Long Way Round: Chasing Shadows Across the World
"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.
Authors: Ewan McGregor & Charley Boorman
Year Published: 2004
Geographic Area: Europe, Asia, North America
Original Language: English
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.