The Long Way Around by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman

The tale of two men circumnavigating the globe on their motorcycles, and experiencing the world as it comes in their face as dirt, cold, sleet, snow, potholes, gorgeous weather and endless stretch that heads  east for a very long time.

The journey was supposed to take three months from 14 April 2004 to 29 July 2004. The route plan was decided to cross twelve countries, starting in the UK, then passing through France, Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, USA and Canada, ending in New York. In total 20000Kms was to be traversed all in two wheels of Bayerische Motoren Werke – or what we like to say BMW.

The whole epic journey was documented while using helmet cams and a camera man plus rider with support crew. But since the nature of the road and the circumstances was such that the riders were substantially on their own for the most parts of the journey and the whole series were self shot.

To take up where the Tele series left and to fill up the missing pieces of the story and share some untold parts of the ride, this biographic novel  named ” LONG WAY AROUND” was written  by the duo Ewan McGregor (or what i like to call him Obi Wan Kenobi- for his portrayal of the character in the  series of Star Wars) & his friend an adventurer Charley Boorman were the riders and the writers in this respect. The steeds they rode were BMW 1200 GS, with the camera man on the same one and support crew in their back up vehicles.

The introduction of the book takes us to the preparation of the journey or rather how it all came together, way before the whole preparation scenario was initiated. The book comes across as written in the first person, more like narrated by the authors and written in sections, narrated by both of them, giving the reader point of view from two angles of the sight of two authors.

Generally, it is seen the dual authored book tends to get stuck in a vicious circles or rather in the point of view of the two writing. But the edition of “ Long Way Round” has very cleverly shown what good editor can do with a material like this, giving each of them their share of lime light and say, and very tactfully shifting the whole charge from one to the other’s hands  , as the situation demanded.

The trivialities and the minute details have been taken well care off, informing the reader about how to go about in preparation and implementation of such a big event. It literally inspires you to get off that [email protected]# and start riding till you reach Magadan the Far East Russia very widely mentioned in the book as the Holy Grail or the Shangri-La of the trip.

It gives an amazing account of how they came across choosing the bikes and after being  rejected by KTM which according to Charley was the bike best suited for the ride of such proportion and finally choosing the BMW 1200 GS. It also accounts for the BMW’s progressive attitude about the ride and going forward to sponsor it also. Which in turn gave the bike its cult status among the travellers around the world on the toughest machine there is.

Its never easy to leave home and for three months in a row for so far away especially when you have to camp between hungry tribe of coyotes or living in the fear of being attacked by a Siberian bear or to be stuck in the middle of nowhere in the vast span of Gobi Desert-Mongolia. The authors have documented in totality what it feels like to leave home, leave your kids behind and leave the love of your life in the rear view mirror fading in the concave of it. The book very beautifully takes you step by step through the toughest, the easiest & the most beautiful parts of the northern hemisphere. Never in the discourse has it swayed away from the very gist of the whole journey, the ride, the rider and the very outlook that it brings along with it.

It gives you the contrast of how the villages are different from the hustling cities, or how the city people get their way through the harsh country side of Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan & Mongolia , at the same time It accounts for how every human being is similar to the other. It shows us no matter what country you belong to or no matter what language you speak you still somehow can strike up a conversation. No matter what background you come from you still respect the two men who are trying to make their way across your village, ‘cause some how deep down inside you know that these men are very far away from their homes and that they are very much  prone to all environmental conditions , that the respect automatically comes out.

It shows no matter how good or bad a road is it still not a something to be taken for granted. A desert patch in Mongolia or in Road of Bones in Siberia can be as fatal as any interstate highway of the USA.

Long Way Round as it seems is not a clichéd any day book or a novel, it’s not written by some well established authors, but normal ordinary writers and written in a much uncomplicated language. It doesn’t take much long to relate to the duo and start imagining yourself in the journey. Its partly because you might have seen it on the Tele Series, and partly because its not a thing of past or any fables, but it just happened like two years ago and it historic feat now.

You tend to plan your big journey and start documenting it perhaps. But whatever it may be, the whole experience of a bike and a biker is only there if you actually go and do it. The book can’t simulate that but it surely can make you get up and do that for sure.

All in all an interesting travelogue with some magnificent pictures and leaving you with enormous amount of positive energy to wander your own adventurer side of yours. Book archive totally recommended, bike lover or not but both alike.

Umang Shankar

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