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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

Tuesday, 30 October 2001
Prince Albert --> Oudtshoorn (SA)

From Prince Albert to Oudtshoorn was a tour I would not forget that easily. I waited for almost three hours in the heat in one of the Swartberg Mountains valleys until I was taken for a ride.

Back in Oudtshoorn (huh? again?) I met up with the person who eventually invited me in this town (a very unique and special person, as he says he is) who made me a great promise eventhough our chats about life weren't always that positive.

Fortunately that makes the differences in people.

I woke up around 9am as Regina woke me up for breakfast. After a nice shower (I had a luxury bathroom), Dick served me Italian style scrambled eggs in the breakfast room of the Saxe-Coburg Bed & Breakfast.

After this good filling breakfast I joined the couple and some of their visiting friends for coffee on their veranda and delivered them the Letmestayforaday-gift from Andre Coetzee, my host in De Rust.

Andre had made them a package with three little gifts, a Zulu style picture frame, a breaded pin and a key chain. Regina loved the presents and wrapped up a fine gift for my next host to take with me.

Before I was allowed to leave to my next target, Dick walked me around to show me the town he is so full of pride of. We walked around and Dick told me the history of the town and told me about the different styles in architecture here.

I was glad that this wasn’t an architectural disaster area, like the pristine plots near Struisbaai and Cape L’Agulhas. This was all very old, some houses were even dating back to 1802 and they are still delicately preserved in their original fashion. Someway it was even like I was walking in a different time...

And this town was a bit bigger than Die Rust, after 45 minutes we still had not seen all of it and we were back to coffee again (with a big glass of water for me, as it was already getting quite hot).

I thanked Regina and Dick Billiet for their warm hospitality and comfort they offered me in their B&B.

I packed my backpack was loaded to go. Dick brought me out of the town, to a spot where he told me I would get the best chance in a hitch back to Oudtshoorn. It was ultimately in the middle of the Swartberg Mountains, from a point where the route would only go up the mountaintops and down in another valley again.

And there I was. Surrounded by fynbos nature, sitting next to the wild geraniums - next to the road. And it was hot. I had a bottle of water with me and Dick provided me with a can of coke. And I must tell you, if you sit down that road and only two cars pass in one hour and they all let me sit there in that dusty valley land, it can become very dreary.

I almost saw visions of myself sitting here all day long, saw the sun already down behind the mountains and I would get very very hungry…

But of course, there was my rescue. After nearly three hours waiting, fully sun blocked of course, I could hop in the back of a pickup that was on its way to Oudtshoorn. I was happy again.

But I didn’t really realize that it would be such a long drive towards Oudtshoorn. I was shaken from side to side in the back of the truck as the man drove the vehicle up the bumpy mountain road, down into another valley (which was surprisingly green and fruitful) and all the way along all the ostrich farms into Oudtshoorn. Almost two hours.

Back to civilization I should say. Between Prince Albert and Oudtshoorn was practically nothing valuable. Unless you just love dry farmlands...

I was back in Oudtshoorn, indeed, just like last Friday. Why? I was invited here by the director of Tourism, Pierre-Andre Nel. But he couldn’t receive me on Friday or Saturday as he was out of town these days and offered me the free accommodation in the Backpacker Paradise. Today I was back again, after the circle along De Rust and Prince Albert, and I would meet him later today.

“My home is like a train station, I am only coming and going all the time,” he said, so he put me up in Paradise for another night and I’d meet him after supper.

At the hostel I met up with the ever jolly manager Louis, who was currently a bit bothered with the current renovation works going on in the house. After Saturday’s rainfall and flood in the house, they decided to remove the complete carpet as it was even too expansive to have it all cleaned out – it could rain again and the same thing could happen again too. And under the carpet was this fine timber floor, which was now being polished with heavy machinery.

“Now don’t you write about this terrible look in here,” he said when he showed me my room for the night. On the hallways everything was covered in wood dust. “But that’s just because of the renovation?” I said.

It was a pity that I didn’t take a picture of the living room how it was on Saturday. It was pretty inviting to sit down in and watch television. I mean, a backpacker’s life is hard, isn’t it?

After a jump in the splash pool (Louis fooling around with me as he sat at the reception desk: “Did you just make a tidal wave jump into the pool?” “Me? No. (oops)” “Then it must be raining again, I just got wet in here… Strange, isn’t it? The sky is so bright blue…” Hehehe!)

And when the sun dried me, I got to the outside dining area, where the barbecue was lit and the ostrich meat placed on the grill. Even though it was ostrich meat again (like every day in Paradise here), it was my first time to eat outside in this place and it was like I was in a different surrounding; just because it wasn’t raining this time.

I enjoyed dinner, together with always brainless-playing Louis and a few German tourists. After dinner I finally met up with Pierre-Andre Nel, my official host in Oudtshoorn.

Pierre isn’t really old-fashioned for his age. Even though he has grey hair, he walks around with a rainbow colored ostrich tie.

“I invited you because I love unique things, and you are doing something unique.” And I received many more compliments like these. “But I am unique too, I am special. I want to be different in this world. That’s also why I am walking around with this rainbow colored ostrich tie.” Too me he looked quite clownish, but Pierre was serious about it.

Enjoying a few glasses of beer as the night set in, we discussed the effect of my project in the media and the fact that he would not have known about my project if he hadn’t heard it on the SAFM radio. “That isn’t a good thing,” he mentioned. But I think I had done enough by talking with newspapers and having the interviews on the radio. I can’t go on and indoctrinate a whole country to invite me over. That would be unnecessary too. But I didn’t seem to be able to convince him.

Pierre wouldn’t let me travel from Oudtshoorn to the next big town in the east, Port Elizabeth, in just one day. I wasn’t allowed to just skip the most beautiful places along the famous Garden Route.

“Tomorrow you’ll come to the Tourist Office and I will help you with some free accommodation,” he promised and I became very happy.

I didn’t really know what to expect, but I would see it all tomorrow. I was just a little bit concerned, because I rather like to know where I’d be staying and sleeping the next evening and I didn’t know that at all this night.

But back to the beers and the ponderings about life and the world we live in. I learned that Pierre wasn’t really an optimist. He is a rigid believer of Murphy’s Law: if anything can go wrong, it will go wrong, also with my project. But why? And why me? That’s not a great thought to wake up with every day. At least not for me.

“Ramon, the American media will drag you down when you get to the United States,” he said. “Er, why, Pierre? Why would they?” is asked. “Because they can. You don’t know yet how powerful the Americans are.”

“But why would they want to drag me down one day?” I asked again.
“That’s is what their media is all about.”

Pierre either had a bad history with the American media or was just very sensitive for the press, but I just can’t live with those thoughts. It’s too straight-minded to me. I just can’t judge things and people on forehand and won’t see any reason why any media would take me down. Until now (and of course nothing really major has happened) the only reason the media can take me down is because of jealousy.

And if they would, they’d be describing their own character.

But at a certain moment I made Pierre and optimist again, as I delivered him the Letmestayforaday-gift that had passed him on Friday to Saturday, but now arrived from my hosts in Prince Albert. “Another good idea from you, Ramon,” he said with glaze amazement as he unwrapped the package, uncovering a jar of nice fresh olives from Prince Albert. “So, now I’ll have to find you something tomorrow,” he said. I certainly hoped so.

And it got later and later and we ended up pooling in the backpacker pub, against some other backpackers of young friends of Pierre, students of the local hotel school. Failing in each game ("it’s the table, it’s the table"), I eventually went to bed around midnight. Louis failed in his goal to get me drunk tonight, even though he wanted that so badly... A pity for him - as I would leave tomorrow.

But to where?

Good night Oudtshoorn!

Ramon.


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