‘Long Way Up’ review: All about bromance and championing new-age technology

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Ewan McGregor and his longtime travel companion Charley Boorman take to the road once more in the third instalment of their docu-series — but this time, they are batting for the environment

Swing a leg over the saddle. With the back hunched slightly and arms resting on the handlebar, the push of a button brings a motorcycle to life. A gentle flick of the wrist sets off a chain of actions, all leading towards causing two wheels to spin.

With the wheels in motion, the surroundings gradually blur, leaving only a trail of road ahead for the eyes to follow. Roll the throttle and the bike gains speed, translating to a heightening of the senses each time. Riding then becomes a visceral experience.

The man and machine cease to be different objects. They fuse together and work in tandem. The machine, capable of acting on every command it receives, and the man, in absolute control over his actions.

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During the process, there occurs a cleansing of senses, for they are devoted to just the job at hand. It is for a reason, Ewan McGregor, like many others, describe riding as a ‘meditating’ exercise.

However, Apple TV Plus’ Long Way Up, is not just about riding. Because, documenting Ewan McGregor and his longtime travel companion Charley Boorman as they journey through South America — covering 13,000 miles spread across 13 countries and 100 days — before arriving at Los Angeles, is only half the picture.

Armed with a flurry of cameras on their bikes and helmets, McGregor and Boorman capture everything on their way as they traverse a plethora of terrains from snow and glaciers to arid plains and misty mountains.

But, covering this distance on electric motorcycles to send across a message of sustainability is what sets the show apart from its predecessors Long Way Down and Long Way Round.

 

McGregor, a staunch believer of sustainable electricity, claims to have not used more power than he makes at his home or trailer. He is in the process of even getting his 1954 Volkswagen Beetle converted into electric. Along with Boorman, McGregor intends to turn this ride into a “frontier movement”; to show the world it is indeed possible to cover such long distances on electric bikes.

And this emphasis on sustainable power echoes throughout the journey. Their decision to go electric has strong ramifications that have to be weighed in. As a result, the whole of the first episode is devoted towards something grossly overlooked otherwise during travel: planning.

Soon, McGregor and Boorman, who have to cross areas as remote as the Atacama Desert and salt flats of Bolivia, realise they will have form their plan based on the location of charging stations along the route. This means they may have to jeopardise the most exciting aspect of a bike ride — the ability to do things on the spur of the moment.

Long Way Up

  • Directors: David Alexanian and Russ Malkin
  • No. of episodes: 10
  • Starring: Ewan McGregor, Charley Boorman
  • Storyline: Two friends start out on a bike trip from the southern tip of South America to journey through 13 countries covering 13,000 miles to reach Los Angeles in North America in a span of 100 days

Yet, they persist with the plan and decide to set off from Ushuaia in Argentina on two electric bikes by Harley Davidson. Unsurprisingly, their first setback comes in the form of a delayed start as they refuse to chug along an over-sized charger on their motorcycles.

As the journey progresses, the charging woes only get compounded and they find themselves racing against time to catch a ferry; struggling to reach a hotel before nightfall lest they wade into the sub-zero temperatures of Argentinian nights; turning back mid-way because they fail to find charging points in isolated locations.

 

Though a tad repetitive, the predicaments are integral to the journey as the joy lies in watching McGregor and Boorman wriggle out of them. For Long Way Up is about these two discovering on the go about the working of sustainable power — both from their own experiences as well as through the people they meet on the road. It is also about how the natives, despite their geographical limitations, have already embraced renewables.

Watching McGregor and Boorman, two middle-aged men championing new-age technology, struggle to figure out the working of a satellite phone when they get stranded or fiddle with a camera before it can start recording, is another source of amusement.

With a 12V battery failing and the cameraman’s petrol bike running out of fuel, conventional technology take a hit too. But a small yet novel thing like a translator app, that merely requires people to speak into the phone, helps the duo make sense of Spanish works without fail.

Ultimately, Long Way Up is about all things modern, and two dear friends reveling in their bromance.

Long Way Up is currently streaming on Apple TV+

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