Jean Beliveau walking in India

Posted on August 1, 2008 by

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Dearest friends!

In our latest newsletter, we left our walker crossing the border of India for the second time. He plans about 40 days of walking in the country to make it to the closest possible spot to the border of China, in the State of Arunachal Pradesh, situated at the limit of eastern India.

After 7 days without news from him, he emails me:

“I got into Assam without trouble. Just before coming here, I really thought that I would be turned back at the border thus having to go back to Katmandu to fly to China. But I was welcomed with much benevolence. The authorities decided to take complete charge of my security for the duration of the crossing of their State. Four heavily armed policemen accompany me at all time. Furthermore, they are very nice and happy to guarantee my security!”

Assam is a region that is not visited by tourists. A lot of people have never even seen a foreigner. As soon as he arrives in a city or a village, people gather up to welcome him and all these shows of friendship are deeply moving but sometimes keep the walker so busy that he moves ahead for only some 20 km a day.

He walks in tropical weather and his feet, locked into the walking boots I had brought him on our latest meeting, are suffering from the heat and the humidity. Fortunately, he finds the unique pair of sandals of his size and this brings his toes to happiness again!

In Bokakhat, a small town situated neat Kaziranga National Park, Jean is welcomed with great pomp and received a donation of 1,000 rupees to encourage him on his journey. He is also invited to visit the Park, site of conservation of the “one-horn Asian rhinoceros”.

After some attempts to obtain the necessary license to enter the State of Arunachal Pradesh, that one is refused to him for security reasons and in Dum Doma, last city before the border, he turns back. Not easy to enter China on foot these days… Back in Tinsukia in Assam, on May 7th, he boards the train that will bring him back to the border of Nepal where he take a bus to Katmandu.

Having no alternative but fly over Tibet, on May 10th, he buys his plane ticket to Chengdu in China and the departure is set for Tuesday, May 13th… The whole world was sorry to learn of the horrifying earthquake that occurred on May 12th in the Chinese province of Sichuan and the epicenter of which was only about a hundred kilometer from Chengdu. More than 80,000 deaths and missing persons, uncountable wounded people, hundreds of orphans… may our noblest thoughts be with them.

The flight was delayed to the following Saturday, on May 17th, because the Chengdu airport had been requisitioned for emergencies and humanitarian aid. The supplementary stay in Katmandu as well as meals are assumed by Air China and Jean takes advantage of this stay to continue the exploration of the city and also to find suitable shoes as he doubts very much to find shoes big enough for him in China… after close to 8 years of walking, it seems that his feet have grown longer…

On the evening of May 17th, China time, he emails me that the flight had been good, that they stopped in Lhasa for a complete check that the overworked airport agents in Chengdu would be exempted from carrying out. On the following day, he goes to the Police Station to enquire about his projected route towards Xi’an and they strongly advise him to avoid this road as the earthquake seriously damaged it and there are shortages of food and drinking water.

His route is thus diverted towards Shanghai where he plans to arrive in three months… just in time to cover his 30-day visa and the two renewals that will probably be granted to him.

The very first days of his walk in China are close to the event of the earthquake and seismic shocks are still felt. On May 23rd, he emails me:

“In spite of a National Mourning period and the numerous worries for the Chinese people following this terrible cataclysm, the inhabitants are incredible. They want to help me in any way possible and they are very happy to meet this foreigner. Please do not worry, nothing bad can happen to me here. I have never seen so respectful and well-mannered people! Their attitude is not dramatic; they love fun and wittiness and have a very lively mind! The worst problem is communication, but I manage… I am getting used to eat with chopsticks!”

And on the 25th, he writes from Suining:

“All is well! The Chinese are admirable! They hurry to help me at the slightest wish from my part. When they first see me, they watch me with an expressionless face. Then I exclaim: Nihao! Which means hello and they then smile hugely. They say that I have large eyes and I answer that we consider that their eyes are small… this inevitably starts an explosion of laughter!!! Children are adorable and they cannot refrain from touching the hairs on my arms! All the cities are under construction; the boulevards are as landing strips and a city as Montreal would look like a village here! Everywhere it is very clean. In the country, the rows of culture are planted in perfect order!”

Once again, the legs of the walker are put to hard work as he crosses a mountainous region. The landscapes are magnificent but it is exerting to get ahead. On June 10th, he arrives in Lichuan where Jeff and Charlene, normally living in Shenzhen in Eastern China but on a visit to family, greatly assist him with the renewal of his visa and the promotion of his walk.

On June 15th, a generous Chinese family presents him with the gift of a phone call to Montreal! It seems to me that I had not heard the voice of my hero for centuries… In the background, I could hear the excited talks of the family… in Mandarin!

Jean is amazed to see how much the Chinese parents love their children. They are supreme treasures for the family and parents look after them with immense love and care!

When he nears Yichang, the terrain finally become smoother, and Jean crosses the YANG-TSE for the second time.

On July 3rd, he arrives in Wuhan, the capital of the province of Hubei. He is in the second third of his total itinerary in China, so his rhythm is adequate and he should get to Shanghai in time. One of the main subject of our emails is the “when and where “ of our next meeting… It is not easy to estimate a time and place that are compatible to the activities of both of us… But after a few attempts, we indeed feel that a meeting in Taiwan between December 15 and January 7 would be ideal for both of us!

Quite a few times, Jean heard that the figure 8 is a lucky number and somewhat beneficial in the Chinese culture. He was told that the Olympic Games of Beijing would begin officially on August 8, 2008 (8/8/2008) at 8:08:08 p.m. exactly. Strangely, this figure also presents some coincidences with Jean’s walk this year: on 08/18/2008, Jean will celebrate the 8th anniversary of his wwwalk and his 53rd (5+3=8) birthday. If we include Canada when he left, Jean is now walking in the 53rd country and when he arrives in Shanghai, he will be close to having walked 53,000 km.

Coincidences are sometimes peculiar… May the Olympic spirit prevail! May it raise our consciousness! Peace and Love to all!

Till next time…


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