Long Way Down

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Long Way Down
Opening title shot for Long Way Down
Created byEwan McGregor
Charley Boorman
David Alexanian
Russ Malkin
StarringEwan McGregor, Charley Boorman
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of episodes6 (10 ep. extended broadcast)
Producer(s)David Alexanian
Russ Malkin
Running time60 Mins
Original networkBBC Two
Original release28 October –
2 December 2007
Related showsLong Way Round
Race to Dakar
By Any Means
Long Way Up
External links
Long Way Down
Long Way Down cover.jpg
AuthorEwan McGregor and Charley Boorman
PublisherAtria Books
Publication date
15 July 2008
Media typeHardback
AwardsGalaxy British Book Award 2008- Best Popular Non Fiction
Preceded byLong Way Round 

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

The journey started on 12 May and finished on 4 August 2007.[1] They were accompanied by the same key team members 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), and producers Russ Malkin and David Alexanian. They also decided to travel with medic Dai Jones, cameraman and security officer Jim Foster, and various "fixers"—local guides and interpreters. They rode the BMW R1200GS Adventure, the successor to the R1150GS Adventure bikes in Long Way Round.[2]

As with their previous trip, and Boorman's Race to Dakar, Russ Malkin's company Big Earth produced the series. The television series began broadcast on BBC Two on 28 October 2007,[3] with clips also shown online.


The team travelled from their base in Shepherds Bush, London to John o' Groats at the northern tip of Scotland to begin their journey. The start was nearly delayed after Boorman, frustrated by an official at Gatwick Airport, made an off-the-cuff comment regarding bombs and was detained for questioning. After being released without charge, he took a later flight to Inverness and the journey began 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 ended in Sicily, where they caught a ferry to Tunisia.

In Tunisia, McGregor and Boorman visited the set of Star Wars and then 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. After visiting the pyramids they boarded a ferry 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 took them through Zambia, Namibia, Botswana and into South Africa. The journey ended at Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of 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.

Border crossings[edit]

The team anticipated problems at the various borders they would need to cross, particularly in Africa. Given their experiences on the Long Way Round, which included problems with Russian visas, a "fine" due to a missing stamp in their carnet, and delays of up to twelve hours, a major focus of their preparation 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 become a regular event as they travelled through Africa. However, although delays of a few hours were common, there were few significant problems at crossing points as they made their way further south.

Breakdowns and accidents[edit]

They were often pleasantly surprised by the quality of road surfaces throughout east Africa, but there were some sections through rough, bumpy or sandy terrain, as well as a small river and mud wallow. The shock absorbers bore the brunt, 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 a support vehicle while his bike was sent on ahead for repair. 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 while avoiding a collision; he was shaken but uninjured. His motorcycle was substantially damaged, and the footage of the rest of the journey to Cape Agulhas appears only to include support vehicle and helmet cam footage, suggesting that Von Planta's motorcycle was not being used. McGregor's wife Eve, who learned to ride only as part of the preparations, joined them for part of the trip and 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 promote the work done by the organisation.[4] In Ethiopia they visited a land mine awareness project and met children 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 care centres for children orphaned by AIDS. Both McGregor and Boorman had visited such centres in Africa previously.


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

The soundtrack features music drawn substantially from the catalogue of 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 original broadcast dates in the United Kingdom were:

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 a third series, but a reference to the continual support that UNICEF needs for its work. In the DVD extras, while preparing the bikes for cargo, Ewan McGregor refers to a possible future 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 because he found it difficult to be away from his family for such a long time, but he also mentioned wanting to do a trip from South to North America. In September 2010, Charlie 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 June 2015, McGregor indicated that the long-discussed South American trip was still at the planning stage, but he expected that an excursion through Baja California Peninsula would take place first.[6] In March 2017 during a Reddit AMA, Ewan said there were "no plans at the moment" to do a third installment of the series. On August 6, 2018, Boorman tweeted a tease that the Long Way Up, a trip from Tierra del Fuego to Alaska, would happen "if all goes well".[7] In June 2019 it was reported that Boorman confirmed that the filming of a third installment would begin "in a few months".[8][9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Actors complete 'Long Way' ride". BBC News. 4 August 2007. Retrieved 4 August 2007.
  2. ^ Mat Oxley (24 April 2007). "Long Way Down, The Bikes". BBC. Retrieved 24 September 2007.
  3. ^ "Long Way Down is almost here!". Archived from the original on 16 October 2007. Retrieved 19 October 2007.
  4. ^ "Long Way Down". UNICEF UK. Archived from the original on 17 December 2007. Retrieved 4 January 2008.
  5. ^ "'My acting career was going nowhere...and then I met Ewan McGregor': The world according to Charley Boorman". Mail on Sunday. 4 September 2010. Retrieved 10 September 2010.
  6. ^ "Ewan McGregor secures sponsorship deal for South American road trip". heraldscotland.com. 7 June 2015. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  7. ^ "Charley Boorman on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  8. ^ "Long Way Up is go! Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman will film in coming months". Motorcycle News. 18 June 2019. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  9. ^ "Charley Boorman confirms the Long Way Up will take place within months". Adventure Bike Rider. 20 June 2019. Retrieved 25 June 2019.

External links[edit]