Twitchhiker falls short of his travel target

Wednesday 01 April 2009 12:51
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A British journalist has fallen short of his goal of reaching the sub-Antarctic Campbell Island, south of New Zealand, within 30 days of leaving his home relying only on the generosity of people using a social networking site.

Paul Smith had aimed to reach the island on the opposite side of the planet to his Newcastle home, but went only as far as Stewart Island.

His self-imposed rule was that he could only accept offers of travel and accommodation from people who use the Twitter micro-blogging service.

But in his latest Twitchhiker blog he said once he reached the South Island forward motion began to wane, after having had "ceaseless support" on Twitter until then.

He wrote that the biggest obstacle was lack of internet access or mobile phone coverage.

"On a land mass the size of England and Wales, with just one 50th of the population, a cast-iron communications infrastructure simply isn't necessary. Where I did find internet access, it was often decrepit to the point of useless.

"In fact wherever you go in New Zealand, residents will complain how utterly frustrating the technology is, one born of a telecommunications monopoly and the country's remote placing on the planet.

"So I wasn't able to push my message as hard as I wanted to in the final days of the project."

Once on Stewart Island, he also realised he was unlikely to find a captain who, unpaid, would "risk his life and that of his crew across some of the most treacherous seas on Earth" for a six-day return voyage to Campbell Island.

But Smith does not view his trip as a failure.

He exceeded his fund-raising target of £3000 for a charity helping bring clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations, with more than £5000 being raised.

He said Twitchhiker project showed that "kindness is universal" and "that social media may begin online but it will converge with the real world whenever and wherever you let it".

This article originally appeared in the New Zealand Herald

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