Long Way Down – Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman

There are lots of reasons for my reading this book. One, I thought the series Long Way Round was fantastic and a great way of raising money and awareness for charities. Two, I love motorbikes. Three, Ewan McGregor is hot. In all seriousness, though, it’s a great initiative, not to mention an incredibly brave and scary thing to do. I enjoy the dynamic and piss taking between Ewan and Charley too.

Long Way Down tells the tale of the second journey made by the two crazy guys. Their aim: to travel on motorcycles all the way from John O’Groats… but not to Land’s End. Cape Town, no less! Along the way they arranged to make stop-offs with three different charities that they’re involved with, in order to raise awareness and therefore hopefully more cash for these good causes. Because of this, the book was a real mixture of tension (bike problems, falling off, scary roads, border problems etc), fun (when everything is going right, and the guys are happy on the open road) and emotion (charity visits). It all made for an enjoyable and informative read. For a non-fiction title, there was a great deal of description of many of the places the guys visited, which gave a real sense of place, and the people in the places. The poorer parts of Africa, certainly seemed a million miles away from some of the adverts you see on the television, which give the impression all the people are unhappy. According to Ewan and Charley, although, yes their lives are far from ideal, they’re happy. The poor souls living with landmines, HIV and poverty, despite their hardships, still have hope. And they have one another. It was touching to hear about how kind and welcoming the people are, despite the language barriers. The book really opened my eyes to some of these places, and I’m sure it had the same effect on many other people.

The charity work the guys did is great, and the way it’s been written about increases the possibility of more people wanting to help. But rather than just sending money and forgetting about it, the pictures painted are more likely to have people wanting to visit, and see for themselves. And given that tourism is the biggest industry in most of these areas, despite their tiny visitor numbers, it can only be a good thing.

This is a book about a journey, but there are so many other things packed in there too, it’s a really good read and I think it’ll appeal to everyone, regardless of whether or not they’re interested in biking or travel. It’s also a story about human bravery and compassion. The only downside were the number of photographs – I’d have liked to have seen more.

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