Month: June 2009

travelling for free?

Found this on I dont agree with all of it … esp’ about  staying for free  which sounds like using people  – doing a few chores does not help buy food!   anyway read a few of the tips and then go and check out the whole article if you want more!

cheers from the kiwi travel writer AKA the passionate nomadhapeta kiwi sign

How To Travel The World For Free (Seriously)

Embrace the Simple Joy of Travel

Travel frees you from the grind of daily routine. You will explore new places, meet new people, try new foods and learn things about the world – and yourself – that you never imagined were possible.

The joy of new experience is the most wonderful thing about travel – and new experiences are free. Walk the streets of a city. Stop and chat with a local. People watch in a public park. Climb to the top of a hill and watch the sun set over the ocean.

The simple joy of being in a new place is just a matter of…wait for it…going someplace new. No tour package required.

2. Keep Your Needs To A Minimum

Themodern American economy is built on the false premise that people need to buy new goods and services all the time. Again, I call bullshit.

People need fresh air, healthy food, clean water, exercise, creative stimulation, companionship, self-esteem and a safe place to sleep.

All of these things are simple to obtain. Most of them are free.

For fresh air, go outside. For exercise, take a walk. For creative stimulation, go somewhere new. For companionship, make a friend. For self esteem, turn off your TV, breathe deep and open your spirit to the basic goodness of the world.

Things like food and shelter are much cheaper once you get outside the United States. See # 5 below for ways to obtain food and shelter for free.

3. Go SlowWEB naked-front-cover
Cambodian Coast . photo by Ryan Libre

If you live in New York and want to take a 2 week vacation to Africa, it will be very difficult (though not impossible, see number eight) to travel for free.

Indeed, as long as you believe that time is money, you will spend money all the time.

Time is not money. Time is free. You have all the time in the world.

Instead of buying a plane ticket, catch a ride out West, or remodel an old sailboat, or just hop on your bike and ride away from town. The slower you travel, the less money you will spend.

4. Leave Your Possessions and Obsessions Behind

When you travel, you don’t need to pay rent. You don’t need a car. You don’t need an oven, a washer-dryer, electricity, Cable TV, a gym membership, a sofa and loveseat or a closet full of clothes.

You don’t need a suit and tie to wear to your job because you don’t need a job. You don’t need to worry about paying the bills, because there are no bills to pay.

You are free.

airline meals and passengers

Do other travellers amuse you or drive you crazy? Are you able to ignore them or is the person allocated the seat next to you always a talker of nonsense and wants to use your ear to pour all their rubbish into. Are you are able to stop them?

Travelling a few days ago I must have been in an intolerant mood. As soon as I arrived in the departure lounge a couple immediately, albeit unintentionally no doubt, tried my patience. Or rather, at 6 am, my lack of patience.

Loud voiced – like everyone wants to hear their scintillating conversation, yeah right – they waffled on about the various planes they have flown in. Dash eights were mentioned frequently as well as the amateurs version of the pros and cons of the propeller versus the jet engine, the umbrellas either available or unavailable at the various stops on their journey and finally the distance to walk to what they assumed was to be their aircraft. Metres away from them, the conversation was as clear as if I was sitting with them.

It was a small plane and the conversation continued for them, and their fellow passengers, until they settled down to read the newspaper after first complaining that they had been asked to put a parcel that was ‘as light as a feather’ under the seat.

The day improved as soon as we arrived in Wellington. It put on a perfect day- as it frequently does- my meeting was fruitful and at days end I board for my return flight. I think I have been travelling too much, or the day was too long, I was just grouchy, as on this journey it was the crew that I was inwardly complaining about.

For some reason the woman making all the announcements was saying ‘excuse me’ at the beginning of each announcement and although the signs clearly indicated toilet / lavatory in her words they had become the American ‘bathroom’.

I berate myself for such pettiness then am absolutely amazed at the young male flight attendant telling the men behind me that ‘the girls’ would be along with the drinks in a moment. The girls in question were both older than him but I’m sure they do not refer to him as the ‘boy’.

I went to bed early – I obviously needed it. These overheard conversations are usually ignored by me, but not on that day.

Recently a friend was complaining about passengers moaning about the meals -plastic, overcooked, and boring.

‘That’s not my experience’ he told me, “I’m travelling often but have never really had a meal to complain about. I think it is just a habit, an affectation, the cool thing to do, complain about the meals. By the looks of many of them it’s more than likely the best they have eaten for ages.”

I asked some other frequent flyers about the meals and they too unanimously endorsed the meals. None expected the variety or quality they received in their favourite restaurants, but all said airlines did a good job under difficult circumstances.

One person said. “I love them, they’re light,  perfect size, just right for travelling . . . and I don’t have to cook or clean up. Excellent.”

I too am mostly happy with the meals, and on international flights, I order the vegetarian option. This has three advantages, the special meals are served first, consequently the toilets queues are non existent, and I get to get to sleep while others are still lining up to use the lavatory.

So from many seasoned travellers – a well deserved thumbs up to the food section of the airline industry.

post travel distress and culture shock

The holidays are over. You have returned home and now reality bites. Post travel distress is about to attack.

The symptoms are vague but disabling. People you thought were friends don’t ask how the holiday went, or if they do they don’t  want to stop and listen to your hour long discourse on the rooms with a view, the wonderful (or  terrible) food you ate, the funny train you travelled or the boat you fell from. About the only thing that whets their appetite is talk of a fabulous French lover.

The memories start to fade with the suntan, work acts as though nothing has changed despite your new skills you have added to your CV while teaching English in Tibet, waited tables in Athens or negotiated your way through the London A to Z and learnt how to use the subway system.

Those back from a sabbatical in London or New York wonder why on earth the pedestrian crossings say WAIT when they only car seems miles away and you know it would be easy to nip across in front of it. The city they left has become a village.

The weather – now there is a topic that is bound to bring on an attack of post travel distress. Last week bathing in sunshine under some tropical Pacific or African sun – this week in NZ’s winter-imitating-summer. It’s all enough to send you back to examine your CV to see if you have the credentials that could get you a job with the VSA (volunteer service abroad) in some exotic location.   Some WARM exotic location.

Culture shock is something you are supposed to get when you go away – not something that happens in the place you were born or live. However its a real symptom of post travel problems. I recall feeling a real shock when after 3 months among African people i arrived in Perth, Australia and was amazed at all the white faces. It’s fascinating how quickly we become accepting of the current  situation or place as the norm.

So how do we counteract the distress, the feeling that we haven’t been away at all, that everyone else has stagnated while we have changed tremendously.

Firstly many of you will want or need go to your GP for a  check of the various ticks, itches and tummy upsets are not some unwanted souvenir of a great or lousy holiday.

Others will ignore health issues and start a saving routine that will ensure another trip will happen. Soon. I check my frequent-flyer-points hoping for a reward trip that will tide me over until the savings manage to reach a level that will allow me to consult my travel wish-list and travel agent.

A friend in the UK tells me that already they are settling into a boring and overworking routine and their 18m months of travel seems a pipe dream.  To counter this they have started reading their travel diary every Friday night to keep memories alive. A good antidote to their post travel distress symptoms.

So if you are suffering from some form of post travel distress find other travellers who want to talk about travel with you; read travel pages and books; write travel stories and submit them to newspapers and magazines; pour over your photos and save to do it all again.

french rugby player admits making up ‘assault’

Please note this was in 2009!

France centre admits making up ‘assault’ The Times June 26, 2009

(Scroll down to see addition – from CNN – on 1st July re French Prime Minister apologising to New Zealand)

Mathieu Bastareaud, the France centre who claimed that he had been attacked because of his nationality last weekend while on tour to New Zealand, has admitted to lying.

The 20-year-old Stade Français back caused a diplomatic incident after he suffered a broken eye socket, facial cuts and severe bruising. John Key, the New Zealand Prime Minister, and Kerry Prendergast, the Mayor of Wellington, wrote letters of apology to the France team immediately after the “attack” and rugby and tourism officials feared that New Zealand’s reputation had been damaged.

Bastareaud, who has since flown back to France, had claimed that he was the victim of an unprovoked attack in Wellington early on Sunday morning, but has now said that the injuries were caused by a drunken fall in his hotel room.

Prendergast said that New Zealand and its capital city were owed an apology by France team officials.

“I have to say that passing it off as an inexperienced, young player isn’t good enough,” the mayor said yesterday. “There was clearly collusion. There were other players involved, the team doctor was involved, the coach [was involved] because [Bastareaud] got sent back so quickly. This is wider than just one player and I think we need an apology.

“My understanding is that other players knew about it, so we can’t just say that this is one player.

“Clearly the doctor who did the stitching and the fact that he was sent back . . . other people knew.”

Prendergast said that Wellington police had also been suspicious from an early stage about the French version of events.

“I know from the start . . . [police] had their suspicions about the story, they were keen to get to the bottom of it and I congratulate them for doing it so quickly,” she said.

The New Zealand union (NZRU) expressed “outrage” that Bastareaud’s claim had “cast a negative light on rugby, Wellington and New Zealand”.

Steve Tew, the NZRU chief executive, said: “Like all New Zealanders, I am extremely disappointed with this series of events and will be expressing that concern to the French rugby federation (FFR).

“We share the concerns of Mayor Prendergast and Wellington area police at the distress, negative publicity and the unnecessary concern this has caused for many people — and will be talking further about this with the FFR.”

POST SCRIPT 1st july 09

(CNN) — French Prime Minister Francois Fillon has apologized to his opposite number in New Zealand, John Key, over the recent “unacceptable behavior” of France rugby center Mathieu Bastareaud.


Bastareaud has now been hospitalized after the furor surrounding his false claim of assault in New Zealand.

Bastareaud has now been hospitalized after the furor surrounding his false claim of assault in New Zealand.

The 20-year-old Stade Francais player, who is the cousin of Arsenal defender William Gallas, has been hospitalized with psychiatric problems after lying over an alleged assault outside the team hotel in Wellington — following France’s 14-10 defeat against the All Blacks on June 20.

Fillon told Key in a letter: “France’s tour of New Zealand has been marked by the unacceptable behavior of one of our players.

“Our two countries share the culture of rugby. This sport has always allowed us to meet and to share a mutual respect. I hope that these sentiments will continue after this regrettable affair.”

Bastareaud’s claim that he was attacked by four or five men outside the hotel shocked New Zealand and led to an apology from Key.

But video evidence showed the player had entered the hotel on Sunday morning uninjured and had gone into his room 25 minutes later.


Meanwhile, Bastareaud, who was admitted to hospital on Monday, received support from the French players’ union Provale.

“We, professional rugby players, lend our friendship and support to Mathieu Bastereaud and his family,” Provale said in a statement.

French Rugby Federation (FRF) president Pierre Camou also offered his apology to New Zealand over the affair that blighted France’s All Black tour.

A FRF statement declared: “To be an international carries with it responsibility as a representative of your country and your federation.

“The FRF is shocked that one of the French team has lied. The New Zealand nation and the world of rugby can legitimately feel wounded by the player’s initial statements which have also tarnished the image of French rugby.”

Bastareaud returned home early from the tour to treat his facial injuries as the rest of the French squad travelled on to Australia and on his return issued an apology saying he believed he had to tell the truth following the media furore.

He said that instead of being assaulted he had in fact sustained the bruises to his face after a drunken fall in his hotel room.

Bastareaud, who had been due to go on a family holiday to the Caribbean this week, is expected to stay in hospital for at least a fortnight under observation.


food in foreign places? vegetarian? no problems really

only 12% of westerners like durian - I am one of them
only 12% of westerners like durian - I am one of them

Notwithstanding having a kitchen the size of a yacht galley, I love food.

Living alone, I whip up very few culinary delights. This is despite watching the occasional TV chef, attending a cooking school in Thailand, managing a cafe in Athens, and working as an entree chef in Wales! (In an Italian restaurant, under a temperamental French Chef)

However this experience has qualified me, like people at an art gallery, to know what I like – and what I miss when I travel.

Usually simple things like good bread, vegemite,  good cheese, seafood, and poached eggs on toast. However it all depends on the country I am in, how long I have been on the road and my state of mind.

When all is well I am happy with the local food no matter what it may be, although a snack of sun-dried caterpillar in a Zimbabwean food market was hard to swallow because of its dryness.

When I was vegetarian it was difficult to be sure no chicken had sat in the soup water despite having learnt to say ‘I don’t eat meat’ in a dozen different languages. “Vegetarian meal? No problem, here is chicken, fish or pork.” As long as it is not red meat some assume that it must be vegetarian. “No – no meat, no chicken no pork, just rice please. No. No soup on it” I say as they would carefully scoop up some liquid and leave the chicken pieces floating in the fatty cauldron.

Some countries are easier to travel in when you don’t eat meat however even some Buddhist eat meat. The best place in the world for vegetarian meals is a small suburb in Georgetown. (Malaysia) If you are going there, write out these directions.

Go to the reclining Buddha, (walk or bus from town) then cross the road to visit the peaceful Burmese Buddhist temple and when you have finished looking, go out the front gate – turn left, walk a kilometre down the road to a t intersection, turn left and stop at any food shop. I guarantee it will be fantastic. I also know you will ask, as I did, “Are you sure this is vegetarian? No meat?”web food blog

They are amused. Yes, no meat. They have developed creative and tasty ways of using tofu in its many forms. Menus are varied, the food delicious and I went back, and back to sample the lot.

Many British people I met had become vegetarian for their travels, they wanted to reduce the chances of gastric problems and maybe it helps. I certainly ate everything I wanted, everywhere, and apart from the occasional quick trips to the toilet it seems my stomach could handle anything.

A young British GP I met in Harare said she always eats the local yoghurt for a day or two when she goes anywhere new – a gentle way introduce her stomach to the local bug culture- sounds feasible – I have no idea if it works but she swore by it.

I finally gave up being a strict vegetarian so I could join with locals and try cultural delicacies such as crocodile, haggis and in Cairo, pigeon stuffed with green rice. My stomach continued its cast-iron behaviour. I put it down to the earthworms I told my parents I had eaten when I was a very young child. True? I have no idea!

web food blog2

So eschew the international fast food places and tourist restaurants that will deliver the same meal as you get at home, and vegetarian or carnivore, go visit the local markets and give your taste buds a scrumptious surprise.

listen to New Zealands national anthem – you tube

New Zealands anthem

E Ihowā Atua,
O ngā iwi mātou rā
āta whakarongona;
Me aroha noa
Kia hua ko te pai;
Kia tau tō atawhai;
Manaakitia mai

God of Nations at Thy feet,
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our free land.
Guard Pacific’s triple star
From the shafts of strife and war,
Make her praises heard afar,
God defend New Zealand.

YouTubeNew Zealand National Anthem

1 min 53 sec – 18 Jun 2007 –

New Zealand National Anthem sung by Benjamin McHugh at the Telstra Stadium,

Cooking class in NZs sunniest city

Cooking in the middle of New Zealand

leave the boots at the door
leave your boots at the door

I’ve flown to Nelson, New Zealand, and have been given the use of a car by the Rent-a-Dent and, despite the lack of dents, the car is great and off I go – I’m following Highway 6 through to the end of Highway 60 in Collingwood.

But first, Nelson: as a tourist destination it has much to offer, with artists of all types, has a farmers market, a regular market, a thriving wine region, a great shoreline to explore, and a variety of accommodation on offer – but more of this in a future story, so watch this space.

web nelson waterfrontAs this is the biggest fishing port in Australasia [and for people who don’t live down under let me explain this word. it just means this part of the world – New Zealand is part of the area not part  of Australia which is hours away by plane!]

I also plan on eating fish and, as a bonus, attend a cooking class with Vivienne Fox, well-respected for her fabulous Saltwater Café which sits right on the wharf beside her fish supplier Guytons Fisheries, which is also next door to the only fish shop where, so popular are its fish and chips that customers need to order by an appointment time: a shock to new-comers to the area when they first ring with a phone order.

Emma, who has been in the region a couple of years, tells me about it: “I heard again and again that Havens Fish & Chips was the best place in NZ so thought we had better try them. I couldn’t believe that when I rang I was told – ‘Sorry, can’t do that in ten mins, 6:40 is the first space free’ – that’s when I knew they really must be great, fish and chips by time slot!”

web saltwater interiorTom and Vivienne Fox, who successfully ran Mapua’s Smokehouse, purchased a café on Nelson’s waterfront, renamed it Saltwater Café and Bar, and have turned it into a specialist seafood restaurant using fish caught by the boats of neighbouring company, Guytons Fisheries: Wellington architect Ian Athfield (who they also used to update their home) helped with the redesign, while local artist Daryl Frost has impressive works in both their home and café.

I have been waiting for sometime to have a cooking class and, as Vivienne and Tom Fox had just returned from Japan, and with all the updates happening at the café, I was invited to join a small group at their home for the lesson which fortuitously included risotto – and long on my list of recipes and techniques to discover.

web hamish 2

In the kitchen, with an oil picture of Hamish, a wild heron, (kotuku) hanging behind us and as Vivienne prepares for our class, she tells me she had fed him daily when they were in Mapua. (33 km west of Nelson) Hamish is a local attraction and even has an ice-cream shop named after him. As rolls and plaits fly from her hands and into the oven I learn of her passion for bread and fish, then it’s time to clean a fish for Thai fish cakes, make a risotto then poached fruit for dessert.

web vivienne prepares the fish

Vivienne loves to put honey in her bread, and to make it last, uses butter in the recipe too. She also says her ‘grandparents were green before there was such a thing as green’ as they grew their own wheat and other grains, milled it and made their bread.

She’s also not fussy about measurements. “Bread is forgiving – cakes are not!”

web cookling class participants

Usually the cooking classes are ‘hands on’ but as it’s in her home this time we, an eclectic group of women, mostly get to watch a professional  at work, although we all help with stirring the risotto.

As we eat the fabulous end result, I ask them about a local street I found – ‘Quiet Woman Way’ which they decide must have been named by a hopeful man. In return they tell me that the reputed geographic Centre of New Zealand, celebrated on a hill in the city centre, is actually in Golden Downs Forest some 30 kms away: just another of those interesting things we tourists find when we spend time with locals – no matter where in the world we  are travelling. TELL VIVIENNE Heather Hapeta reccommended her cafe and class.

travel myths – flights, hotels, upgrades & guides

Just passing  on more ‘stuff’ about travel   – flights, upgrades and guides  –

Here are just some of the great travel myths (READ MORE by PURE TRAVEL) that we have come across and please do let us know your own personal travel myths.

1. Book Early and Save Money – It’s a popular myth that the earlier you book the more money you can save. Sure there are always early booking discounts offered but if you’re not too picky about where you want to go/stay then there are some great last minute bargains to be had.

2. All Airlines Are Created Equally – When booking a flight do weigh up all the options, especially for extra charges for meals and baggage etc. Check what the airlines policy is and what’s included and compare airline facilities that may concern you, ie seat pitch, entertainment etc .

3. Weekday Flights Are Cheaper – Flying midweek at a ridiculous time is not necessarily the cheapest option. Do shop around as very often the more convenient weekend flights are available and often for either the same price or slightly more.

4. Hotel Ratings Are A Good Guide – Hotel ratings and comments can be hit and miss, so make sure you do some other research; ask friends and colleagues and ask your local tour operator who should be impartial.

5. Honeymooning Upgrades – Many hotels and travel agents sell ‘special’ packages if you’re booking a special holiday, ie a honeymoon, birthday, wedding etc. Check what you will actually get for your money as the special package may amount to nothing more than a bottle of sparkling wine and some dried-up sponge cake! You could always tell your airline and hotel after you have booked and try for some complimentary upgrades.

see the next 3 myths here

happiest country in the world?

The OECD used data collated from a Gallup World Poll which was conducted last year in 140 countries across the world. The poll focussed on four key areas; satisfaction with present life, predicted satisfaction with future life, 2009 GDP and unemployment rate. Their results are interesting, (SEE  MORE HERE) with some notable countries missing from the list:

10. Belgium
9. Norway
8. New Zealand
7. Switzerland
6. Canada
5. Ireland
4. Sweden
3. Netherlands
2. Finland
1. Denmark

pacific ocean covered with plastic

Drowning in plastic: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is twice the size of France

There are now 46,000 pieces of plastic per square kilometre of the world’s oceans, killing a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals each year. Worse still, there seems to be nothing we can do to clean it up. So how do we turn the tide?  Read the whole article and photos here

Way out in the Pacific Ocean, in an area once known as the doldrums, an enormous, accidental monument to modern society has formed. Invisible to satellites, poorly understood by scientists and perhaps twice the size of France, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is not a solid mass, as is sometimes imagined, but a kind of marine soup whose main ingredient is floating plastic debris.

It was discovered in 1997 by a Californian sailor, surfer, volunteer environmentalist and early-retired furniture restorer named Charles Moore, who was heading home with his crew from a sailing race in Hawaii, at the helm of a 50ft catamaran that he had built himself.

For the hell of it, he decided to turn on the engine and take a shortcut across the edge of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, a region that seafarers have long avoided. It is a perennial high pressure zone, an immense slowly spiralling vortex of warm equatorial air that pulls in winds and turns them gently until they expire. Several major sea currents also converge in the gyre and bring with them most of the flotsam from the Pacific coasts of Southeast Asia, North America, Canada and Mexico. Fifty years ago nearly all that flotsam was biodegradable. These days it is 90 per cent plastic.

‘It took us a week to get across and there was always some plastic thing bobbing by,’ says Moore, who speaks in a jaded, sardonic drawl that occasionally flares up into heartfelt oratory. ‘Bottle caps, toothbrushes, styrofoam cups, detergent bottles, pieces of polystyrene packaging and plastic bags. Half of it was just little chips that we couldn’t identify. It wasn’t a revelation so much as a gradual sinking feeling that something was terribly wrong here. Two years later I went back with a fine-mesh net, and that was the real mind-boggling discovery.’

Floating beneath the surface of the water, to a depth of 10 metres, was a multitude of small plastic flecks and particles, in many colours, swirling like snowflakes or fish food. An awful thought occurred to Moore and he started measuring the weight of plastic in the water compared to that of plankton. Plastic won, and it wasn’t even close. ‘We found six times more plastic than plankton, and this was just colossal,’ he says. ‘No one had any idea this was happening, or what it might mean for marine ecosystems, or even where all this stuff was coming from.’

So ended Moore’s retirement. He turned his small volunteer environmental monitoring group into the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, enlisted scientists, launched public awareness campaigns and devoted all his considerable energies to exploring what would become known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and studying the broader problem of marine plastic pollution, which is accumulating in all the world’s oceans.

The wind blows plastic rubbish out of littered streets and landfills, and lorries and trains on their way to landfills. It gets into rivers, streams and storm drains and then rides the tides and currents out to sea. Litter dropped by people at the beach is also a major source.

Plastic does not biodegrade; no microbe has yet evolved that can feed on it. But it does photodegrade. Prolonged exposure to sunlight causes polymer chains to break down into smaller and smaller pieces, a process accelerated by physical friction, such as being blown across a beach or rolled by waves. This accounts for most of the flecks and fragments in the enormous plastic soup at the becalmed heart of the Pacific, but Moore also found a fantastic profusion of uniformly shaped pellets about 2mm across.

. . . ‘There’s no such thing as a pristine sandy beach any more,’ Charles Moore says. ‘The ones that look pristine are usually groomed, and if you look closely you can always find plastic particles. On Kamilo Beach in Hawaii there are now more plastic particles than sand particles until you dig a foot down. On Pagan Island [between Hawaii and the Philippines] they have what they call the “shopping beach”. If the islanders need a cigarette lighter, or some flip-flops, or a toy, or a ball for their kids, they go down to the shopping beach and pick it out of all the plastic trash that’s washed up there from thousands of miles away.’

On Midway Island, 2,800 miles west of California and 2,200 miles east of Japan, the British wildlife filmmaker Rebecca Hosking found that many thousands of Laysan albatross chicks are dying every year from eating pieces of plastic that their parents mistake for food and bring back for them.

Worldwide, according to the United Nations Environment Programme, plastic is killing a million seabirds a year, and 100,000 marine mammals and turtles. It kills by entanglement, most commonly in discarded synthetic fishing lines and nets. It kills by choking throats and gullets and clogging up digestive tracts, leading to fatal constipation. Bottle caps, pocket combs, cigarette lighters, tampon applicators, cottonbud shafts, toothbrushes, toys, syringes and plastic shopping bags are routinely found in the stomachs of dead seabirds and turtles.

A study of fulmar carcases that washed up on North Sea coastlines found that 95 per cent had plastic in their stomachs – an average of 45 pieces per bird.

……  The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has now been tentatively mapped into an east and west section and the combined weight of plastic there is estimated at three million tons and increasing steadily. It appears to be the big daddy of them all, but we do not know for sure.

Dr Pearn Niiler of the Scripps Oceanographic Institute in San Diego, the world’s leading authority on ocean currents, thinks that there is an even bigger garbage patch in the South Pacific, in the vicinity of Easter Island, but no scientists have yet gone to look.

………. Single-use plastic bags first appeared in the US in 1957 and in British supermarkets in the late 1960s; worldwide there are more than a trillion manufactured every year, although the upward trend is now levelling off and falling in many countries, including Britain. We reduced our plastic bag use by 26 per cent last year, to 9.9 billion. Bottled water entered the mass market in the mid-1980s. Global consumption is now 200 billion litres a year and only one in five of those plastic bottles is recycled. The total global production of plastic, which was five million tons in the 1950s, is expected to hit 260 million tons this year.

Look around you. Start counting things made of plastic and don’t forget your buttons, the stretch in your underwear, the little caps on the end of your shoelaces. The stuff is absolutely ubiquitous, forming the most basic infrastructure of modern consumer society. We are scarely out of the womb when we meet our first plastic: wristband, aspirator, thermometer, disposable nappy. We gnaw on plastic teething rings and for the rest of our lives scarcely pass a moment away from plastics.

The benefits of plastic, most of which relate to convenience, consumer choice and profit, have been phenomenal. But except for the small percentage that has been incinerated, every single molecule of plastic that has ever been manufactured is still somewhere in the environment, and some 100 million tons of it are floating in the oceans.

A dead albatross was found recently with a piece of plastic from the 1940s in its stomach. Even if plastic production halted tomorrow, the planet would be dealing with its environmental consequences for thousands of years, and on the bottom of the oceans, where an estimated 70 per cent of marine plastic debris ends up – water bottles sink fairly quickly – for tens of thousands of years. It may form a layer in the geological record of the planet, or some microbe may evolve that can digest plastic and find itself supplied with a vast food resource. In the meantime, what can we do?

‘The message of this project is that plastic’s not the enemy,’ de Rothschild says, speaking rapidly and unstoppably in a mid-Atlantic accent. He is full of bright energy, good humour, marketing slogans and an almost childlike enthusiasm. ‘It’s about rethinking waste as a resource. It’s about doing smart things with plastic and showcasing solutions. It’s about using adventure to engage people and start a conversation that creates change in society. You’re always going to get people who say, “Oh, he’s a bloody Rothschild, sitting on a boat made of, what’s that? Champagne bottles?” And that’s fine because it gets people talking about it and thinking about where their rubbish goes.’

The idea took hold of him in July 2006. He had just got back from the North Pole, where he led an expedition designed to heighten awareness about global warming. On the internet he came across a UN report describing the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and estimating that there was now an average of 46,000 pieces of plastic per square kilometre of the world’s oceans. ‘I thought, this is nuts that we don’t know about this! Six-to-one plastic-to-plankton ratio? This has got to be my next expedition.’

……….. On his return he founded an organisation, Adventure Ecology, intended to use expeditions to get schoolchildren interested and actively involved in environmental issues. The Arctic global warming expedition was the first. Crossing the Pacific in a recycled-plastic boat will be the second.

He decided to name the boat Plastiki, in homage to Kon-Tiki, the raft of balsa logs and hemp ropes in which Thor Heyerdahl sailed across the Pacific in 1947. He recruited designers, a public relations team and corporate sponsors, including Hewlett-Packard and the Inter­national Watch Company. He won’t say how much it is costing or how much of his own money is going into it, only that it is more than he would like and less than it could be.

…….. Jo Royle, the renowed British yachtswoman, has signed on as skipper, and two of Thor Heyerdahl’s grandchildren have agreed to join the crew. And through Adventure Ecology, de Rothschild has launched a competition called SMART, inviting individuals and organisations from science, marketing, art and industrial design research and technology to present tangible solutions to the problems of plastic waste, and offering grants and publicity to the winners.

In general terms, it is already clear what we need to do about plastic. Since it is made from oil, which will run out in our lifetimes and get more expensive as it does, we have to start re-using plastic and designing it for re-use. At present only a few of our many hundred plastics can simply be melted down and moulded into something else; the rest are cross-contaminated with other chemicals and types of plastic. But the billion- dollar plastic industry is tooled for virgin plastic and resistant to change.

Charles Moore gives talks to plastic industry executives whenever he can and finds very little interest in recycling, because it’s the least profitable sector of the industry. ‘A lot of companies and product designers and marketing people don’t like recycled plastic either,’ de Rothschild says, ‘You can’t dye it with those bright, attention-grabbing colours.’

For consumers, the easiest way to make a difference is to give up plastic shopping bags and plastic water bottles, which contribute more to plastic pollution than any other products. Then comes plastic packaging, which is a little more complicated. It is easy to point out examples of excessive packaging, but plastic does have the virtue of being lighter than paper, cardboard and glass, which gives it a smaller carbon footprint. For food especially, recyclable plastic packaging is probably the best option.

For the hull and cabin of the Plastiki, the team was enthused about recycled plastic lumber until they discovered that it sags badly unless reinforced with glass rods. Now they are excited about self-reinforcing PET, a new product manufactured in Denmark, similar to fibreglass but fully recycled and recyclable. When heat-fused to boards of PET foam, it appears to be capable of withstanding the battering of Pacific waves for a hundred days, although the effect of salt water on the material is still unknown. Dry ice in the two-litre bottles hardens them without losing any flotation, although some of the bottle caps have managed to work themselves loose and are now being resealed with what de Rothschild calls ‘a very cool bio-glue’ made from cashew nuts and sugar.