Last week Paul Caunce and Peter Elgin returned from a trip of a lifetime riding alongside Long Way Down stars Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman.
The pair paid over £10,000 each at this year’s Riders for Health Day of Champions to ride the last two days of the 15,000 mile adventure.
Here are their thoughts on the activities out in South Africa.
MCN: What was it about Long Way Down that made you want to spend over £10,000 to go?
PC: The only reason I even considered to start biking in the first place was because of Long Way Round. The opportunity to ride with Ewan and Charley was worth a lot to me, certainly more than £12,000, and the fact that it was supporting Riders for Health was a big incentive – Rider is a charity I’ve raised money for in the past and is something I feel quite strongly about.
KE: Like most people who’ve watched Long Way Round, I was captured by the fact that two guys, who obviously have a very close friendship, were able to go on an adventure not knowing what was going to happen. I was caught by the fact they were very grounded, very honest and very real – they’re not up their own arses – they’re just good guys. It was an entertaining programme to watch. I ride a bike everyday and have a GS Adventure like what they used in the Long Way Round, so when I saw in MCN you could buy a spot to ride with them I knew I had to do it.
MCN: What was it like when you first met Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman?
PC: The first person we saw was Ewan McGregor who popped his head round the corner of the door in this room we were in - it was like looking at a TV screen, very surreal. Both were really welcoming, accommodating and approachable. It was like having a couple of regular guys to talk to. They were like I’d hoped they’d be – I hoped they would be easy to talk to and they were. We had dinner with them on the Friday night and I got to sit next to Ewan and straight across from Charley and spoke to them on a one-to-one level – it was fantastic.
KE: Meeting them for the first time was very surreal. Ewan said to me straight away, “Hi Keith, so glad you could make it down here”, and I just stopped dead and came out with some stupid comment. We were invited round for dinner with them and the whole team on a huge long table – Paul and I thought we’d sit at the end out of the way but they were having nothing of it – they plonked us in the middle and gave us the attention we didn’t expect to get – we were part of their evening. I was so nervous but within ten minutes of being there they made us feel at home – they are just normal guys. Charley is amazing – he’s a bouncy character who loves his family but there’s a small boy under there who is dying to bubble out.
MCN: What was the best moment for you?
PC: Having dinner with them on the Friday night was the highlight because I got to ask them anything I wanted to and they had stuff they wanted to share with me. But I did get to ride Charley Boorman’s bike when they were packing it away which was a high point. It was all over and they’d done the MCN shoot, and when they were putting the bikes away they let me ride his bike up and down the street.
KE: Two moments did it for me. The first was sitting at the table when the guys were talking to us and I had to pinch myself to realise I was in their company. And the other was going down a 70mph route with the helicopter flying ten feet above me.
MCN: Was the arrival like in Cape Town?
PC: It was a fantastic feeling – you could feel it in the atmosphere. We could see how happy and proud Ewan and Charley were to have completed the journey and the huge ride from Cape Aghulis to Cape Town was superb because loads of South African bikers joined us – when I turned round while riding there were bikers as far as the eye could see.
KE: It was phenomenal. There was a special arrival lunch at Cape Aghulis for select people only, and Paul and I both attended which was something superb. And the ride into Cape Town was great – especially to see how special it was to Ewan and Charley.
MCN: Were there any particular funny moments?
PC: While riding there was a helicopter doing some aerial shooting literally ten feet above my head – it was like something from a James Bond movie. You’re on sweeping mountain road with steep cliffs and the blue sea and a helicopter filming while you’re following Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman – it was incredible.
KE: Both guys were really good fun and there were so many moments. It was so great to be there with them and at the end of it all I got them to sign my leather bike jacket which I’ll keep forever now. I’m still having flash backs of the journey and have to remind myself I went and it wasn’t just a dream.
MCN: So was it worth all that money?
PC: I tell you what, if they ever do Long Way Up, to do the same thing again I’d pay at least double if that’s what it took. I think Long Way Up is on the agenda, but if it ever happens I would absolutely love to be part of that in any way.
KE: I would seriously do the same thing again. We were involved as part of the team and we were part of Long Way Down. I can put my hand on my heart and say Ewan and Charley know me by first name and I’d like to thank everyone who gave me the opportunity to go.