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

Friday, 5 October 2001
Manyeleti Reserve --> Johannesburg (SA)

Today was a most interesting day, where I managed to hitchhike against all advices from Hoedspruit back to Johannesburg, learned about people, about the history of Africa and it influential culture.

Hey, South Africa isn't that bad at all!

Today it got time to get moving again. I had to skip the early morning game drive of 5.30 and had breakfast.

Bertus brought me to the paved motorway that lead all the way to Johannesburg. We drove out of the reserve and suddenly we were driving 150 km/hr on a road where there is no other traffic at all.

It was hot, very hot. Happily it was dry hot, otherwise I wouldn't have liked it that much in this heat.

Bertus dropped me off on the R40 near Hoedspruit. This was the best place for me to try to get a hitch as a lot of people come from the Kruger National Park entrance at Orpens' Gate.

I thanked Bertus for letting me stay two nights in the Honeyguide Tented Safari Camp and showed great gratitude for the most interesting experiences I had enjoyed in the reserve.

There I was, probably in the heart of South Africa, ready to find myself a lift onto the aorta towards Johannesburg.

The sun was burning on my head, fortunately I had gotten a Honeyguide cap, otherwise those few hairs on my head would have already left me by now. I won't blame them either!

But the third car that passed me pulled over and the driver was going all the way to Tzaneen. It was the right direction, although more up north, but I accepted his help. I dropped the backpack in the back of his pickup truck and we drove off.

On the road he bought me koeldrank, a can of soda, at a small supermarket and postal office and passed a few gasstations. Those places are the most bussiest places in these outbacks of South Africa. People gather together under the shadows of desert palmtrees and sell their harvest along the street.

I was even amazed by the appearance of a bank machine and the fact that people were standing in line to use it! Another miscalculation I had to add to my Things I didn't know about South Africa-list.

My driver dropped me off along the main road out of Tzaneen, towards Jo'burg, where I sat down in the dry red sand and drank the juice I got from Karien at the camp.

I noticed that many people were hitchhiking in South Africa and it all seemed so customary. A car would pull over and places were offered to more than three people fitting in the car.

The only difference was that I was the only white hitchhiker standing along the road (with a red sandy butt).

A Southafrican lady came towards me and asked me where I was going to. "Johannesburg?" she almost screamed out startled. "Do you know how far that is?"
"Yep, over 400 kilometres."
She talked in another language to other hitchers and they happily laughed at me. Was I being funny or something?

"Why don't you take a taxi?" she asked me.
"I don't have any money."
"Cool!" the smiled, leaving her mouth wide open.

But it wasn't that hard for me. I learned here that 'black' people take along black people and the 'whites' (I just hate to use those words to point out that only difference…) pick up only white people.

A black guy would pull over his car and point at the people he takes with them and drives off.

When the white driver who wanted to pick me up into his pickup truck, he pointed at me only and I got in.

It's just something very unfamiliar to me, but I can do nothing but to accept it.

This driver was going to the nearest city Pietersberg, just an hour away from Tzaneen. Here he had to change cars and pick up his wife and then he would drive all the way to Johannesburg. Lucky me, he offered me to join him all the way!

From Pietersburg on, with his wife sharing biltong with me, it was a long drive. Long in the terms of… nothing to see, everything through the car windows looked the same for ages. We would arrive in Jo'burg around 3pm and somewhere along the road I fell asleep against my backpack as the radio was playing old eighty pop songs (best remedy if you can't sleep, though!).

I had arranged that I could stay for two nights at Lesley-Ann Van Niftriks' place, you know, the pr-consultant lady of eTravel and a little bit my personal assistant for my first week in South Africa.

She offered me to stay at her place so I could fully update my reports on her office computers as I did not really had that opportunity to bring my website up to date on a camp site in the Reserve.

She picked me up and along the way to her home she offered me to take me to the Globe Theatre tonight, where a very popular show was performed. She had complimentary tickets arranged by her friend Cindy and it all sounded great to me.

We dropped my stuff at her home and got to the Gold Reef Casino, a part of the themepark Gold Reef City (the Disneyland of South Africa), however yet another big money-spend-palace in Johannesburg.

If it's not the gold people are looking for in Jo'burg, than people seem to love the movement of a one armed bandit.

The Globe Theatre was inside the casino, a big complex, where the inside architecture was fully in style of Johannesburg in the 1920's when everybody suffered from the gold fever.

We attended African Footprint a dance performance that actually showed how the combination of music and dance had evolved since the time of ancient Africa until the modern days.

It was a miraculous performance that illustrated the drive, passion and pride that the youth of South Africa have. It was the originality of the music, the drums, flutes and the modern tap dancers that made the whole story complete.

It certainly proved the empowerment of the current situation of South Africa. Things are doing great and the economy is booming!

I was not allowed to take along my digital camera into the casino, but if you want to taste a bit of the rhythm and dances of these terrific artists, visit AfricanFootprintOnline.com. That website even contains some online show fragments you can watch. Be sure to tune of the volume for a great experience.

After the show Lesley-Ann offered up to take me to the Back Of Moon, a quite fancy restaurant in the casino palace, where I enjoyed red wine and delicious beef kebabs.

I talked with Lesley-Ann about my first days in South Africa we got envolved in deep conversations about life, politics, expectations, history and family while a band on a stage was playing a few annoying happy birthday-song like they probably have to do every night.

What can I say more? Right, that website updating business became something for tomorrow…

Good night Johannesburg!

Ramon.




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