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Friday, 21 November 2008

Book Review: Long Way Down - John O'Groats To Cape Town by Ewan McGregor & Charley Boorman


I love any good story about a journey...

I also think Male Bonding is the cutest thing on the planet. There's nothing more endearing than two "mates" having a great hug after a long journey together. Collectively women - go "awwww". Anyway, as much as I do love that part of the story, I just love the whole story altogether. Long Way Down is Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman's book-chronicle of their tv series filmed journey from John O'Groats (the very tip of mainland Scotland) to Cape Town (the very tip of South Africa). It's funny, you know when I read the first book collaboration by Ewan and Charley - "Long Way Round" I was stuck in my B&B room sick with a cold in Dundee. Now - here I am - going there again in 19 days. The first journey was so worth reading about that I HAD to pick this one up - especially since they traveled the entire distance (North to South) of such a wonderful place such as Africa. It's like a Pilgrimage - only Ewan and Charley did it on Motorbikes. Haha. Life is one giant Pilgrimage really, and I think that the main reason I love a good story about the journey is because it's like a miniature version of life. When I was a missionary (and all former missionaries probably could tell you the same thing), we referred to the entire mission in terms of a lifetime. You arrived, you were a greenie (or a newborn), you had a Dad or a Mom (a trainer), you reached a hump day (or middle of the mission), and then eventually - you had a companion "kill you off" when you went home. Haha - that sounds bad. But you know - it's 19-21 year olds making this stuff up - it's the lingo. Anyway, the point is - that it's simple to see the symbolism in a journey, and a journey always teaches you something, as long as you don't lose sight of where you are RIGHT NOW.

So - anyone who has seen the TV series that Ewan and Charley did about their travels upon Motorbike, might not believe this (I told my friend and he was all - really?), but Ewan and Charley are quite charming and sensitive in the way they write. It's like - you get to find out what they're ACTUALLY thinking, and not all that goofy showy testosterone driven stuff that comes out on the surface. Both of them are married (very very happily) and have children, and are sincerely dedicated to their families. They talk about their families in the book and how much they miss them. Throughout the voyage, you actually get to read their sweet sensitive thoughts about the various stops they make to promote a number of charities, the foremost being UNICEF, and also CHAS (Children's Hospice Association Scotland), and Riders For Health - an organization that gets medical professionals on Motorcycles in Africa so that they can reach remote areas fast - getting medical attention where it is needed most. They're really passionate about each of these charities, and they share their thoughts about how each visit touched them individually.

The other thing is - WOW!!! Do you ever feel like you're right there - with them - in Africa. Each country they visited was unique and special, with so many different cultures, and so many different stories. You catch the full (well - half - as they only went down the East side) vision of what Africa really is about. One thing they mentioned is how - everybody says what a dangerous place it is. Well - the real dangers are the warlords, best just to stay away from them, but the people - absolutely everywhere they went were fantastic. They opened their homes, and their hearts, and they made the boys feel right at home. The worst danger they faced - overall (besides wildlife) was wee kids throwing rocks at them in Ethiopia. Haha. Ewan almost got stamped by an Elephant in his sleep, that was entertaining. The whole book is entertaining. I loved it, and truthfully, I didn't want to put it down when I got close to the end. Just like Ewan and Charley - I wanted to stretch out the last bit as much as possible. I guess, since I'm going on my own - big journey - granted - not as big as theirs (but a big - permanent-ish move); this is exactly the kind of thing I WOULD be reading. Gosh, don't let anybody ever tell you that you can't do it. Because anything really is possible. If you have a dream, then make it happen. Do everything you possibly can to make it work, then do it. Ewan and Charley did - twice, and who knows where they'll go for the "Long Way Up"? I'm thinking they should go the Ernesto Guevarra (Che) way and ride up through South America. Only, I think they should do it from the tip of Chile (where the penguins are), all the way up to Alaska. (though they rode through Alaska already once on long way round) - however - it's just a thought. Can you imagine though? That would be a MASSIVE undertaking... their biggest yet I would imagine. That might take them 6 months at least.

All I can say is - I love it. I love it, and everybody should read it. Here's a bit from the end that Ewan wrote that sums it up for me...

"Riders for Health had been hugely inspiring: the work of the clinic and the community health workers on dirt bikes. I thought about Scotland, CHAS and the people we'd been privileged to meet at Robin House. I thought about UNICEF and the mine-affected children in Zelambassa. I could see the village in Kenya where twenty-two children had been massacred. I could hear Daniel's voice, a child soldier in Uganda. All at once the memories began to flow. I could see Bulwer Street on the night we decided to do another trip; the Royal Geographical Society; the first time we saw the workshop at Avonmore Road. I recalled the moment when my bike arrived and I had her painted with zebra stripes. I thought about the Friday back in February when I hit that pedestrian and broke my leg. We'd done it. It was coming to an end, but we'd done it. Only I didn't want it to end. Right then I would happily have turned my bike around and ridden back along the west coast."

Really - that's what it's all about - enjoying the journey so that you don't really want it to end, but are eager to start another one. One should always be ready for the next thing, but also take time to cherish and treasure the memories that you have made.

Thanks for letting me tag along boys. xx

1 comment:

Little miss crazy said...

I am going to buy this book tomorrow! It sounds fantastic, and I have been looking for a new book to read.

I have a friend from Dundee, he is in Iraq right now though. I bet you are sooo sooo excited about your move, I am excited for you!