x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Dubai couple tour 26 countries to promote anti-pollution cause

A couple who drove their pick-up truck across two continents to campaign against pollution by have returned - 26 countries, four months and 27 days later.

Theresa and David Wernery with their vehicle while crossing east Anatolia in central Turkey in May this year.
Theresa and David Wernery with their vehicle while crossing east Anatolia in central Turkey in May this year.

A couple who drove their pick-up truck across two continents to campaign against pollution by have returned - 26 countries, four months and 27 days later.

Theresa and David Wernery encountered everything from clean-ups in Bulgaria and litter in Ukraine, to concerns over Norway's fjords, friendly folk in the North Caucuses and a corrupt police patrol in Iran.

Life on the road meant a tent and makeshift shower cabin. Clothes had to be manually washed, and drinking water pumped through a filter before drinking.

"When we came back, we felt a little bit lost," said Mrs Wernery, "everything was so easy and quick, you turn on the tap and there was water."

Camping issues were far from the only problems the couple faced.

The couple were delayed at Iran's Bandar Abbas port for a day and a half. Once out of the port city, an Iranian police patrol stopped them and drove off with their passports before demanding a bribe.

As part of their campaign - Plastic Not So Fantastic - the Wernerys met environmentalists in each country to discuss the problem of plastic pollution.

In this, Iran proved a more positive experience. "They have not discovered the plastic bottle yet," said Mr Wernery, describing how people in Tehran carry metal cups in their bags, filling the cups with tap water when they are thirsty.

But discarded plastic bags were more plentiful - the couple rated the country, along with Ukraine, as the most littered they visited.

It was to prove a familiar problem for the couple - that talking about the need to recycle seemed premature in places still struggling to control litter.

"Everyone can relate to the issue," Mr Wernery said, "but even in Europe, people do not really think about it and continue to use a lot of plastic."

One environmental campaigner, from Norway, told the couple the country's picturesque fjords were filling with plastic debris including the nets and lines used by large fishing boats.

Not all their discoveries were so negative. Camping spots in Bulgaria's Batak Reservoir in the Rhodope Mountains and Georgia's mountains were highlights of the trip, while their journey through the North Caucuses changed their perception of that part of the world as dangerous.

"In the end it was really, really nice. People were incredibly friendly," said Mr Wernery.

Now it's money that is on their mind since their return to Dubai on September 20.

Mrs Wernery, a former banker, is shifting her attention to the couple's online shop for camping products. Mr Wernery, meanwhile, is looking to continue a career as an in-house legal counsel.

vtodorova@thenational.ae