The force was definitely with British actors Ewan McGregor, famous for his roles in "Trainspotting," "Moulin Rouge!" and "Star Wars," and Charley Boorman, as they cruised into Cape Agulhas, South Africa (just south of Cape Town) on their motorcycles last Saturday.
The end to an epic journey on two wheels, their arrival signaled the completion of the final leg of their three month, 15,000-mile journey from John O'Groats, Scotland, the northernmost British city, to the southernmost tip of the African continent, to raise money for Unicef.
Since their departure May 12, 2007, McGregor and Boorman have crossed two continents, traversed 18 countries and made a film for an upcoming BBC2 series documenting their adventure, titled "The Long Way Down."
"'The Long Way Down' has been an amazing journey," said McGregor. "It has been a real privilege to be able to experience these diverse and beautiful places. We've had the opportunity to see such different ways of life to ours, and have traveled to remote places very few people have access to. The sense of freedom and exploration has been incredible."
Aside from its breathtaking footage and its close look at the many different cultures the pair encountered along the way, the film exposes the physical and emotional strain that comes with constant travel — capturing both the highs and lows of the duo's friendship over the course of the three months.
"There were times when it was unbelievably hard going, but that has been countered by amazing riding and extraordinary people," said Boorman. "Africa is a continent full of undiscovered wonder, and we both feel incredibly lucky we've been able to experience this together and to have survived with some brilliant stories to tell."
Despite their amicable relationship, McGregor admitted that the trip was not completely without incident. "We had a massive argument in Addis Ababa, which cleared the whole air, I think," he said. "We had forgotten to kind of be upfront with each other, which is important when you are traveling with somebody."
Addicted to the Road
However, this trip, which took the actors through Europe and then on to Libya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Rwanda, was not their first international road trip together.
In 2004, McGregor and Boorman, who met in 1997 on the set of "The Serpent's Kiss," and immediately bonded over their love of motorcycles, completed a 20,000-mile ride from London to New York by way of Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Siberia, for Unicef — also documenting that ride in a film called "The Long Way Round."
After their first trip, McGregor and Boorman were hooked. Boorman admits that before the two travelers even got back home, they'd decided to take on the African continent.
"Ewan and I had already pulled out a map of Africa, so I think we'd kind of already decided before we came back from our trip that we were going to do Africa," he said. McGregor added that their "relationship with Unicef" and their "interesting time" in 2004 also played a part in their sequel.
Through uncharted terrain, endless deserts, and war-torn countries, the two actors developed an appreciation for and an attachment to the stark beauty of the African countryside and kind nature of the African people.
"It is so wonderful to have traveled through Africa," said McGregor. "During our prep, we were given a great deal of negative advice about Africa, but our experience of having traveled from John O'Groats to Cape Town is that it has been a really warm and welcoming continent.
"We have had a great deal of interest in what we were doing, and help and lots of lovely kids — and cheeky kids, sometimes. But, it's absolutely not been the terrifying experience that some people led us to believe it would be."
Both McGregor and Boorman agree their journey was an experience they will never forget. Actually, it is one they would love to continue to replicate across the globe for years to come.
"It's been great, but I'm starting to worry about stopping it," said Boorman. "Our life for the last 12 weeks has been just riding the bikes, watching the landscape change around us, meeting people and doing amazing things, and [now] it's going to stop."
McGregor echoed his travel companion's sentiments Saturday as he posed for pictures on the South African coast. "I'd quite like to turn around and just carry on back again."