It started as a daydream. Poring over a map of the world at home one quiet Saturday afternoon, Ewan McGregor - actor and self-confessed bike nut - noticed that it was possible to ride all the way round the world, with just one short hop across the Bering Strait from Russia to Alaska. It was a revelation he couldn't get out of his head. So he picked up the phone and called Charley Boorman, his best friend, fellow actor and bike enthusiast. 'Charley,' he said. 'I think you ought to come over for dinner...'
From London to New York, Ewan and Charley chased their shadows through Europe, the Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Russia, across the Pacific to Alaska, then down through Canada and America. But as the miles slipped beneath the tyres of their big BMWs, their troubles started. Exhaustion, injury and accidents tested their strength. Treacherous roads, unpredictable weather and turbulent politics challenged their stamina. They were chased by paparazzi in Kazakhstan, courted by men with very large guns in the Ukraine, hassled by the police, and given bulls' testicles for supper by Mongolian nomads.
And yet despite all these obstacles they managed to ride over 20,000 miles in four months, changing their lives forever in the process. As they travelled they documented their trip, taking photographs, and writing diaries by the campfire. Long Way Round is the result of their adventures - a fascinating, frank and highly entertaining travel book about two friends riding round the world together and, against all the odds, realising their dream.
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November 29, 2004
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Excerpt from Long Way Round by Ewan McGregor
EWAN: On the last day, I walked down to the harbour. Having slept late, I had breakfast on my own and went for a wander. I wanted to get to the ocean; I needed to see the Pacific. Not knowing the right way, I stumbled down the hill, through rows and rows of tenements, nodding, smiling and waving at the people I passed, eventually arriving at the waterfront. I turned around, lifted my camera to my eye and took a photograph. There it was: Magadan, Siberia. The place that had been in my dreams and thoughts for two years, like a mythical city forever beyond my reach. I wanted to capture it, somehow hold on to it and take a part of it with me when we began the long journey home.
I walked on. The path led to the beach. Although it was the last day of June, it was the first day the sun had shone in Magadan that year. Three weeks earlier, it had snowed. But that day, the air was warm and soft, the sky a cloudless blue. Women wore bikinis and small children were running naked across the sands. Families were eating picnics or cooking on barbecues. I walked past them all, along the entire length of the beach, until I came to the harbour. I climbed up on to a quayside and sat on a mushroom shaped bollard. An Alsatian came over and sat next to me. I scratched its head for a while, gazed out at the ocean and thought back to the day when Charley and I had sat in a little workshop in west London, surrounded by motorbikes, with dreams of the open road in our heads. All we knew then was that we wanted to get from London to Magadan. With the maps laid out in front of us, we drew a route, arbitrarily assigning mileage to each day, not knowing anything about the state of the roads. We guessed our way from west to east, across two continents, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, as far as it was possible to ride a motorbike in a straightish line. Time and again we were told by experienced travellers that our plans were wildly optimistic and that we didn't know what we were letting ourselves in for. I'd never ridden off-road and Charley had never properly camped. The chances of failure were high, they said. Yet here we were in Magadan, as far around the globe from home as it was possible to go, and we'd arrived one day ahead of our schedule.