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Charlie Boorman – adventurer

Epic Tomato caught up with actor and motorbike adventurer Charlie Boorman just days before his latest expedition to Canada to find out what inspires him and what he hopes to learn from his upcoming journey…

What inspired you to go on these adventures, to travel and see as much as you have seen?

I think it was my Dad; he was a film director (producing works such as Deliverance and Point Blank) and would shoot all over the world from the South Pacific to South Carolina and Brazil. As a child I went everywhere with him and was always in his movies…I vividly remember dad’s stunt man  teaching me how to shoot a hand gun at age 4, leaning out of the window and shooting sign posts. I guess it was his way of getting a bit of free work…he used to say ‘if you go and sit over there I will give you a tricycle’. Becoming an adult I carried on making movies but was choosing them for location rather than for script. When I met my wife we went to Oz and Africa together to make films and this eventually led to making the TV shows. Now it’s my kids who come out to meet me wherever I am, from Cape Town to Kenya to Tokyo, I think it is really important to instil the travel ethos in kids.

How do you prepare for these kinds of trips, is there a routine that you follow?

(Jokingly) Aside from getting other people to do everything for you? (I am a great believer in delegation!)

When you do go on an adventure and film it, there are endless issues with visas, work permits, film permits etc…for example in Russia every region we travelled through required a separate letter of sponsorship to permit filming.

In terms of dealing with extreme cold or heat like you have had to in the past, is there anything that really gets you through it and enables you to cope?

When we trained with the ex-SAS guys for hostile environment training, we were taught how to survive and react to border crossings (amongst loads of other things of course) and it was this in particular that I found so useful.

I reckon if you can survive all the preparation then the journey is easy. When you spend all that time and effort preparing for your journey no matter who you are or for how long you are going, it’s very easy to forget to enjoy it; you are always rushing towards your destination but at the end of the day does it matter if you make it that night…or you end up sleeping in the car?

The thing I have noticed over the years is that it’s not the things that that go off without a hitch you remember, it is the things that go wrong; the break downs, the ‘dodgy’ situations, the immigration officials demanding money off you and the ensuing arguments that really stick in your mind…

Is there anything you miss whilst you’re away…something you always take with you?

It’s funny, you fantasise about food a lot; travelling through Africa and Mongolia and all those sorts of places you find there is not much to eat and the food you can buy in shops is not that great, I guess because the indigenous population are so self-sufficient.

So it’s rations all round?

Yeah, a lot of the time we go for those gooey, orange boil in the bags … not very pleasant and it’s at times like those when I start really craving one meal in particular, and strangely enough it is one that I don’t even have that much at home; Bresaola…a dried beef Carpaccio with rocket, shavings of parmesan, olive oil and balsamic with a squeeze of lemon….it’s on my mind a lot oh as well as American hot pizza with extra cheese!

So you are off to Canada in the next few days and are planning to visit all the different provinces…

Yeah, we will be doing all sorts of different things from really fun extreme stuff to interacting with the indigenous Inuit of the north. It’s going to be interesting to just be in one country for once with much fewer language barriers yet massive contrasts between say the Northern provinces and over on the West Coast. I am particularly looking forward to going down to the border with Montana to the areas where there was prohibition to see the tunnels they used to smuggle the booze in from Canada.

Is there one particular thing you have you have learnt about yourself through all your travels?

When you are travelling, the mistakes you make tend to become more apparent so I always hope you can improve on them. I think I am much more tolerant now, I used to be very impatient; as a kid my nickname was short fuse but I think I have got a handle on that now.

I also now have huge faith in humanity; you hear terrible things about certain places; for example we went through Libya a few years ago…people’s impressions are of torture and tyranny but when you are there it is not nearly as bad…I am sure it all goes on, but we stopped in villages where we were made to feel incredibly at home and people were so friendly…the same in Egypt and Sudan…filled with some of the loveliest, beautiful people.

How did you find it riding through the deserts?

Hot! Really hot…but it’s great, it’s what you fantasize about when you are planning the trip; about being baking hot with tyre sets melting beneath your wheels.

It was brilliant at night, still baking hot, lying there in your little silk liner under just a mosquito net looking up at just the most incredible stars in a pitch black African night sky. Once we came off the road and made camp when it was dark, in the morning we woke up to find ourselves right in the middle of these 3 huge kilns that were used for making bricks out of mud…all we could see was a load of guys looking down at us and a whole lot of commotion.

What are you looking forward to most about Canada?

I am really keen to get up into the mountains and the wilderness. We have arranged a whole host of amazing activities including kayaking, heli-mountain biking and swimming with minke whales in Newfoundland tempered with some time with indigenous tribes whose ancient ways of living remain unchanged to the present day.

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