Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman take on South America

Font Size:

“It’s a long time coming,” notes Ewan McGregor of his reunion with fellow actor and motorbike enthusiast Charley Boorman – 12 years to be precise.

Following on from the success of 2004’s Long Way Round and 2007’s Long Way Down, the pair’s new Apple TV+ series, Long Way Up, documents their adventure across some of the remotest regions of South America.

“We’d always thought about doing this third trip,” says Mr McGregor. “When you look at a world map, we’d gone directly across it and we went down through the African continent, so there was this glaring other route through the Americas that was left to do.

“Charley and I had drifted apart somewhat over the years since we did Long Way Down, due to the fact I’d moved to America and Charley was very busy – he’d shot some other television shows and he was doing a lot of touring with other people on motorbikes. So, when I was working in London or I came over to visit family in London, Charley was often just not there. There was no fallout or anything, we just sort of drifted apart.”

It’s often said a near-death experience can act as a catalyst for change. In the case of Mr McGregor and Mr Boorman, it was a freak accident during a European trip that acted as the trigger for a long-overdue reunion.

Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman sitting on electric motorbike in front of a huge lake

Scottish star Mr McGregor, 49, first rose to prominence in Danny Boyle’s cult classic Trainspotting and subsequently starred in blockbusters including Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker and DC Comics’ Birds Of Prey. Similarly, Mr Boorman, 54, who is also a travel writer, has released a string of books documenting his adventures both on and off his motorbike, including Extreme Frontiers and Right To The Edge.

“Charley had a very terrible motorcycle accident in Portugal and it reminded me you can’t let these important friendships in your life drift, and you’ve got to look after them,” says Mr McGregor.

“As soon as I was able to, I got to see Charley in London and then we picked right up where we’d left off.

“It was like no time had passed. Poor old Charley was wheeling around; it took a long time – he had an almost two-year recovery from that accident, which was really brutal.”

The accident in question took place while on a press trip celebrating the launch of the new Triumph motorbike. The near-fatal encounter saw Mr Boorman careen into a wall in an attempt to avoid an oncoming motorist.

“It was touch and go as to whether I’d keep one leg,” recalls Mr Boorman.

“Thanks to the doctors, I did and I’m able to ride motorbikes again. But for me, it was always about my therapy – and my physiotherapy was all focused on the fact I needed to get back on that motorbike and have that freedom.

“I think that happens to a lot of people who ride motorbikes. Ewan broke his leg just before starting Long Way Down and I’ll never forget; I was in the warehouse and Ewan turned up with his plastic boot on, hobbling in. He goes, ‘Hey, I’m just taking the Sunbeam (motorcycle) out’. And I said, ‘It’s a bit early, isn’t it?'”

Armed with a rekindled desire to get back in the saddle and set forth on a new adventure, plans for a third instalment of the Long Way series quickly fell into place. “It wasn’t long before we were sitting in Charley’s house with [our producers], and we started dreaming up this Long Way Up trip,” Mr McGregor recalls.

Conversation then turned to the potential for swapping traditional petrol-fuelled motorbike engines for a greener alternative. The idea? To put renewable energy to the test in some of the most remote regions on earth.

“When we decided to go electric, I don’t think we wanted the electric motorcycle to get in the way of the adventure; we wanted it to be part of it,” says Mr Boorman. “They were all prototype vehicles that weren’t really in production or weren’t up for sale, y’know? We didn’t get much of a chance to be able to test them.

“When we finally got to South America to start our journey, I think Ewan and I had only ridden the Harley Davidsons for a couple of hours and we’d never really charged them. So, it was a really steep learning curve for all of us.”

There began a series of challenges brought on by the continent’s dramatic terrain and diverse weather conditions.

“We started in the winter, which was not such good planning on our behalf,” recalls Mr Boorman. “We realised the batteries don’t like it when it’s very cold, so they don’t perform as well.”

Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman smiling at the camera

Technical difficulties aside, the freezing temperatures proved no match for the pair’s steely determination and wicked sense of humour. “When it gets tough is when we get our funniest,” notes Mr McGregor. “There was one night when we had real issues charging the bikes … we did our first long ride into the night, and it was super cold – I mean it was sub-zero. We put on every single piece of clothing that we had. We were just surviving on the bikes.

“At that point, we just ended up getting so stupid – because we can speak to each other through our helmets, we’ve got radios in there – that’s some of the funniest stuff, I think, because we were just literally keeping each other going and it becomes almost hysterical.”

The adverse weather conditions, coupled with the newly rekindled friendship, saw the trip transform into an extreme bonding experience. In particular, a wide stretch of Bolivian desert, which proved “some of the hardest riding I think that we did on the trip. It really pushed us to the limit,” recalls Mr Boorman.

“I’d fall off and suddenly Ewan would be there helping me up and vice versa. It’s very nice to know that your best friend has got your back and is there to pick you up – it’s a very special relationship.”

Long Way Up premiered globally on Apple TV+ on Friday 18 September.

Are you a fan of Ewan McGregor? Do you ride a motorbike? Would you ever take a trip like this?

– With PA

If you enjoy our content, don’t keep it to yourself. Share our free eNews with your friends and encourage them to sign up.

Join YourLifeChoices today
and get this free eBook!

By joining YourLifeChoices you consent that you have read and agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy


10 reasons to embrace repeat travel

Going back for more shouldn't be ignored

Five road trips that could make a difference to bushfire affected towns

This is the ‘new normal' for Aussie travel and these holidays should top your list.


Total Comments: 0



    continue reading


    Friday Funnies: Short jokes for the shortest month

    February flies by too fast, just like these short but sharp jokes. What is the recipe for Honeymoon Salad?Lettuce alone...


    Succulent Spice-Roasted Salmon

    These little salmon bites are something I've made time and time again over the years and this method of roasting...


    How to take great pictures of gardens

    If you've never been too good at taking pictures of your beautiful blooms, now's the time to brush up on...

    Aged Care

    Paid on par with cleaners: the broader issue affecting aged care

    Paid on par with cleaners: the broader issue affecting the quality of aged care Ben Farr-Wharton, Edith Cowan University; Matthew...


    Researchers fear diet produces ‘untoward effects on the heart’

    The keto diet, lauded for its purported fat-burning capabilities, could be bad for your heart, according to new research. The...


    Vaccine overdose cases raise questions over doctor training

    Australia's vaccine rollout suffered a major hiccup, with health minister Greg Hunt revealing on Wednesday that two elderly residents at...

    Retirement Income

    Why middle-income Australians are the big losers in retirement

    Australia's middle-income earners are losing out when it comes to retirement income. That's the view of Mercer's senior partner, David...


    Nine food and heart health myths busted

    Should you cook with butter or olive oil? Is that drink of red wine protecting your heart? Pink Himalayan salt is healthy, right? There...