According to Macmillan Dictionary, 'up ahead' means 'not far in front,' while 'way' means 'far'.
We are accustomed to thinking of light as always going in straight lines. But it doesn’t. This is manifest when you view a mirage on a long straight highway on a hot day. The road looks wet way up ahead because light from the sky refracts, bending as it crosses the many successive layers of warm air near the surface of the road, until it heads back up to your eye.