We’re a bit jealous of Charley Boorman. The English-born, Irish-bred son of film director John Boorman started as an actor before hitting the big time travelling with buddy Ewan McGregor in Long Way Round. He’s now gone from Sydney to Tokyo, By Any Means, for a new DVD and book…
Your last By Any Means trip was Ireland to Australia. Why return to Oz? Well, we thought the logical thing was to start where we finished in Sydney and head up the Pacific Rim, eventually to end up back in Ireland. Like all of these programmes you do one and if they like it you get another one.
Didn’t you come and live in Sydney when you were younger? I spent six months in Sydney and three months up in Queensland in Mossman, just north of Port Douglas. I came over with my now wife. I kind of followed her to Australia really, chasing her around the world! It’s a beautiful place. Sydney is an amazing place to spend time as a youngster. I did a bit of labouring, just over Sydney Harbour Bridge. I also did a bit of bar work in Five Ways, Paddington.
Last time you drove down from Darwin. This time you go up the east coast. How do they compare? Well [last time] was very dry. There was a lot of nothing. Central Australia is stunning. Then you’ve got the coast which is extraordinary. It changes constantly. You end up in lush jungle and then back to arid again, it’s quite extraordinary.
You went to an Aboriginal community near Cape York. How was that? It’s difficult, the whole Aboriginal problem here in Australia. I think 80 per cent of Australians don’t have a clue as to what the history of the Aboriginal people is and how badly treated they were. To me it feels that the Aborigines have been pushed aside and put into these towns.
So was it depressing? The place we went to, they were very lucky. They didn’t have the problems of having the children being taken away and of the lost generation, so in that regard they are very lucky. But to me it seems like Aboriginal people have been pushed aside in Australia, been paid off, and the integration isn’t really there. That’s how I feel and that’s how it is I think. It’s a shame because there is no real integration which makes it very hard to see these places and try to make sense of it. But I think things are getting better.
You’re basically a professional traveller. What is it about travel that you love? I’ve been doing it since I was a little kid. My father is a film director and so we always travelled around the world. I get the bug from him. I suppose there are people who have that kind of gypsy lifestyle where you never feel that comfortable unless you’re travelling. I feel very much like that. I love meeting people and going to odd, dodgy places. I quite like that actually. The more odd and dodgy it gets the more alive you become. I think we all need to go out and explore a little bit.
You’ve had some interesting meals… Agh. Snake blood and deer penis and turtle testicle. I always think wherever you go you’ve got to give it a go. Some of it makes you laugh just because it’s so ridiculous. Papua New Guinea was the one with the weirdest food. They have this thing called sago. It’s just like eating jellified snot. They give you this bowlful and then sit around watching you eat it so you’ve got no choice but to eat this fucking disgusting stuff.
Do you normally eat the lot? It depends on how bad it is. If it’s really bad then you do a few polite things and make a joke and people are usually pretty accepting about that kind of thing. But that’s their food, so it’s difficult.
There are rumours about a third Long Way… series with Ewan, perhaps up through the Americas? It’s definitely a possibility. We’ve always spoken of a third one and think eventually we’ll get around to doing it. It’s a big amount of work, but I think it will come along at some stage, definitely.
Charley’s new book, Right To The Edge: Sydney To Tokyo By Any Means, is out now.