China ejects caravan globetrotters

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A Scottish family travelling around the world in a horse-drawn caravan are being thrown out of China, despite earlier being assured that everyone had all the appropriate permits.

"We are being deported. I don't know why," David Grant, 53, said yesterday. Mr Grant and his three children were told they had to leave China by this morning and were due to depart from Tianjin port, east of Peking, on a boat to Kobe, Japan. They had asked for permission to wait until there was a boat to Canada, their next goal, but this was refused by the Chinese authorities.

The Grant family, who have been on the road for almost five years, arrived in China about a month ago from Mongolia, crossing the border at the Chinese town of Erenhot. They had received their visas in Ulan Bator, the Mongolian capital, after months of negotiations with the Chinese authorities to secure the correct documentation and travel permits for themselves and Traceur, a huge carthorse which has pulled the caravan since Avignon, France.

For three weeks they travelled south through the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia with no problems, intending to reach Peking early next month and then travel on to Tianjin port in search of a passage to Canada. Then, last week, the family was stopped by the police in Jining city, and told they had to leave China by today. "They stopped us driving down at Jining, and insisted we take a lorry to Tianjin [port]," Mr Grant said.

His wife, Kate, speaking in England, last night said: "The police stopped them and said the visas were not in order, and should not have been issued to them in the first place." Mrs Grant had been due to fly to Peking next week to rejoin the family on its odyssey.

Last night, Mr Grant and his three children - Torcuil, 15, Eilidh, 13, and Fionn, 10 - were staying in Tianjin's port.

It is the second major upset for the Grants' round-the-world journey. Earlier this year, they were forbidden to leave Mongolia after being found guilty of blinding a man with a shot from a catapult. The family said they had fired warning shots to stop a group of drunken Mongolians from stealing their horses, and that nobody had been injured. They were not allowed to leave Ulan Bator until they had paid a large sum in damages.

At the moment, the biggest concern is the health of Traceur, who was loaded into a truck in Jining and has not been allowed out since. "The horse is nearly on its last legs, he is not well. David and Eilidh are terribly worried about him. If something happens to him we would be really stuck," Mrs Grant said.

The Mongolia court case and China's obstructiveness have disrupted the Grants' plans more seriously than many more obvious earlier hazards. In 1991, when they arrived in Slovenia, they found themselves in the middle of a civil war. Crossing Kazakhstan in winter they had to survive temperatures as low as -28C.

The Chinese foreign ministry were yesterday unavailable for comment.