Rowed trip

Photos by Julie & Colin Angus


So what do National Geographic's Adventurers of the Year (2007) do for their honeymoon? Sunbathe in Rivazzurra? Sip sangrias in Puerto Vallarta? Of course not.


They row (and bicycle) from the tip of Scotland, through Europe and down to Syria. The human power duo's latest expedition is related in their new book and documentary, Rowed Trip, both of which were released recently for their promotional tour of much of Canada.


"We were inspired when we were on our last expedition which was going around the world by human power," says Julie Angus, from their home in the Comox Valley. "I joined Colin for the last half of that trip in Moscow. Cycling through Europe we got the idea of travelling on canals and all the waterways through Europe. They were so appealing - so serene - it seemed like an incredible way to explore a continent through inland waterways."


Colin Angus has been travelling using human or wind power for almost two decades. He bought his first sailboat in Port Alberni, BC with his paper-route savings and spent the next five years sailing around the world. That led to other things such as running the Amazon and the Yenisey rivers and more. Julie is the first woman to have rowed across the Atlantic. They have both shot down some of the wildest rivers in the world. Well, you get the drift.


Not that going from John O' Groats, Scotland to Syria by rowboat and bicycle is a piece of cake either. The trip had a family theme. Both Colin’s parents are from Scotland, and Julie’s are from Germany and Syria. Where possible they rowed. There's still networks of canals in Europe, which they took when they could.


"Travelling with rowboats was the ideal way of moving through these countries because it gave us a lot of flexibility," says Julie Angus. "They're sea-worthy boats that can travel along coastlines as well as inland waterways, and they could be portaged using bicycles."


They built the boats themselves, making a hatch on the boats where they could stash the bikes (left). "One of the most important things was to be able to tuck everything away when we were on the water," says Angus. They took the Caledonian canal in Scotland, rowed down the coast, then took the old Oxford canal. From there they were able to go down the Thames with the current behind them, through the country pastures, past 500 year-old Inns, into the murky and regal heart of London, and beyond to the river's mouth.


The English Channel has sunk many a ship, and many more row boats. It is rarely, if ever, calm, and it is also one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.


"It was quite a challenge," she says, "We had a very small time-window to do it in, as it was just a part of a much larger journey. So we didn't have the luxury of waiting for a perfectly calm day. When we went the waves were quite considerable. We left an hour before sunrise and made it over in just under 5 hours." Quite a feat when one considers all the various obstacles, and that an Olympic rower had taken 7 hours earlier in the year. "We were just thrilled the way the boats performed on that crossing."


However in France, they were prevented from using the canals because of restrictions on the locks. So they bicycled through France to the Rhine River (left), and then upriver to Julie’s mother’s homeland of Germany, where they visited relatives. After which they packed their bikes away to row down the celebrated Danube, which flows 2,850 km from its source to the Black sea.


“We followed the Danube River for most of its length. A beautiful and enchanting river that goes through about 10 countries,” Angus says, “We saw Roman carvings on the river's banks, a huge statue carved out of rock - lots of archaeological digs along the way. And as always on journeys like this the people that you meet are a huge highlight of it. The kindness and the hospitality that they show you.”


These rivers of Europe have long been major routes of travel, since long before the Romans. The Vikings invaded Europe through its river systems going as far east as Russia and as far south as the Mediterranean. Normandy was one of their provinces. The Normans who invaded England in 1066 were actually of Viking descent, as were other various enclaves of Norsemen in Europe.


So the Anguses were following old routes of adventure, as their photos show (see their web site for more). Julie and Colin Angus are modern-day adventurers doing what most of us can only do vicariously through people like them. Their best-selling books and documentaries give us some idea of their exciting experiences.


From the Black Sea they rowed along the coast to Instanbul. Syrian bureaucracy prevented them from taking the rowboats any further so they biked into Syria, and eventually met up with Julie’s paternal relatives, where they celebrated the end of their amazing travels.


“There were lots of primal moments on the journey, and we found a lot of beautiful places that we saw that were really quite hidden - places most people wouldn't go on any tourist itinerary.”


Further interest:
Colin and Julie Angus’ website:




Rowed trip tour info:
Catherine Whiteside, Publicist
416.957.1543 /

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