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comments iconDay 114 (28 July): The Last Day–That Might Have Been

 

Today’s Distance : 19.60km / 12.20miles
Total Distance:3019.78 km / 1876.19 miles
Today’s Donations:£ 100.00+ ¥ 780.00
Total Donations:£ 52,904.46+ ¥ 184,867.34

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The final day and the walk in from Nova Iguaçu was something that Xuelin and I spent a lot of time considering the evening before. We had received strong recommendations to use either the BR116 or the BR101 to go into the centre of Rio. The problem was that both routes were 40km plus and would be difficult to make by nightfall. Also, we had wanted to arrive into Rio by passing the Olympic Stadium, the famous Maracanã.

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There was a middle route which would be about 7km shorter and finish right outside of the Maracanã. The problem was that it took us through favela areas that we were strongly advised not to go through on security grounds. We decide to take this route. Our reasoning was that if we had listened to security advice then we would have never walked out of Buenos Aires or any other major city on our journey. To that point we had walked 114 days and 2965km without any serious security incident.

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By moving off the main roads you do expose yourself to risks of looking lost and needing to bring out the smart phone to check maps. For some reason I have been blessed with a good short-term memory. I can memorise key landmarks, places and street names. Ask me to remember them a day later and I will look blank but I can carry the picture for the day. This was a huge benefit and I put it to good use.

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I headed first for São João do Rio Meriti. As I walked through the narrow streets I could see why it was known as ‘Americas Anthill’ because its population density is one of the highest on the continent. I really enjoyed navigating the small streets through the town and watching people going about their business or getting on with life. I have realised on this walk that whilst nature can be very interesting, I find human nature inspiring. 

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You see unexpected things, one was a street seller selling Brazilian and Israeli flags emblazoned with the Star of David. I have always enjoyed and respected Jewish culture because I grew up in Gateshead a couple of streets away from a large Haredi Jewish community and one of the most important Talmudic colleges in the world. I wasn’t sure why the flags were being sold but I did see a large synagogue on one street corner.

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From there I walked down towards Coelho Nolta, Iraja and Morro do Juramento. There was a level of poverty that I could only compare to some areas I had visited in India. As a social justice Conservative politician I found myself troubled by the extremes of wealth and poverty that I viewed on my journey. Inequality creates instability. Imposed equality just creates poverty. The middle way for many countries is to invest heavily in education and promote aspiration. Walking through these areas challenged some of these notions. Why?

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Because the people I saw were happy. There may have been little evidence of financial capital but there were strong bonds of social capital evidenced by the greetings people have for each other. People had time for each other. They seemed interested in the lives of others. It is often the case that in prosperous neighbourhoods rich people look miserable–they don’t have time for each other, they worry about the world but have little concern for their neighbour, they seem perpetually angry whether its driving their cars or shopping in luxurious malls. It challenged me that we all have something to learn from each other–rich or poor, young or old. As someone once said, ‘None of us have it all together, but all together we’ve got it’.

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As I reached Del Castilho Xuelin arrived and was co-ordinating with a journalist from O Globo who was coming out to cover the final stages of the walk. I never cease to be amazed by Xuelin’s ability to navigate. Somehow in these crowded narrow streets she managed to find me without even a phone call to check my location. We then went together, Xuelin in the support car, and me on foot through a complicated stretch of twists and turns through Mara da Graca, Jacare and Morro do Vintem until we reached Avenida Marechal Rondon and the final path to the Maracanã.

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I imagined that the Olympic Stadium would be sealed off miles in advance as happened in London but we were amazed that we were able to walk right to the stadium itself. There was a perimeter running track outside the stadium that was very heavily used. It was now dark but there were thousands of people around.

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Xuelin parked the car and I checked my Moves App for the distance–it was 39.9km–further than we thought, perhaps I had taken a few wrong turns after all. Anyway, the effect of this was that I took me to 3000.18 KM. We were so excited that we should reach this important milestone outside the Olympic Stadium. Xuelin quickly brought out our KM board and changed the numbers to 3000km.

We both felt very excited but also sad. Sad because had we known we would hit 3000km this day at this place then we would have made this the end of our walk and it would have been a perfect place and moment to do so. Thinking we would still have another 15km to do to reach 3000 we had planned the finish of the walk at the Statue of the Christ for Friday, but we felt we really should have finished today and what an experience to finish with on a truly memorable and inspiring last day of the walk.

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