comments iconDay 110 (24 July): The ‘high road’ or the ‘low road’?


Today’s Distance : 37.20 km / 23.10 miles
Total Distance:2931.38 km / 1821.19 miles
Today’s Donations:£ 50.00+ ¥ 30.00
Total Donations:£ 52,504.46+ ¥ 175,565.68

We had arrived into Pirai when it was dark so didn’t really get to appreciate the beauty of our surroundings until the morning. We were staying at Casa do Manequinho a small hotel right in the centre. We opened the shutters to see that we overlooked a beautiful river and the town itself was already bustling with weekend tourist and motor cyclists.

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We also found a sign advertising that the Olympic Torch Relay would pass through the town on Friday 29 July at 8AM, the day the Olympic truce starts and our walk (hopefully) finishes. The modern torch relay owes much to the ancient traditions of the Greek Games. In Greece fire had a very special meaning–it was believed to have been stolen from the gods, by Prometheus, hence many temples including those in Olympia had eternal flames. Xuelin and I had the enormous privilege of being invited to the lighting of the flame for the London 2012 torch relay–it is a special and deeply moving occasion.


Also ahead of each Games hundreds of messengers were sent out to the far corners of Greek civilisation to declare when the Games would be held and when the Truce would begin. They carried the message on bronze discs. The torch relay is therefore a continuation of importance of the scared flames of Olympia with announcing the truce which is meant to transcend them.

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It must be a wonderful privilege to experience carrying the torch in the relay, though not one that I will ever experience as serving politicians aren’t allowed to carry the torch–just as well as if they were then there would be no room for anyone else! Instead 12,000 people in Greece, Switzerland and Brazil will enjoy that huge honour for Rio 2016 before the flame lights the caldron in the stadium during the Opening Ceremony after which the president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach will declare, “Let the Games Begin.”


One of the reasons why we hadn’t paid too much attention to our surroundings was that we were struggling to make a decision on which route to take when the BR116 split presumably to work its way around a mountain or a valley. We has a satellite view on the Google maps but couldn’t see the contours so weren’t able to judge the best route. We decided that the only way to know for sure was for Xuelin to drive the route both ways.


As she drove the branch route headed towards Rio Xuelin stopped to take a picture of an amazing view across the mountains. When she was taking a photo another person stopped and introduced himself in perfect English. He had been intrigued by the ‘Walk for Truce’ logos on the car and wanted to find out more. His name was Roberto Maranhao who is a musician, puppeteer and a Christian missionary. Roberto was so taken with the story of the walk that he wanted to help, offer us accommodation in Rio and even sing at our finishing ceremony.


The one crucial bit of information he was also able to give was that the branch of the BR116 going ‘to’ Rio was very dangerous and involved climbing hundreds of metres with no walking space on the side of the road. The road ‘from’ Rio on the other hand was a gentle decline down to the valley below and then weaved its way around rather than through the mountains.

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I thought as I walked down the gentle slope in the sunshine what a great thing it is to be doing this expedition as a team. Also experience had told us that a bit of effort in planning the route ahead and a little local knowledge can pay enormous dividends. I started trying to adapt the words to an old Scottish tune as I bounced along ‘Tigger-like’: “You take the high road and I’ll take the low road and I’ll be in Rio (Scotland) before thee!”