Here are the stats on our walk from Big Ben to Brussels: 3 countries, 15 days, 250 miles, an estimated 500,000 steps. Me and 4 footsore, fantastic friends.
Our final day seemed almost too easy. We woke up with less than 10 miles to go, and had to dawdle along to allow the camera crew time to film us. Walking slowly was surprisingly hard after 2 weeks on the road we had settled into a natural rhythm, and to slow down was at least as hard as walking faster would have been.
We ended as we had begun, in the rain. To slow ourselves down we stopped for several breaks along the way, including a coffee break in one of Brussels’ more elegant hotels. Think W Hotels (U.S.) or the Sanderson (London) and imagine five little orange people traipsing across the achingly chic reception into the bar, dripping rainwater and shedding mud as they go. Yup, we were about as welcome as pork pies at a bar mitzvah.
The waiter sniffed disdainfully as we deposited our backpacks and skis on the floor and settled ourselves gratefully into their elegant armchairs. Belatedly, and with a sigh of resignation, he finally deigned to take our order. Supermodels and smart businessmen looked in bafflement at these oddballs in their midst. We didnt care. We were warm and dry and about to have hot chocolate.
Restored, we headed back out into the grey winters day. Luckily the media had not been deterred by the weather. We had a good little turnout, including several representatives from UNRIC, the United Nations Regional Information Centre.
Interviews and photographs complete, we went for a short walk through the beautiful squares of Brussels, cheerful with Christmas decorations in the gathering dusk. The icing on the cake of a very special day was to find a good friend from London sitting at the table when we arrived at the restaurant for our celebratory dinner. Unable to resist the allure of a party in our honour, Anthony had in mid-afternoon decided to hop on the Eurostar and come and join us.
The journey that had taken us over 2 weeks took Anthony just 2 hours. Sigh. But the quality of a journey cannot necessarily be measured by its speed. My ocean rows have taught me, if anything can, that the journey can matter more than the destination.
Sore of foot, aching of limb, and ever so slightly smelly after our long walk from Big Ben to Brussels, I wouldnt change a single thing about our amazing trek. We set out almost as strangers — I had met Jane just once before we started planning BB2B, Laura likewise, Alison only during the Climate Ride in September, and Mary briefly at the Oct. 24 Day of Action organized by 350.org, but we were all firmly committed to our goal, and supported each other through thick and thin. Not one of us avoided injury and pain, but we jollied each other along and made each other laugh, think, and grow.
My adventures are usually taken solo, spending around 100 days at a time alone on a tiny rowboat in the middle of an ocean. For me the walk from Big Ben to Brussels was a powerful lesson in the power of combined efforts towards a shared goal. Every single member of the team suffered aches or injuries at some point along the way, but we encouraged and supported each other, and together, we all made it.
This seems an apt metaphor for what needs to happen globally. Post-Copenhagen there will be hard work ahead, and many challenges along the way. But if all the countries of the world pull together and support each other towards the goal of a green, sustainable future, we can make sure we all get there.