Four Questions for Charley Boorman
At one time Charley Boorman was primarily known for his acting – having appeared in more than a dozen feature-length films since his 1972 debut in Deliverance. Later, he and long-time friend Ewan McGregor captured the attention (and envy) of travellers the world over when they rode motorbikes from London to New York – via Russia – in a well-documented trip that spawned a book and documentary series, both called The Long Way Round.
Now, Boorman is also known as a tireless adventurer. In the years since the The Long Way Round he’s travelled across the world more than once. He’s attempted the Dakar Rally; undertaken another marathon motorbike adventure, known as the The Long Way Down (travelling from Scotland to South Africa, again with McGregor); and ventured from Dublin to Sydney and then from Sydney to Tokyo (almost) without flying in By Any Means.
Simply stated, Boorman is in constant motion. So it was a little tricky to get him to sit still long enough to ask him Four Questions. In the end, he didn’t. We connected with Boorman via e-mail, err, sort of.
Thought Out Loud: In the past few years, your adventures have taken you to almost every corner of the earth. Where are you at this exact moment? One week ago? One month ago?
Charley Boorman: Right this moment I’m on a motorbike riding to Monument in London to check out the Parajet flying machines. They’re such a fun bunch of guys and what they’re doing is so innovative and eccentric! I’ve had a really busy year and have been to all sorts of places.
In the Summer I was in Canada filming my new TV show, Charley Boorman’s Extreme Frontiers, which was amazing. I have always sped through countries and this time I wanted to really explore a single country’s culture and history whilst doing some pretty adventurous stuff. Climbing Mount Fable [in Alberta, Canada] was one of the highlights; at times I was shitting myself, but Barry Blanchard led me safely to the summit and I had such an incredible sense of achievement.
Then in August/September I took a bunch of motorcycle enthusiasts on a 5000 km trip from Cape Town to Victoria Falls. We saw the most unbelievable places, riding 80 per cent off-road and gravel roads seeing so much wildlife.
In October/November I was all over the UK on my speaking tour with my great friend Billy Ward telling tales of various adventures!
I’ve had an amazing and very busy year, but can’t wait to relax with my family over Christmas.
TOL: You’ve had some pretty wild and uncomfortable experiences on your (well-documented) trips – stuck waiting for a lorry to cross a Siberian river, tossing back and forth beneath the deck of a ship in between Indonesia and Australia. Some of that seems tough to live through – it’s even tough to read about and watch. What makes you keep coming back? Why do you keep adventuring?
CB: Ever since I was a little kid growing up with a film director for a father I’ve travelled all over the world on location for such films as Deliverance, Hope and Glory, Excalibur, and Emerald Forest. I think that travelling with my father really sparked my wanderlust. I have ridden motorcycles since I was seven years old and I find them the greatest way to travel.
When you travel, the things that you remember are the things that go wrong, but really it’s all about the people you meet. The people make you want to return again and again.
TOL: If cost, time, gear, etc. were no object, and you could set off on any adventure, what would it be?
CB: I would love to do the Dakar Rally again. I did it in ’06 but didn’t get to finish. Now that it’s in Argentina I’d love to have a go with Simon Pavey again, but this time I’ll try not to break my hands!
TOL: The documentary aspect of these adventures must add an additional layer of stress to already difficult (and exciting) travel. We’ve seen you angry on camera and we’ve seen you elated, and we don’t get the sense that things are much different when the cameras are off. But are things different when the cameras switch off? And if so, how?
CB: Truly, in all our TV shows we’ve tried to be honest and keep the camera rolling. We want the audience to go through what I go through, and so I’d have to say it’s really no different when the cameras are off!
Charley Boorman’s Extreme Frontiers is out now on DVD and as a companion book. Both are available from www.amazon.com. For more information on Charley’s 2012 motorcycle adventure go to www.charleyboorman.com.