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on 11 August 2006
I never read travel books, I never watch road movies, and autobiographies bore me. However, a friend of mine bought me this book for my birthday, so I thought I'd better thumb through it before we met again.

It is brilliant! Twigger doesn't try justifying this totally bonkers escapade, but from page one the reader is caught up in a whirlwind of enthusiasm. The balance between travelog and adventure story is perfect; the word-pictures so artfully painted that the included photos were no more than a distraction.

Enhance your library by reading this book, and make a friend by buying another copy!
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on 21 July 2006
I'm a big fan of Robert Twigger's books, and this latest is no disappointment. In fact it's better than even I had expected. I can only marvel at how someone can go to all those lengths to row his way across the Canadian outback. And what adventures along the way! And as ever, there is a sense of a greater journey, and a greater purpose behind what he is doing. The best travel books give you an insight into other worlds, not just other parts of the World, and Twigger is a master at doing this. Highly recommended.
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on 12 February 2006
When so many 'non-fiction' works are being shown to be made up or based on three days research in a library it is refreshing to come across a magnificent account which reminds me of nineteenth century travelogue (or even an 18th century journey, given the trip follows the diabolical route of MacKenzie in 1793 across North West Canada, from Lake Athabasca to the Pacific) where the key signature was toughness and a do or die willingness to open new routes for trade and sometimes conquest. Twigger is clearly a throw back in that he is obviously as tough as old boots and seems to relish nightmare conditions which most of us would prefer to watch on the National Geographic channel on television. But he has modern sensibilities and the pen of a poet.
This book cost three years and much sweat and toil from Twigger and his later day crew of Voyageurs. They covered over two thousand miles - and if that doesn't impress, one thousand was against the current. (Like running from Lands End to John O'Groats up a down escalator!) This book is a must read for anyone who wonders if the daily struggle simply to commute to the office is really a defining challenge and who might yearn to escape into the vast unpeopled water-wilderness of the Canadian landscape.
In summary a quite brilliant book by one of the most original travel writers now working.
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on 13 May 2006
This is a great wallop of a river-road book in the tradition of the English wanderer who is dedicated to peeling off the seemingy intact veneer of the present to reach the denser heartwood of the past and illume the shoddiness of now.

The main eye-opener for many citizens of the USA will be to learn that it was NOT Lewis and Clark, backed by the full might of the US Army and eager support of President Thomas Jefferson, but the entrepreneurial Scotsman Alexander Mackenzie who first traversed the North American continent to reach the Pacific Ocean -- and he did it across Canada in a birchbark canoe, mostly upriver and against the current, with a roughneck crew of rum-rationed backwoodsmen 15 years earlier in 1793.

It is Mackenzie's route that Robert Twigger, after building his own birchbark canoe, and his pick-up crews labouriously pursue over three summers, pittng brawn, brain and bloody-mindedness against everything the Canadian wilderness (and various outposts of Canuck civilization) can throw at them.

Like the eccentric Victorian travel writer George Borrow (and many others since -- Thesiger, for one, John McPhee for another), Twigger distrusts the "dark Satanic mills" of his day. Civilization, especially urbanization, leaches out something essential from the human endeavour, rendering it feeble, feckless and insipid.

This is a constant theme of the book, a yearning for a more muscular reality where the risks (grizzly bears, getting lost, nasty rapids) are real and the subtle rewards commensurate. More than once the Twigger lads spurn local creature comforts to tramp back to their tent and a more heart-felt truth, such as (at the end, when they are by a lake) "the ever-present loon calling across the water".

Beneath all that we hold valuable in the juggernaught of technological evolution, our blinding exponential rush towards Kurzweil's avowed Singularity, lurks something even more valuable that we scorn or romanticize in a Walt Disney way. Twigger sums it up on page 383:

"I saw what I valued most about the wilderness was the way it stripped away all the BS impedimenta of ordinary life, all the rubbish we've persuaded ourselves we need to live with,all the symbols that show we've got more money and status than our next-door neighbour. Those games sickened me and that is why I was glad when I walked back with Joe from the log cabin ... for our austere campsite."

This is a riproaring tale of adventure full of history, keen observation and assorted fascinating characters met along the way. The trip parallels Mackenzie's original (and even more strenuous effort for there were no maps then), with frequent quotations from the Scotsman's best-selling late 18th century journal. No one will read Twigger without finding that deepest of all refreshments: a sense of hope and continuity.

Special mention, too, must be made as to the excellence of the book's maps and photographs which gives this book that extra dimension of solid usability. You have a clear sense of where you are, what it looks like and with whom you're vicariously travelling. The publishers of most modern travel books stint on this vital visual bonding glue, thereby needlessly losing many armchair readers who find it hard to steer by sheer text alone.

Shake the hand and thank every Mackenzie you meet for giving us their illustrious namesake hero who made this vivid journey -- TWICE, the second time upriver with Twigger and his rugged gang!
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on 6 February 2006
Robert Twigger is no stranger to testing himself. He's searched for giant snakes in the jungles of Borneo, has studied Aikido with the Tokyo Riot Police, and has even gone on the trail of Zombies in Haiti. Voyageur is his latest adventure, and what an adventure it is! It's one of the wildest, greatest, 'epic-est' quests I have ever found recorded in a book, on a par with the great Victorian expeditions to central Africa. I challenge you not to be gripped from the first word of the first line!
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on 10 January 2015
I read Voyageur about a year ago and will be re-reading it in 2015. I felt an urge to review it because I noticed that nobody else had and I really think this book deserves more attention.

In Voyageur, Twigger embarks on a truly adventurous and testing journey through the Canadian wilderness. He does so partly because he is retracing history but really he does it - like all true adventurers - because it's there!

So the journey described in the book is a remarkable one. But what makes Voyageur so enjoyable and so memorable is how Twigger vividly conveys the difficulties, dangers and occasional joys that he and his team encounter on the way. There's humour, there's constant tension and there are major personality clashes.

Ultimately the book for me is about facing up to challenges, sticking to your goals and adapting to whatever is thrown at you. So amid Twigger's unpretentious, matter of fact writing style, there is plenty for the reader to mull on, even for those of us who don't tend to paddle up Canadian rivers and dodge grizzlies.

Voyageur is a terrific book - even better than Angry White Pyjamas in my view - and I have no hesitation in recommending it.
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on 3 January 2017
Read, read, read for inspiration! Rob with friends follow the footsteps of Mackenzie and his voyageurs 200 years after. The adventurous trip is made during three summers in a row in a birch bark-canoe from northern central Canada westward over the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. The canoe must be sealed every evening but when the going gets real tough and they hit a big rock very hard, the canoe holds because of its flexibility.
I love these kinds of books about challenges, books that urge and encourage you to leave your comfort zone. The physical hardships Rob & co. encountered were not to play with, like bears for instance, but sometimes the psychological ones were as tough.
I learned about the fur trade, the Indians living there, not assimilated, and other people they met, that had turned their backs to urban life. And most of them were friendly and helpful.
There's much to discover out there.
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on 3 August 2009
this book left me strangely dissatisfied. Perhaps I was expecting a greater sense of beauty from the surroundings, a sense of enjoyment, a sense of camaraderie against the odds. What I got was a hard, hard slog with lots of bickering and the odd major explosion. That is undoubtebly how it was, and I was hooked the description of the journey, but always I was hoping for a moment of revelation, a synergy with the environment. He was, after all, traveling in a native canoe. But I never really got it.
Whicfh is not to say it is a bad book, just not really what I was hoping for.
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on 15 December 2006
I read this book over 2 days ill in bed. There cannot be a better book to transport you from your sick bed and mundane concerns into a world of adventure, endurance and persistence. It put my flu in perspective and I emerged from it determined to get adventure back into my life.

Robert writes of the things we'd all like to do but won't, but he has the same concerns and pressures as all of us which he openly explores: what is leadership, what makes a team, how do you justify time away from family, what leads people to explore, how do you pay for it...

Great read, thanks for the motivation Robert.
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on 2 April 2007
Rob, thanks for one of the best reads ever. I have never heard of the author until I found this book. It is one of those books you just cannot put down. The authors description of the 2,000 miles journey and the relationship he developed with his surroundings and his companions was compelling.
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