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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:
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Reports

Saturday, 10 November 2001
Keurboomstrand --> Port Elizabeth (SA)

Almost talked into another day at the Abalone Beachhouse in Keurboomstrand, but as a part of the party group was already departing to a lodge in Jeffreys Bay, I decided to continue this project of mine again.

All this joy and pleasure at Abalone made me sometimes even forget about what I was doing and that was maybe exactly what I needed.

But today I moved on and travelled a distance of over 200 kilometres to Port Elizabeth, where I stayed with the happy-life Dumigan couple.



After a breakfast almost everybody was packing his or her stuff together. Some were staying, some were leaving today.

The letmestayforaday-gift from my previous hosts in Plett, Mirjam and Leslie, was a pack of original Dutch filter coffee, which Grant and Elbi gratefully accepted. But what would they give my next host?

I came up with the idea of making a group photograph of everybody, as we did have pretty much fun together. And it would be a good thing in case we grow old and might forget these things in life, you know...

And before he know, Grant got everybody’s cameras and was clicking away as we were posing on the sunroof.

I thanked Grant and Elbi for the pleasant stay I had at their beachhouse. It’s another unforgettable experience (not to dishonour previous or future hosts, as everyday is an experience). There was something with this place. Or were it the people?

Grant dropped me off on the N2 main road towards Port Elizabeth. As I was already hitchhiking, Grant came back from a nearby petrol station and loaded my shoulderbag with a lunch package and something to drink. How nice!

It took me quite a while to get a hitch. Southafricans have become pretty aware that taking along hitchhikers is very dangerous. That makes me conclude that the Southafricans are pretty fearful, as I a just a guy who looks like an ordinary traveller -with his backpack- standing along the road. I mean, you would see my axe immediately if I was an axe murderer...

But I got a hitch. It was over one hour later and my body was already colouring by the burning sun when a black man called John took me along in his Mercedes.

“You should be careful if you’d go hitchhiking,” he warned me, “especially if you are heading up north along the East Coast.” I knew, I knew. So many people have told me that and I’ll sure be cautious about it.

I could have taken the Bazbus service, as they provided me a free ticket. But that meant that I had to wait for that bus to pass Keurboomstrand early in the evening, as the bus would come all the way from Cape Town and arrive late in the evening in Port Elizabeth. And I didn’t want to arrive that late at my next hosts’ place and say goodbye to them the next day...

John was going all the way to Port Elizabeth (lucky me!) and he even stopped a few times along this long road through the Tsitsikamma mountains to stretch our legs.

He dropped me off in Port Elizabeth on the very deserted Cape Road, as leaving me in the town centre would be unsafe this Saturday.

I stood there a few minutes to orientate myself where I’d exactly was, when a black lady in her fully packed family car called me from her driver’s seat. She asked me if I was lost and I told her that everything was fine. She then advised me to stay safe and take only public taxis if I would, I shouldn’t go with other people.

Wow, even though the streets were pretty much deserted, those who helped me out have only been friendly until now. I walked across the street and landed in an English Pub called The Blinking Owl where a lot of people had gathered to watch some important rugby match on television.

I called my new hosts and they were happy to collect me where I was within five minutes, making me happy too of course!

Not much later I met up with Alan and Heather Dumigan who took me to their home in the north part of this big city and they were pretty excited to meet me. Heather even thought that I had passed Port Elizabeth already a long time ago.

Port Elizabeth is set along the beautiful shores of Algoa Bay and is located on the south eastern coast of Africa. Commonly just mentioned as PE, the city is a major tourist destination, also called the Friendly City.

What I did not really expect to find here, was the size of PE’s population: over one million (!), making it South Africa's fifth largest city in terms of population and the second largest in terms of area.

The actual founding of Port Elizabeth dates back to the arrival by sea of 4,000 British Settlers in 1820 to become the first permanent British residents in the country. On 6 June 1820, Sir Rufane Donkin, Acting Governor of the Cape Colony at the time, named the city after his late wife, Elizabeth. Another example of how romance gets noticed in the books forever.

At their home I was shown my guestroom and I unloaded my luggage and was treated with coffee and cakes in the living room. The Dumigan’s had heard about me on SAFM radio and decided to invite me over as their home was already seen as an hotel for a lot of people. With the kids out of the house, the free rooms are often used to accommodate foreign missionaries, athletes, musicians, and etcetera. “I am thinking about leaving a visitor’s book at the entrance,” Heather said laughing.

When Heather prepared dinner in the kitchen, I talked with the retired Alan. He originates from Northern Ireland and came to South Africa in 1971 (exactly 30 years ago this month). “The city of Belfast was very tensed at that moment and as a Protestant with catholic friends I was asked to choose a side and decided it was best to leave that mess and I moved to South Africa with my wife.”

Tragically his wife died while living here and he met up with the just-divorced Heather through a new started singles club. They found out that they both had a daughter, born on the same day in the same month and in the same year. What a coincidence!

And slowly they got to know each other and now they have been already married for fifteen years.

We had a very nice meal full with chicken, squash and carrots with potatoes for dinner, as I shared my stories about my travels as they liberated their queries to me.

Alan has been a newspaper compositor – you know, from the old days when the layout of a newspaper was hand set and put on film. He got retired and now has a small job as a chauffeur for AVIS. “Just to keep me occupied a bit,” he explains. Heather has been a secretary for twelve years and when I asked her when she will be retiring, Alan looked at me with wide open eyes: “Don’t give her ideas like that, please!” Of course, that was the current home executive talking.

During coffee in the evening, I handed them the letmestayforaday-gift from Grant and Elbi. They were pretty surprised with it and were quite happy with the bottle of Spanish red wine they received through me from my previous hosts.

My conclusion after spending the rest of the evening with this couple: they live a great life and are a happy couple. I don’t see that this much. Even though they are already in their 60, inside they still must be feeling 30-years-old. And that’s how it should be.

Ramon.


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