Jean Beliveau and the wwwalk!
August 18, 2004
Time goes by as fast as the wind... and Jean follows it closely! On this day of August 18, 2004, Jean celebrates his 49th birthday and the 4th anniversary of his walk. Already 4 years have passed and also several thousands steps. These celebrations take place in the mountains of Ethiopia, just before the capital Addis Ababa.
After my return in Canada, on March 26th, Jean took a bus from the Lilongwe airport to Mzuzu where he had walked his latest steps. From there, he finished walking through Malawi, and then crossed the border of Tanzania April 8. Then, it is Kenya on June 10th and finally Ethiopia around July 15. This long road was somewhat difficult & always in a very mountainous landscape and dirt roads for the majority; difficult physically on Jean and also on his chariot that required several parts that have been sent to him gracefully from Canada by his faithful sponsor: Chariot Carriers Inc. A thousand thanks to Jeff Mah and to the personal of Chariot Carriers for their devotion and their expertise!
In Iringa, Tanzania, Jean had the possibility to head toward the northeast and Dar Es Salaam or northwards to Dodoma. He was informed that there would be too many dangers for him to go to Dar Es Salaam. So he took the road to Dodoma, road always climbing and non-paved. In Tanzania, you have to buy the water. Jean doesn't have the possibility anymore to fill up with water at the covered wells like in Mozambique and Malawi. He must stack some 10 bottles of water, of one litre and a half each on his chariot & another difficult test!
Often, along the road, Jean is invited to speak to the pupils of the local schools like this school in the village of Gubali in Tanzania. In this same country, Jean discovers the Massaï culture. In an email, he writes: «Massaïs are small people of about 7 feet tall. They kept their customs and their costumes, contrary to the majority of the other African tribes. They are magnificent in their clothing with red as the dominant color. At first look, they seem to display an arrogant expression, but you quickly discover that they are very friendly! Their caste of warriors, the "morans" are very impressive » Massaï ladies are also very elegant!
All along his route, Jean is welcomed for the night in Police Stations, in churches of all confessions but especially, and it is what he prefers, in the huts of the local people where, after a good meal, he sleeps like a baby! Curiously, the most difficult stage is not to find a lodging for the night but rather to be able to leave on the following morning. The adieus never seem to be over, the hosts become friends for life and they insist that Jean stays again for one or two more days. Often, adults and children of the village accompany him for several kilometers after his departure... and as Africa possesses all its time, the rhythm is often very slow! What a difference with our hectic life of Westerners! And more, what luck and what wealth to have the privilege to be able to share the customs, the meals, the legends and the histories of all these peoples!
At 8 km past Dodoma, a young man informs Jean to head toward Miuyji where there is a mission managed by Canadian Muzungus (white strangers). Curious, Jean follows the advice and discovers the family of Ana and Peter Schwingshackl who work for the C.P.P.S WATER PROJECT. They have for mission to dig some wells and to install some windmills in manner of pump. They have been working in Tanzania since 17 years and Ana sent us a few photos of her small kindergarten.
Jean pursues his path & this road brings him several topics of reflection & it is the original road between Cape Town in South Africa and Cairo in Egypt & it is the one borrowed by the tradesmen of slaves & alone on this road, Jean imagines the deprivations, the misery, the horrors that thousands of people have endured before being heaped on boats where they underwent other loathsome treatments to be sold finally on the slave markets of America or the Arabic Peninsula.
On this same road, Jean arrives to a police control station in Zamahelo. Then, it is a walk in the jungle & 20 kilometers on a sandy, one way path where the chariot gets stuck & not even one little house in sight and it passes only one or two vehicles per hour... People told him that there were some lions in the area but that they didn't approach the roadway during the day. Jean cannot help himself from scrutinizing the sand to detect tracks of wild animals & farther ahead, a family of baboons sitting, very calm in the middle of the road. Good sign!!! There are no predators nearby!!!
When he arrives at the next control station, the officers ask him how it was & and he answers that he had not seen anything that could have frightened him. They ask him then if he possesses a firearm to protect himself & and he answers: «No! You see, I am walking to promote peace and non-violence!»
In Nairobi, Kenya, Jean is heartily welcomed by the staff of the Canadian High Commission. He spends a few days in this exotic city & meeting place for the tourists in quest of a safari & and the day of his departure, he has the honor to meet the First Lady of Kenya, Mrs Lucy Kibaki.
In this day of August 18, we want to wish an excellent day to a Walker's Association for Peace of Buenos Aires that elected this date for "The Day of the Walkers" in honor of Jean who is their mascot! Our most sincere congratulations to all these fine people!!!
Till next time ...