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During my travels newspaper columns were published weekly in the Dutch daily newspaper
Dutch newspaper Spits

This project has been supported by these great and warmhearted companies:
Netherlands: Paping Buitensport, ODLO, IPtower.nl, AVRO Dutch Broadcasting Org., Travelcare, TunaFish, Book A Tour, StadsRadio Rotterdam; UK: Lazystudent, KissFM, The Sunday Times, The Guardian; Isle of Man: SteamPacket/SeaCat; Ireland: BikeTheBurren; Belgium: Le Temps Perdu, Majer & PartnersAustria: OhmTV.com; Norway: Scanrail Pass, Hurtigruten, Best Western HotelsSouth Africa: eTravel, British Airways Comair, CapeTalk, BazBus Spain: Inter Rail, Train company Renfe; Australia: Channel 9 Television, Bridgeclimb, Harbourjet, SeaFM Central Coast, Moonshadow Cruises, Australian Zoo, Fraser Island Excursions, Hamilton Island Resort, FantaSea Cruises, Greyhound/McCafferty's Express Coaches, Aussie Overlanders, TravelAbout.com.au, Travelworld, Unlimited Internet, Kangaroo Island SeaLink, Acacia Apartments; Malaysia: Aircoast; Canada: VIA rail, Cedar Springs Lodge, BCTV/GlobalTV, St. George Hotel, VICKI GABEREAU talkshow, Ziptrek Ecotours, Whitler Blackcomb Ski Resort, Summit Ski & Snowboard Rental, High Mountain BrewHouse, Cougar Mountain Snowmobiling, Whistler Question Newspaper, Snowshoe Inn, First Air, Nunanet.com, Canadian North Accommodations by the Sea, DRL Coachlines Newfoundland, The National Post and Air North.


Reports

Monday, 1 October 2001
Zwolle (NL) --> Johannesburg (South Africa)

After three nights I spent with most of my best friends at home, (after 5 months of travelling almost every single day in a way nobody has done before, may I? - to those people who had to complain about that in my mailbox), my parents brought me from their place to the Amsterdam Airport where I met Peter Wezelenburg from IPtower Internet Solutions.
Behind the screens of Letmestayforaday this Dutch company stood up to be my new sponsor of my mobile communication and also supplied a new digital camera (as my previous sponsor 'just' wanted the old materials back and stopped sponsoring this project).

During dinner at a restaurant at the Schiphol Airport with my parents, I unpacked everything of these new supplies and enjoyed them very much. The camera is even better, it's an more advanced edition of my old camera.

I a getting used to it, but my wonderful parents really glowed up as a light in the dark when the lady at the check-in desk recognized me as that famous world traveller.

My first plane towards Johannesburg left at 7.30pm and I was surprised with the long lines at customs as everything and everybody got thoroughly screened. Even books were checked for metal bookmarks and whatsoever. It was illegal to take any sharp object on a plane and I almost worried that I'd had to give away my writing pen.

The three hours flight took me toward Madrid, the capital of Spain, where 90 minutes later another plane took me to Johannesburg in an almost 10 hours flight.

The long aircraft was totally packed with passengers, and after two hours of flying in an atmosphere with just 10% of humidity, I noticed how everybody started to complain about the lack of any liquid from the catering crew. A lot of people took the hike to the kitchen department themselves to ask for a glass of water as it just took too long.

After two and a half hours of flying I first got dinner (around 3 am!) and had to ask for that fizzy orange drink as the crew forgot all about it. It just doesn't really look that good for this Spanish air company.

On the plane the man sitting next to me already told me more than I knew about South Africa. "It is a country that is a world on itself. It has everything the rest of the world has. There are deserts, but South Africa has it's own Grand Canyons, a Mediterranean west coast and a tropical east coast, rainforests and the biggest variety of people."

I already knew I would be walking with my mouth open, but did not expect that to happen in the plane already...

I think I slept some 3 hours, when the plane prepared for the landing in Johannesburg. Somewhere between being awake and sleeping I enjoyed fragments of an unknown movie starring Morgan Freeman as a doctor who had so solve the kidnapping of a senators daughter. The movie was just to moralistic to keep me awake.

I prepared myself for sudden warmth as I departed the plane, but however it was very sunny and warm, it felt like the same weather I enjoyed in my hometown last Saturday. Of course that was one of the rare warm days in autumn and the South African hotness is much dryer, there wasn't much more of a difference.

10 am: Hello South Africa!

I never thought I would make it to any African country in the beginning of this project, so know that I will be taking pleasures in every single minute I am on this gigantic continent.

Garth is one of the man and big shareholders of Etravel, who together with his business partner Bob Williams had invited me over to South Africa and paid all my travel expenses.

He welcomed me in South Africa and we drove the few miles towards my hotel for the night as he introduced me with the successful Etravel company and informed me about what I would have to expect this day.

Etravel had arranged that I could stay for two nights in Ten Bompas, a luxurious hotel in Johannesburg. The hotel would let me stay for free.

According to their brochure the hotel is 'unique in its concept and in size, designed to fulfil the restlessness of the soul as well as the obligations of the business day.'

The creation of this hotel had been figured out totally to satisfy any type of traveller passing by.

Places as Sandton, Hyde Park and Johannesburg are only a 'drumbeat' away, just like the terrific services given by the personnel. And that last part is my own opinion as they really do their best to suit their visitors. Two thumbs up there!

The interesting thing about Ten Bompas is its artistic design. Its not a piled up high hotel as we know most hotel can be. It is a piece of art itself.

'Ten Bompas represents an Africa we as Africans want to embrace, with all its vibrancy and its charm, its color and its texture, its culture and its tradition' as their website states. I don't have to change anything about that phrase, because that is just how it is. Startling to walk through!

Howard Beckley, the director of the hotel (and also of the Honeyguide Tented Safari Camp which I will visit later this week), introduced me in the hotel.

The friendly receptionist man showed me my room, the most favourite room of the hotel, number 5. The word room is a pretty bad selection; I have to talk about a suit from now on.

Ten Bompas has ten suits and next to the unlike design of the outside of the hotel, all suits have been uniquely designed by different designers. You can just see in the photographs how my suit looks like as I walked through all the rooms in there.

It contains a separate lounge and bedroom, a fireplace, guest toilet, steam bath and plenty of natural light, with access to the outdoors via a ground floor patio or a balcony. A television, a stereo and don't let me use the amount of alcohol in the cabinet, which just cannot be called a mini bar anymore...

My thoughts will be the same as yours as I have never experienced something deluxe as this before!

Just another example. I got lunch on the patio in the sun and cherished the 'Tagliatelli with Anchovies, Garlic, Olives and Braised Fennel'. A waiter was taking care of all my needs all the time.

Lesley-Ann Van Niftrik is the public relations consultant of Image Communication and the was put in charge of the press conference at the Etravel headquarters in Johannesburg where I had to speak to reporters and columnists of over 10 different newspapers or magazines.

Before Lesley-Ann brought me from the hotel to the office where I had almost an hour of talking with these press people, she first let me have experience a photoshooting in the green garden of the hotel.

At the press meeting at Etravel I started off saying 'help me out, because I have never done a press conference before', but said halfway 'please tell me if I talk too much'...

It was somewhat an encounter to do this thing. After the talks Jenny Ridyard of The Citizen newspaper (an adorable 'lady in red', I must add) had some pictures taken of me and I am looking forward to her Wednesday story, as she was the most active and present press officer at the spot.

After the conference I was worn out. Imagine how it would be if I had to talk to all reporters one by one. It costs a lot of energy to dig into my thoughts and tell them what they want to hear for such a long time.

As the next thing to do to promote my project in South Africa and get some more invitations in this country, Lesley-Ann took me to the studio complex of Summit TV, South Africa's Essential Business Channel, where Jeremy Maggs interviewed me about my project. In South Africa this man is pretty popular as he is also the host of the SA-version of 'Who wants to be a Millionaire?'.

The interview was broadcast several times this day.

After all these events Lesley-Ann brought me back to the hotel. In the car I found out that South Africa isn't that criminal as I was told at previous places and by people I met on the road.

It is just a country where you have to take extreme caution. I can't just walk with my mobile phone to my ear in down town Johannesburg and take some photographs with my camera at the same time. There is a minor possibility that I get shot to dead and mugged the next moment.

But the stories that I should not sit in a car with my white arms hanging out of the open windows, because than I could get hold up pretty easy too, aren't that truthful too.

However that is the impression that several persons on this first day in Johannesburg told me, maybe it is different in other parts of this immense country.

Lesley-Ann told me how she recently had wired fences put up around her residence. There is a slight chance that somebody could climb any fence, shoot you and then empty your house. Because that happens!

If now somebody would climb over Lesley-Ann's fence, the whole street would be treated on a free barbeque party.

Prevention is the best security in a country that I easily can compare with the United Kingdom, but with enormous gaps between the rich and the poor.

My view on poorness can be relative again. People along the streets sells their little things; food, creations and whatsoever, but with the 10 South African Rand they earn in one day, they don't see themselves poor at all. It's a completely different mentality here and I have to get used to it.

Back at the hotel on 10 Bompas Road I had a nap before dinner at 8pm. I had 'mille-feuille of Parmesan and Gorgonzola with honey and ginger dressing', followed by 'Stuffed chicken leg with Spinach, Bresaola and Cashew Nut Risotto'.

(Close your mouth; I can see that from here)


After dinner I spent some time alone in the hotel garden, where I heard and saw birds that I have never seen before in my life and sat down under a tree full of flowers and I reflected on my first day in South Africa.

South Africa will amaze me the coming weeks and I hope to enrich my mind thanks to its people and all the experiences they offer me by just offering me to stay, no matter if it's good for publicity reasons by commercial companies or if it is done by normal private persons. I will enjoy it all.

I will be shown the very tourists views of South Africa this week as I will be staying in hotels and tented camps. Don't worry, I don't get spoiled, the rest of South Africa follows next.

Next to the hotels where I am invited to stay, I also hope to stay more in the homes of private people too; to hear their stories, taste their culture and to try to have my soul meet the South African soul.

I hope you will excuse me now as I am going to take a night swim in the outside pool before I will rest my head.

Good night Johannesburg!

Ramon.




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