Long Way Down

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This article is about the TV documentary series. For other uses, see Long Way Down (disambiguation).
Long Way Down
Opening title shot for Long Way Down
Genre Documentary
Created by Ewan McGregor
Charley Boorman
David Alexanian
Russ Malkin
Saqlain shah
Starring Ewan McGregor, Charley Boorman
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 6 (10 ep. extended broadcast)
Producer(s) David Alexanian
Russ Malkin
Running time 60 Mins
Original network BBC Two
Original release 28 October – 2 December 2007
Related shows Long Way Round
Race to Dakar
By Any Means
External links
Long Way Down
Long Way Down cover.jpg
Author Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman
Language English
Genre Travelogue
Publisher Atria Books
Publication date
15 July 2008
Media type Hardback
Pages 352
Awards Galaxy British Book Award 2008- Best Popular Non Fiction
ISBN 1-4165-7745-9
Preceded by Long Way Round

Long Way Down is a television series, book and DVD documenting a motorcycle journey undertaken by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman, on which they rode south through 18 countries from John o' Groats in Scotland to Cape Town in South Africa via Europe and Africa in 2007. It is a follow-up to the Long Way Round trip of 2004, when the pair rode east from London to New York via Eurasia and North America.

The journey started on 12 May 2007 and finished on 4 August 2007.[1] They were accompanied by the same key members of the team from Long Way Round, including cameraman and director of photography Claudio Von Planta and cameraman Jimmy Simak (who also oversaw music supervision and soundtrack production), producers Russ Malkin and David Alexanian. In addition they decided to travel constantly with a medic, Dai Jones, security officer Jim Foster and various "fixers"—local guides and interpreters—throughout the journey. They rode the BMW R1200GS Adventure, the successor to the R1150GS Adventure bikes they rode in Long Way Round.[2]

As with their previous trip, and Boorman's Race to Dakar, Russ Malkin and his company Big Earth produced the series. The television series based on the trip began broadcast on BBC Two on 28 October 2007.[3] Video clips and photos from the adventure were shown online by the BBC during the series' production.


The team travelled from their base in Olympia, London to John o' Groats at the northern tip of Scotland to begin their journey. The start was almost delayed after Boorman, frustrated by an official at London's Gatwick Airport, made an off-the-cuff comment regarding bombs, and was detained for questioning by local police. After being released without charge, Boorman took a later flight to Inverness and the journey was able to begin as scheduled. The team took four days to ride from John o' Groats back to London, via the McGregor family home in Crieff and the Silverstone racetrack, where they camped in the middle of the circuit. They took the Channel Tunnel to France, and rode south to Italy. The European leg of the journey ended in Sicily, where they caught a ferry to Tunisia.

In Tunisia, McGregor and Boorman visited the set of Star Wars (McGregor was not recognised despite the fact there were pictures of him) and from there they rode into Libya. However, American producer David Alexanian and cameraman Jimmy Simak were unable to obtain the necessary entry visas and were forced to fly from Tunisia to Egypt where they rejoined the team. After visiting the pyramids they boarded a ferry and travelled to Sudan, continued into Ethiopia and then into Kenya, where they crossed the equator. From Kenya they rode to Uganda and then Rwanda, where they had an audience with President Paul Kagame. They went from there to Tanzania, and then into Malawi, where they were joined by Ewan McGregor's wife Eve. The final leg of the trip took them through Zambia, Namibia, Botswana and finally into South Africa. The journey ended at Cape Agulhas, the most southerly point on the continent, from where they were accompanied to Cape Town by a phalanx of bikers, similar to their arrival in New York on the Long Way Round journey

Border crossings[edit]

Given the number of countries they passed through, the team anticipated delays and problems at the various borders they would need to cross, particularly in Africa. However, after their experiences on the Long Way Round journey, which included problems with Russian visas, a "fine" due to a missing stamp in their carnet document and border delays of up to 12 hours, a major focus of the preparation stage was planning for transit between countries. Although the American crew members were barred from entering Libya, this was anticipated ahead of their arrival at the border. Upon arrival in Tunisia, the team had to bribe the local authorities with a few bottles of vodka to ease their passage into the country, which they assumed would be par for the course as they travelled through Africa. However, although short delays of up to a few hours were common, there were few significant problems at crossing points as they made their way further south.

Breakdowns and accidents[edit]

Although they were often pleasantly surprised with the quality of road surfaces they encountered throughout Africa, there were sections that required travelling over rough, bumpy and sandy terrain, as well as a small river and mud wallow. The shock absorbers bore the brunt of the punishing sections, with both McGregor and von Planta suffering broken springs. As the only spare had been fitted to McGregor's bike, von Planta had to ride in the support vehicles at one point, while his bike was sent on ahead for repairs. McGregor and von Planta also came off and damaged their bodywork, with von Planta involved in the more serious incident on a motorway in South Africa. Boorman admitted he had been "putting on a show" for a roadside garage, and braked sharply as part of a manoeuvre. Von Planta, who admits he was riding too closely, fell in a last moment attempt to avoid a collision. He was shaken but uninjured. His motorcycle was substantially damaged, and the documentary footage of the remaining leg of the journey to Cape Agulhas appears to include only support vehicle and helmet cam footage, suggesting that Von Planta's motorcycle was not used beyond this point. McGregor's wife Eve, who learned to ride only as part of the preparations for the trip, took several falls on the sandy terrain of Malawi and Zambia, apparently without injury.


Ewan McGregor's motorbike from "Long Way Down", now in the Riverside Museum, Glasgow

During the trip the pair visited three UNICEF facilities to raise awareness of the work done by the organisation.[4] In Ethiopia they visited land mine awareness projects and met children who had been injured by mines. In Uganda they met former child soldiers of the Lord's Resistance Army and saw the work being done to rehabilitate them. In Malawi they visited child care centres setup for children orphaned by AIDS. Both McGregor and Boorman had visited such centres in Africa before the trip.


The title song performed by Welsh group Stereophonics. It is identical to the Long Way Round theme, only with the lyric "round" replaced with "down".

The soundtrack features a range of music drawn substantially from the catalogue of artists recorded by Real World Records, which produced the accompanying album. Co-director of photography Jimmy Simak also acted as musical coordinator.

Broadcast schedule[edit]

Boorman's BMW R1200GS motorcycle

The table lists the original broadcast dates in the United Kingdom.

Episode Original Airdate
1 28 October 2007
2 4 November 2007
3 11 November 2007
4 18 November 2007
5 25 November 2007
6 2 December 2007

Future trips[edit]

In the final pages of the Long Way Down book there is a mention of "Long Way To Go" but this is not the intended title for the third series; instead it is a reference to the continual effort and support UNICEF requires to continue their charitable work. In the DVD extras, while preparing the bikes for cargo, McGregor makes mention of a possible trip in South America, perhaps called Long Way Up.

On the Late Show with David Letterman (17 February 2010), McGregor said he was not planning another trip at the moment, because he finds it difficult to stay away from his family for the long time it takes to do a trip. He also mentioned still wanting to do a trip from South to North America.

In a September 2010 interview, Boorman said that the third installment of the Long Way series was planned with McGregor for 2011, saying, "It should be crazy stuff riding up through South America. I'm expecting jungles, bandidos and drug lords...."[5]

In a June 2015 interview, McGregor indicated that the long discussed South American trip with Boorman was still in the planning stages, but he expected that an excursion through Baja California Peninsula would take place first.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Actors complete 'Long Way' ride". BBC News. 2007-08-04. Retrieved 2007-08-04. 
  2. ^ Mat Oxley (2007-04-24). "Long Way Down, The Bikes". BBC. Retrieved 2007-09-24. 
  3. ^ "Long Way Down is almost here!". Retrieved 2007-10-19. 
  4. ^ "Long Way Down". UNICEF UK. Retrieved 2008-01-04. 
  5. ^ "'My acting career was going nowhere...and then I met Ewan McGregor': The world according to Charley Boorman". Mail on Sunday. 2010-09-04. Retrieved 2010-09-10. 
  6. ^ "Ewan McGregor secures sponsorship deal for South American road trip". heraldscotland.com. 2015-06-07. Retrieved 2015-06-07. 

External links[edit]