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ReportsMonday, 12 November 2001
Port Elizabeth --> Grahamstown (SA) From Port Elizabeth I travelled to Grahamstown, in the car of Jeanine Van Heerden, who thought I wouldn't survive hitchhiking around here. And suddenly I was with a hostess who knew everything about me, as she has been following me around since the early beginning of my project...
Fortunately, she was very good-hearted.
Somehow, because of my late afternoon naps, I don’t seem to be needing much night sleep, even with alcohol the night before. I was already awake at 8, but tried to doze off again until my phone told me it was 10am.
I had a shower in a house that was still pretty much asleep and watched the broadcast of Clear and Present Danger on television as I waited for Sian to pick me up. The only person awake, next to me, was the quiet housemaid that cleaned the place up. I tried to find myself coffee, but the kitchen seemed to be very empty.
I did find a few cats and a lot of kittens, playfully running around on the first floor. I played a while with them and enjoyed how the really young ones cry for mum as they get thirsty. And you could imagine big mama walking to them in a mood like they would say “Yeah yeag (sigh), I am coming… Again…”.
Sian popped up with his Volkswagen around 11 and took my assets and me with him to his office again. Lauren was just in time to be awake and say goodbye to me and I thanked her for letting me stay at their home.
Today I would go the distance again, but my next hostess wouldn’t allow me to hitchhike the almost 140 kilometres to her hometown. She would come all the way down to PE to pick me up later this afternoon. Blessed me!
With enough time on my hands for the rest of the day, and because I also had to write my weekly chronicle for a Dutch newspaper, I was planted behind a computer in the internet café again as Sian was being very busy with some clients of his webdesign business.
It was getting noon and I looked around at the technicians walking around this peculiar internet café and asked one of them if I could get a cup of coffee somehow or somewhere. Without looking up from his work (hanging hidden into a computer) one very eccentric person told me irritated “Why don’t you get it yourself? You can see I am busy.” I would almost have responded on the kindness of his words and say that he could have said that in a bit more normal way than that. But who am I to start a quarrel about it? The guys let me use their Internet connection for free...
So, stumbling over wires, passing the man with his head in the computer, it didn’t take long to conclude that they had no coffee or something like that in their back kitchen. And somehow my stomach began to stutter too.
It was around 2pm when Sian came down his office and invited me to come along. We were going to eat sushi at the local sushi bar down the street. My stomach roared with delight!!!
“That sounds great for breakfast,” I mentioned to Sian, testing his response. “Yes, I know,” he said, “you must be hungry by now. Let’s go,” and we hopped to the sushi bar.
We sat down at the bar in this little restaurant and Sian ordered sushi meals that sounded world-strange to me. I can’t remember I ever ate official sushi, I do know that I tried to make it myself once and that was one of my biggest kitchen disasters ever (so why the heck do I still remember that? Mmm).
But it was a great treatment, the sumi soup, and sushi parts with white salmon and other fish, eating with sticks and dipping the parts in spicy soja sauce. It was finger licking good! And the hot parts even made me bubble little sweat drops below my eyes.
And before we knew it was already 3 o’clock, the time that my next hostess would pick me up at the nearby mall. I thanked the cook for his delicious preparations and we drove to the Green Acres shopping mall.
I met up with my next hostess Jeanine Van Heerden at one of the twelve thousand coffee corners in the mall and thanked Sian O’Keefe for the interesting day I had at his friends’ places.
This Jeanine must be quite a woman, I thought, as she drove over an hour from Grahamstown to PE to collect me. And I soon found out that she had been following my progress on this website since I exactly left Holland and started the Belgian leg of my journey.
And as a Soutafrican who talks Afrikaans too (which is quite similar to Dutch), she also read my Dutch ‘backstage’ log too. Wow.
She might be one of my biggest fans, with among them my mother of course, and knew almost everything about me since I started this project.
Before heading to Grahamstown she took me along to Woolworth’s to get some groceries and she remembered that I am crazy about the Southafrican biltong (dried meat) and but a few packages for me.
And Jeanine wasn’t really a shy person at all. She kind of knew what kind of person I was and we had quite some fun between the groceries as I played around with my camera and tried to take the usual shot of ‘host shops for dinner ingredients’.
During the hour-long drive to Grahamstown I learned that Jeanine was an advocate at the High Court. Hey, that’s fascinating! And before I knew we were talking about the cases she was doing at the moment and how she thought about the Southafrican justice system.
She is specialised in raping (imagine coming to a party and you need to tell the people at the party what your profession is and you can say: “I do raping….”) and that is one of the most common crimes in South Africa. I can easily call it the national sport of South Africa.
She told me that doing a lot of rape-of-minor-cases doesn’t really mean a lot to her anymore, but she can get excited when she gets a murder case once in a while. Just to get some distraction. This was a lawyer talking.
Jeanine is very much in favour of a death-sentence in South Africa. “It will stop a lot of crime, as the prisons are 250% occupied and the crimes just go on and on,” she told me, “And killing the criminal would set a great example to a huge amount of people.” And I can totally understand her situation.
We approached Grahamstown and Jeanine pulled over on top of a hill, near the British settlers’ monument.
Grahamstown is located in a crater amidst the hills of the Eastern Cape. The city that has acquired many names over the years; City of Saints due to over 40 places of worship (if you don’t become religious in this city, there must be something wrong with you); City of Schools for its educational establishments such as the famous Rhodes University and City of Settlers due to the many frontier wars fought with the Xhosa tribes . The Xhosas suffered a terrible self-imposed fate when their 14-year-old prophetess Nongqause urged her people to burn their crops and kill all their cattle and in return they would be free from the white settlers. Their deliverance never came and thousands of Xhosa’s died of starvation. Talking about a big mistake now...
In the early 1800’s Grahamstown was a booming and lively city of ivory traders, big game hunters and soldiers crowding the streets. Today the streets still hum with activity, but only during the June/July Arts Festival when it comes alive with artistes, markets stalls, performers and visitors.
On November 12, 2001, the streets were very empty, like how a town can be in summertime...
We arrived at the humble apartment in Grahamstown and Jeanine insisted in carrying my heavy backpack and all her groceries herself. Just to feel the weight of it, I guess – but it was a quite funny sight.
She even knew about my afternoon naps and how I write about them in my reports – that they are necessary once in a while. So after dropping my load in the upstairs guestroom where I’d sleep tonight and a coffee in her living room, I had a pleasant snooze.
Back in the real world again, somewhere around 7 in de evening, Jeanine was preparing dinner in the kitchen (“Don’t make photographs of my cooking,” she pleaded) I met her neighbour Andy. He was going to join us for dinner and had heard all about me – just like everybody who knows Jeanine.
She was very excited when I called her last week and told her that I would like to come to stay-for-a-day at her place. Half an hour later she had come over the shock and called me back again for any further details. I don’t meet many hosts like this – I sometimes already become happy if they at least saw a few pages of my website.
And as Jeanine tried hard not to ask the most frequent asked questions by my hosts, I of course had to tell Andy what I was doing and how long this had been going on.
Jeanine made a good meal of chicken, vegetables and rice - but she was quite worried about it, as she doesn’t cook that much. But it was okay with me.
And during dinner we gossiped about the people I have visited during my travels and I found out that my reports seemed to reveal a major love crush on one of my hostesses in Denmark – oh… do they?
After dinner Andy excused himself and went home while Jeanine and I watched CNN on television. Another plane had gone down on New York and I already expected the worst. “No, not again.” And I worried about friends that I have made online (during my travels) who actually live in the quarter where the plane crashed down. I didn’t want to delete more people and invitations from my database of people being killed by terrorists or accidents, like I had to do with a total of 43 people who disappeared after the attacks on the World Trade Centre. Some of whom I even had been chatting with!
But to escape from the media I worked on my website for the rest of the night, as Jeanine already knew that writing my reports might always take an hour and then I haven’t started with the photographs and my emails yet.
When Jeanine went to bed, she left me working on her computer after she had told me how I could support myself as ‘her house was my house’ and I knew where I could find the biltong and the coke.
And with all the compliments I received from Jeanine today, especially about my writing, I felt a bit blocked. I can describe how, but someway things got very close to me.
Whatever… I am going on with the things I do and I kind of love it (just like Danish women)… :-)
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