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‘Earthwalker’ Put Off Stride By Tight Security

Elaine Wu – SCMP – Updated on Aug 03, 2008

Instead of walking from Tianjin to Beijing, “Earthwalker” Paul Coleman will be taking the train today after abandoning his goal of reaching the capital on foot for the opening of the Olympic Games.

Coleman, who had been trekking across the mainland since September, decided to take the train after being frequently stopped by police amid tighter security controls ahead of the Games.

His 10-day tourist visa also expires on Wednesday, which would have meant a 35km trek to stay on schedule – a difficult task given the heat.

“We think we have done enough for this country,” Coleman said from his hotel in Tianjin yesterday.

“This is absolutely ludicrous. We don’t feel any urgency to complete the journey because of the way we have been treated recently.”

Coleman, 53, and his wife Konomi Kikuchi, 42, have trekked more than 3,300km since they left Hong Kong last year. Their goal is to raise awareness of the environmental issues that plague the mainland.

Coleman has planted trees and met local officials along the way, and has been documenting his journey on his blog.

He was shocked by the mainland’s water pollution. He said he was only able to swim on two of the 330 days he had been on the road.

At the Hebei border near Shandong province, he saw black water that looked just like oil near some oil factories. A reservoir he found in Fujian province was just as bad, with some dead baby pigs nearby.

“We certainly understand the problem here now,” he said. “But I don’t think we’ll be coming back anytime soon.”

Coleman has trekked through 39 countries since 1990.

He arrives in Beijing today for interviews with Japanese media.

He will then head to Seoul, where his latest book is being published.

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