Long Way Up featured image.

Long Way Up

Dept. of Wanderlusting


Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman are back on the road again. This time, they’re taking the long way up, from Ushuaia in Argentina, through South and Central America, all the way to Los Angeles. They’re doing 13,000 miles, across 13 countries, and they’ve given themselves just 100 days. And if that wasn’t hard enough, they’ve decided to do the entire journey using electric vehicles. Ewan and Charley are on electric Harley Davidson prototypes that have been converted into adventure bikes, while David Alexanian, Russ Malkin, and the rest of the production crew are following them on the first ever Rivian electric trucks built especially for the journey.

It’s been 13 years since Long Way Down, since their last big adventure together, and the big question is whether or not it was worth the wait.

Umapagan Ampikaipakan: So, was it worth the wait? In a word, yes. I’ve missed these two. I’ve missed joining them on their adventures. I’ve missed their banter and their bromance. But watching this now, at a time when international borders are still closed and travel is still restricted, Long Way Up reminded me of how much I miss being able to just go wandering. 

I’ve missed that feeling that comes before every big adventure. Those butterflies in the pit of my stomach. The excitement of going someplace new. As well as the fear and anxiety that comes with it. For me, that was something this series has always managed to capture, and translate, and transmit to me as a viewer. This was what made it stand out.

Bahir Yeusuff: For me, it really is about the relationship between the two guys and their team. The love they have for each other at this point is made up of all the experiences they’ve shared together. They’re a band of brothers. And their relationship is a delight to watch.

It is worth noting for all the new viewers out there that Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman had already done two similar bike trips. The first, Long Way Round, was in one in 2004, where they went from London to New York by circumnavigating the planet. They then followed that up in 2007 with Long Way Down, where they traveled from John o’Groats in Scotland, through eighteen countries in Europe and Africa, all the way to the southern tip of South Africa.

There’s a certain romance to these trips that evoke a real spirit in the audience. Just the idea of taking this adventure of a lifetime (not once, or twice, but three times!), and to film it for the rest of us who would never dare to dream of doing something like this, is just magical. The first time I saw Long Way Round I immediately started doing research on doing my own version of a once in a lifetime trip: Kuala Lumpur to London by rail. I never did it, but boy it sure was fun to dream.

Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor star in “Long Way Up."

UA: What struck me most was just how much has changed over these last 16 years. When they were planning Long Way Round, there were no iPhones, a lot of the world hadn’t been mapped, and they were still talking about having to “trust your compass” when navigating their way through Russia and Mongolia. Even the idea of having cameras mounted on their bike helmets felt novel. 

After watching the first three episodes of Long Way Up, I went back and rewatched their previous trips (both of which are also now available on Apple TV+) and I was astonished at just how much they managed to accomplish. Embarking on such a journey was already quite the feat, but chronicling it the way they did was miraculous. 


BY: It really boggles the mind at how much we take the Internet for granted! Both Ewan and Charley were going to be crossing Russia, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia and a GPS executive tells them that no one has mapped those countries yet. Just look at how far we’ve come. But that’s besides the point.

The Long Way series is, for me, the story of two friends who go on this crazy trip together. It’s like Eat, Pray, Love for boys. There’s humor, love, respect, and even a little drama. Things never go perfectly to plan, like in Long Way Round, when KTM pulls out of sponsoring their bikes because they didn’t feel that Ewan and Charlie weren’t going to be successful on the trip.

Also just the sheer adventure of it all is so wonderful. 

The series has also evolved quite a bit from when they first started. Back in 2004, it really felt like a diary. The two guys are given a Handicam each to shoot a video diary of the trip, and all of it feels so amateurish and innocent. The latest iteration, however, feels so polished that I can’t help but feel like a little bit of the magic is lost. Just by how clean everything is. There was something so guerrilla about the way they shot those first two trips.

UA: I was thinking about that, and I can’t help but feel that it’s just a function of how far we’ve come with the technology that’s available to us…

BY: Oh absolutely! I mean, our iPhones can shoot 4K video for crying out loud. 

UA: Exactly! Even without any fancy equipment or lighting rigs, the videos we shoot on our phones still look better than a lot of the footage from 2004.

That being said, I’m glad that the didn’t just rest on their laurels. They were well aware that doing this in 2019 (which is when this series was shot) meant fewer obstacles for them. And what makes this new series exciting is the fact that they decided to challenge themselves further by only using electric vehicles.

It’s hard enough traversing the globe. But doing it the way they have means that they’re genuinely adding something novel to the narrative. There is a bigger conversation to be had, and one that goes beyond mere exploration and adventure. This series is unique because it’s not just about the whys and wherefores, but also about the how.

Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor star in “Long Way Up."

BY: The how has always been my favourite part of the show. The first couple of episodes in each series always focuses on the prep work for the team, from getting Ewan and Charley ready, to dealing with visa issues, and working with sponsors. Those are always the episodes I enjoy the most.

But you’re right, this third series adds a new challenge of not only doing this trip while on electric vehicles, but also doing this trip on electric vehicles that have never been tested. Ever. The electric Harley-Davidson bikes they rode on weren’t even in production when they shot this series. The pickup trucks the production team used were vinned 000001 and 000002. It’s just absolutely mental to go on a trip like this and have faith in the idea that these vehicles won’t just stumble at the first hurdle. And they almost did for Ewan and Charley, when their motorbikes wouldn’t charge due to the cold that they found themselves in.

UA: It is absolutely crazy. You’re dealing with advanced electronics here. If something breaks, you can’t just take your wrench and beat it into shape, or spot weld it back together again. Their whole team are essentially glorified beta testers for all of these equipment. 

BY: And we don’t know how it’s all turned out yet.

UA: I mean… we know that Ewan and Charley are alive…

BY: Yeah, we know that they didn’t die, but for the first time, for me at least, I don’t know if they made it. Unlike the previous series, which I only came to well after it was done, I’m watching these episodes as they come out and I don’t know if they were successful on their trip. It’s quite an exciting thing for me to watch this story unfold.

Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor star in “Long Way Up."

UA: I want to talk about the dedication of everyone involved. And I don’t just mean Ewan, Charley, and the production crew. I’m talking about everyone at Harley Davidson who built and modified these prototype bikes. In their spare time. Outside of their working hours.

BY: Or the guys at Rivian, rushing to get the cars road tested and registered, just days before they were flown out to Argentina.

UA: I mean, Rivian even went down to South and Central America and installed charging stations in as many places along the route as they could. Yes, it’s a great marketing effort on their part, but it’s also how great innovation happens. Taking risks. Being able to recognise a great idea and just jumping at it.

BY: That is truly above and beyond. It probably helped that the production already had two successful seasons under their belt.

The Long Way series has always been about the romance of going on an adventure. Of taking the unbeaten path. Of having an idea, rustling up some guys and girls together, and seeing what happens. These trips take more than a hundred days each, and to be away from not only family but everything that makes your life comfortable, is just astounding. This isn’t a holiday, it’s an adventure in every sense of the word. And in this third iteration, to do it with an added layer of difficulty and on purpose, just makes it all the more enjoyable.

Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor star in “Long Way Up."

UA: Watching Long Way Up now is also incredibly depressing. Just because we have no idea when we’ll be able to venture out in such a way ourselves. It reminds us of just how much beauty there is out there. How much we haven’t seen or experienced. And we have no idea the toll that this pandemic has had on those places. This is a time capsule in many ways. Because we know now that nothing will be the same after this.

BY: It’s also a little depressing knowing that this is probably their last adventure together. (Or, at least the last adventure where they take us along.) I am immensely grateful that we got one more, but it’s reminded me of how much I love this series, and knowing definitively that it’s the last one is very sad. Yes, I am very much a glass half empty kind of guy.

UA: Admittedly it did shock me to see how much everyone had aged. Charley has, unfortunately, been in so many accidents that this will likely be his last big trip. And so it does mark the end of an era.

That said, all of them have also mellowed quite a bit over the years. They’re a lot more laid back. And given everything they’ve already accomplished, it doesn’t feel like they’re doing this to prove something. They’re just a group of people who enjoy working together, who love being in each other’s company, setting out on one last adventure. 

BY: That was the big takeaway for me as well. Just seeing how absolutely thrilled everyone is to see each other gave me the warm fuzzies. I know this is probably the last time these guys do this, but I also know this won’t be the last time I watch this show. If anything, Long Way Up has given me an excuse to rewatch Long Way Round and Long Way Down again. How else am I going to pass the time between each new episode?

Long Way Up
Apple TV+, 10 episodes
Directors: David Alexanian and Russ Malkin
Cast: Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman

The first three episodes of Long Way Up are now available to stream on Apple TV+. New episodes drop every Thursday.

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