Long Way Round: Chasing Shadows Across the World

On the way, we passed a truck that had crashed into the ditch by the side of the road. We climbed up on to it to take a picture before realising the driver was inside the cab.
"Harosho? Okay?" I shouted in at the slumped heap, lying under a blanket with a wooly hat on.
"Normalya!" came the reply, with a wave that said get lost.
Ewan McGregor
Long Way Round
Long Way Round

Book Info

Authors: Ewan McGregor & Charley Boorman

Year Published: 2004

Geographic Area: Europe, Asia, North America

Original Language: English

Background

Most of you will recognize the name Ewan McGregor, star of the Star Wars prequels, Trainspotting, and other popular movies. 

What most of you may not know was that back in 2004, he embarked on an epic motorcycle journey with his friend and fellow actor Charley Boorman. The two rode 19,000 miles from London to New York City, only taking a plane ride from Siberia to Alaska and the occasional clandestine ride in a cargo train. 

Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman
Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman / Image courtesy of MoviesFimsandFlix.com

Why It's a Great Travel Book

I mean, it’s a book about two dudes riding motorcycles around the world. What more do I need to say?

Mounted atop BMW R1150GS Adventure motorcycles (massive, heavy machines), they zoom through 12 countries. Along the way, they ride the famous Nurburgring track in Germany, stay with eccentric gangsters in Kazakhstan, and travel with the Orange County Choppers crew in the US. 

Image courtesy of CisforCinema.com

The meat and potatoes of the book deals with their accident-prone travels across Mongolia, where tarmacked roads were virtually nonexistent. They dine with nomadic families in gers (yurts) and visit underground bands of street children in Ulaanbataar. In one memorable scene, they even dine on a Mongolian delicacy, goat’s testicle.

They cross mountains and rivers, deal with mosquitos and snakes, and negotiate with corrupt border agents. All this in the name of adventure and getting away from it all (with varying success, considering McGregor’s fame). 

The sheer magnitude of their travels, coupled with the array of characters they meet, make this one of the most epic of travel books.

Image courtesy of Indiadtrip.wordpress.com

Other Thoughts

Having said all that, there are some things to be aware of about this book. 

The duo helped finance their journey by agreeing to film it and make a documentary out of it. The book is a companion piece to that documentary, and it reads as such. A Paul Theroux travelogue this is not. Mr. McGregor and Mr. Boorman are actors, not writers, and that comes across plain as day in their prose. 

Having said that, what it may lack in prose it more than makes up for in experience. These guys have some incredible adventures. 

One of these adventures is playing What Will Charley Boorman Blow Up At Next? He gets extremely flustered and lashes out profanely right before they’re set to ride off from their shop in London, and he never really lets up over the next three and a half months. As one critic eloquently put it, “Boorman comes across as a copper-bottomed, ocean-going, 24-carat prick.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Image courtesy of Motorcycle.com

In all reality, though, an undertaking as huge as this is going to come with no small amount of flare-ups. The fact that they were able to complete the journey without murdering each other is a testament to their camaraderie. 

Conclusion

If you’ve read Long Way Round and have any other thoughts on it, feel free to add them in the comments section below! Please be sure to Like, Share, Pin, and Tweet this travel book review using the social media icons.

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