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This is one of the few books I have ever forcibly had to stop myself from reading. I fail to see how it has gotten so many good reviews from other readers. It seems some people have been blinded by their love of the TV series that they cannot see that Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman are just awful, awful writers. I first had the displeasure to read it when I was traveling around Africa myself, and it was a book that kept popping up at different backpackers and second hand bookshops so I gave it a shot. And I don't even think they'd made it a third of their journey in by the time I put the book onto the floor of a bus, turned off my reading light and stared out the window into darkness, preferring that over reading this drivel for the next 10 or so hours. The book followed on from their series about their travels from Scotland to South Africa on motorbikes. And as interesting as this topic may be they couldn't have made it more boring. Their writing skills make reading the phone book seem like a gripping thriller. It's amazing to think that you can make a journey through Africa a dull tale, but McGregor and Boorman seem to pull it off.
I gave up reading the book after they had just made it into Egypt and found absolutely everything to complain about throughout the entire book. Listening to these two old ladies go on can put you off travelling for good.
'Ewan: I'd been in a very bad mood and it was only just beginning to ease. There's no doubt when I arrived in Alex I just wanted to blame someone and I suppose I blamed Russ and David. But it wasn't their fault; it's not them but me and Charley who're ultimately calling the shots. We'd chosen the route. I wasn't quite sure how our planning had gone so awry; it hadn't been like this when we rode round the world...I knew Charley was thinking we could cut out some of what we had planned in the future, like northern Ethiopia, for example.'
I've never heard of anyone so miserable to arrive at a new destination. And I met loads of cyclists on the same route and even a man who had walked from Norway to Ethiopia. And it's also strange to read about 2 very rich men doing what most people would love to do, surrounded by poverty and think people would still actually care about their minor complaints.
The book is written by both Boorman and McGregor but unlike most books written by 2 authors they've decided to write it almost like a transcript of an interview or Dialogue. And because of this you are likely to hear the same story 2 or 3 times by both of them and their conflicting opinions. Now this could be good if they did have any interesting stories, but their tales and problems just seem laughable. For instance should Ewan bring his wife on the trip or meet her half way through? Now this is followed up by, like most of the book, constant whining and sobbing from both authors, and this all gets very tiring. The descriptions of cities are almost blog like and just amateur, expect a lot of 'it was hot' and 'it was lovely.' You also have to add in a lot of self-indulgent remarks of their past jobs and travels or just more whining of how they were feeling. The dialogue within the book is also presented in a childish and repetitive way - a lot of 'he said... then I said...' and nothing of great value is every really discussed. Unlike other travel authors like Paul Theroux who can get deep into the mind set of different cultures or explores unique places and aspects of life, these 2 just like to look at the classic sights and charity organisations while using as many clichés as humanly possible.
But are there any redeeming features? I would say not. It just seems like an extra money maker. Like all travel shows they need a spin off book, but out of all the ones I've read, like Palin's or Fry's, this is by far the absolute worst. It's not even that much of a unique trip. Go to any book good shop and you can easily find a book that covers the Cape to Cairo route, such as Paul Theroux's Dark Star Safari or Mzungu by Sanders. All of which are far better, and most will be written by genuine authors and not a famous actor and his friend. They will also be altogether more detailed and descriptive and may even enlighten and educate. While Long Way Down does nothing but just regurgitate. They spew out facts and observations everyone with a tiny bit of common sense is aware of while telling a terrible travellers tale.
However if I haven't put you off buying the book you can buy it from just about any book shop in the 'travel' section. Waterstones are currently selling it for £20 online. Or, like most people, go on Amazon and get it for about a penny. It's a book that seems to be in abundance and the only travel book most tourists in Africa have read. Why? I do not know. I intend never to finish reading it, and I expect everything went great after thousands of more complaints about the most meagre of things.
I decided to dust down my copy of Long Way Down and have another look at it since one of the co-authors Charley Boorman is currently touring the UK with a show about his travels with Ewan McGregor. I wanted to read it again before making my mind up on whether or not to go and see his show in Blackpool. Long Way Down is the second book by the fellow actors and motorcycle fanatics Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor, it is a diary style account of a extraordinary 15000 mile journey from John O`Groats at the northernmost tip of Scotland to Cape Agulhas on the southernmost tip of South Africa. Their choice of bikes, the almost indestructible BMW R1200 GS Adventure carries them across two continents, visiting eighteen countries and over some of the toughest terrain the world has to offer.
The book which accompanied a BBC television series of the same name reflects the independent views of both riders, each writing short accounts as the journey unfolds. For me this makes for more informative reading as you get a sense of the tensions that can arise when people are travelling and living together for a long period of time. There is also a chance to see how the same strenuous and exhausting journey can have differing effects on each traveller. It must be every bikers dream to be able to undertake a journey like long Way Down and I certainly felt jealous of Charley and Ewan as I read the early chapters which briefly describe the preparations and the mainly tarmac journey through Europe, I even thought I would have been able to step in for Ewan when he broke his leg before the off. There is an obvious rivalry between the two friends. Charley is by far the better rider whereas Ewan is by far the better actor. Ewan is often frustrated by his failings on the bike which are not helped with Charley showing off his motorcycling skills at every opportunity. The tensions build as the journey follows a path through the stunning scenery of the African continent.
The second half of the journey down through Africa is what the trip is really all about, it is a superb account of two "lads" who set out to enjoy a boyhood dream but are brought back down to earth by meeting children whose lives have been shattered by war, children who were soldiers and children brought up in mine affected areas. They meet friendly tribesmen, gorillas and elephants, they tell of the drama and dangers of Africa, of riding in high temperatures across different challenging terrains. With their unique humour they tell of a journey through Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda and many other fascinating countries. They take in some famous sites. I suppose it makes a change to see some one sat on a motorcycle rather than a camel in front of the great pyramids of Egypt.
Long Way Down is an account of two lads on an adventure inspired by their previous visits to Africa on behalf of UNICEF, sometimes funny, sometimes emotional and sometimes sad. It differs from the one man on his travels like many adventures as Charley and Ewan give the reader an insight into their friendship, their character and their determination to succeed. We see two people working together being supported by family and friends but as in life, relationships and paths don`t often run smoothly. We see two grown adults both successful actors with their boyish humour showing off and bragging to each other. We see hints of jealousy and rivalry none more so than when Charley describes the visit to the Star Wars film set in Tunisia and points out that whilst Ewan was a star of later Star War films no one recognised him even though he walked round the set with a shirt with McGregor emblazoned on the back.
The book has forty eight pages of colour photographs as well as maps and technical details of equipment. It is easy reading and follows the natural path of a journey from the planning through to completion. It will appeal to motorcycle enthusiasts as well as travellers. It describes a journey that I felt I could complete myself and gave me a feeling of wanting to be travelling with them. The fact that it was filmed for television meant that they had to take a camera crew, equipment and support vehicles with them sometimes giving the impression of the boys getting too much help and not just about Charley and Ewan facing Africa by themselves. I found Long Way down a compelling adventure to read and I would recommend this fascinating book even if motorcycling and travelling may not be your first choice subject matter for a good read.
Long Way Down is the second installment in the adventures and travels of the McGregor/Boorman duet, and it is just as good if not better than the original Long Way Round!
This adventure takes the boys from John O'Groats (the most Northerly tip of Britain) to Cape Town (the Southern tip of Africa), and is based primarily in in African continent, with a little bit set in Europe as they work their way down.
The boys again work their way to the main goal with their trusty BMW long range motorbikes, carrying panniers of their kit, which more than once gets scattered across the road as one or both of them take falls on dirt tracks.
The writing style is much the same as their first book, driven by black humour and limited writing talents, their emotions come to the forefront yet again. Riddled with brilliant anecdotes of drinking tea in a hut up a mountain in Ethiopia, or having stones thrown at them riding through other parts of Africa.
Interspersed with the excellent photography from their travels, this book is a great piece of escapism when sitting in the house on a rainy day! I highly recommend you try this book, it is not of the highest quality of travel writing, but you should read it for the humour alone as Charley and Ewan will make you laugh all along their journey!
Once this book gets really into it's flow, and the boys hit Africa, you can tell their mentality changes and so do the stories. I loved their trials of getting through Libya, with government henchmen watching their every move. It showed the differing feelings of Libyans firstly as Ghadaffi henchmen and secondly as people hoping to offer foreigners typical African hospitality.
There were definite lulls in the story, which mimmicked both Ewan and Charley's emotions. When the boys were low because, of the conditions or parts of their bikes breaking down, the story broke down, as the book is essentially their diary from start to finish with minimal editing this is to be expected and is a part and parcel of the journey!
Following on from the success that the Long Way Round came to be, Ewan Mcgregor and Charley Boorman decided to set off on another trip on their motorbikes. This time the intention was to ride from John O'Groats in Scotland to Cape Town in South Africa. The trip would cover some 15,000 miles, visiting 20 different countries in just under 3 months on the road. This book is the accompaniment to the BBC series of the same name and gives a further insight into the trip and what appears to have been an amazing, eye opening trip for both of them.
Now I'd never really paid much attention to the first trip and it wasn't until I started to watch this series on TV that I decided I should read the book. It is written by both of them as they teamed up once again with the team from Long Way Round to create The Long Way Down. It is written in very much a diary format with both Charley and Ewan giving their views and feelings on the experiences and sights that they see a long the way and that for me was the real draw of this book.
This isn't the normal sort of travel log and I think that really added to the appeal of both watching the series and reading the book. It strikes me as the sort of thing I would write with a friend or two if we were doing a similar sort of trip. I think that really adds to the appeal of the writing style as it doesn't seem to pretentious or written with that travel writing style. It is instead written in a much easier to read format that will expand the target audience for the book. It makes for a more relaxed read and infact I've found that compared to other travel accounts I've read it makes it harder to actually put it down.
The length of the trip seems to have put a real strain on the whole team and this is reflected in Ewan and Charley's accounts of the trip in the first half. As they didn't want to be away for as long as the first trip they have had to create a schedule that means they are rushing on every day for the first month or so. As the reader you get the feeling that this didn't bother Charley quite as much as it did Ewan but there is a clear tension in the writing until they reach Ethiopia. The friendship appeared to be suffering as a result of the schedule and this seems very much like a book of two halves.
Of course there isn't a lot of difference between the book and the TV series. It covers a lot of the same events but where I feel the book is stronger is in giving you more of an insight into the thoughts that they both have along the way. In particular there is far more detail regarding their UNICEF visits in the book and I found these to be incredible eye openers. The thoughts and feelings of both Charley and Ewan come across far better in writing and I feel that this was the main difference between this and the TV series.
Overall would I recommend the Long Way Down? Well actually yes I would, I found it to be a very interesting and insightful read to accompany a trip that would fascinate me. Of course I don't have the ability to compare it back to the first trip and the book of that at the moment but I did thoroughly enjoy reading about this amazing journey. It's an eye opening book that takes you to parts of the world you wouldn't really think too much about and will raise awareness for the work of the likes of UNICEF and Riders for Health. It's a decent read and one I have certainly enjoyed and would have no hesitation in recommending.
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Long Way Down - An African Adventure by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman is the companion book to the TV series of the same name, which saw Charley and Ewan travel from John O Groats to Cape Town on motorbikes.
I got my dad the book for Christmas after spotting it for a bargain price and he really enjoyed reading it. This combined with how I had enjoyed watching the television series I decided to give it a go myself and I am really pleased that I did because I thoroughly enjoyed every page of it.
The book itself is written as a day-by-day account of events on the journey. That doesn't mean however that the book is written in diary form as this just wouldn't have suited it. The book actually flows like a complete set of prose yet is broken up into sizeable chapters which are again broken down into different sections written by Charley and Ewan alternatively. This alternation of author means you often get to see both sides of the picture, both sides of an argument - of which there were a few, and both interpretations of the countries they visited.
As well as the account of the journey itself the book also includes 18 pages of full colour pictures, which bring the whole thing to life. Each of these pictures is accompanied by a caption containing information about the content. Some of these captions are humorous and others a little emotional yet it is this that gives the book a solid heart and a firm grounding in the reality of the trip itself.
Due to the fact that I had seen the TV series I was of course completely aware of how the whole trip would pan out and had a brief idea of what had happened at each of the locations. Because of this I did expect to find the book a little predictable despite what my dad had said. This however I found not to be the case at all because the book delves deeper into aspects of the journey than the programme did and gives a greater insight into the thoughts and feelings of the two intrepid motor bikers.
The way in which the thoughts and feelings of Charley and Ewan are expressed really made me warm to both of them individually and also helped me understand their motivation behind undertaking the journey in the first place. At a lot of points within the book a great deal of emotion is expressed and this made the read feel very rounded as well as letting you peek at the real characters of the riders.
As well as the emotion however the book is wonderfully humorous and had me laughing out loud on more than one occasion. The description of events given by both Charley and Ewan are honest and heartfelt yet because of the relationship between them they play off one another and reveal snippets of information that brings out the funny side of their characters quite often. This humour is probably what made me enjoy the book so much because it didn't feel like I was simply reading a day by day account of a journey but more like a collection of humorous anecdotes and actions that are tied together by the journey as an entirety.
As you can see I really did whole-heartedly enjoying reading this book and to be honest found myself being gripped by it from the very first page and not wanting it to end. Despite ultimately knowing what was going to happen I found that the book itself contained enough information and emotion, not found in the series, that I was also left wondering what they would come up with next.
If you saw the series on the television then this book is definitely worth a purchase and if you didn't see the series then I strongly suggest that both watch the series and read this wonderful book.