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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

Wednesday, 6 March 2002
--> Sydney (AUS) – arrival

Sydney. Finally I would arrive in the country where I had shortly been only once before. When I was five in 1980, my parents took my brother and me along in a short trip through the eastland in a campervan. This time it will take a bit longer.

After watching the brand new movies Serendipity (oh what a romance, great movie! And I saw it twice because I fall asleep the first time!) and The Sleepover Bandits (with Bruce Willis as bank robber) from my seat, breakfast was served at 6am East-Australian time. With a 5-hour time difference from Hong Kong, my life seemed to go very fast, suddenly.

Just before the arrival in Sydney, everybody got to see a very serious instruction video about Australian import regulations. The big island has survived many big diseases and really wants to keep it that way. That means that it is prohibited for anyone to take food into the country, and I mean totally no food. Everything has to be deposited into the cans at the airport, or declared at customs. Special little dogs sniff the luggage and if something is found, you can end up with a thousands-dollars fine or imprisonment.

I got a checklist that I had to fill out and I hoped my mum hadn’t hidden something delicious for me on the bottom of my bags. She likes to spoil me like that at home, so why not when I travel to Australia?

And next to those regulations, something else happened on the plane. The stewards walked around, spraying the plane from head to toe. It wasn’t a harmful spray, they said, but it would kill any risky germs that could crawl or fly into Australia from the inside of the plane. At row 40 a baby started coughing terribly that it became scary.

At 7.25 the plane landed at the Sydney International Airport, where I stood in line with other short-term visitors and temporary immigrants and picked up my backpack from the luggage belt.

When I came outside I directly looked into the bright lights of a camera lamp as I was being filmed coming out of the arrivals-door. The camera crew of the Australian Channel 9 was expecting me for a long time.

And I must tell you this: last Thursday, while I was still in my hometown, the Australian television had sent up a crew to the Netherlands to make some shots of me at home. I had to introduce Zwolle and me to the Australians and basically show how my normal life looks like. One whole day I had that team around me, even at night, when I had to be a deejay at the local studentpub.

Now in Sydney, they were going to follow me for another while and broadcast an item about this Notorious Internet Freeloading Traveller in Australia for the Channel 9 newsprogram A Current Affair. I met up with the hostess Sonia, cameraman Terry and soundman Paul while I just came off my plane.

I was going to stay with my first Australian hostess (the real one) tonight and she had to work until five in the afternoon. Therefor the tv-crew had planned my entire day ahead.

“Ramon, we are taking you through Sydney and we’ll something to drink and eat at Bondi Beach, the favorite place for backpackers in Australia,” Sonia told me. Nobody on the entire surface of Australia would have heard me complain, because I didn’t and put on a great smile.

I happily packed my luggage into the back of the wagon and joyfully looked around. The weather was great, for Dutch understanding this was full summer, but for the Australians this weather was typical for autumn. Winter is coming up soon.

During the trip to Bondi Beach, a Sydney suburb at the coast, the whole crew questioned me about my flight, about the Netherlands, about my project and what I’d expect of Australia.

I don’t know what to expect yet. I have learned from experience that it’s most healthy to have absolutely no expectations, but just let everything come over me. Than life is surprising and unexpected – and that is fun, haha.

We drove through Sydney and I looked out at the tropical vista that reminded me of my stays in South Africa. So very green, so very furtile. It even had something Dutch, only The Netherlands are unbelievable – and boring to the maximum – flat (no wonder we Dutch love to travel). There were the palm trees again; the hot sun and people who love to just live life the relaxing way.

At the Bondi Beach, on a terrace with a view on the blue sea and the white sand, I was treated on a big sandwich and a strawberry smoothie. Bondi Beach has all majesty. The focus here seems to be on the sand and the surfing and this is the ideal place for working travellers and surf freaks to spend the time.

The crew and the producers of A Current Affair have been very busy lately, to make the story about me as superior as possible. All kinds of things were already arranged in advance and I just had to step in and do my thing.

An internetcafé was arranged where I had to ‘beg’ for some free minutes to check my email (like I do that always like that, not really…) and I caught scenario bits about a bridgeclimb and a boatride.

After the internet-café filming, we drove to Hyde Park, in the Sydney center , where a setting was created with a view on the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge and where Sonia interviewed me for the ‘master-part’ of the interview.

And don’t think that things like that can be done as long as a normal interview would take. No. The light has to be good and the background sounds have to be minimal. Hence it became quite irritating when we had to hold a while for traffic helicopters flying over, lawnmowers to pass by, while certain birds in the trees were raising their voices.

Hyde Park is by the way an excellent park! Hundreds of people were jogging through the park and doing stretches up and down the stairs. With such a weather and such a great harbour view I would defenitely join in if I could!

I felt the sun on my face. I hope I won’t get sunburned on my first day – even when I have used a factor 30 suncream.

After the whole thing at Hyde Park, it was getting time for the crew to bring me to my official first hosting place in Coogee Bay[b], a eastern suburb of Sydney and known as the poor cousin of Bondi Beach.

We arrived on Coogee Bay Road, where my hostess lives, and the crew set up their gear and started filming when I rang the door. The 30-year-old [b]Yvette Stanton
opened the door, expecting me only, but not a complete tv-crew.

Quite surprised by this whole appearance she let me in and welcomed me in Sydney. While the crew was still filming us, she poored me a drink and we chatted a bit about my first day in Australia.

Yvette was really wound up when Sonia Madigan did a one-to-one interview with her at the dining table. When the tv-crew left after these recordings, Yvette got a bit at ease.

With my eyes barely open, she totally understood my condition. With a 12-hour difference and a full tv-day behind me, I could defenitely use a long sleep.

Yvette offered to cook dinner, but I gently told her that I was even too tired to eat. She nicely folded out a stretcher bed in her bedroom and prepared my place to sleep.

I felt a bit guilty, for not being a really present guest for-a-day she might had expected, but Yvette offered me to stay for another day tomorrow, if I wanted that. Of course! Lovely! Great. I will be there tomorrow, Yvette!

And there I went. I was a goner after I finally had myself a proper shower and hit the bed.

Ramon.