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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

Saturday, 10 August 2002
Apollo Bay --> St. Kilda, Melbourne, Australia (Wayward Bus end)

We left Port Apollo around 7.30 in the morning, after a quick breakfast at the house we were staying. From this town we drove on to the next classic resort town, Lorne, just a couple of kilometres up the road.

This is where we had our actual wake-up-stop. A nice cold breeze was coming from the ocean and I had a good walk along the beach side of this sleepy town on this Saturday morning.

From Lorne the bus drove on to the entrance port of the Great Ocean Road, which was built by returned soldiers as a memorial to all those who were killed in the Great War (that road, I mean).

It was another reason for all the passengers of the Wayward Bus to be posing in front of the port ("Groupshot!!!"), while tour assistant David got all the photo cameras hung around his neck.

Bruce laughed out loud and shook his head. I could someway understand what he meant: all those bloody tourists are all the same, haha.

The last stop was at the legendary Bell’s Beach. Legendary if you would believe Patrick Swayze who keeps on saying that the final scene of the movie Point Break was filmed at this surfy beach. However, Bell’s Beach has no pine trees, Patrick!

From Bell’s Beach we were 71 kilometres away from our final destination of this Classic Coast tour.

With everybody picking up some memories of the last three days, staring out the window because the end was near, the Japanese girl sitting behind me punched me in the back.
“Hey, what is ‘letmestayforaday.com’ on your jacket?”
“That’s my website, that’s what I write and photograph for.”
To the German girl next to her, she said: “But I know that website.” The German lady didn’t know what it was all about. “Is that you?”
“Who?” I asked back.
“Are you that guy that travels around the world for free?”
“Yes.”
“Oh – my – God!”, or she said something simular to this, because she was gasping and looking for some extra air. “No! No! No!”
“What?” I asked again.

“You know! I know you! I know you!” Actually I had heard that before from a total stranger, but this time I was a bit surprised that she found out about me at the end of this tour. “My English teacher in Japan, she recommended reading your website. For English and to follow you travel the world.”

Now there she got me, because I hadn’t really expected something like that. But she kept confirming it, it was hear teacher who made her follow my website. Strangely enough she did not recognize me before, and the logo on my jacket only looked-alike ‘that website’.

Of course the German girl now wanted to know what the fuss what about and before I knew the entire bus was listening to what the excited Japanese girl had to say about me.

The “Oh really?”’s and “without any money?”’s came from the back of the bus. Believe me, I got a bit blushy. In front of me, tour guide and drive Bruce was giggling, because of course he knew about my thing all my thing.

Canadian Caryn popped onto the empty seat next to mine. “So, we did all find out it anyway. How does that feel now?”
“It still is a bit strange. I am suddenly the famous webtraveller again.”
“Well, congratulations! You did a good job hiding that for us,” she laughed.

I just didn’t know what to think. The circus had begun again.

The Japanese girl wanted my autograph and many other passengers asked me to write down my details, so they could check out themselves on this website. (There you go guys!)

Every photo I took of the group of fellow passengers was from now on with full smiles. “Is that going online, too?” were expectable questions.


We arrived in the centre of big city Melbourne (map) just after noon. This was it. This was the end. This was where everybody would just get their luggage, thank Bruce and David and shake hands with all the others. For some it was just another tour in Australia, for others it was a experience of a lifetime. I think I’d go for the latter, because it indeed was a special ‘experience’ during my travels.

I wholeheartedly thanked Bruce and David for the great job they performed during the 3,5 days tour and when I noticed to Bruce I had to get myself to the Melbourne suburb, he chunked a 5-dollar note into my hands. “Here you go, our last bit of sponsoring you,” he smiled. “Now you can take the tram.”

And together with Caryn and Al I got on the tram 16 towards St. Kilda. They were staying very close to the place where I was invited for tonight.

It was the first time I have been on a tram in Australia and I was quite surprised how the system works. Funny for foreigners who only have bank notes: because you can only pay by putting coins into a machine and I had a note only. So we took that tram ride all the way to St. Kilda, southeast of the Central Business District of Melbourne, for free.

Melbourne. Australia's second city is a place of contradictions and hidden charms. A leafy, bayside community on the 'upside-down', brown Yarra River, it is cosmopolitan, suburban, cultivated, football crazy, conservative and a haven for the avant-garde. I got that from a brochure ;-)

We all got off on Fitzroy Street, where we split up. I thanked them for being great company on the tour and Caryn told me she would invite me to stay at her place in Ontario. So I might meet her again one day.

From Fitzroy Street I walked into a small alley towards the heavenly imposing Enfield House Backpackers. It was manager Marnie Gibson who had invited me to stay for a day at this hostel. I called her last night in Apollo Bay and she told me she unfortunately wouldn’t be there for the weekend.

When I checked in and introduced myself to the lovely lady at the reception by the name Polly, I got the keys for a big room with the double bed. Ah, I am being spoiled again.

Someway I will always prefer hostels with a history than those big concrete buildings that are around lately, because the Enfield House hides all these big rooms, also used to watch TV or just to lounge around to read books, a booth with internet computers and a fully equipped communal kitchen in the back, while vanilla scent roams around in the air everywhere and calm relaxing new age music is playing on a mislaid radio.

Outside the back a barbecue is lit and I am immediately welcomed for the usual Saturday afternoon free barbecue for all guests.

I met some other folks and I can quickly conclude that many of the people that stay here really can say that they ‘live’ here. One lady from England, Miranda, has even been here for over four months already. And obviously there would be some more permanent residents around here – I wouldn’t blame them.

As the 3,5 day tour on the bus had ended today and I had arrived in big big Melbourne and vicinities, the only thing I could think of now was Sleep. I had a relaxing afternoon and slept all the way until the sun had disappeared from the horizon and nice smells came from the kitchen.

At the reception I hang around a while with Polly rushing around managing the hostel (this must be the place where the Australian TV was inspired to produce a soap series about life in a backpackers hostel!). One of the guests of the hostel came back from his work in a bakery and passed out leftover cakes. And having a blackberry cake for dinner is actually very good!

Some of the guests had already picked up the rumour of that ‘travel-around-the-world-for-free-guy’ staying here and now and then I shook hands with people who were intrigued by my way of travelling.

One guy told me how a colleague of him once told me about my project as I was staying with him in north-London. It ended up that we were talking about my ex-hosts John Monagham with who I stayed with on the 30th of May (what a coindicent: John lives in the London suburb ENFIELD!). Other ones remembered me from being in the national news in Britain.

“Hey everybody.” I still get shy when absolute strangers approach me because they ‘know’ me.

Polly had provided me a map of St. Kilda and for the evening I had a relaxing stroll along the nightlife of this suburb. I guess it is comparable with every major city. There were lots of fully stacked restaurants (it was Saturday night), bands were playing in pubs and outside free cups of soup were passed out to the homeless people.

Bright lit city life, I am back again.

I ended up back at the hostel around 10pm where I discovered that the TV-room room was full of people watching a movie on a big screen. I spent some time together with my big friend, my laptop, before hanging around on the outside patio for another while. Some of the guys were ‘really amazed’ with my lifestyle and of course wanted to hear some stories. I created this thing where everybody had to tell a story too, preferably funny of course.

And that’s when you really meet the people, locals or simply internationals, when they tell their stories. One guy started off about him breaking a stool in a pub by simply sitting on it for to long, until scary stories about spiders and giant cockroaches started to come up after.

Miranda came up with the best story, which actually also really happened too! In the south of France she read in a newspaper how they found a diver, all dressed up in a wetsuit and with the oxygen bottles on his back in the middle of a forrest. It ended up that a helicopter had caught him out of the water while hauling water to stop a forest fire! The guy didn’t survive of course, but imagine that happening to you when you are just swimming around in St. Tropez!

Talking about funny stories!

There we sat, together with the warden for the night, Dave, chilling out and telling fascinating stories to each other. The wind was catching up and a big storm seemed to be coming, but we were sitting safe.

I am thinking about the coming days. I will be exploring different parts and people in Melbourne and I might even try to get myself to Tasmania too!

In my head I am a bit worried about all those photographs I have and all the stories I’d be writing about the last few days; I might not always be able to be very up-to-date the coming days.

My visa tells me on this day that I have 29 days left in this country. I might make it around, back to Sydney, in time.


Good night Melbourne!

Ramon.