Thursday, September 20, 2007

Beyond the Horizon: The Great Race to Finish the First Human-Powered Circumnavigation of the Planet - Colin Angus

The Basics: Beyond the Horizon: The Great Race to Finish the First Human-Powered Circumnavigation of the Planet, Colin Angus, 2007, 374 pages, hardcover

How I found it: In undergrad I was introduced to Colin Angus' short films through a UBC Geography film night. I subsequently read his other books and have been following his progress ever since. Last spring I attended a screening of his film Beyond the Horizon and listened to him and his fiance speak about their journey.

What's it about?: Angus began a human powered attempt to travel from Vancouver to Moscow via foot, bicycle, rowboat, and skis in 2004. His partner, Tim Harvey wrote a series of articles about the trip for The Vancouver Sun. Their plan was to try to get to Moscow, then announce their plan to the world of continuing on back to Vancouver by human power. Unfortunately, Angus and Harvey didn't get along as well as planned, the expedition was under-funded and partially unplanned, and the two eventually parted ways in Siberia. Angus ended up finishing the adventure with his fiance, Julie Wafaei. Throughout his journey, Angus and Harvey engaged in a brutal he-said, he-said in the media.

Did I like it?: I was interested to read this book since Angus came across so poorly in media accounts. I was interested to hear his side of the story and to better understand what went wrong between him and Harvey. Angus has commented many times that it is sad that his achievement has been overshadowed by the battles between Harvey and himself, and its true - I was more interested in the Harvey aspect than anything else when I picked up this book. As well, when I attended Angus' talk and film last spring, he glossed over his problems with Harvey and Harvey's involvement in the journey. At the time I thought it was unfair, given how well Harvey came across in the media - basically, it appeared that Harvey was deeply wronged by the selfish Angus and that Angus didn't care. However, after reading the book and hearing Angus' version of events, I think that Angus was being a gentleman by refusing to get into the horrible things that happened between the two of them; he refused to air their dirty laundry. In the book, Angus comes across as the bigger man, although he still does come across as quite selfish. However, I think that his side of the story makes for a very compelling read - whether you are familiar with his journey's history or not. Don't be fooled into thinking that this book is about reducing carbon-impact or raising awareness though. Angus insisted that was the purpose of his journey, but due to his continued reliance on assistance from fueled forms of transport for logistics, it's clear that is not the case. His goal was simply to be the first to get around the globe on human-power - a worthy objective in any case.

Will you like it?: If you followed Angus and Harvey's journey at all, this is a must read so that you can get both sides of the story and decide who to believe. Otherwise, if you like adventure travel stories, this one is pretty good, and it covers a journey that had never been done before.

But don't take my word for it: The usual product info and reader reviews from Amazon, a review from Geist, one from journalist Joe Wiebe, and the book's official webpage.

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