Video Review – The Long Way Up Episode 10

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In which we go bus shopping.

Episode 10 – Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, & Mexico (52 minutes)
3,881 miles to LA!

The episode starts up in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. It’s the first country that Charley and Ewan have visited on this trip which I’ve ridden in myself. They end up in Playa Hermosa for the night, where Ewan’s adopted daughter (who he first met at a street shelter in Mongolia on Long Way Round when she was three) is waiting to meet him.

We cross into Nicaragua with no fanfare, and spend the next few minutes watching the talent enjoy food. I have to take a break to grab a snack. Once they hit the road, Charley and Ewan get interrupted as well – a Canadian named Zachari on a KTM Adventure with a Quebec plate was going the opposite way, then turns around to flag the duo down and tell them what an inspiration they are. Then they get in an impromptu “race” with someone on a little bike.

Most of the time on screen in Nicaragua is spent at a UNICEF site, and then it’s on to Guatemala for a campsite alongside a lake that’s filled the crater of a volcano. Turns out it’s Ewan’s first “American” Thanksgiving, and he’s spending it in Guatemala.

Before they enter Mexico, the guys are having their first security concerns in terms of cartel activity. The proposed solution catches me off guard – they’re thinking about buying a “chicken bus” (basically a repurposed school bus) in Guatemala, empty out the back so they can park the bikes in the back overnight and charge them at the same time. Ewan’s the first one to admit that it’s a bit “bonkers,” but they jump ahead to the Mexico border and leave the crew to get the bus sorted out.

Mexico represents the penultimate country on this trip, and their local fixer spends plenty of time discussing the severity of the cartels, noting that Ewan’s fame doesn’t help. Ewan asks what some potential scenarios are, and the response is, “you can get stopped, you can get asked for money, you can get kidnapped. Worst case, you can disappear.”

The crew wasn’t able to get a Guatemalan bus across the border, so two of the producers fly ahead to Oaxaca and try to buy one in Mexico instead.

When they try to test drive it…guess what? The battery is dead. This whole series seems to be about battery problems. So a few people get together to push start a bus, which isn’t a sentence I thought I’d ever type.

The most exciting thing that’s happened in the first 38 minutes is that Charley almost hits a bicyclist. He’s smiling and laughs it off, but somehow I don’t think she’s as happy about it.

The bikes are in a bit of a holding pattern until the bus situation gets sorted. A bus has been acquired but it needs some work – unfortunately they have a bit of trouble getting into a mechanic’s garage. That means we get to watch them eat more delicious food, and someone shares their recipe for authentic guacamole. I’m hungry again.

The bus needs 7-10 days of work, but the crew only has 2.5 days before they have to leave. So they go on a manhunt for parts, including turn signals, a clutch, coolant reservoirs…it’s a long, long list that ends in “Mexican blankets”. I guess in Mexico, they’re just blankets.

The episode ends with another security briefing which includes a horrific story of a 3 car convoy containing women and children getting shot up by the cartel. Cut to black with ominous music.

I can’t place my finger on exactly why, but this was the weakest episode of the series for me. Then again, they only covered a couple of hundred miles, so it was mostly about the tribulations of a producer trying to source a bus. Here’s hoping we can finish strong with a bit more adventure in the last episode!


On to Episode 11!

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