Portugal 17 March: Loule - Ayamonte
The smiles on their faces are the same as those we have seen on the faces of children around the world. With enthusiasm, they repeat “Harmony begins with me”, but this group does not run with us; in fact, some can barely stand and not one is younger than 60.
Today in Loule, Portugal the World Harmony Run team has been invited to the Mescricor Retirement Centre.
In one corner of the room as we enter, a Portuguese game is showing on the TV. More than a dozen seniors are sitting on comfortable chairs with soft blankets. We tell them about the World Harmony Run and sing the song for them.
We even ask them to guess the countries from which we have come. They all enjoy this and when they are asked to hold the torch, enthusiasm burns brightly in their eyes.
Before we go, we ask them for their own thoughts on World Harmony. Each says many beautiful things about how they would like to see peace in the world. One lady says, “Harmony begins with me, without it I am nothing.”
Soon we leave Portugal and cross a great bridge into Spain. There is no border, and I could be wrong, but I am not sure that there was even a sign to tell us that we are now in another country. The countryside is exactly the same on one side as it is on the other. There are many positive changes taking place in the world community.
On the Spanish side, we are greeted by 3 runners from Lepe and Ayamonte. For them, this is a happy reunion with the World Harmony Run team - they are the same runners who greeted the torch at this same spot last year.
They run with us through the Spanish countryside and from time to time a local news photographer takes pictures from the ditch and across the highway.
After completing more than 5 kilometres with us, these runners are interviewed by Spanish television. They mention how glad they are to come out and participate in this event and that they would not miss it. Their wish is that more runners will come out and participate in the future, and make the World Harmony Run even bigger and stronger.
The running in Europe is over for now. In a few weeks, the big journey through the many countries European countries will begin in Rome. For now though, we have some unfinished business back in North Africa. We must travel to the Mediterranean and take a ferry boat to Morocco and the port city of Tangier.
Ondrej has been telling us for many days now, about a unique Spanish drink called Horchata. He is not sure of its ingredients but is confident that everyone will like it. Each day as we run, he can often be seen darting into shops and supermarkets looking for the elusive elixir.
On each and every occasion he comes away disappointed and announces to the group how we must taste it before we leave Spain. Some are beginning to think that Horchata is a figment of his imagination. Those people are wrong.
At a truck stop on our journey south, we somehow manage to find the last 3 bottles of Horchata the store has, in a refrigerated display case. We are not able to get the right number of empty cups but still everyone gets to taste it.
In appearance it is milky cool but tastes……..unique. When you come to Spain you also should sample this beverage, made from something called tiger nuts.
It is dusk as we reach Talifa and the fast ferry boat that is said to cross to the other side in 35 minutes. We say goodbye to Nuno and Jose, who now have a very long drive with the van back to Portugal.
We seem to be headed for a comparatively short trip across the sea. Ahead of us though, are 7 days of running - back in North Africa, in Morocco, where the schedule is busy and the road is long.
Utpal Marshall (Canada), Ondrej Vesely and Honza Minarcik (Czech Republic), Mario Komak and Rasto Ulicny (Slovakia), Vladimir Balatskyy (Ukraine), Patricio Rodrigues, Nuno Mendonça and Jose Martins (Portugal)
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