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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, 18 July 2001
Stonehaven --> Craibstone, Scotland (UK)

I travelled from Stonehaven to this remote farm, just 10 miles walking from Aberdeen centre. It is a long end if you go walking, because I still feel it in my feet.

Ramon.

It was Elaine who woke me up around 9.30am. She had an appointment in Aberdeen at 10.30 and she could drop me off in this city.

Of course I agreed with that idea. That meant I didn’t have to hitch to Aberdeen, as my next hosts lived just outside of this east coast city, in Craibstone.

We both had breakfast – Fraser had already left to work – as we watched a popular talk show on the television in the kitchen.

Around 10.15 Elaine dropped me off on Union Street in Aberdeen. I thanked her a lot for her and her husband’s kindness to let me stay for a day. To allow myself a lunch on the streets of Aberdeen, Elaine even gave me some Pounds and a Aberdeen street map.

"Aberdeen has, over the past 20 years, been dubbed the 'Houston of the North' due to the tremendous boom in oil production from the North Sea. Fortunately for Scotland's third largest city, it was well placed to serve this new industry and has gained from it in many ways. Some say that Aberdeen's rugged and propitious northern spirit has been taken over by an avaricious, commercial attitude but the essence of Aberdeen is probably, like its tough granite buildings, quite robust and should withstand this modern onslaught."
(Extracted from Landmarks Visitors Guide)

So there I was, with a map and some money, in Aberdeen city. The Scottish Capital of Oil. I wandered around and had a cappuccino in a American-style pub called the Filling Station, always a good name for a pub.

It was there where I found the latest copy of the Scotland Herald, reporting about my project as you can see below.

From the Filling Station on Union Street I walked along the Courtyard, a very little but peaceful park and built on an open area two floors beneath the busy streets. With the use of the map I walked up to the Beach Boulevard, along crowded shopping malls.

I had a sandwich lunch at a Costa Coffee lunchroom and sat down for a rest at the park again. It was weird and wonderful, because after an hour it was suddenly raining, but I just could not see any cloud in the sky…

Around three o’clock in the afternoon I started to walk to the northwest part of the city, looking for a way out.

I had to find a way to get to Craibstone, an area with farmland belonging to the Scottish Agricultural College, just behind the suburb Bucksburn. And on the map it looks so close, but in fact it was over 10 miles.

There was no chance I could find a hitch out of the city. On the way there I passed heavy traffic on the dual carriage way and I made it all the way to the roundabout where – according to the route I got from my next host – I would find the farmhouse when I’d follow the signs saying McRoberts Farmhouse. What I did not know what that this farmhouse route took me around for another 2 miles, until I decided to give my next host a call.

My feet were complaining to me and I thought I was lost in the middle of nowhere. Thank God it was not a hot summer day!

But of course, after the call, I realized I just had to walk to the farmhouse I saw at the horizon – that was my next place-to-stay.

When I found the correct farmhouse, my host Ian Sanders waved me inside. He opened the door for me and rushed back to the kitchen. I walked into the house and took off my gear. Why not go to the kitchen too?

As I was ready to present myself to him with a firm handshake, Ian was too busy with preparing dinner; cutting vegetables and rinsing potatoes. I sat down at the kitchen table and gave my feet some rest.

“Do you walk this distance everyday yourself?” I asked him.
“Oh, no. I have a bike,” he said and continued peeling something.

To start a conversation I asked him how come he had invited me. “Oh… I heard about your project on Steve Wright In The Afternoon and I submitted your information. It is always interesting to meet other people,” he said.

“Do you do anything with farming?”
“Not exactly, I am studying for my PhD in ecological farming at the nearby Agricultural College.”

He told me that he had another world traveling hitchhiker as a guest last year. The guy was collecting information for his online Hitchhikers Hand Book. “So, I let him stay over too.”

I drank a glass of water and looked around in the chaotic big kitchen. “Do you live here alone?”
“No, this is a sort of a dormitory for students. Next to me four other people live hear right now.”

On the dressers I saw big bottles with a yellow fluid in it. Ian told me that was self-made beer. Because why should we buy beer as we can produce it ourselves? So he had made his own beer from potatoes, raisins and even Weetabix.

Slowly I met the other flat mates who were coming in and a little hour later Ian and I ate the homegrown vegetable meal in the living room.

Ian told me about his life. He looked like a very laidback person, but actually knows quite well what happens in the world. He is even protested when GAP opened a store in Aberdeen with passing out flyers, because GAP has their fashion wear made in sweatshops in Indonesia.

GAP sells boxer shorts for 7 English Pounds while the people who make it in Indonesia make 3,000 boxer shorts in one day and only get 0,40 English Pennies for the whole day. And they even worked 20 hours shifts most of the times!

And just as he talked about this, English ITV broadcast a documentary by the infamous John Pilger called The New Rulers of The World. And of course, GAP was one of the topics. The journalist even visited the factories where GAP-clothing was produced. And even while GAP set up a code for the workers of the factory (to maintain the human rights), the factory didn’t even think of that. It had to produce and as much as possible.

Of course I knew about this. It is just another example of something you hear nothing about in the media, or only the black-and-white image, like with Belfast. Nothing happens there, unless a camera has the right shots of some people throwing their monthly rocks in their drunken situation…


I totally understand why over 50,000 people (Hey!! That is a lot of people!!!) are protesting in Italian Genoa at the G8-Top summit at this moment.

But the media only shows the demonstrators marching up and down the streets or they film the conflicts with the police.

Look at your latest newspaper report about this situation and you’ll find mostly NO reason WHY they are protesting…

Well, the West buys its welfare from the East and the East has to deliver almost their lives for it.

Do you know that Indonesia, where I have lived 5 years as a little kid, has a debt of over 100 billion US-dollars at the International Monetary Fund? And the IMF just can’t explain that number, because the Indonesian government at that time used it all on weapons.

Nowadays Indonesia tries to work up again under a new head of the state, but still has to pay back over 100 billion US-dollars[/url]. That is impossible, don’t you think!?

That’s why the wages in Indonesia are like 70 English Pennies a day, that’s why there is no health care. If the working father is not working, then there is no money and if one of his kids gets sick it just dies. That’s it.

And we still buy Adidas and Nike sports wear, because we like to be cool.

After this documentary we watched a movie called
Little Voice on video. It was a nice and a 6x Oscar-nominated movie, but I didn’t agree with the poor ending…

Oh yes, the farmhouse did not have an Internet connection, so everybody had to wait a while until I found one and continued reporting.

That was Craibstone, good night.

Ramon.




As published in the Glasgow [url=www.theherald.co.uk]Herald on Wednesday July 18:

Download to freeload

In the hey-day of the Sunday Post, one of the star writers of the grand old paper was the HON Man. The acronym stood for Holiday on Nothing, and the idea was that the bold boy travelled the world writing stories and incurring minimal expense.

The worldwide web has revolutionised the media but - plus ça change - there is an internet operator who makes the HON Man look like an amateur. You will have heard of the young Dutchman, Ramon Stoppelenburg, because he has had a lot of publicity for his letmestayforaday.com website.

It is a simple idea. People apply to the website to provide Ramon with free bed and breakfast accommodation as he travels the world. Travel companies are invited to provide free air, sea, road, and rail transport.

Perhaps because of the novelty of the internet idea and people's innate nosiness, Ramon has had no shortage of offers. Last weekend, he found free bed and breakfast in Edinburgh, the city of you'll have had your tea. Even in Aberdeen, there was hospitality.
In return, Ramon writes a report about his hosts. The format seems to be that Ramon turns up at the house, has his tea, gets taken for a sight-seeing trip, is bought quantities of drink, then he goes back to the house and disappears to update his website using his host's computer equipment.

Next day, after breakfast, it's usually off to the next location. As a nice wee touch, Ramon has instituted the tradition that the last host gives him a present to hand on to his next benefactor. Thoughtful or what? To cut costs, Ramon hitch-hikes his way between locations. Except, if you read his traveller's log, most of his hosts drive him or pay for bus or rail fares.

Sad to report, young Mr Stoppelenburg's dispatches from the front are on the mundane side. Except for the bit in Ireland when he referred to suffering from "constipation of the eye". (To be fair, he is writing in English, which is not his mother tongue.)

Glasgow gets short shrift: "We walked from the train station along George's Square and visited the Counting House pub for a drink. This pub used to be a bank and has a big arched window on top, and historical statues decorate the high walls. Really impressive. Alan said: 'If you have seen this, you have seen Glasgow', which was kind of true."
But, just to be on the safe side touristically, Ramon also visited the Horseshoe Bar, the Slug and Lettuce, and Waxy O'Connor's.

Young Mr Stoppelenburg is a journalism student. He is a credit to the trade.

thediary@theherald.co.uk




Where is Ramon at this moment?
Click here to see the map