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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, 20 March 2002
Erina --> Newcastle, Central Coast, Australia

The local radio station called out a request for me to get a lift to my next location, but the man who took me along also provided me money for a train ticket. In Newcastle I stayed with four students, who saw me as a good reason to skip class and to teach me how to surf. Well, it wasn’t successful, but they tried really hard!

After a cereal breakfast in the morning, I was picked up by Side Pete, the mobile assistant of Paddy & Sarah and the SeaFM Breakfast Show. I thanked Jo Neller for letting me stay two nights and we took off.

Pete was going to drop me off along the Pacific Highway, the main road that leads all the way from Sydney to Cairns in the north. On the mobile phone we had contact with the deejays at SeaFM and tried from this point on to find a lift for me, that could take me up to the next city Newcastle.

It wasn’t very hard, as Pete offered the person who would pick me up a handful of freebies. Pretty soon a 4WD pickup appeared next to the road and the driver called Mike was ready to take me along. He wasn’t going all the way to Newcastle, but was prepared to take me to the next town Wyong and put me on the train to Newcastle.

With a handful of freebies Mike drove me to the Wyong McDonalds’ and handed me fifteen dollars. “So you can buy something for on the road,” he said, “and the train ticket to Newcastle”. I was staggered; I’d never expect this to be possible. Mike just loved my project and for him it was an honour to help me out during my world travels.

I thanked him very much and bought a shake and a salad at McDonalds’ before boarding the train to Newcastle.

I hadn’t expected to arrive this early in Newcastle either. I walked from the train station to the waterfront and looked around at the British-like beauty of this place. I called my hosts for today and they told me they would pick me up in 30 minutes.

Newcastle is the second-largest city of New South Wales (Newcastle has a population of 300,000 next to Sydney’s 3.5 million…) and is the largest port of Australia. When I looked over to the industrial side of the city, an enormous ocean vessel passed by on the Hunter River and cast his shadow over me.

For many people, Newcastle calls up images of belching smokestacks. It’s an image that locals resent and they are quite right. Newcastle is a relaxing and friendly place. The streets aren’t that overcrowded as Sydney’s. White surf beaches border the residential areas of the city.

My little history book told me that Newcastle was originally named Coal River; the city was founded in 1804 as a place for the most intractable of Sydney’s convicts and was known as the ‘hell of New South Wales’.

In late 1989, Newcastle suffered Australia’s most destructive recorded earthquake, with 12 people killed and sever property damage. But I didn’t see any results of that today.

And there were my hosts, packed together in a car. Hayley Dodd and her boyfriend Matt and James Craig took me along to their studentapartment in the suburb Cooks’ Hill. Together with Jessica Taylor they are all studying at the uni, as they say here.

It was Matt who grabbed Hayley’s attention when Channel 9 reported about me on television and it was Hayley who got very excited about my project and almost all together they pressed the submit-button on this website. “We thought you’d get thousands of invites! We never would have guessed you would really come and stay with us!”

I dropped my backpack in their spacious apartment, James went to school and Hayley and Matt took me back into town for a yummy vegetarian lunch at the Hare Krishna Café, which is the local cheap place for a lot of students (who know about it).

After this lunch I was back in strengths again and with the sun shining bright above us, and with white beaches surrounding Newcastle, it was obvious where we would be going today. Hayley didn’t skip school for me only!

Matt took along his surfboard and tried to teach me how to surf. It wasn’t really necessary, as I can’t even get on the board that easy. Matt surfed the big waves like he’s been doing when he was 3-months-old, while I just put some more sun lotion on me…

It was a few hours later (and a good nap under the sun) that we went back home. On the road we picked up some groceries for tonight’s’ dinner and had a beer at a beach pub - great views on the Ocean!

At the house they have made up a schedule that of always one out of four will cook for the rest and that it might never be something they have eaten before. That sounds good in the first few weeks, as the guys starting cooking the easy things. But now, some six weeks later, they are having troubles to think of something to cook that they haven’t cooked before.

I supported made and came up with the idea to eat Tandoori Chicken and that was indeed something they hadn’t made before. With Matt being the man in the kitchen today, I met up with Jessica and saw how the table was prepared on the balcony.

With rumours at the neighbours, dreams about travelling and gossips about studentlife we had dinner under a blanket of stars in the sky.

After the wine was finished most of them were getting tired and headed to their rooms to study some more or go to sleep. Hayley had put a mattress on the floor next to their open kitchen, especially for me and went to bed. I connected my laptop and did some writing and emailing before diving onto the mattress for a good nights rest.

Good night Newcastle!

Ramon.