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

Saturday, 23 March 2002
Port Macquarie --> Coffs Harbour, Mid-north Coast, Australia

From Port Macquarie I hitchhiked easily towards Coffs Harbour, where I stayed with Carol and her 21-year-old daughter Allison. Together with a friend of Allison it became a fun night out in the city of the Big Banana.
It was around 8.30 in the morning when I woke up, had a shower and Sheryl provided me with a good morning breakfast. Kevin had already gone up to his shop in town and would be back around noon.

With daylight it was much better to see the beautiful area they live in. Unfortunately they have this horrifying resort structure just one metre away from their garden fence. It took away the koala corridor, a natural way for the koala bears to get through and with the heavy constructions going on for this holiday resort park, their peace might have already been disturbed. What a pitty, but that’s just human development, as the big companies would call it.

I spent the morning reporting my story on my website. Around 11.30 a photographer of the local newspaper came by for a quick photo shoot with Sheryl and me and around noon I met up with Kevin again. They were happy to drive me through the serene town Port Macquarie on this Saturday morning and drop me off on Pacific Highway. I thanked them for their friendliness towards me.

It might have been very short, as I arrived late last night and leave early again, but I was welcomed to come back anytime in the future.

It wasn’t very hard to catch a lift up north, even though I had some 150 kilometres distance to go today.

Garry, a university teacher from Sydney gave me a lift and he had to go all the way to Coffs Harbour too, so I was very lucky!

Garry used this weekend to make some kilometres with his car, because if he didn’t make enough mileage this month, he’d have to pay extra tax on his transport. A weekend up north with some overnight stops, would give him a personal break and he would have to pay less tax. Pretty smart, I guess.

Garry dropped me off right on the quiet main street of Coffs Harbour, where I contacted my hostess here. She would be able to pick me up within an hour, so I settled myself with my backpack against the entrance of the local cinema.

“You aren’t that guy from TV, are you?” one lady asked me outside the cinema.

Coffs Harbour got its name from a Captain John Korf, who landed there from the Pacific Ocean in 1847. The area is pretty famous for it surfable beaches and gentle weather. They grow a heap of bananas in the area and there is even one Big Banana, which is of course the main attraction for tourists passing by.

Around 4pm my hostess Carol, who works at the dental department at the local hospital, picked me up. Before heading to her home she showed me the artificial protected harbour that was created here when people connected an island with the mainland.

The weather was great; not too hot, not too windy.

At her home surrounded by the banana-hills I settled my stuff and had a coffee and a banana with Carol. She asked me everything about my project and wanted to know how life is in The Netherlands, especially that part about drugs.

In The Netherlands soft drugs (like ecstasy pills, marihuana and other weeds) are legalized, except from the hard drugs like cocaine and heroine. It’s a real controversial thing to other countries, but we have learned in our country that if you legalize drugs and inform good about it, the use of it is far less than when you prohibit it.

The same goes like that with alcohol. Kids are allowed to buy alcohol, but it is up to the seller to find out if its for the kid or if he has to buy it for his parents.

And that made things clear for Carol, as there are quite some drug addiction problems in this area and the society doesn’t really know what to do with it. Fortunately The Netherlands can be a good example to other countries…

I had a little nap (passenger driving makes tired) and met up with Carol’s daughter Allison and her friend Ami before dinner. Allison is a temporary secretary (“I pile up words, one by one”) at a real estate firm.

Carol had made a fine pasta meal for us all. During dinner Ami, who works in the local music store, tells me about her meetings with actor Russell Crowe, who lives in Coffs Harbour. Just not this week, as he had to attend the Oscars Ceremony in the US.

To have such a well known actor in your hometown is a pretty big thing around here. Carol told me how she had seen Russell Crowe kissing Meg Ryan in the supermarket.

Now I am just waiting for an invitation to stay for a day with them (if they are still together) as it would make a great story, haha. (Especially when I take my camera along when they go shopping!)

After dinner my laptop was of great interest to Allison and Ami. The fact that everything was sponsored (even the internet acces), was a good reason to check her emails and share some really funny ones with us. When they discovered my loads of music data on my laptop, the mood changed and the idea was launched to go out tonight.

It wasn’t an hour later or we were sipping vodka and tequila at the local Shamrock Bar, part of the Coffs Hotel in town. A live band was playing for a lively audience and in the pub part a man was singing along with mp3-files on his computer.

This is also Russell Crowe’s favourite pub, and a big Gladiator filmposter covers the wall.

Allison and Ami treated me on some drinks, Allison was invited into this bachelors party and danced pretty close with this guy who is going to marry soon. The guy even bought her a rose and tried to get more out of it all. But that was all for us, as we headed back home. Allison and Ami both had to work tomorrow (Sunday) again.

Outside it was raining and that was a very pleasant intervention in this not that busy nightlife of Coffs Harbour. At home Allison pulled on her rugby t-shirt and supported her favourite team as they an important rugby game was rehearsed on television. She must have been watching it ‘till late, but for me it was time to go to sleep. Tomorrow I'd really would have to go a long distance...

Good night Coffs Harbour!

Ramon.