Long Way Round

Sky One showed the last episode of this six part series last week, which I have been watching on Monday nights when it is shown here in the UK on satellite television.

For those of you who don’t know the background to the show, it was the account of Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman going round the world on BMW Motorcycles. The series went from the setup of the idea, picking bikes to getting the trip together and travelling across Europe, former Soviet Block countries and bordering countries, up and over to Alaska and then on to New York.

When I first heard that it was happening I checked out the airing schedule and found out that neither of the channels that they advertised it on were available on my Freeview / TopUp TV terrestrial digital television so I waited a little then got arranged to pay my money to the relevant part of the Murdoch empire and got digital satellite television. It was a couple of weeks before I realised that they were repeating it during the week on Sky Travel, which I got on my terrestrial package, but also that the Bravo listed on the longwayround website was in fact the American channel.

Being a bit new to this stuff I didn’t realise the global marketing going on behind the show and that of course it would be shown in the US too. I have subsequently realised that a number of channels have US and UK versions that are subtly different. Ignoring the big obvious ones, the likes of the Sci-Fi channel have equivalents which are slightly different, as does Discovery. In a fun crossover, they visited the stars of another favourite show of mine on Discovery, American Chopper’s Orange County Choppers.

Long way round was really interesting, but of course Ewan fell into the easy trap of comparing scenery everywhere to Scotland as he went along. It is an irony of the country that I have lived in all my life that we neglect to visit our own country as much as our fellow Europeans. I have only travelled to the area once in my life, but the far North West of Scotland with its sea lochs is simply stunning, and the far north from Durness to John O Groats is as far removed from Edinburgh and central Scotland to feel like another country.

I have ordered the DVD for the show from Amazon and it should be on its way now, I bought the book to the series but it really needs the pictures to get the full impact of what was happening to Ewan and Charley as they rode their GS bikes across a continent. For instance, some of the food dishes peculiar to the countries have to be seen to be believed. The book and show go really well together, the book expanding on the video diaries that the guys took, and the video diaries just showing how tired they were at most stages of their trip.

I can understand why it was edited down to six shows, which is probably pretty long for this kind of show, but there must be so much that they had to cut in order to fit a trip of weeks into about four and a half hours of programme. It ended really quickly with the last show, which tracked them crossing Canada and the US in one show. I guess the mileages they were covering each day on the bikes (500-600 miles) meant that the time went quickly.

In the end it was another opportunity to study people, yes it had bikes in it which was the hook that got me interested, but it was the two main characters, the cameraman that rode another similar bike with them (Claudio) and the other people that they met that were the cornerstone of the story. The trip looked fascinating, but not for me, I could never go that long from the people that are important to my life – my wife and kids. Quite fancy a BMW bike though, an old R1100RS, in black would suit me fine. Similar engine to Ewan and Charley’s, but with more of a sports touring bias. For shortish trips from the house and commuting to work. Nice. And I could grow my beard back again.