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

Monday, 29 October 2001
Die Rust --> Prince Albert (SA)

Hitchhiking from Die Rust towards my next destination Prince Albert wasn't an easy task. It took me a few hours to realize that two cars per hour, wouldn't really work. But thanks to a courier, I eventually made it to this little remote town, at the beginning of a long and endless desert.
When I woke up this morning, in Andre Coetzee’s Shop in Die Rust, he had already opened his business and handling customers. I heard the conversation he had with the shoppers, naming my presence in The Shop. “Why don’t you let people pay to see me?” I asked Andre. “Well, that’s a good idea,” he laughed. “Can you stay for a few more days, then I’ll advertise for it!”

The breakfast he had prepared for me was a very exceptional one. He had been boiling fruits in a pan and made a delicious fruit stew, something he lives on everyday and it can even take a person through the whole day, as he told me.

With everything packed again, I was ready to get going to my next destination. This time I would have to hitchhike through the Swartberg Mountains towards Prince Albert, a little town on the beginning of the Big Karoo desert and flatland.

There was no sign of any bad weather anymore, as it doesn’t really come often over the mountains.

I thanked Andre for letting me stay for a day and walked on the main road towards the junction that would lead a road to Prince Albert. And however it was a Monday, I had very bad luck in hitchhiking today. In just one hour, six cars had passed and half of them were packed and the other part just had very scared female drivers. After standing in the sun along the road for three hours, without any shadow anywhere, I gave up and returned to the shop.

“What are you doing here?" Andre asked smiling. “No luck huh? Why don’t I call to your next destination, maybe they know people going towards Prince Albert.” That was a good idea.

Conclusion: the folks I was going to stay with in Prince Albert had contacted a package courier who was actually driving from Oudtshoorn to Prince Albert, via Die Rust. She could take me along.

What I didn’t know when I entered the tight packed Toyota of this lady, that I was treated as a package myself. With some boxes on my lap and my backpack out of sight under another pile of cartons, the lady courier continued here path.

We drove through the Swartberg Mountains, once created by the massive movement of the Antarctica continent, before it moved away to the south pole and ended up in the Big Karoo desert valley. The temperature here was a little 35 degrees Celsius, not even that much. In the Swartberg Mountains is a small passage with a hamlet called The Hell, just because its daily average temperature is around 40 degrees...

We drove into Prince Albert and slowly the load got less and less as she dropped off her parcels. Sometimes it took her fifteen minutes to get back to the car and driving again. When we were on one street, she made me wait 30 minutes before coming back from the inside of a store, drove another exactly two buildings further and told me: “Here it is.”

That’s what I meant with me being a package... She could have told me that the place I had to be was just at the end of the road, in stead of having me wait in her car in the same street for almost one hour! She either had a bad mood day today, or wasn’t really a bright minded person I must say.

But I finally ended up meeting Dick and Regina Billiet, who had invited me into their Bed & Breakfast Saxe-Coburg in Prince Albert. Regina showed me the double bed room, where I could drop my bags and I joined them for a cup of coffee (with a liter of water) on their veranda.

Regina is originally German and with the Southafrican Dick they now live a retired live with the B&B. What a relaxful way of life they must have as Prince Albert is a very remote town, but however very popular for hiking tourists. Retired people loved to move here and enjoy the high temperature and endlessness of this valley.

I had a short nap after this long afternoon (waiting for a hitch for three hours is very long) and was fresh and recharged again when Dick and Regina took me along for a little road trip to the hills just outside of town. With the car parked along the dusty road, we all drank a beer while we watched at the magic of the sunset with an almost full moon.

Prince Albert is a small farming village, probably because of its location in the Big Karoo very much bigger than Die Rust. The Dutch settlers started farming here, with their intellectual way of irrigation with water from the mountains, and called the place after the husband of the British over-popular Queen Victoria.

Just to tease the British of course, as the Dutch didn’t really like them. And why name it after Prince Albert then? Because he was a German. Never say the Dutch have no humor...

For Dick and Regina this is the most beautiful place on earth and I tried hard to convince them that everybody must be saying that about their hometown. But I was wrong, according to the pleasant couple: “This is absolutely the most beautiful place on earth.” I rather found it pretty dry, especially outside of the irrigation area (and that irrigation is of course my pride).

While I was online on their computer, Dick prepared dinner and Regina watched some television.

They don’t have satellite TV, so they don’t understand why the media is making such a fuss about Big Brother on South African television. “Why would you want to watch all day long at people in one house?” Regina wondered.

The dinner that they shared with me was very good and I almost ate two plates of it as I had lived on the fruit stew-breakfast all day long. Dick had made some oven baked chicken in a mushroom sauce, together with potatoes and salad. Yummy to my tummy!

It wasn’t much later, when the couple went to bed as Dick was already wheezing on the couch with his eyes closed. I had not realized it was already 10.30pm and I got to my room.

I spent the rest of the night reading some of the travel magazines that I found in the room and somewhere while doing that my eyelids closed and blocked my view...

Good night Prince Albert!

Ramon.



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