Clear The Air News Blog Rotating Header Image

Earthwalker Still On Road To Beijing

Earthwalker still on road to Beijing, despite rough patch

Dan Kadison – SCMP – Updated on Jul 27, 2008

It is not easy being green. Paul “Earthwalker” Coleman is “back on the road again” – but a friend is concerned for the British adventurer, who is trekking across China to draw attention to the environment before the Olympic Games.

Tony Henderson, the chairman of the Humanist Association of Hong Kong, a local advocacy and empowerment group, spoke to the Sunday Morning Post after receiving a troubling e-mail from Coleman earlier last week.

Mr Henderson said Coleman, his wife and a couple of fellow walkers had travelled through a rough stretch of land, where they encountered pollution, hassles and suspicion on their way to Beijing.

Even though Mr Henderson received a more upbeat e-mail from Coleman hours later and a positive phone call on Wednesday, he is still worried.

“Although we didn’t talk about it, I feel very clear that it’s better for some news about his predicament to get in the press,” said Mr Henderson, who became pals with Coleman before he set off on his travels in September.

On Monday, the Earthwalker sent Mr Henderson a message from Shandong province , saying he had received a special 10-day visa and was “back on the road again” travelling to Tianjin , near Beijing.

But in an earlier e-mail, Coleman wrote about pollution he saw before his group headed to a Nanpi county hotel. He described his fears of his visa expiring. And he offered his thoughts on locals looking out for terrorists, “foreign or otherwise”.

Yesterday, Mr Henderson sent the Post a more detailed report from Coleman that covered 10 straight days of travelling.

Coleman wrote that his account included: “Being kicked out of a hotel. Police harassment. Visa struggles. Extreme pollution. A road accident. Tree planting. Chinese action-minded people. Cover-ups. And the support of local people.”

The Post spoke to Coleman, 53, yesterday afternoon.

“This last month has been extremely stressful because it seems like there are all sorts of hurdles being thrown up at the last minute,” he said in Hebei province .

“I said to my wife it was easier walking through Africa, and I had malaria in Africa and walked through lion territory,” he said.

The Earthwalker and his wife, Konomi Kikuchi, left from Hong Kong for a 3,300km journey to Beijing in time for the Olympics.

The couple walked across the mainland, South Korea and Japan in 2006, and were invited back by Beijing’s Olympic Committee.

Coleman made the news last month when he came to Hong Kong to pick up an award, and was then unable to return to the mainland because of visa issues.

Mr Henderson said Coleman lost at least two weeks before being allowed in on a tourist visa.

The Earthwalker estimated that he had hiked more than 3,000km, and was 120km from Tianjin.

Coleman said he was fatigued from walking in the hot sun, witnessing so much pollution and dealing with various unforeseen difficulties.

“It’s absolutely imperative for China to solve its environmental problems,” he said.

Travails on the trail to Tianjin

July 13 Leaving Linyi we came across a canal so polluted it looks like thinned-down black enamel paint. It gave off an extremely foul, chemical odour … A young man of about 20 came over. “Five or six years ago I used to swim in this river,” he said. “And we ate crayfish and fish from it.” I commented that it looked like oil. “It is oil. It’s coming from a nearby petroleum company.”

July 16, on Shandong-Hebei border We encountered the foulest air of our trip through China, and that’s saying something.

July 17 A worker at the visa department of the Cangzhou Public Security Bureau says: “`We cannot give you a visa here. You must go to Dezhou , in Shandong .” That’s 120km back.

July 18 Dezhou Public Security Bureau official says the only person who can put a visa in my passport is away till the end of next week.

July 21, Jinan Finally, I got the visa; a special one, they said. It would only last 10 days, but it would be enough to last until our arrival in Tianjin .

July 22 We can restart our walk, but first we have to take a taxi back to Cangzhou, which is on our walking route … A few kilometres down the road a motor bike appears out of nowhere. The driver slams on the brakes … Bang! The guy disappears. We get out. He’s lying jammed between the car and a guard rail … His leg is broken. Eventually a police car comes along. He looks, but does not stop. “Why is he not stopping?” I ask. “He’s not traffic police,” is the reply.

As told to Dan Kadison

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *