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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

Thursday, 7 March 2002
-->Sydney, Australia – bridge climb day

It was 6.30am when Yvette’s alarm clock woke us up. Yvette is a nurse at the local hospital and had to work from noon ‘till 8pm tonight and I would have my second day of filming for Australian television today.

I had to be waken on time today, after over an 12-hour sleep (necessary to get over my jetlag), and would be picked up by a producer of Channel 9 who’d take me up to the local office in Sydney.

Yvette didn’t really mind that I fell asleep that soon last night, she had been calling her friends to get over the anxiety that she has been filmed by the national television and will be on TV on Monday!

She offered to make breakfast for me and while she cooked bacon and eggs in the kitchen, she told me about her ex-boyfriend Nick, (now sing along: it’s a small world after all…) who lives in my Dutch hometown Zwolle! No, I don’t know him, my city has some 100,000 citizens, but I was quite surprised!

And the story of how she got in touch with me is even more startling!

As you might know, I also write weekly chronicles for newspapers back home. When I anounced in January that I was going to visit Australia, the Dutch lady Inez sent me an email that she knew a friend in Sydney. She had met Yvette before and knew that Yvette is always fond of meeting far-off travellers. While Yvette was on a short vacation last week, Inez had invited me through my website to stay with Yvette.

Yvette was of course surprised when she heard that she was going to host a guy from Holland and I spoke to her on the phone on Monday morning. I explained Yvette what I was doing and how she could help me and thinks were all fine with her. But when she visited this website just a few days before my arrival, she slowly realized where Inez had taken her into. “I never knew there was something that big behind you, that even a tv-crew would show up my door,” she tells with a laugh.

At 7.30 I was picked up at her house and I would meet Yvette again after her work. She gave me her home key, so I could get in whenever I felt like it.

At the office of Channel 9 I met up with the tv-crew from yesterday again. Today Sonia, Terry and Paul were going to take me to the Sydney Harbour Bridge where Michael Offe from MagicBracket.com had arranged me a complimentary bridgeclimb. Michael has invited me at his home in Adelaide too, but was happy to arrange something extra for me. And BridgeClimb was happy to offer me a free climb, especially when Channel 9 would come along. Thank you Michael!

At the official BridgeClimb building, just at the beginning of the Harbour Bridge, the crew and me had to change in special suits and got all the necessary equipment strapped to a security belt. Normal visitors aren’t allowed to take anything with them on the climb, but because we were all media, exceptions were possible and I could take my digital camera along! So please know that my photographs are pretty exclusive!

At 10am we went up the first part of the bridge in an elevator and once on the road-level, we were all strapped on a security cabel that runs all the way on the climbing route. The official bridgeclimb would take some three hours, including thourough instructions and a guide that tells everything about the bridge and the lookouts on the city.

We just passed all those climb-groups and were on top of the much loved, imposing ‘old coat hanger’ that crosses the harbour at one of its narrowest points within 15 minutes. I was standing on top of 52,800 tonnes of steel and had a fantastic view on Sydney and its suburbs from 240 meters high!

The bridge was completed in 1932 and then became an icon for Sydney, partly because of its size, but also it kept a lot of people in work during the Depression.

It was so fascinated to stand up there that I became quiet of it all. I mean, I arrived here yesterday and now I am overlooking the city at one of its highest points. It overwhelmed me, while the tv-crew wanted to have me jumping and cheering on the top.

While overlooking the sky-scraping centre of Sydney, Sonia interviewed me some more about this experience and we stayed on top for some 30 minutes.

It was already after noon when we got down again, changed our clothes and thanked the people of the BridgeClimb Company. I even received an official climb certificate!

To kill lunch-hunger, the crew drove to the Rocks, where I was treated on a schnitzel sandwich.

The Rocks was one of the first settlements of the British fleet. It was a squalid, raucous place of convicts, whalers, prostitutes and street gangs; though in the 1820s the New Rich strangely built three-storey houses on the ridge overlooking the slums. It later became an area of warehouses and maritime commerce and then fell into decline as modern shipping and storage facilities moved away from the quay.

Since the 1970s, redevelopment has turned the Rocks into a sanitised, historical tourist precinct, full of narrow cobbled streets, fine colonial buildings, converted warehouses and stuffed koalas. Ignoring the kitsch, it’s a delightful place to stroll around.

After the sandwich break, I was taken to Darling Harbour, a purpose-built waterfront leisure park on the western edge of the city centre and which once was a thriving dockland area. This seemed to me to place to be if you love to saunter around, eat in one of the many restaurants and take the monorail to move around faster.

Channel 9 had arranged me to go along a jetboat ride over the Harbour, which is one of the best experiences I have had so far! Unfortunately I could get wet, so I didn’t take my camera with me. Believe me, it was an thrill to fly over the water in this jetboat that made speeds to almost 100km/hr, while the skipper did some sudden-turns, spins and other splashy movements on the water, while going under the Harbour Bridge and go beyond the Opera House. Wow!

And I admit I got pretty wet in the back of that boat. Cameraman Terry came along for some few-seconds shots on the boat and was fairly stressed out when the camera gave life after passing the Opera House. But I got back at the Darling Harbour totally dry again, so you can imagine the speed!

And that was the last thing the tv-crew had arranged for me. Once back ashore, I got back in the camera wagon and we drove back to the Channel 9 office.

I am a little bit afraid that the tv-report will be a report about that guy that gets everything for free, because that’s absolutely not the issue of this project. I receive hospitality from a variety of hosts.

And of course I get spoiled, I even received an invitation of a Sydney based company that wants to put me up in a hotel!

Hopefully the viewers of Monday’s show don’t get to crabby about my thing, but that they will understand it is all up to the people on what happens with me.


Almost two days of filming, with hearing codes like overlay, master, vopshots, for only a slender 6 minutes item on televisions is very unreal to experience.

At the Channel 9 office I met up with producers and some editors of A Current Affair.

There was only one little thingy that they wanted to discuss with me: silence. As the item about me is going to be broadcast on TV on coming Monday, they asked if I could keep their scoop about me in Australia reserved for Channel 9 only. In other words: “Ramon, please don’t talk with any other media, until after the show.”

I could totally understand their position, but I honestly had to tell them that my project cannot live without the attention of the media. Without the worldwide media Letmestayforaday.com had never come this far. And I am a bit in need for some more places-to-stay in Australia too!

So they offered me something very special:

“Ramon, what about going on a tour to the Blue Mountains, do some sight-seeing, some 4-wheel-driving around the area, climb through some caves and stay at a hostel for a few days?”

Huh? Well… That sounded pretty great to just say no to. I mean, I am still human and I got this thrown in my lap! It would keep me occupied until Monday night and Channel 9 would pay all expenses.

Of course, I will not talk to any other media until Monday. The deal was signed formally and I am going away for a weekend, starting tomorrow morning!

When I met up with my hostess Yvette in Coogee Bay around 8pm, she was very happy for me. “You are very lucky,” she told me.

Yvette prepared a delicious vegetarian Indian dish for dinner and we talked about our days and the travels she had made in the past. Yvette loves to travel and has probably seen more of the world than me. Her favorite countries now are Czechia and Romania and she loves the Netherlands, of course!

She prefers to work as a nurse to save the money to go travelling again. And when the pot is full, she’ll leave the continent again.

After dinner I got myself a shower and Yvette took me to the Coogee Bay Beach Hotel, where a live band was playing in the downstairs pub. I met up with some international friends of Yvette and enjoyed the happy mood there.

We moved up the coastline and entered the Beachpalace, a big entertainment building with different places for different kinds of entertainment. After sitting on the balcony, enjoying the nightsights of Coogee bay, while sipping beers, we ended up in the discotheque of the palace.

Standing there, enjoying the music, the people and the rest of the atmosphere, I was rather relieved to be out of sight for the media for a while. Tomorrow will be funny, as I don’t know what to expect at all, yet.

Back home again, around midnight, we got ready to sleep and ready to get going again tomorrow morning.

I sent an sms-text-message to Irena in The Netherlands and told her about my days in Australia. I guess the army-girl, my girlfriend at home, is getting a bit jealous now, haha.

Good night Coogee Bay!

Ramon.