Total distance：3025.88 kms/1879.99 miles
Total fund：262,312.44 gbp
I paused on yesterday’s blog at the point where I set off for the top of Corcovado and the Statue of the Christ. Our route was to take us through the Tijuca Forest National Park and we were accompanied by four park ranger volunteers who all looked ridiculously fit. At the start of the trail you are required to sign in with the rangers with how many are in your party. I signed for 14 in our group at the start but at the top there were a faithful seven remaining.
I had visualised this stage of the walk so many times since setting off from Buenos Aires four months earlier. It was the dream that kept me going through the tough phases. I would lie in bed and imagine what it would be like to be climbing up Corcovado on the final 3km of the walk. The term iconic does not seem to do the Statue of the Christ justice. After the Statue of Liberty it must be the most famous statue in the world.
It was built in 1920 is 30 metres tall but what marks the statue out is of course its location at the pinnacle of the 700 metre (2300ft) Corvocordo mountain overlooking Rio. My guide and friend Pedro Menezes told us about the trail on the way up. Long before the statue was there it was a popular walking route for visitors as it gave such a commanding view of the bay. It was climbed by amongst others notable Brits such as Captain Cook and Charles Darwin. The well worn path was maintained by volunteers and we saw them at work on the way up.
What is truly wonderful about the ascent is that the peak and the statue are kept from view by the thick canopy of trees. The canopy also attract a vast range of wildlife especially birds and monkeys. After a journey of which 99% was along tarmac roads it was a wonderful way to finish. It was not without challenge. The climb is very steep and for parts you need to pull yourself up over rocks with a chain rope.
On the way up the weather was beautiful and we would get occasional glimpses of the city below through the trees but when we reached the top there was a thick blanket of cloud meaning that even as you stood under the statue you could not see the top. There was a bit of natural disappointment and Xuelin was there ever hopeful that the clouds were about to part, but they didn’t.
It is in the nature of pilgrimages that people rationalise what has happened as being somehow part of a divine plan rather than just a natural collection of tiny droplets of water drifting over high ground as they do. I am sure the reason for this is that you don’t have a second chance to recreate this moment. This was the end of the walk of 3025km and it was on the day the Olympic truce came into effect for the Rio Games. This is what we had planned and there was going to be no coming back tomorrow for another go with bright blue skies–it would be like photo-shopping the moment.
As I stood at the top of the mist covered summit I took a few moments away from the crowds to reflect on the moment. I reflected that there was something appropriate about the conditions: the shrouding of the Christ in mist which obscured its face if not its message. I wondered how we had performed against our objectives in raising awareness of the Olympic truce, my conclusion was that any impact was at best limited. A message of peace at a time when our security and liberty are under threat from vicious and evil terrorism is never going to be popular and perhaps that is right. Moreover if the messenger for the truce is the lonely figure of a minor ‘has been’ politician rather than an exciting and engaging Olympian, why should anyone listen? Fair point. If I had devoted the previous four months to trying and persuade someone like Mo Farah to speak for 30 seconds on the Olympic truce wouldn’t that have been a more effective? Definitely yes.
Then I looked across at Xuelin still rushing around organising people and getting photos, swapping contact details, organising the transport down the mountain and reflected about our second objective of raising funds for UNICEF. Here my conclusion here was much more upbeat–£250,000 could make a real difference in children’s lives around the world. We were told this could employ ten UNICEF staff in conflict affected countries for a year to work with children in danger. But could we have raised the same amount of money by doing a shorter more symbolic walk, the answer was that if Xuelin was in charge, it would be another definite yes. So was my 3025km 115 day walk absolutely necessary? Probably not. Should I have just left it to Mo and Xuelin? Probably. Who knows though I might think different when the mist begins to clear.