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Week 10

I always think there is something very significant in numbers that end in a zero. They are landmark numbers of sorts. And that’s true of our Chaparda Challenge as well – here we are, now at the end of week 10.

It’s been an amazing journey to chart on our Mission Page and I’ve enjoyed highlighting in our diary pages some of the landmarks passed. But most of all it’s been an amazing journey by those taking part – 23 people of all ages and physical abilities, doing so because they care about a hospital and its people in far away India. On week 10 it’s maybe an opportunity to take stock and reflect a bit.

For me, this Chaparda Challenge represents many different journeys. It’s a physical journey, since you’re all walking many miles a week. It’s a virtual journey, since you’re reaching places on a map that you’ve never been to before and may never really visit. It’s a journey of compassion, as it’s being done to support old friends who are in need. For some it’s a spiritual journey, for others it a personal challenge to find time and physical energy to get out and exercise. For everyone it’s a team challenge and though you never meet together, nonetheless you’re in something together. And doing the diary I’ve discovered that it’s also an historical journey.

That’s been true this week more than most perhaps, when I reflect that all of our teams end the week in places that evoke darker times in the history of Europe, and it’s made all the more striking by the fact that these places of darkness are in fact very beautiful. What am I talking about? Sadly, it all boils down to a small word with a massive impact: war.

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A Lancaster Bomber

The tigers have just passed Bonn, the capital of West Germany for over 40 years after the division of Germany in 1949.  The snow leopards and wee monkeys are close to Nuremberg, a favourite place for the Nazi’s and home to their biggest rallies in the infamous ‘Zeppelin Field‘ (pictured at the top of the page). Nuremberg was 90% destroyed in just one hour of aerial bombardment in January 1945 when over 500 Lancaster bombers dropped nearly 2000 tons of explosives on the historic city centre. It was no accident that the War Crimes of WWII were tried in this city, as it was such a Nazi showcase.

And the peacocks have just passed through Belgrade, a stunningly beautiful city, but one with a tragic and more recent story to tell of the horror of war. Like Nuremberg, Belgrade was heavily bombed from the air for nearly two months in 1999 by Nato forces. It was also home to the headquarters of Ratko Mladić, who earned the nickname ‘the Butcher of Bosnia’ because of the horrific war crimes he ordered and oversaw. Just to remind us that this is no ancient history, only two weeks ago he failed in his final appeal against his life sentence for genocide at the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague,where it was determined that he will serve that sentence in a prison in the UK.

So it’s a bit of somber old time this week. 

HOWEVER – places and people heal and rebuild, and that’s true of all these places – Bonn is lovely. We’ve mentioned in a previous diary that it’s the birthplace of Beethoven and the museum to his memory is a great attraction. It has beautiful gardens, cultural life and much more. I hope the tigers took advantage and had some time off!

Nuremberg too is an absolute delight. On my first visit there I was stunned to be told that almost all of these beautiful ‘old’ buildings were rebuilds using the original designs as much as could be found. Quite remarkable.

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Belgrade at Night

And Belgrade – I’ve never been but the photographs show it as a beautiful place, and the websites and blogs tell of its welcome and atmosphere. Maybe the peacocks can tell us more…? 

In fact, if anyone who reads this diary can tell us about real visits to places passed through virtually, then do, please, write something! Or you’re stuck with me prattling on week by week…!

What about headlines for the week? We’ll the peacocks have covered more than a quarter of their total journey so far. If you click the ‘flag’ of each team on the Mission Page map you’ll see some basic statistics and it tells us that the peacocks have covered 1,555 miles, 27.3% of the journey. Try for yourself on your own team and give yourselves a pat on the back for making it that far. Remembering that this is a collective effort, between everyone taking part we’ve travelled 3,867 miles to date –  amazing!

Don’t forget to log any miles you’ve done and haven’t yet posted – enough to just note on the upload page that they are carried over from previous walks, bike rides, runs, etc – just so we don’t think you walked 200 miles in one day!

Have a great week and I promise to be more cheery in the next diary!