Worldcycle > World Friends > Maarten Index > Newsletter 08

Newsletter 8
< previous | next >

Ulaan Baatar
9th of June 1999

Dear friends,

Chinese-mongolian border May 99.

How can I explain not to have written an update of my tour since last christmas from Bedford, Southafrica. Would you believe that I have been in Europe for 2 months afterwards, even staying with my sister who has internet acces at home, and not have seen a proper opportunity to write you a newsletter. One of the targets I didn't realize in my travel preparations. Chronologically I will tell about the happenings...

So Christmas in Bedford, quite the country town of inland South Africa. We, mother Henny and I, stayed like herders in a hut. The family where I could send the last letter, the Khoury's, invited us for supper. That was a cosy evening. I remember sitting around a well served table and talking about many interesting things. We left Bedford for reaching the Indian ocean at some point. Landscape became greener and greener as we got into the eastern cape province, predominately inhabited by black people, Xhosas. I was happy that my mother could share these impressions, so common for me from the old days back in 94, 95. In the Ciskei, former home-state of RSA, we even peddled along a dirtroad crossing a game reserve. First animal to encounter was a huge rhinoceros, only 30 meters, one stone-throw, away from us. "Springbokkies", bonteboks and gemsbokkies, all sorts of deer like fourfooters, we saw already in many herds in the Karoo. Now we had 4 giraffes watching us curiously from great heights, pig-like warthogs running over the tracks, buffalo's and zebra's gallopping in billowing clouds of dust. My mum had a ball, wasn't complaining too much in relation to the hills she had to walk.

The Xhosa people were very friendly to us. Via Peddie we hit the "Sunshine Coast" from East London to Port Alfred. Beautiful beaches. wide, white sanddunes and wild rockformations. I will never forget the starry night at the 3 sisters, near Port Alfred. I joined a girl who had seen the light and could so vigorously tell about the good lord out of the bottom of her heart. She was grown up there during the summers and with passion she shared her youth memories. Quite a atmosphere that night. It was like having contact with something supernatural. In Port Alfred we stayed at a former Dutch emigrant called Anita. She has lived in S.A. for 40 years. She is exited to be here in SA, she's 80 years and still very strong and bright. She likes live, "its' like when you are traveling", she said. "Life get's interesting when something doesn't turned out as expected". In her 70's she still traveled with overland truck called Rollende Hotel in South America, She was in Beijng 10 years ago as the crack-down on TianMan Square happened. Than in the train back to Europ, transsiberia, the train was stopped for a day in Irkutsk. "That are the interesting moments", I will also never forget her. I wish I could get 80 like that.

On the road again. We leave the coast as it is near Port Elisabeth and we go inland to see the elephants in their reserve called Addo. My moter loved it. "That's the way elephants should be living, not in Zoo's like Antwerp", she reacts. She wished her grandchildren could see them here instead. We camped 2 nights near them, met a Danish cyclist John. He turns out to be good company. He came to SA for a few months to cycle and escape Europes winter too. He works in Copenhagen on a shipyard for 8 months a year. He's my age, 35 years and single. At one stage, some 14 years ago he left with a girlfriend for a cycle trip for a year. The cycling passion stayed and apart from many kayak trips in Scandinavia, he pumped up his tyres again and is here. We join for some 2 weeks along the garden route. We stay 5 days in Jeffrey's bay, surfers'paradise. A bit trendy place, 'Billabong'and 'Quicksilver' trendy surf-scene brands are big. John and I try to catch some swell too. But we prefer bodysurfing better. It's difficult to get a big board through the breaking waves because of their floating capacity. The small boards are easier to go into the sea, but suicidal to surf back to shore for 'geeks' like us. We experience the true South African backpack culture, my mum was quite amused to see the youngsters of today having a good time. Their are 3 girls running the place, Roberto an Italian, some Irish girls, a British girl some Swedes, and many passing through. We get a nice bond, cooking together, chatting on the beach. It's hard to leave the place especially if it gets early in the morning too often.

It is sure nice for a pause, a mental rest more even than a physical. Life on the road is quite intensive, the exercise is just one factor. Constantly meeting new people, fighting heat, flies, cooking the food up to 3 times a day fighting the appetite. Concentrating on traffic. But what can I say, I should my mum do the talking. She is 63 and amazingly keeping up. She enjoys the garden route and also John's company. Other women are jealous of her, having 2 blonde toy boys escorting her. Now with John's influence, the dishes are richer, wine labels kmore prestigeous and even we toast Merlot's and Cabernet-Sauvignons dining in seaside restaurants, in the evening breeze of the ocean. A french couple we only met briefly before even invited us for oysters and what not in a docklands-type waterfront in Knysna, tourist haven of SA.

In Knysna, we meet another nice family, just inviting us from the street to come and stay with them. John is sick and diagnosed with a tick bite. Probably he got that as we had an afternoon shelter under a tree west of Jeffrey's Bay. That was a nice afternoon by the way. Since he shares the same 'slice-of -life' as me, mid 30's and single, we had a lot to relate too. Women, relationships, long distance cyclist dreams, materialism vs simple life with more free-time, living-off- the-land, outdoor life vs. suburban life. It was 'good food' for each of us. We could also stay up quite late sticking around the slowly dying fire filosofying life, on the windstill evenings.

Anyway, John stayed in Knysna for some days and we had to continue if we want to reach Cape Town in a relaxed way. The next stop was 'Wilderness' where we meet Belgium people who run a backpacker. We make easy friends with oneother. 'Gaby' joins us to Mosselbaai on the backpackers bicycle. We had a lot of fun together. I have seem my mum really laughing at one stop along the road. She got after more than 2 months tired and tense. The closer we come to final destination the more difficult it became.

Inland again via Swellendam, an old Dutch style town we enjoyed the shade of the big oaktrees. From there we would reach the most southern point of Africa, Cape Aghulhas. Its typical more coastal landscape, dune-like vegetation, small bushes, windswept. Still cows graze here and of course sheep. Also jackrabbits, a delicacy, cooked in a pot on the fire. We found a road-kill, I gutted it on the spot and cooked it unfortunately in the backyard of a vegetarian lady. She lives in the most southern house of Africa and I could look back into her interesting life. She has a huge scrap-book in her guestroom, and after I wrote my diary I looked into it. Before she went to sleep, she came to see if everything was allright. So I offered her my scrapbook to look in. Another unforgettable moment I experienced as I was brushing my teeth on her yard, watching the rumbling Indian ocean and the stars above, enjoying the smell of the breeze and then noticing her in the house studying my book under a warm lamp. Those a rare occurences, special moments I cherish. That is why I travel, and sometimes I am still wondering why am I travelling?

............Reflection Time...........

Times of feeling lonely, misunderstood, dirty tired, malfed, dissatisfied, angry frustrated..... Why, and when will I have peace of heart. In my grave, only then? But no, these moments, the 3 sisters, the synchronised moonrise and sunset over the Indian Ocean and mangroves in Tanzania, the giraffes' silhouettes in the twilight, the mongolian herders cathing their horses out of a stampeding herd, and many more of these magic MOMENTS. I guess it will always be only moments if one tries to reach that wide as I do. So I reach some peak moments but also some lows. I am concluding that more stable life means fewer peaks, fewer lows, like speculating. However, I also realize I won't get old by playing life at these stakes too long. I just creeped out of some lows pushing my bike to Ulaan Baatar and I had a lot of reflection time. This tour from Beijing to Europe should be my last long leg, than after 8 years on the road, it is time for more stability and use these experiences as ways to relativy life and squeeze magic out of every day life.

Continue Cape Agulhas, South Africa

Next morning we leave a bit of us in her questbook and she gives us an address of friend to stay in Houtbaai. It is sure a special meeting. Price of traveling is to leave behind special people you would like to frequently meet. But again, focus the moment. I hope she will get this newsletter too. She sended a nice picture of our departure. I haven't been able to write her yet...

The next 80 kms are dirtroad, through more of that scrubby landscape. I forgot to mention the beautiful lighthouse which was slowly disappearing behind us. Built in the 1800's to secure safe passage to the orient or back. It is quite an unpopulated area of South Africa. The 'washboard', corrugated pattern of dirt on the road due to many cars, initially massages, than scars and finally almost dislocates the butt-joints irritates my mum very much. But than she is cycling already 600 km's of it on a 16-year-old-racing bike with narrow tyres..

We make it too Pearly Beach, a windswept resort where we hire a little bunker facing beach. I collect some mussels for dinner an am suprised of the sudden cold water and different sea vegetation. The coastal road from now on is very beautiful, it winds along the rocky mountains with the sea below. Just before Hermanus its like that. We have a friend to visit in Onrus, little town west of Hermanus. I met her in Washington where she worked in an apple orchard. She has a hard time being back in South Africa, being a single mother and seeing not many opportunities here. She would love to take her son to Washington and live there. We have quite the party that day and evening. Again we made memories there. I will always remember Les, brother of Sherry, saying " Life is all about making memories", I can relate so much with him. A very enjoyable ride follows from Onrus, nice weather, blue sea bursting white against the rocks below us. On top of the mountains white 'smoke' flows down, a interesting phenomenon I only know from the Cape. On Table Mountain they call it the 'table cloth'. We swim with the penguins and meet John there by concidence. Make it to Cape the Good Hope and we found the family in Houtbaai. Another special meeting. They run a herb farm in a green valley. It is an old country/farmhouse with a beautiful garden. Hundreds of different herbs, nice dogs, an uncomplicated welcome. Very inspirational. They sell baby herb plants on the market and learn to live with what they have and not to worry too much that they won't have enough to live on. With her daughter John and I climb the Tablemountain which is so beautiful. The views are stunning, the smell of sea and bushes. We find rare flowers in a little canyon where we bath in the water. This is the life!, our slogan in Jeffreys Bay will go on. I happen to meet a Belgium cyclist who wrote me an email but I never met. He approaches us because of our bikes, riding into Cape Town. We have a comunual friend, Arthur Merry, who himself cycled from Scotland to Capetown back in 1988. I stayed with him in 1995 and was going to call him that day.

So now we could call him together. He wasn't home, left message and had a drink in front of a cafe. Ronald is going to cycle the world too with no time limits. He just started and it was nice to feel somuch ambition. I can see that mine is cooled down a bit which I am happy with so I am more relaxed with where I am.

We spend the night at the Waterfront, Capetowns' center of amusements. The old docks are transformed into huge shopping malls, restaurants, bars and pubs and terasses. Somany visitors. We eat at our favourite grill restaurant, Spur, and realize that the tour is about finished. The tablecloth is moving over the tablemountain, towering over the city and waterfront. Where will we cycle again together we wonder. Its' mid february. The end of April I plan to leave for rejoining my route in Mongolia, may be 2 years before returning in Europe. We stay one night at Arthurs' place. His story of ending up in Capetown is a classic. As he arrived by bike he already bought a ticket to South America to continue. However his bike got stolen in the garage of a friend where thiefs cycled away from the house with TV, Stereo ect. His bike had 1000$ stowed in the frame. Incredibly lucky that police arrested them on the road, but Arthur couldn't get his bike back rightaway, it had to serve as proof at the courtcase first. In the month of waiting for the bike the meets his present wife while climbing table mountain. I don't have to add more than he enjoys life having 2 beautiful children. He kind of warns me for the little time for yourself, having a family and both a job.

The Jongsma family are the last to visit. We already know that it will be very busy there because of final preparations of their daughters wedding. Was good to see them anyways and to see some Dutch guests. Than the bikes were disassembled to avoid SwissAir bicycle fares and Eduard brought us to the airport , 3000 kms of fine experiences richer.

Back in Europe

I expected to see friends on Kloten Airport Zurich, but maybe 6 0'clock in the morning is a bit too extreme especially enduring -16degrees Celcius. It was fun to have the climate change in onlu 10 hours. Holland was nice too us with sun and blue light freezing air.

In the next newsletter the next episode, how I got on the road to Ulaan Baatar again. Please write me back on the email address of Mr. Chimeddorj, my friend. Because I can email at his house , but cannot open my hotmail-box. His address is

I will stay here for 0ne week or so, depending how my visa business goes.



Ride Rode Ridden
Doorstep 1
Doorstep 2


Number 07 - 98/12/24
Number 08 - 99/06/09
Number 09 - 99/06/13
Number 10 - 99/08/12
Number 11 - 99/09/21
Number 12 - 99/11/21
Number 13 - 00/09/06
Number 14 - 01/07/01

  < Maarten Index < top of page > Number 09 >