Long Way Down Winds to an End

It’s been a long and gruelling journey, but best friends Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman have finally completed their mission. The actors began their 15,000-mile (25,000km) Long Way Down adventure aboard BMW R 1200 GS motorcycles in Scotland on 12 May, and arrived at their destination in South Africa on 4 August.

Ewan and Charley are no strangers to motorcycling adventures. Long Way Down is their second trip together – the first being the Long Way Round expedition from New York. However, whereas Long Way Round was a west to east journey around the world, Long Way Down saw the pair travel from the most northerly point at John O’Groats to Africa’s most southerly point at Cape Agulhas.

The Long Way Down trip has taken Ewan and Charley 12 weeks to complete. The team passed through 14 countries over two continents and experienced every imaginable terrain from barren deserts to savannah plains and dense jungles. However, the mixed landscapes caused minimal problems for the pair as the formidable BMW R 1200 GS Adventure motorcycles are built to tackle such challenging road and off-road conditions.

From their starting point at John O’Groats, Ewan and Charley headed south into central Europe, passing through France, Switzerland and Italy. The European leg of the trip was predominantly ridden on tarmac roads and took just 18 days to complete. They then crossed the Mediterranean Sea into – where their challenge really began. Ewan and Charley arrived in Tunisia on 30 May.

The route then continued south to, passing through the deserts of Egypt. After minimal problems at the Sudan border, they worked their way south passing over the desolate terrain of the Sudan and arriving in on 15 June. It was here where the road conditions really began to deteriorate and the sands of the desert became more and more treacherous. However, Ewan and Charley faced similar conditions during their Long Way Round trip and were well prepared for the challenge of off-road riding.

The route then continued south, where the duo met the indigenous tribes of Ethiopia and passed through the jungles of and Uganda. They rode through Rwanda’s capital city of Kigali on 13 July, before embarking on a five-day journey through and into Malawi. It was then on to Namibia and Botswana, before finally crossing the border into South Africa on 2 August.

Ewan and Charley were not alone on their Long Way Down trip. A six-strong road support team included executive producers David Alexanian and Russ Malkin, directors of photography Jimmy Simak and Claudio von Planta, team medic Dai Jones and security advisor Jim Foster. Ewan’s wife Eve also joined the team for the Malawi to Zambia leg of the journey. In addition to road support, the London headquarters were responsible for making sure that Ewan and Charley had all the necessary equipment, visas and other paperwork for the journey. They also ensured that the website was kept up to date with the team’s progress through Africa and will deliver the final documentary to TV broadcasters.

Cape Town. “Can you believe it – 15,000 miles and 14 countries? Actually, we worked out that we’ve spent a whole week at country borders. That just shows you how much time we had to think about things. “It’s been a long ride, which has been the fun part. However, arriving in Cape Town is fantastic. The thought of sitting on a motorbike in Scotland and then arriving here is just wonderful.” “It was amazing,” adds Ewan. “It was really quite extraordinary and we’ve had a brilliant time. Africa was amazing to travel in. There’s some negativity about Africa – that it’s a dangerous place and that you can get into all sorts of trouble. However, we didn’t find any of that at all. The people we met were really helpful and interested in what we were doing. It was all very touching.

“On the last day of our trip, we rode to Cape Agulhas to take some photographs. There were maybe 60 or 70 other motorcyclists there to meet us. Some people had been following us on the internet and then rode in with us. We rode the three hours into Cape Town in this huge procession of bikes. We arrived here to lots of photographers and then we had a bit of a party!
“There were very mixed emotions all round. We have a great sense of achievement, but at the same time, it’s such a lovely thing to do and a wonderful feeling to be travelling. The fact that it is all over is actually quite sad.”

Although they have only just returned home from their three-month adventure to South Africa, Ewan and Charley already have some ideas for their next expedition, including a stateside tour. Please visit www.longwaydown.com for more information about Ewan and Charley’s epic adventure and to pre-order the official Long Way Down DVD. A documentary of the trip will also be shown on television in the autumn.