By Marie-Renee Goulet
(***) Documentary on Apple TV+
11 BINGE WORTH EPISODES
If you have itchy feet after spending nearly a year at home like me, you might consider binging on Long Way Up (2020).
Actors and best friends Ewan McGregor, Charley Boorman and their usual support crew meet for the third time, for an epic 13,000 Miles journey through 13 countries over 100 days starting in September 2019 from the bottom of Argentina, arriving in Los Angeles in mid-December.
Their first outing was Long Way Round (2004), where they went around the world on their bikes from London to New York via Western and Central Europe, Siberia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Alaska, and Canada. A bit of trivia: they get into only 1 road accident, and of course, that happens about 60 KM west of Calgary. No one who lives here was surprised. In 2010, they met again for the Long Way Down (2010), where they rode from the Northern tip of Scotland down to Cape Town, South Africa.
I was looking forward to the next adventure for quite a few years. By now, the series feels like you are meeting old friends. I was saddened to learn of Charley’s two major traffic accidents, which left him with severely busted legs and slightly reduced mobility. Now in their late forties and early fifties, you can feel that the trip is a little harder on them.
Which bikes the pair will choose is usually a large part of the story, and this time, they chose 100% electric bikes, supported by two 100% electric pickups. The bikes are Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycles converted into adventure bikes specifically for them. The pickups are Rivian, also prototypes, and they provide for some drama. Colder climates are brutal on batteries, and the charging infrastructure doesn’t exist yet, so the first few days are stressful on them as they try to keep moving while fighting range anxiety. The reality of fully electric bikes becomes apparent as they have to “cheat” and rely on a gas-powered generator or sometimes wait up to 12 hours to get their batteries charged. I have no doubt the future will include many fully electric vehicles, but for now, none of us would have been able to finish this trip on our own as they have Harley Davidson on speed dial ready to fly in both technical support and parts.
Both Ewan and Charley are UNICEF ambassadors, and each of their trips includes efforts to advocate for UNICEF’s work for children worldwide. Back in 2004, they almost missed a stop in an orphanage in Mongolia. The roads were so terrible and impassable that Ewan took out a map to find an alternate, friendlier northern route. After carefully thinking about it, they kept their original plan and made it to the orphanage, which proved fateful. Immediately after arriving, a little 2-year-old girl named Jamyan, stole Ewan’s heart. If you watch the episode, you know he will come back for her. After two years, he and his then-wife were able to adopt her, and we meet her again 16 years later as they arrange to meet at one of the stops where she thoughtfully reflects on the turn her life took in happenstance.
As they document their adventure, one thing is for sure. I would not be built for stardom. Ewan had waited all his life to see Machu Picchu. He does make it, and the weather clears to reveal this majestic site just as everyone onsite surrounds him for selfies and autographs. He doesn’t complain and is incredibly gracious and patient with all, but you can tell this is not how he’d imagined his dream.
The series is really good at showing the realities on the ground, meaning that people are generally warm and welcoming everywhere you go. Things not going as planned often offers new opportunities. I certainly added a few stops to my travel list; wait until you see the Andes as captured in this documentary, just breathtaking. It makes you wish they had drone technology for the previous series.
As for my appreciation of the series, I preferred the first two only because this last one heavily relied on large companies to come for support in exchange for the promotion the series offers. The first two allowed for more improvisation on their part and more random adventures, making you feel a little closer to them. They are genuinely likeable people. This trip is much more organized because of the need to charge the bikes.
The trilogy is well worth your time; these are well-produced travel documentaries with stunning views and people who love one another, who enjoy meeting the locals and experience life everywhere they go.
These days, this series feels like much-needed therapy.
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Marie’s appreciation for movies & TV began early in life as it offered escapes, laughter, and often an education. It sparked a love of photography, travel, and a general curiosity for the world and everything in it. Originally from Quebec City, she graduated Summa Cum Laude from Trebas Institute in 1998 where John H. Foote was her Film History professor. The winds pushed her into a different professional field and on a few adventures around the world. The passion for film and storytelling in all forms continues. Marie lives in the Canadian Rockies.