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

Friday, 16 November 2001
Gonubie --> Coffee Bay (SA) 200 DAYS!!!


200 DAYS
ON THE ROAD!!!


Money spent since MAY 1:
0,00


Michel Muller laughed out loud when she found us all three in this little room, of course all looking terrible after last night’s out. She even had to get her camera to take a picture of it.

She fed us all toast and coffee on the bed and I noticed that I had to hurry up. I had to get the BazBus to my next location around 11am. Fortunately Michel also offered me paracetamol, so at least Heidi could bring me with a clear head to East London – where the BazBus would have its stop.

And I had one more thing to do, that I had totally forgotten! The letmestayforaday-gift from Linda Jackson in East London had to be passed on to Michel. And Michel was very happy with the zebra-striped pillow that she got from the Niki-Nana people. And, probably to play around with me, Michel gave me a very unusual gift to take with me to my next hosts. Unusual because its size...

I hopped on the BazBus at Niki-Nana, as the bus stops at almost every backpacker’s lodge in South Africa and drove all the way towards Umtata.

Umtata is the main town in the Transkei. During the days of Apartheid this was a homeland, a reservoir of cheap labour for the Apartheid machine, mostly on the mines. Today, it is officially part of the Eastern Cape, but is still affectionately known as Transkei, or the Kei] among surfers.

The three hours drive was made easier when two Dutch ladies, Caroline and Carola, filled up the seats next to me. And of course, with people who can talk in their native language, I hang around much easier. So within a few hours Carola gave me a complete backmassage (with oil!) and I slept the other part of the trip against Caroline.

At the Umtata Ultra City petrol station the BazBus made a 20 minutes stop, but this was the place where I would hop on to the shuttle to Coffee Bay, my destination for tonight.

And the Caro’s were on their way to a backpackers place in Hogsback, another two or three hours up north and I tried to convince me to come along with me to Coffee Bay. No way they were going to skip this place that I heard so much about.

And they just came from a backpacker’s lodge in Cintsa, north of Gonubie, where they had stayed in the company of two Canadians, two Danish girls and a few Germans. Hey! I know that combination all too much! That was the bunch I hung around with at the Abalone Beachhouse in Keuboomstrand. And I knew that they were going to Coffee Bay too.

The Caro’s even confirmed to me that that group would travel to Coffee Bay tomorrow. I was glad with that, because I was also still carrying one bottle of South African Champaign, the Kaapse Vonkel, with me – in case we would meet up again in Coffee Bay and now I knew that the bottle would be opened (finally) tomorrow.

It took the help of the driver of the shuttle, the ever-smiling Robert, to sway the mind of the Dutchy’s to come along – weren’t it for the Champaign too...

Conclusions: the ladies cancelled their stay in Hogsback and joined the shuttle to the Coffee Shack backpacker’s lodge in Coffee Bay. We drove through the country side and the weather wasn’t co-operating that much. We drove 60km/hr through the rain, with from time to time heavy mists, on the paved road all the way to the coastal place.

But more and more I started to realize that I had just entered the real South Africa with its rugged shore, also known as the Wild Coast. An unspoilt wilderness of beaches and secluded bays. Rolling green hills and patches of dense vegetation graced the scenery.

Nothing too western could be noticed here, there were mud huts all over the place!

The last part of the route was on a dirt track, and massive rainfall was bobbering down the tracks towards our goal. Below, in a small bay, situated in a natural amphitheatre of green hills, was the Coffee Shack. Welcome!

We unloaded the truck and entered the premises of this full-packed lodge and met up with the manager Dawn who toured us around the place.

“By the way,” she finally said, “you are all invited to come to a dance at the headman’s house tonight! Be ready, because we’ll be leaving in 10 minutes.”

I had a quick look around and saw the bronze coloured Bomvu river flushing its way towards the ocean, just a few metres from the gates of the shack.

The Coffee Shack exists out of four dormitories, two in the house and two in the backgarden. There was a living room with a library and an Internet PC. Those who want can prepare their own meal in the kitchen, but in the staff’s kitchen the chef can also cook for the guests. The backgarden contained open huts and sit-ins in rocks where you can lounge around. High green trees covered it all. Music was played from the inside bar where I can work on my losing or winning at the pool table. Maybe something for tonight.

But we had to go, as Dawn ordered us to. We dumped our stuff in the dorm and jumped into the back of the truck, heading towards a place called the Headman’s house, where the oldest man and chief of Coffee Bay lives.

From the dirt track road we had to walk through the green fields on muddy paths towards the mud hut that every local was pointing at, to show us the direction.

I entered the hut and found it totally empty. Six steps in any direction would make you walk against the wall.

But the dance would be outside. Women and young kids gathered together and when a big mama started to bang on the drum the children started to sing and dance for us (most of the guests of the Coffee Shack).

They sang in Xhosa and their dancing exists more out of special footsteps and extensive hip shaking. The hands and the neck to the rest.

It was very impressive to see their way of entertainment in their live. I mean, they all live in the mud huts of Coffee Bay, without any running water, electricity, but with their own crops and cattle.

Life is based on a long-lasting tradition, the use of electricity would damage their bonds with their ancestors – who have died but they presume the are still among them.

This is a life without the power of news, television or radio. This is real South Africa and dancing for the guests is the only thing most people enjoy the most.

Now look at yourself, glazing at your computer screen, reading this report and probably you’ll know what goes on on our planet and you might even know what kind of interesting thing would be on television tonight...

What a difference this place here in Coffee Bay is!

A place like this doesn’t even need a country’s president, the headman will decide what happens and works out conflicts. What a world.

While they we dancing, the sun had gone down behind the hills and before we knew everybody was dancing on the rhythm of the drum, fully taken by the songs and the dancing of the kids. It felt I was indeed in a different world.

Around 7pm we were called into the mud hut and sat on the straw mats on the floor. While the kids kept on singing and dancing in the middle, we were fed umngqusho and Xhosa beer, made of milk, barley and corn.

It was getting 8.30 when the performances ended and we were thanked by the headman from the deepest of his heart, that we enjoyed this night so much.

We all walked back to the car, but it wasn’t that easy this time. There was no light at all, it was total darkness. The guide that had taken us there had to shine on our paths with his flashlight so we could figure out where we were going and with all the ongoing rain and the mud it was quite difficult. We even had to create a human bridge to hold on to each other.

We had to push the 4x4 truck up the hill before it would get started and after a ten minutes drive on dangerous slippery tracks we arrived back at the Coffee Shack.

And basically everybody was tired already of today’s experiences. For those who wanted to eat some more (or didn’t like the umngqusho) there was Xhosa bread and soup.

The guests spread out and I met up with Dawn again, just to introduce myself a bit more properly. David, the owner of the Shack once invited me, but he wasn’t here that day. But Dawn understood the purpose of my stay: I would get free accomodation. But just to be sure I told her about my complete project: I have absolutely no money with me and I totally depend on the hospitality of my hosts. Eventhough they work at commercial places or not.

And I found out that she did not know that. “Okay, I’ll give you credits for four beers,” she said and I was a little bit disappointed. I am not such a freeloader, who wants its drinks and meals for free. I am a guest and I am invited here.

All the drinks I would drink more would come on a bill. And I sometimes don’t understand this: why invite me over if you know I totally depend on you? I would never misuse the things a host would offer me!!!

Then I asked her if I could use the Internet to check my emails and do my necessary things. Dawn was happy enough to log me on, but then told me that this would only cost 50 cents per minute. A silent sigh left my mouth and I told here again that I have absolutely NO BUDGET. That is what my project is about. I depend, depend, and depend! I don’t even make ANY money with anything!

She finally allowed me to go online, but I had to keep it as minimal as possible...

Which wasn’t that hard as the s-l-o-w internet connection couldn’t even log me in on my mailbox and pretty soon I eventually ended up on my bed in the dorm.

Should I interrogate all my future hosts who invite me for some free publicity for their commercial situations? Because it tires me – as I also think about this website and about how MANY people read my reports every day who would be disappointed by my possible lack of publishing...

Well, more tomorrow. Good night Coffee Bay!

Ramon.



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