concrete roads made for swarthy gents in performance sports cars the bikes had to leave the film star comfort of the Continent for the sand and boulders of the African Middle East. After a bit of gentle biking and sightseeing in Egypt the guys had their first real challenge- trying to secure visas for Libya. With two Americans on the team that would not be easy. The Last time the Yanks visited Tripoli they dropped 600 tons of munitions on it. The Americans did not get their visas.
Libya proved to be a stunning and enigmatic place, an extraordinary and untouched Roman citadel that the boy's visited a real treat. I don't think I have seen anything like that before. They then picked up the rest of the team on the Libyan-Sudan border and swept through the troubled Sub-Saharan genocide racked country, although no mention of the said slaughter at any point of the visit in the commentary. This was also the start of real Africa and so that means dusty bumpy roads and sand tracks, what you don't want when riding a 750cc bike.
As the documentary gets into its grove the boys moan and bitch their way down middle Africa, fusing patronizing images of needy pot bellied Africans with visits to charities to prove it and their motives. As a honky you must always feel guilty about the Dark Continent. I have been to Southern Africa and you really don't see the abject poverty portrayed in these shows. But this is not about Africa but Ewan, the cheeky chappy keeping spirits high with his movie star smile and gregarious antics on a big motorbike! Ewan has always claimed to have something big and dangerous between his legs, more than happy to expose it in his many movies.
At one point his wife joins him on the trip, Ewan not man enough to tell her this is a boy thing and so stay at home 'luv'. But she turns up and duly falls off her heavy bike a lot -as expected- and then goes home, allowing Ewan and Charlie to roll triumphantly into Cape Town, sucked into a gaggle of press at the finishing tape in the forth and final enjoyable episode..
I had seen the first one and really enjoyed the chemistry between these two guys. But doing a lesser trip second time around suggested this wouldn't have the same impact. It's pretty clear our Ewan likes a bit of adventure but he's also metro sexual man, in need of his home comforts and aware of the challenge. Charlie, on the other hand, is a bike man through and through and even looks like the part as the 'wild-eyed grebo'. The two make an interesting mix on the road and you can feel the genuine friendship between them in the show as well as the tensions. That made for great TV, how ever contrived the danger element was.
I would class this as reality TV and Ewan needs to come to terms with that slide in his career. Getting celebs out of their comfort zone is always a winner, although here it's not detrimental to his stature in the industry. I'm still not sure if Charlie Boorman is a celebrity and what he actually does for living. I suspect he lives off daddy's money. That dynamic is never really explored here. I mean how did these two chaps meet? But what we do know now is that this has opened up a whole new genre in celebrity reality challenge TV and expect something really ghastly soon to spin off from it. How about Vanessa Feltz and Russell Bland take a one-way ticket to the artic? That would do it for me!
Following the phenomenal success of Long Way Round, Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman are back with a brand new adventure - this time riding the Long Way Down. From the northern most point of Scotland at John O'Groats to the Southern Most tip of Africa at Cape Agulhas the intrepid pain undergo exhausting conditions, treacherous terrain and many emotional, moving and awe-inspiring moments on this incredible 15,000 mile journey. Taking in Western Europe and riding down through Africa Ewan & Charley will mix their love of motorbikes with a passion for meeting people and visiting places of natural beauty and cultural importance.