EPS Review #111 - Long Way Round

Long Way Round, by Ewan McGregor, Charley Boorman and Robert Uhlig; Time Warner 2004; 312pp.

I caught bits of Ewan McGregor's motorcycle ride around the world on TV. I remember thinking "this can't be right...the guy has the aura of a Sean Connery yet here he is whimpering about how hard the road is, while really tough Soviet guys ferry their bikes across rivers." Yet I heard that the series was successful. So when I spotted the book in a used bookstore in St Albans I grabbed it.

Well, Ewan and Charley are definitely both wusses. True, they are tough enough to motor around the world, with a big support crew. But they do cry a lot into their helmets, being New Men and all, and missing their families. And Ewan drinks water in Russia and Kazakhstan and Mongolia, when everyone else is drinking vodka by the crate. And they all gag on testicle soup. And there's a hell of a lot of talk about feelings. And worrying about spiders. They get all the way to Siberia before they realise that they are carrying too much (not counting the support vehicles) and ditch 80kg from their bikes. They consult a palm reader. They listen to iPods. They chat to BMW support by satellite phone. They don't need maps, since they have a GPS. They travel the hardest section by train. And all the while they are stressed out about the schedule, because Ewan has to get back to his busy life as an actor on time.

But it is still a hell of a trip. Ewan has an admirable urge to camp somewhere nice and fish. Mongolia sounds beautiful. His worst accident, of course, is in the USA, where he gets rear-ended at 60mph, but manages to keep his bike upright. Oh, and check out the ossuary at Sedlec.

There are many wittier, grittier, and better-researched travel books. But it is hard to make a bad travelogue. I have Investment Biker, but have not read it. McGregor himself says he was inspired by Jupiters Travels.