The Luxury Travel Bible has long been eager to get our hands on adventurer Charley Boorman's Open Passport. Since heading off with best mate Ewan McGregor on their motorbikes on the Long Way Round and the Long Way Down he has also ridden the dangerous 'Race to Dakar' (most years the race has fatalies and Charley seriously damaged his hand in a crash) and taken the route 'By any Means' (twice) from Ireland to Australia and then from Sydney to Tokyo by any means of transport he could find.
He also works tirelessly for charities close to his heart. He has been a Unicef ambassador, alongside Ewan McGregor, for many years, he is president of Dyslexia Action (as someone who is publically dyslexic he passionately believes the issue is 'often overlooked, and the more attention we can bring to it, the better chance people have of dealing with it and overcoming it'). He also supports Help for Heroes and spent time in December 2009 in Afghanistan to support the troops and is an ambassador for Movember and is keen to increase awareness of men's health after having testicular cancer last year.
Charley has recently completed filming on his latest television show, 'Extreme Frontiers: Canada'. The series sees him starting on the island of Newfoundland. He explores the majority of provinces and territories whilst experiencing cultural challenges, meeting the people and taking in the scenery. Charley says one of the reasons he wanted to do the series was that; "I travelled quite quickly through countries so I thought it would be lovely to spend time in one country. When I visited it with Ewan [in Long Way Round] I had loved it".
The Luxury Travel Bible caught up with Charley in the brief few days he had at home in London between stepping off the plane from Canada and boarding another to Africa.
What has been your favourite location that you have visited during filming, and why?
Probably Mongolia. When we started thinking about the show we were looking for a challenge and we got them in bucket loads there. There was no nearby hospital, the nearest one was three days away, no roads, no bridges. It was a real challenge.
What was your have favourite place that you visited in Canada when filming Extreme Frontiers?
On the top of Mount Fable at 3,000 metres having just climbed it, having climbed vertical cliffs and sitting at the very top looking over the Rocky Mountains with this climber called Barry Blanchard. He is a very experienced climber and such a funny guy, he was a hilarious guy. And that will be in the show.
Charley and Barry Blanchard on Mount Fable
What inspired you and Ewan McGregor to become co-adventurers and go the 'Long Way Round' and 'Long Way Down'?
I think through the love of motorbikes. When we met the first thing we spoke about was motorbikes and it's all we have ever spoken about really. But we both had our first child at the same time, we ran motorbike racing together and we did all sorts of things together. And both started talking about wanting to do a long trip. We came up with this idea and thought that would be great and it went from there. Then someone mentioned making a book and that gave us the money to do it and we thought we would make a TV show to have a record of what we have done. I don't think any of us had any idea it would be so successful. I think we got lucky. It was a good idea and we got lucky with the time; that was what people wanted to watch at the time.
Travelling with friends can sometimes cause problems. How did you and Ewan make it work?
Well I think part of it was that we were on motorcycles so we had a lot of time by ourselves and then the other part of it was that we loved travelling and we loved the motorbikes. We really are both quite like-minded people but we both have different personalities so we dovetailed each other quite nicely. When you travel with someone it's a bit like a marriage and you learn to understand and respect them and know when to back off and know when to crack a joke. It's an old friendship bond really. We are old mates and have known each other for a very long time so I think that definitely helped. But still that is no guarantee and you hear lots of stories of people who travel together and it just doesn't work and they go their separate ways. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don't.
You have now done two series of each of the 'Long way...' shows and 'By Any means...'. Do you have a favourite?
It's difficult as they are both really fun and I absolutely loved all of them.
With 'By Any Means' you get the chance to ride bikes, cars, trucks, boats, elephants and really got to meet a lot more people because of it and see places such as Iran, India and Indonesia - I completely fell in love with Indonesia. I am very grateful for being able to do them.
Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor
'By Any Means' saw you take various modes of transport. We know you love motorbikes but what would you happily never travel by again?
An elephant. I didn't find it particularly comfortable and he kept ripping trees down and eating them along the way. He was very badly behaved and a bit slow!
What is the one travel experience you will never forget?
One of the travel experiences which we had on 'Long Way Round' and we were on the 'Road of Bones' [in Russia]. We were on this road where all these bridges had disappeared and we all had to group together in order to get ourselves through it and there was no turning back. We had to dig ramps into rivers which had no bridges anymore. There was a real danger there but it was a great sense of 'team'. We walked away from that thinking 'My God, that was an unbelievable experience'. It really changes you.
... we walked away from that thinking 'My God, that was an unbelievable experience'. It really changes you.
Is there anywhere in the world that you haven't been to but you have always wanted to visit?
Yes - All the places I haven't been to yet! All of South America. My attention is slowly turning to South America now and am looking for an excuse to get down there. That would be next, somewhere is South America.
Are there any plans?
Yes, there are plans afoot, but you will just have to wait and see! (Sounds intriguing! We look forward to learning more -Ed)
What does 'luxury ' (in relation to travel) mean to you?
Oh definitely just a clean hotel would be really great. After some of the places I have stayed in you really appreciate a clean hotel; it doesn't even have to be a decent hotel. Just clean with a shower - that's what I always dream of.
For a city break, Amsterdam. It's a great, fun place.
The Hurricane Hotel in the very southern part of Spain in Tarifa. I have been there with family a number of times. It's a great, great place and the wind surfing Mecca of Europe.
Do you Wind Surf?
No, not very well. I had to get rescued last time I went wind surfing.
What's your road trip soundtrack?
I really like listening to the Stereophonics when I travel. They actually wrote the theme tune to 'Long Way Around' and 'Long Way Down'. I like 'Mr. Writer' but I like all their songs, I really am very fond of them.
Charley Boorman filming Extreme
Frontiers in Canada
What three things do you never leave home without?
Baby wipes, a decent tent and a decent sleeping bag. Spend your money on a sleeping bag and a tent. If you are dry and comfortable then all the shit and all the crap doesn't matter! It will all still be there in the morning but at least you will be refreshed.
Tomorrow you are off to Africa, tell us more.
I started doing these tours from Victoria Falls to Cape Town. People were saying 'If you are ever going to Africa, I would love the chance to ride with you'. Enough people said this so I thought it would be lovely to 'introduce' people to Africa and give them a taste of what Ewan and I went through. Maybe then people will go off and do their own thing, but people are a bit too nervous to do it by themselves and it is nice to do it in groups of people or with a friend. We do 5,000 miles through South Africa and Namibia and into Tanzania. That takes 16 days and we go on Safari and do all sorts of stuff. It's really good fun. We do them once a year and they are great fun. All the information is on CharleyBoorman.com if anyone wants to go along.
Tell us more about what we can expect from your speaking tour.
It starts off from when I was a kid right up to now. There are lots of funny stories and funny things that happened along the way and I suppose when you look back on reflection you remember things that didn't make it on the TV shows. It is a good entertaining night, a little bit of bad language but some very funny stories and people will be happily entertained.
Thanks Charley and have a safe trip in Africa, TLTB is very jealous!
Extreme Frontiers will be screened November 2011 and will also be released as a book. To keep up to date with Charley's travels and for further information on his African tours and speaking tour visit, www.charleyboorman.com