|Worldcycle > World Friends > Maarten Index > Newsletter 07|
Bedford, East Cape Province, South Africa
First of all I would like to wish you happy days towards the end of the year. For those who celebrate christmas, merry christmas and a nice 1999. Most of you are in the winter, I heard that in Canada it's freezing -16degrees Celsius, Holland must be around freezing and overcast I suppose. The days are short, cities bright in light, X-mas trees and Santa Clauses everywhere you look. On the news they will tell you that 1998-Christmas is the most luxurious ever, record retail sales and a more refined choice of its' citizens. People start complaining about the erosion of the true meaning of Christmas and will tell that it just becomes to commercialised. The first hand and or eye has been lost due to youngsters experimenting with illegal firecrackers, 1998 will also be the year of record firework sales, which is not a solely Chinese happening in Holland.
Here in Bedford, say 200 km inland from Port Elisabeth it must be 40 degrees Celsius by now, 120 Fahrenheit. Many people sit under the trees to catch some shade. Their colorful dresses and headshawls, wave in the western wind. The wind feels like a hairdryer. If I close my eyes I image sitting at a hairdresser, also because the air is full of perfumes. The day before Christmas is busy time for this small town. A lot of migration takes place to reunify the family for Christmas. Many families work, like in USA, in different parts of the country, and now everybody tries to be at home by tomorrow. It has been a while that I have seen the colourful movement. Ever since I crossed that river Rio Grande, dividing Latin- from Western America the vehicles look "straightforward", no frills, not conspicous, exept for a few 'hot rods' or 'fruit tramp'.
Here the road is more colourful, not to the extend of some of the Asian countries like India, Pakistan where the buses undergo a transformation process into contemporary art, depicting everything from cows, mosques and temples to F-16 firefighters, but many buses have surely some nice paintings of lions,elephants, jurassic parc ect. On top of these well worn buses are the bags, cases and bicycles and Christmas presents for the long not seen family at home. Another phenomena are the taxibuses, minibuses crowded with people toeing a small trailer overloaded with luggage. Also the exodus of mostly white Southafricans on holiday travelling with pickup or car and always toeing a small trailer too. Sofar, I haven't met a Southafrican not putting the pedal to the metal, so you can image the amount of fatal accidents, since the start of the summer holiday mid december around 350 souls.
Being on the road here in the heat, just arriving into the inhabited world coming from the semi desert higlands called "the Karoo" it is hard to get in the Christmas mood. We are camping in a deserted "Voortrekkers Camp" in one of the round 'hut'-buildings. It has been an old Boer-Afrikaner Scouting Club. My mum, Henny made an comparison of Josef's and Maria's cave, but this is how close we come too the Christmas mood. However we joined a 'braai', Southafrican BBQ, with a family across the street, and they insisted we should stay for Christmas with them. So we will see what happens.
Two Months Ago Almost two months ago, I left the American continent, having completed my original drawn trail on the worldmap in 1992, 3 long vertical lines on our flat map. I already added an imaginary horizontal new line on the map since november 1996. At that stage I left Mongolia in winter to start a month later in Fireland, Argentina in summer. This line will bring me cross Central Asia into Arabia to Africa's Westcoast back to Europe. To be back in my country for the 3 weeks I stayed was hard for me. I just split the sheets with a dear friend of mine. Being back in my country I am not living my usual life. My home feeling is to sit in front of my tent as the sun sets and nature turns silent under a orange/violet ceiling. The first cracklings from the fire and simmering of water for tea as I look up to discover the first star, hearing the BBC worldservice in the distance. Relaxing after a days ride, satisfied with the spot for the night. The 'I' I have to switch to 'we', since I shared all that with a friend for 4 months in a row.
In Holland, under the grey sky spitting rain and stormy wind, I found myself in the houses of my family looking out the window. I feel dependant on family and the lack of immediate goal I quess are the factors influencing my mood. Also Holland is full of busy people, everybody seem to be in a rush, taking part in a society which becomes more and more alien to me.
I still realized that I have to wait till April to start riding in Central Asia. However, to wait till April in Holland seemed off-limit to me, and so the old plan my mum and I made became more natural. We were happy to learn that a very cheap last-minute ticket to Capetown was valid up to 6 months instead of 1 month they previously told us. Henny being rained out the entire summer in Holland was ready for a better summer. So we set our returndate at mid february, allowing us a 3 months stay.
Back in South Africa
Eduard, a friend of my, picked us up at the Cape Town Airport. We left Holland as it was freezing, the day we spent with a friend in Zurich was snowing so the temperature shock was intensive. I was amazed how I remembered his house as we get nearer to Durbanville. At the same time asking myself, "does that mean I would remember all the houses and roads I have stayed during this trip?" Three years before I visited the family Jongsma. Shaking their hands and recognizing all of them and the house I am quite sure I would. That means all that information is stored somewhere deeper in my brains and needs to be triggered first by something. With Bart, one of Eduards' sons we look for the Southern Cross, god knows what memories that will trigger? I see now that Southafricans seem to live more relaxed than the Dutch. I guess it is because Duth just live to crowded and thus too competitive compared to the Southafricans. I also see the Dutch-connection in the way Afrikaners like to socialise, talk in a cosy way, similar to the Dutch when they are not working but drinking coffee.
Swissair is harsh on cyclists, we would have to pay 200 US a bike if we brought it as a bike. So I made them as small as a Samsonite. Now we had to reassemble them and so we could spend some more time with the family and adapt to the new surroundings.
It is strange for me to make tour in a circle and return to the airport and fly back home. Of course I feel the call to ride it back to Holland. We decide to cycle the inland first and return via the gardenroute. The summer is at its' hottest in January, February and we would be along the cooler Indian Ocean at that stage rather than the hotter inland.
But sure, crimerates seem to surge, also because the statistics are better and people feel more inclined to mentioned harrassments. And a new phenomena seem to occur, raiding farms and killing the families. Not only robbing but trying to get rid of the white farmers.....We turn inland, climb the Rijnsdorp pass, which Henny walks bravely all the way, and enter the Karoo.
We enter the arid and desolate altitude plateau. People already warned us for extreme heat. Nobody could image cycling there. If they find out Henny is 62 that boggles peoples' mind. Henny experiences for the first time in her life uninhabited earth, everywhere she looks, no trace of mankind but som 'airpump', creaking and squeling windmills pumping up water from artesian basins below. Landscapes like this are my favourite. The big blue sky, transforms in an indefinete amount of stars at night. Hardly cars pass us, I listen a bit to the worldreciever as I daydream away laying on my handlebars.. The longest distance between towns was 135 km. I am glad Henny can at least for once in her life experience, feel the tranquility of nature.
Farmers are a very friendly and cheerful breed of people, they helped us everywhere we go.
In the towns, there is always a lot of life on the street. Something new for Henny. On corners of the street, or around the entrances of shops, there is always people visiting eachother, and sometimes asking for a few rands. Like in the outback of Australia, or some US-country towns, the liquor stores are huge compared to the amount of inhabitants. Alcoholism is big. Especially among the coloured people. Since the new government quarantees housing and allows pensions for the unemployed, many people leave the farms and go to live in the towns. It is sad to see that most of the pension seem to flow to the liquor stores, causing family drama and destabilises people.
Now we are in a predominantly black society. We just arrived here and we are glad to see a lot of green. Even a river is flowing with water. We will cycle to East London and than turn west along the Indian ocean, the socalled "Garden Route" back to Capetown where we will also try to visit the "wine route"
Please drop some news. Don't despair if I don't answer, emailtime has been expensive and scarce sofar. I try to write handwritten letters to you.
There seem to have been problems opening my website. This is the procedure:
Lots of Love,
|< Maarten Index||< top of page >||Number 08 >|