Golden Lake – Victor Bitton had a rare treat last Thursday night on his 4,000 km walk from Ottawa to Vancouver.
He got to enjoy a shower.
The 55-year-old Montreal man, who came to Canada from Morocco at age 12 with his family, was the guest of the North Algona Wilberforce Township Fire Department – Golden Lake Station. Not only was he able to refresh himself with a steady spray of warm water, but he was the first ever to use the new showers which were recently installed in the station.
And that’s not all. Members of the Golden Lake Firefighters Association, made up mainly of active volunteer firefighters from the station, gave him $100 to help him as he continues his journey west.
Many people will have noticed Mr. Bitton – whose long hair, beard and grocery store cart reminds one of a homeless person in the streets of a big city – walking along Highway 60 in the last two weeks. But he is not homeless and he is not on any special mission.
Rather, he is seeking a change in his life and a change in people. Montreal is no longer a city he enjoys, he said.
Since emigrating to Canada he has lived all of his life in Montreal, moving to Ottawa more than a year ago. However, he decided the Capital wasn’t where he wanted to spend the rest of his life neither so in early June, with all of his possessions in a shopping cart, he started out for North Bay. When he made it as far as Renfrew, he decided to take the Highway 60 route through Algonquin Park to Huntsville.
Although his walk through West Renfrew County and Algonquin Park will significantly increase the time it will take him to reach North Bay, he said he does feel somewhat safer on the less-busier highway.
“This is local traffic, but down there (17) it is long distance traffic.”
Mr. Bitton has had about six offers from motorists to load he and his cart in their truck and take him as far as they travelling, but so far he has politely refused the acts of kindness, adding “I want to lose some weight”.
He said his decision to leave Montreal was because the city “doesn’t give”. He said the city is dead.
Mr. Bitton is enjoying his walk and seems to have all the time in the world. If he feels like spending longer in a certain place, he will. He planned to spend a few days in Golden Lake as rain was forecasted for the weekend and where he got a taste of local hospitality.
He said people along the route have been very good to him, giving him cash and even home-cooked meals.
“Too bad I don’t have a fridge to keep them (meals) longer,” he said looking at his packed cart which he said has about 200 pounds of goods in it. “People give me some food and some cash and I manage.”
He has a green tarp he uses for a sleeping tent at night and often times during the day when he stops for a cigarette, he will lie back and take a nap. The rubber soles on his size 8 boots seem good and he is hoping they will last him for many miles, at least through the summer.
When asked what he plans to do when he reaches North Bay, Mr. Bitton replied carry on to Vancouver.
“North Bay isn’t even in a stop, bit’s just a pass-by like here,” he said.
He has no plans set when he reaches Vancouver. He said there are a lot of forests in the province and he might just enjoy nature.
The cart he is pushing isn’t what he started out with from Ottawa. He had a smaller cart, but when a short distance out of the city he found the bigger cart along the road and decided it was better for the trip. He is confident it will make the trip.
“I think the rubber (on the littler wheels) could last until the end of the summer,” he said.
He left Ottawa with a cell phone, but it got wet along the way and now it’s not working so he can’t access the internet and see what’s ahead of him along the route. But it worked long enough to give him directions for his journey.
When asked how people have treated him along the route, he replied “real life”.
“You can’t say better than real life,” he said. “It says everything man.”
As for any concern of his safety, Mr. Britton asked: “Afraid of who? C’mon man. If I was in Africa, probably I would get killed already. That’s what I was thinking back there, when I was younger. If I was Israel I’d be dead already.”