Charley Boorman’s enthusiasm for life is infectious. So is his thrill-seeking eye for adventure.
The motorcycle lover, dressed in one of his favourite biking leather jackets, smiled with a big grin as we met up to chat on Thursday evening at London’s fancy Commonwealth Club to discuss his most recent ‘trip of a lifetime’.
Mr Boorman’s new ‘South African Adventure’ television series, which is currently airing on Channel 5, has featured all of the ingredients to make even the reluctant traveller want to dust down their walking boots and find their backpack.
Traversing 6,000 miles of South Africa’s beauty, alongside friend and producer/director Russ Malkin, Charley, who is a seasoned wanderluster, faced his fears, tasted local life and challenged himself more so than ever before. Whether it’s riding up the notorious Sani Pass, swimming with great white sharks or abseiling down Table Mountain in Cape Town, Boorman never shirks an obstacle.
A question posed to Boorman during his on-stage interview with television presenter Julia Bradbury at the ‘South African Adventure’ screening was ‘can anyone do/experience the adventures like you have?’.
Charley, always, has the same response.
“(In terms of travelling) I think people can do so much more than they think they can,” he tells me. “All the television programmes that I’ve done, including the ones with Ewan (McGregor), I’ve always wanted to go and have an adventure, but at the same time, anything that I’ve done anyone can go and do, even the Race to Dakar.
“It’s just how adventurous you want to be and it’s a lot of fun doing it. South Africa is a good place to start, it’s pretty developed and you can do anything you want from adrenaline-fuelled activities to a family day out. It’s a cool place,” says Charley.
Whilst Charley savours and cherishes his South African experience, for a traveller, there’s always room for more and the 46-year-old has that sparkle in his eye looking ahead to more challenges.
“I look back at the Dakar Rally (which I entered in 2006) and it is unfinished business (for me),” Boorman said.
Having only just recently watched good friend and Race to Dakar ‘legend’ Simon Pavey compete in his ninth rally, this might be enough to tempt the motorbike enthusiast to take to the saddle and ride across the desert once more.
Although, as Charley explains, his first Dakar experience didn’t go too well, he’s not the type of guy to let that bother him too much.
“When I took park in the rally I only lasted five days and ended up breaking both of my hands, it was a disaster! Yes, it’s certainly unfinished business.
“Etienne, who runs the Dakar Rally, said to me ‘Charley, if you can get to the start of the race, you’ve won’. I didn’t understand what he meant until I did it, and although I finished after five days, the journey to get to the end was phenomenal. It was only then that I realised the hardest thing about anything is getting to the start line, then anything after that is a bonus. If you’re not at the start line, you’re not in the game.”
It’s probably fair to say that I wouldn’t have found myself in conversation with Mr Boorman, again, if he and his best mate Ewan hadn’t decided to fulfil their life-long ambitions and ride east around the world from London to New York in 2004’s epic Long Way Round adventure.
Although fun-loving Boorman’s passion for motorcycles and travel was as strong then as it is now, the journey proved to be the springboard to the success he has gone onto since. From acting in several of his father’s films as a child (movie director, John Boorman) to meeting and befriending McGregor in the 1997 film ‘The Serpent’s Kiss’, and then moving on to adventure – it’s a career which has gone full circle.
In 2007, alongside Hollywood star McGregor, yet again, the duo completed an extraordinary motorcycle ride through 18 different countries from John O’Groats in Scotland to Cape Town, South Africa in Long Way Down.
Since that remarkable journey, most have been wondering when we can expect Charley and Ewan to set off on a third memorable trip together, but as of yet, there is no time scale on when this might happen.
‘Is the door still open for a third journey?’, I asked Charley.
“Yes, definitely, the door is always open to a third ‘Long Way’ trip. Ewan and I have spoken about it (riding up through South America) but as to when we’re going to do it we’re not sure. Ewan’s first love and favourite thing to do on earth is acting, and he’s riding high at the moment. We’ve both said that there’s plenty of time to do it. I don’t think there’s any rush.
“Ewan and I see each other all the time, although it’s more difficult now with our other commitments, but we talk to each other all the time like mates do.”
Charley Boorman’s South African Adventure launched on January 9th 2013 at 8pm on Channel 5. The final episode will be aired on January 30th 2013.
South African Airways runs two daily flights from London Heathrow to Johannesburg and a host of daily domestic flights serving five major cities on its local network – including flights to Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein, Kimberley and Richards Bay.
Follow Charley Boorman’s South African Adventure online (links below):