City man to spend two years walking to New Zealand

James Thomas, from Leith

James Thomas, from Leith

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THE Proclaimers might have pledged to walk 500 miles, but they’ve got nothing on James Thomas.

The 29-year-old is planning to walk 12,500 miles from Edinburgh to its New Zealand namesake, Dunedin, over the next two years.

He hopes to raise up to £1 million for children’s charity Unicef, as well as setting himself a once-in-a-lifetime personal challenge.

Mr Thomas, who lives in Leith and works front of house at the Cameo Cinema, is currently selling all his belongings to fund the trip. He hopes that once he starts walking, blogging, photographing and filming his journey, donations will flood in for the charity.

He said he had always been fascinated by the idea of going right to the other side of the world, but as the opposite point on the globe from his childhood home in West Cork was in the Pacific, he thought Dunedin would be a good, nearby alternative, named as it is after Dùn Èideann, the Gaelic name for his adopted home of Edinburgh.

He said: “I started planning it years ago but made the major decision to do it when I graduated this year.

“I think provided I do what I’ve set myself, around 100 miles a week, it will take me two years – but that doesn’t take into account if I break a leg or sprain an ankle on the way.”

He will travel through a whole range of climates, and a total of 15 countries, including some which are not known for easy passage. “I don’t have to have any guides or anything to go across Iran at the moment – everything seems to be OK, but Pakistan will be a different story. That’s a lot harder than Iran because there’s not that many open borders, so it will be difficult.

“I’ll be crossing the Alps, I’ll be crossing mountains on the Turkish-Iranian border and depending on what happens in Pakistan I may also be crossing a portion of the Himalayas.

“I’ll be going across the Australian desert, and I’ll be crossing through Indonesian rain forests, which is going to be absolutely amazing.”

Apart from crossing the Channel by ferry, he hopes to use commercial vessels to cross other waterways en route. He will be couch-surfing and camping to save money, and is currently training for the physical exertion.

Mr Thomas is already a keen walker and last year trekked in Annapurna in the Himalayas.

He said: “I do a lot of walking, and I’m doing different exercises to build up my ankle muscles, my hips and things like that.

“I walk everywhere – I don’t have a car, I was walking round a lot and thinking ‘I’m just going round in circles all the time, so what if I walked the ten to 15 miles I walk in a day, but in a straight line, where would I end up?’ and that’s how I came up with it.”

He will set off from the Castle Esplanade early on New Year’s Day. For more information, or to sponsor him, see www.justgoingforastroll.com.