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Ewan McGregor takes quiet South American ride in latest series

Charley Boorman (L) and Ewan McGregor ride Harley-Davidson electric LiveWires in Long Way Up. Photo courtesy of Apple TV+
Charley Boorman (L) and Ewan McGregor ride Harley-Davidson electric LiveWires in "Long Way Up." Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 18 (UPI) -- Movie star Ewan McGregor has combined his real-life passion for motorcycles with his Hollywood recognition in three TV series, but the latest one was the most challenging.

In Long Way Up, streaming Friday on Apple TV+, McGregor and his friend Charley Boorman ride motorcycles on the Pan-American Highway through South America, starting in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in Argentina nicknamed "the end of the world."

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"When we crossed into Bolivia, the border crossing leads you into complete wilderness," McGregor said in a Zoom round-table discussion. "It's really high altitude, and the roads get really bad."

Then there were the fan encounters.

McGregor is famous as Obi Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequel trilogy and Renton in Trainspotting. In Guayaquil, Ecuador, a Star Wars social media account told fans that McGregor was in town.

"Some people were arriving, going, 'Obi, we didn't know where you'd be,'" McGregor said.

Once the fans found McGregor and Boorman having a meal, police were needed to help clear a path for them to exit.

"We were just holed up in this restaurant, a crowd outside the door, thinking, 'How are we going to get out?'" McGregor said, adding that fans were "always very friendly. It was never a chore."In the first two series, Long Way Round and Long Way Down, McGregor and Boorman rode through Kazakhstan, Siberia, Mongolia, Alaska, Africa and other remote places.

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Riding north in South America, McGregor was taken by varieties of fashion. He noted that the women of each country wore a different shaped hat, as well as different combinations of pleated skirts and cardigans.

One common thread that connected every culture in South America was their language, McGregor said.

"Whereas before, going through the African continent, every country was different from the last [and] had different languages," McGregor said. "This trip, it was predominantly Spanish."McGregor and Boorman added another new challenge to Long Way Up with the decision to ride electric motorcycles. Since Long Way Down in 2007, McGregor had been keeping up with developments in electric vehicles. McGregor said automobiles got a head start on developing electric power.

"It's only now, in the motorcycle world, electric bikes are beginning to make an impact," McGregor said.

Harley-Davidson Inc. gave Long Way Up LiveWire prototypes for the trip. LiveWires have gone on the market since Long Way Up wrapped production, but the show presents McGregor and Boorman as some of the bikes' first riders.

To prepare, "We'd only ridden the actual bikes for half an hour in a parking lot in Milwaukee," McGregor said. "The first couple or three weeks of the trip was our learning curve."

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Finding outlets to charge the LiveWires added a complication they didn't have to address while riding internal combustion motorcycles. Cold weather hindered the batteries' ability to charge, and Boorman recalled struggling to recharge the bikes in Argentina because of the cold.

"It was too cold to charge outside, so we had to bring the bikes in," Boorman said. "Then we had to get blankets to put over the bikes to try and warm them up so we could get a charge."

Boorman said the need to charge the LiveWires led to encounters with locals. The supporting cast of Long Way Up was largely determined by who had outlets for their bikes. Some even allowed McGregor and Boorman to run cables out their windows.

"People were so happy to oblige," Boorman said. "If we hadn't had to plug in, we wouldn't have had those experiences."

With electric motorcycles, McGregor and Boorman had more flexibility to record dialogue since they didn't have to speak over noisy engines.

"Ewan and I could be riding along together and we could talk to each other," Boorman said.

Since there were no loud engine to scare away wildlife, Long Way Up also features more animal encounters.

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"You pull up beside these llamas," Boorman said. "Because there was no engine noise, they would just sort of stand around and look at you because [we] didn't become a threat."

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