Day 1 Tuesday 5th October 2002
Good bye Denmark
Very confusing day. I had to go to work until 1 p.m. and the plane was leaving Aalborg 3.45 p.m. I had a hard time concentrating, and there were a lot of thing I had to take care of in the last few minutes - or later. Edel and I went to the bank, the printing house and the library. It took a long time, so we ended up being in a hurry. The last part of the well prepared packing did no go well. I simply put the last things into the bags all anyhow.
It's now 7.35 p.m. and I am standing in Frankfurt Airport. Standing is absolutely the correct expression, for there are no seats available for me here. So far I have had no problems. The trip from Aalborg to, Billund was ok, and also the trip from Billund to Frankfurt. In Billund the temperature was 8 degrees C and here there are 10. This air port is enormous and it took me some time to find the correct gate. But I had to spend two hours here, so it was not a problem. On the plane from Billund I had a bun with some kind of meat. I also had coffee with a little drink, after all it is "summer holiday"
In the airport I bought "A painted house" by John Grisham for 11.30 Euro. A wonderful book.
I have now checked in, but I have to spend another 20 minutes here before I can go in. It's very international here.
I envy the Japanese who are able to squat anywhere.
Finally I was allowed to go into a room with a lot of chairs. I have been told that I must pick up my luggage in Johannesburg and bring it through the customs. I hate that. It may cause me a lot of trouble.
When I have done that I must check in again.
Nobody noticed that my luggage weighed in at 34 kilo and not 28. But maybe they will catch me later on.
Day 2 - Wednesday 6th March 2002
Right now they have started working back at my school in Ellidshoej, and I have just entered the plane to Durban. I had a very nice trip to Johannesburg. The plane moved steadily and calm all the time. I did not at all find the trip long and boring. I was in the middle of a party of elderly people from Germany. They were going on a bus trip in South Africa. They were very nice.
It's difficult to know exactly how long time one sleeps on a trip like this, but I think it was quite a bit. However, I got a pain in my neck and I had a little head ache when I woke up.
I got the luggage in Johannesburg as I should. I walked through the customs without problems. I had spent some time in the plane filling out a questionnaire but no one wanted to have it at all. The German who was sitting next to me, had brought a form which was already filled out , so I looked at that though the corner of my eye. In the air port in Johannesburg I was "greeted" by to very nice black young men, who wanted to help me with my luggage. They were dressed in nice uniforms, but were actually nothing but confidence men. They asked for 100 rand for their assistance, which is a fortune around here. I gave them a little but was undoubtedly still cheated.
However, I did actually need a little help, because it was difficult to check the luggage in the second time.
The trip to Durban takes 1 hour and 10 minutes on the plane. I hope David Spiteri will pick me up when I get there.
Thereupon I need to pick up my air line ticket to the bicycle ride in Cape Town Sunday. I have no idea what will happen the rest of the day.
I have now been informed that the temperature in Durban is expected to reach 31 deg C today. At 7 a.m it was 25 degr.
The passengers on the plane to Johannesburg were predominantly white people where as the personnel was black.
Right now the staff explains about the safety regulations. It's funny that I yesterday was explained about the same regulations by fair-haired stewardess from northern Denmark.
Durban 1.21 a.m. It was not David who picked me up. He had been summoned to a meeting, so now Marilyn and her mother turned up. I had a cordial welcome. Later on they explained to me, that they were afraid they would not recognize me. They had even written a small sign with the text: "Welcome Holger". That was what I felt.
I popped into the booking office to get my air line ticket for Saturday. It was ready but they explained to me, that I was supposed to pay 225 rand to get my bike on the plane. I should not have mentioned the bike. Me and my big mouth.
It's extremely hot here: And very, very humid. My sweat shirt came off, and I will not probably need it again for a long time.
First of all we consumed some liquid. It is very important here.
I had a shower. Outdoor!
Then we had lunch, salad, mango, cottage cheese, delicious. They had some very interesting news for me. The roof on David's school is undermined by some sort of bugs and will probable be closed most of the days I am in Durban.
David will try to find another school for me.
Marilyn and her mother keep telling me, that I must always be careful with my things here. They were shocked when they say how I chucked my luggage here and there in the air port.
Marge (Marilyn's mother) took us to a park in the neighbourhood in her car. Fortunately they were able to find me some zebras to show me that I was actually in Africa.
David was not in the best mood when he came home. He was not that happy, because his school could not house me. I was much more relaxed.
However, he had an alternative plan, so what's the big problem: Among other things I will visit a high school.
Day 4 Friday 8th March.
Morningside Primary School
Today we will visit David's school. This is the last day it is open before they start working on the roof. I slept much better tonight. It was cooler, and we even had a little rain. Rain can be expected today as well. The weather forecast talks about 33 degrees in Cape Town.
It turned out to be a very interesting day. It was a bit chaotic, and the teachers were a little stressful because of the rebuilding. First we had a little gathering in the staff room, where all the chairs are placed in a circle. We spent about 20 minutes there, before all 500 learners gathered to morning songs and some information. 4-5 naughty learners were placed on a raised platform with their backs to the crowd. And they kept staying there.
First I visited grade 7, where I talked about Denmark. All 38 learners were present. I talked about the material I had brought from Denmark. I think it was ok.
We had quite a long lunch break around noon and David took my to a photo shop so I could have my first film developed I do not want to repeat the American disaster. The rest of the school day I walked around in the school, talked to people and took a lot of photos. Actually it was quite nice.
The school day finished with a meeting with all the teachers, and it lasted for about an hour. After that we went to the photo shop and fortunately the photos were excellent.
Normally David and a few of his friends go to a pub every Friday afternoon, and why should I be the one to change that routine?
Here David introduced me to a new drink which he called Catembe. It's a mixture of red wine and coke. The taste is wonderful. We spent a couple of hours in the pub, before David decided to show me a view from a high-rise block. Not good. Not good at all. I suffer from fear of heights. When we came to the 16th floor there was a wall which was under a meter, and that wall was the only thing between me and the abyss. I am sorry David, I cannot do that.
We visited a colleague of David's and had a coke there, before we headed for Chestnut Drive, where David lives. On our way there we met a bunch of baboons.
We made a stop near one of the so-called squatter camps. It's a "town" of sheds where the poorest black people live. David said that I could take some pictures.
Every time you park your car you are encircled by black people who offer to look after your car. Some of them bow and scrape to you. It's too much. Normally they get 2 rand to look after the car. David tells me that some people refuse to pay anything at all, but I suppose it's not a good idea if you have a brand new car.
For dinner we had salad, rice and steaks in slices. Delicious.
David had read about an art exhibition with some kind of dance show included near the harbour, so we went there in the evening. It proved to be very, very alternative. 4 people crawled all on the stage where they stained everything including themselves with blue and white paint.
All 3 of us agreed that the show was much too weird for us. And the pictures in the exhibition were not much better.
We decided to finish our day in a café where we had a piece of cake and some coffee. It was a combined video shop and café and the atmosphere was wonderful.
On more occasions we passed the so-called no-go-zones. They are really frightening. Marilyn told me some terrible stories about people who had been mugged and beaten up. If one's car comes to a stop there it is probably a good idea to leave it and try to get out of the area as quickly as possible.
We had a glass of liquor when we came home, and while we did so David and I tried to watch a movie. We could not finish the job. Actually we both fell asleep.
I decided to call it a day around 11 p. m.
Day 5 - Saturday 9th March.
The day before Argus
Today is the day before the big The Cape Argus Pick 'n Pay Cycle Tour in Cape Town. I have never in my life been so badly prepared for a ride. I am almost starting to worry. They talk about very high temperatures tomorrow. I'd better take it easy out there.
It's now 6.32 a.m. here in Durban, and my plane leaves a little after noon. I have started packing. I am supposed to be in the air port one hour before take off. I have a ticket already, but I must pay a visit to the office to discuss the bike problem. The told me that I must pay extra 250 rand to get the bike on the plane. I do not want to do that. Maybe I should just keep my big mouth shut?
I will not bring a lot of luggage to Cape Town, and I am going to leave the bike there, which will make things a lot easier.
It's now 6.36 and David just passed by. He has promised to take me to the air port. I could have taken a taxi, but I really appreciate that he will take me.
I did it. When I checked in, the lady asked me if I was bringing a bike.
- Oh no, I said. 'It's only bike parts.
- Ok, she said and let it pass.
I had a nice trip. It lasted about 2 hours and the view was wonderful. In the air port in Cape Town I waited a long time for my bike to turn up. It didn't. When I asked for it, they explained to me that they had taken it to a special hanger, because of the Argus ride. A nice black man took me there. And he was actually very nice.
On the way to the hanger I met Frans, who had come to pick me up. It was very exciting finally to meet the man I had been correrspsonding with for such a long time. You cannot know for sure, that the impression you have got of a person through letters is true. But I was very happy to be able to shake my friend’s hand. I had a heartily welcome and I could not have got a better travelling companion.
I only hope I will be able live up to Frans' expectations.
Frans joined us in the search for the missing bike. It took a while before we could wrest the bike from them, but at last we got it.
We took a look at Cape Town, before we came to Frans' home, where I was introduced to Francine, his wife and Jacques, his son.
After lunch it was time to assemble the bike. It is not at all appropriate to assemble a bike few hours prior to an important bicycle ride, but those were the conditions. It was hot, but it was ok. I could not find my wrench nr. 15 for the pedals, but Frans borrowed one from a neighbour. I had big problems with the brakes. I had not taken my newest bike and the cables on this one were very rusty. To tell the truth they were not working good at all. But I had to put up with that.
And actually it looked like a bike when I had finished the job. We went for a very small ride in the neighbourhood. There were many and steel hills, but fortunately the parts I had put on the bike did not fall off, so I decided that the bike was ok.
In the evening we watched a little TV, before we had a bicycle-rider-meal. In contrast to me Frans was extremely well prepared. He had all his things ready. I did not have anything ready, and I kept saying to my self, that I had to rely on my routine
Day 6 - Sunday 10th March 2002
The Cape Argus Pick 'n Pay Cycle Tour
It is always extremely interesting to see, how people in other parts of the world ride their bicycles. Sometimes it's hard to believe that people actually ride their bikes seriously in countries you have never visited: But they do.
Well in advance I had paid for an entry through the Internet, but I got rather disappointed when I learned that the price I had paid was much higher than the price the local riders should pay. I could afford it, but I would like to have an explanation for this. I find it very unfair.
I am a very experienced bicycle rider, but to tell the truth I had never that badly prepared for a ride in my whole life. March is a winter month in Denmark, and snow combined with cold weather made exercising on the roads very little attractive. Furthermore I was very occupied with all the preparations for the big Africa adventure. To be hones with you I had not touched a bike for several months when I made ready for the ride 10th March.
It goes from bad to worse because I arrived with the plane from Durban late in the afternoon the day before the ride, so I had to assemble the bike in a hurry and hope that everything would be ok after a little ride in the neighbourhood.
That's was not at all an optimal prelude to a ride like the Argus. Of course I had studied the profile of the ride in advance, so I knew very well, that a number of very steep and long climb could be expected, and was also aware of the fact the Ou Kapsee Weg would be the biggest challenge of them all.
At the same time I had been told that it would be extremely hot. Of course I am used to riding under very extreme conditions from my rides all over the world, but adapting from snow and ice to hot summer weather with temperatures close to 40 degr. C from one day to another is not easy.
My plan was very simple. I would not risk anything, as I knew to little about the route, the character of the roads and all the other important things in a bicycle ride.
The start was easy and painless. It was surprising to see how easy it was for the organizer to send all the riders on their way. The centre of the town was totally closed off, and the groups started form different areas. I realised at once that I was going to use all my small gears this day (39/52 x 13-27). I tried to keep a sensible distance to all the riders that surrounded me, and I managed quite well. The route was closed off for normal traffic and we did not meet one single car all day long, which was a wonderful thing.
I had my first major problem on the first serious climb. It occurred to me that me seat pin was disappearing under me. I had not been able to tighten it enough the day before. I believe it must have been a spectacular sight to see me arriving to the top of the hill sitting on the frame. I had to do something about that. I talked to a marshal, who sent for a mechanic. He came up to me about 10 minutes later and screw the saddle tight again. That was much better.
Later on I have ridden part of the route and I learned it as actually a very scenic route. I must admit I did not realize that during the ride. I had other things on my mind.
The weather was dry and I was surprised to se how many people I met who were fixing a puncture. I suppose a lot of them have not been aware of the fact that it is a very good idea to use new tyres when you are in an important ride.
The heat was now increasing, and on the steep hills it was now very evident, that this was going to be a very tough day for a lot of the riders. And when we got to the bottom of Ou Kapsee Weg things went terribly wrong. It looked more or less like a migration. I have been in countless bicycle rides, but I have never seen so many riders push their bikes. I myself find it very embarrassing to push the bike, but sometimes you have to do it. On my journeys around in the world where I bring an awful lot of luggage, I have sometimes been forced to push the bike, but I have never done it in a ride. It was obvious that these people did not push their bikes because their gears were inadequate. This was simply more than thy could handle. A lot of these people suffered. You are not supposed to suffer like that when you are in a bike ride. I you do you'd better fins yourself another hobby while you see to that you get in a better shape.
The Argus ride is a colossal attraction in the local area and a lot of people have no doubt been tempted to ride ignorant of what is actually happening out there. Everybody knows somebody who is the ride, and if their friends can do it, so can they, they think. Normally 109 km should not create big problems, but this day up to 39 degr. C was measured on Ou Kapsee Weg where there was no wind at all and then the disaster happened. This year’s was the hottest ride ever. 2 deaths, 10 heart attack and a lot of heat strokes were reported. Of course accidents will happen when so many people ride together, but this was simply too much. I am convinced that too many people were in the ride without knowing what was waiting for them.
I took my time and I even found the time to take a lot of photos, so how I was placed in the ride is of no interest. After all someone must be number15.88 or whatever it was. The most important thing for me was that I had a good experience and that I finished the ride without crashing.
My Friend Frans was not that lucky. Like so many other riders he crashed, but in spite of wounds and bruises he was able to get on his bike again and finish the ride.
In the afternoon the medical director of the ride decided that they had reached a situation where all resources were rapidly being depleted, and the race was stopped due to the excessive heat and the fear of endangering the cyclist's lives.
When the race was stopped about 19.000 cyclists had crossed the finish line leaving about a third behind.
Subsequently I have watched a TV-program about the ride and among other things there were some terrifying recordings from the mountain, and I must once again say that I hope those who suffered so much out there well be better prepared next time.
I myself was quite happy about my first Argus Ride . I love mountains and hills, and I know what to in the searing heat. To me it was a wonderful experience to be in this magnificent bicycle show, and it is quite possible that I later on will be in the The Cape Argus Pick 'n Pay Cycle Tour
Day 7 - Monday 11th March 2002
My day started like usual with a shower followed by breakfast with coffee. We left for Fabia's school around 7 o'clock and then we went to my very own school, Penzance Primary School. By now I was already familiar with everything, so I just went to the staff room, where I made myself some coffee.
That day I worked with my "Denmark-show in 2 different 7 grades. I was introduced to the classes and then their ordinary teacher left the class room. I had no problems with the learners, and actually I think they were very interested in what I had for them.
At 10 0'clock I was going to visit a Dane, who lived in the neighbourhood. His name was Karl Jensen, and he had lived in Durban for 53 years. The school's secretary knew him very well, and she took me there in her car. We had coffee and cake and the secretary joined us. I thought she was in a hurry, because she had people waiting for her at the office, but she had all the time in the world.
It was quite funny to talk to Mr. Jensen and of course we discovered, that we had mutual friends in Denmark. It happens all the time.
Mr. Jensen’s hobby was vintage cars and motorbikes. When I visited he was working on a very impressive Singer car. He did all the work himself. He also had a Harley Davidson and a Norton motor bike. I was very impressed. He told me that vintage vehicles in South Africa must be from the years before 1937.
David came and picked me up around noon, because we were going to Phezulu, a zulu village about 30 km from Durban. We got there on small winding roads.
First we took a look at the crocodiles and the snakes they had there. The crocodiles did not move at all, but I liked to watch the snakes. It was the first time in my life I saw a black mamba. They had green mambas as well, but the black ones were my absolute favourites.
There was a Zulu-show at 2 o'clock. 12-15 Zulus were dressed in their traditional dresses.
Through small spectacles they showed characteristic things from their history. Among other things they told us, that a wife gets 11 cows as a dowry. The show was extremely interesting and impressive and furthermore it was filled with humour, beauty and poetry. Finally they demonstrated the use of an old Zulu spear, which had the name Iklwa. It is the sound one can hear when a spear is removed from the guts of a human being. Nice.
On our way home David found out, that he needed a haircut, and I got an opportunity to send a few post cards.
We decided to go to the movies in the evening. It was a budget evening, and the price for a ticket was 12 rand, which is extremely cheap compared to prices in Denmark. We saw "Ali" with Will Smith. It was a wonderful movie, but it was a bit difficult for me to stay awake.
We were home at 10.30 p.m. and went to bed right away.
Day 8 - Tuesday 12th March 2002
Last school day
Last school day in Durban. Tomorrow I will leave for Cape Town. Right now it's 8.24 a.m. and I am once again having math in Mr. Cromie's grade 7. Today there are "only" 30 learners here. One of the children broke his left arm yesterday playing rugby. They all think that is a bit cool. He even took the X-ray pictures to school.
Today the class is working with fractions. They are all very quiet and pay a lot of attention. A prefect has just returned with a glass of water for Mr. Cromie and myself. Before I went into the class a learner handed me a big brown envelope with letters from Mrs. Oliver's grade 6. I talked to that class about Denmark a couple of days ago. These letters are very nice. They did a wonderful job. Mrs. Oliver and I want to start a co-operation between our classes. I am looking forward to that.
In a while I am going to the computer room, where I plan on staying most of the day. David will pick me up at 1 p.m. We are going to a meeting at 2 o'clock with some of the people, who are in the job-swop-project. I am not quite sure what will happen there, but I have a thing or two I can tell them about.
In the computer room I found out that all the students in my 3rd grade in Denmark had sent me a letter. They all got a letter back. They want to hear about the weather, the people and of course the snakes. Unfortunately I heard that there was a problem with my own computer at home. I will try to make some nice people work on that problem, but it is not easy to fix problems in Denmark from a location in Durban, South Africa.
I hate when these things happen.
David was there on time and we went to the meeting. I was introduced to 12-14 of the people, who are going to Denmark later on. Lisbeth Manicus from the Danish Cultural Institute explained about the programme. She had bad news. The money for the exchange was not available at the moment, so she could not tell the people when they would go.
I hate when these things happen.
I was allowed to tell a little about what people in Denmark would like to know about South Africa. It took me about 30 minutes. I think I did ok.
Afterwards one of the black theatre people came up to me and told me that he had liked my "show". He also told me, that he thought I should get myself a new job. He said I would make a fine actor.
One cannot be praised more that that, I suppose.
This was our last evening together in Durban, so we were going to a restaurant for dinner. First David and I took Fabia to her Flamenco lesson, and while we waited for her, we went into a pub, where we had a drink. Of course we had Catembe, red wine and coke. Try it. We paid 16 rand for the 2 drinks. It's extremely cheap compared to priced in Denmark
Our restaurant was near the water front. It was a very nice place. Od course the weather was perfect. We were sitting very close to the water. We had brought our own wine, and we had to pay 15 rand for that privilege
I found out that they served Barracuda, and when I saw that, I knew I had to taste that, and it was a very good idea. I had a very thick filet with a wonderful strong fish taste. Delicious. We spent abut 2 hours in the restaurant.
On our way home we passed a homeless man, and Marilyn handed him an old T-shirt. A couple of minutes earlier, she had explained to me, that it was not a good idea to stop the car anywhere when it was dark, and now that was exactly what she did.
She explained to me that she was able to see if a person was a threat or not.
Tomorrow I am going to Cape Town.
I will miss my new friends in Durban.
Day 9 - Tuesday 12th March 2002
Dabulamanzi Combined School
Today is the day for our big trip to Dabulamanzi Combined School. It's now 11 minutes after 7 in the morning, and David has just left with Fabia. Marilyn and her mother Marge will go on the trip as well, so we can expect a very nice family-day. I think we have about 130 km to the school, and from there we'll go another 50 km to a reservation with cave paintings. We also hope we will see eland antelopes.
We had a nice drive up there. We used Marge’s car, and she drove all the way. It was interesting to watch how the landscape and temperatures changed as we moved up into the mountains. We came to the school after a couple of hours. Marge and Marilyn would go on their own, while David and I visited the school for 2-3 hours. David had spent a lot of time on phone calls to the school to make an appointment. He had made an arrangement with the headmaster, but when we got into the school, we realized that this headmaster was not there at all. He had left for a meeting, and nobody knew we were coming:
It turned out that this was not a big problem. They found number 2 for us, and he introduced us to one of the teachers, whose name was Gu-gu.
The year before she had spent 3 months at a school in Columbus, Ohio in USA, and she told us she would take us on a guided tour on the school.
She was a very nice lady, and she introduced us to 3-4 different classes. We had a very warm welcome in every class we came into. I told them a little about Denmark, and I believe they found it interesting to have an international visitor.
This school is a so-called farm school and there are about 600 black Zulu learners. The school is financed by the parents and by private sponsors. The standard is high and it has a very good reputation in the area.
I must admit that everything here was extremely different from what I am used to in Denmark, and I think the learners looked at me in wonder. We could very easily have spent the whole day there, but we had not got the time for that. We thanked Gu-gu for showing us around and continued our trip.
On our way to the reservation we passed a number of villages, and with their round huts they looked exactly like my childhood's conception of a negro village.
We had lunch when we arrived and Marilyn and Marge had made a huge picnic basket. We were very hungry. Because of the height the temperature had dropped, and it was rather cold. Actually we had to put on an extra jacket.
David and I started on foot for the caves with the paintings. It would take us about 30 minutes. David thought we were late and set of at a murderous speed. I did my very best to follow him. It was a very scenic walk. We were there in good time, and we talked a little with a young Hungarian couple.
A little later our Zulu guide/guard arrived. He was interesting and exciting to listen to, so we enjoyed the 45 minutes with him and his show. The paintings were not looking to good. David had been there many times before, and he told us, that people did not treat these paintings the way they should.
We looked into the souvenir-shop. It was not very impressive. A lot of the souvenirs can be found in each an every shop, so you have to be lucky to find something special.
On our way home we passed a lot of the children who came to the cars to ask for money and sweets. We gave them a couple of chocolate biscuits. Marilyn told me that they brought their cast-off clothes to this place. Everything could be used.We found the time to visit some of David and Marilyn’s friends. They lived on a strawberry-farm. We had a cup of coffee and a cake there. It was really in the country side.
It was a long ride home, because it grew dark, and we were a little tired. Before we left David had talked with the Hungarians again. They told him that they had rented a car, and they also told him, where they had planned to go.
- Not a good idea, he told them. He explained to them, the in the area they talked about, there were roads where you simple do not come when it's dark. The risk of hi-jacking was to big.
David also explained that they all know someone who has been, mugged, robbed or who has been hi-jacked,
- You get immune to these things, he said. The local people are aware of the dangerous no-go-zones.
After our arrival to David's home in Durban we found out that Marge had a puncture on one of her rear wheels. When this was fixed (I held the torch) we had a late dinner before we went to bed around 10 p.m. after an extremely interesting day.
Day 11 - Friday 15th March 2002
"Good bye Durban"
Last day in Durban. It was quite sad, but there is a time and a place for everything. My plane was leaving at 2.20 p.m., so there was no time to go to school. I got up quite late and said good bye to Fabia, a very special girl. There is no picture of her here, because for some reason she did not want me to take any pictures of her.
Marilyn and her mother took me to the botanical garden, where there were a lot of interesting flowers and birds.
We walked around for a while, before we sat down and enjoyed a milk shake in the wonderful weather. From the garden we went on to a gallery, where the art was somewhat alternative. I got an opportunity to buy a few things in the gift shop. We also had a cup of coffee before we went home.
David got home from work quite early and when I had said good by to Marge, who had been extremely kind to me, I started packing the last things. Not a pleasant thing to do.
We could not relax and decided to go quite early to the air port. By doing so we were also able to avoid possible problems with the traffic.
We even found the time to enjoy the second milk shake of the day in a restaurant in the air port. I start to like that drink.
Time went by, and soon it was time to say good bye.
I hate when that happens.
I am not very good at it, and it seems that it is getting worse as I grow older. But it must be done, and it was done. However it was not good bye, It was "see you" and that made things a lot easier. David will come to Denmark later on, but what about the rest of the family?
TO THE SPITERIS
Thank you for your hospitality and your friendship. I could not have got a better exchange partner, and I did not only get a partner, I also got his family.
The flight went according to plans. I was sitting right behind two men from India who talked constantly. But we were only there for two hours, so I could live with that,
Frans picked me up in the air port, and this time I had no bike to hold up our progress. We went directly to his home this time, where I went to my room and tried to make some order in my things. We had many things to discuss, because a lot of things had happened since my last visit. Frans started moving about the grill, because it was braii (barbecue) time)
When dinner was served I found that the table was practically flooded with a lot of delicious things. Most of the things on the table were new to me. The most special thing was probably the koeck sisters, which looked more or less like the Danish "klejner" (cruller?) They were very sweet, and I need a little time to get used to them.
I got an opportunity to check my e-mail, and I learned that my domestic computer problem was now solved, with a little help from a good friend. That was very good.
I suggested to my family that we could meet "on line" the following day at 6 p.m. African time, which would be 5 p.m. Danish time.
It was after 10 before I went to sleep.
Day 12 - Saturday 16th March 2002
"Blouberg Beach and Bellville Library"
The weather was wonderful from early morning, but I suppose that is always the case here. For breakfast I had müsli, yoghurt and coffee. And now the time had come to get the bikes moving. We had planned a 22 km ride to the beach at Blouberg, where we intended to enjoy the view to Table Mountain. From Frans' house there was a 3 km steep descent, and I suppose that indicates that the last 3 km of the ride will go up, up and up again. That's the way things normally work. The ride to the beach was characterized by heavy traffic and roads which were not to good. We also passed a roundabout, and that is a very dangerous place when you ride in the wrong (left) side of the road. Along the route were numerous back people selling art and souvenirs. In all intersections they were running around offering all kind of things for sale.
I realized that the beach was a very exclusive area for bathers. It was still early day, but the first visitors had already got there.
We went around for a while enjoying life, and we also had a cup of coffee in a restaurant. Before we left we sat chatting for a while on a bench.
On our way home we stopped at a place where African art was for sale. It was interesting and I liked the art very much. It was not very expensive. We decided to return top the place later on, when we were in a car.
But the last 3 kilometres were still waiting for us. I found out that it was indeed very steep. I guess it was up to 12 %. Simultaneously it was getting hotter and hotter, and we were more than well done, when we came home. After a shower it took several minutes before the sweat stopped pouring.
We had lunch and decided to rest for about an hour before we would face the next adventure.
A little after 3 p.m. we went to the library in Bellville. That is the library which will co-operate with Svenstrup Library. Frans gave us a guided tour and I was fully able to understand how proud he was of his former place of work. This visit gave me an opportunity to take a look at the library before the official start of the co-operation Monday.
I found the time to buy some post cards, so now friends and family can start looking forward to some beautiful picture post cards. I bought 10 identical cards with Cape Point, because it is a beautiful place and it has got a special meaning to me. I was a bit tempted by all the cards with wild animals, but to tell the truth I have seen very few lions here, so it would not be right.
I went to a photo shop where I wanted 2 films developed. It's one of the few expensive things here. It's the same price for 1 hour development as is for a normal development. I can pick up the film Monday. I fear I accidentally pushed a wrong button, when I took my photos at the farm school, but I will find out about that Monday.
I also robbed a bank, so I could give Frans the Money back he had paid for me for my air line ticket, when I was still in Denmark..
We had an important evening ahead of us: Rugby. Anyway Frans told me Rugby was important. It's a very small sport in Denmark, but people here are crazy about it. In advance Frans had tried (!) to explain me the basic rules of the game to give me a general idea of what it was all about. However, I guess it will take me some time before the grandeur of the game reveals itself to me.
Unfortunately Frans' team lost by a single point, which was not good at all.
However, he recovered rather quickly and instead we started watching my video from my bicycle ride through Europe to Gibraltar in 1997. We managed 4 episodes and because I translated most of what was said Frans and Francine were able join me on the ride.
My being-on-line-project was a success. I was ready in Cape Town and my ladies were ready in Ellidshoej. We sent 3-4 letters before we were all going to have supper.
Once again it was rather late before I went to sleep, but it was a good and very exciting day.
Day 13 - Sunday 17th March 2002
The day started very quiet and peaceful. That way of life is normally not a thing, I occupy myself with, so I believe it´s very good to hit "zero" just for once.
We had a late breakfast, a little before 9. I had müesli, yoghurt with milk, a piece of bread with cheese, a chocolate muffin and a peach. And 2 cups of coffee.
Our plan was to go to Zevenwacht by car around 10.30, where we were going to have lunch. I think it is a kind of farm. We will be home again at 3 o'clock p.m. because we are going to watch television. They will send a programme about the Argus ride. And I will be online with my ladies again at 6 o'clock.
It was not a farm. It was more like a vineyard. We were there early, and first of all we took a look at the very nice buildings. We found the time to a cup of coffee, and at 12 o'clock we went to have lunch. We decided to sit indoors, because we found that the rooms were so very much filled with atmosphere.
Once again I spotted an exotic dish on the menu: Blue Marlin. I had to try that. It tasted very much like chicken. It was good, but it did not have a strong fish taste.
We took our time, and it was around 3 o'clock p.m. when we were back again. We took a little nap before the program on the Argus Ride started at 3.30. It lasted about 1½ hours.
Unfortunately the programme was constantly interrupted by two funny men. It is very annoying when a producer does not think his programme can stand alone. In any case these funny, men were not funny at all.
The rest of the day was devoted to relaxation. At one time we visited a neighbour, who had 2 funny birds in his garden. They were extremely protective to their chickens, and nobody was allowed to get near them at all.
We finished the day by watching the rest of my video about the trip to Gibraltar. Frans and Francine told me they liked it. There were some problems with the sound to start with, but the last part was ok. Before we decided to call it a day, we went on our bikes to the top of Tygerberg, from where there is a magnificent view over Cape Town. To get to the top of that mountain we had to climb about 3 kilometres, up, up, up!
Day 14 - Monday 18th March 2002
"Table Mountain and Bellville Library"
We had a huge programme this day. After breakfast we headed for a bicycle mechanic with Frans' bike. On our way to the beach, he had broken a spoke, and he wanted to have that replaced.
When we had dropped his bike, we headed for the famous Table Mountain. To get up there we had to go by cable car. Of course this is on of the major attractions in the area, and the prices were accordingly high.
The cabin itself was able to rotate, so people would see the view from all angles. Some of the windows had been removed, so for people with a fear of heights like myself, the trip to the top was connected with considerable problems, when the gaping holes were passing by. But I did survive. The trip to the top lasted about 4 minutes.
Table mountain is situated in about 1050 meters above sea level, and the view is amazing from the top. The flat summit is so huge that it is quite difficult to believe that one is actually at a mountain top.
Of course the weather was wonderful, when we were there, and the sun was very strong in the thin air. We spent about an hour up up there, and we had a cup of coffee and a couple of rolls.
After the visit to the mountain, Frans took me on a guided tour in Cape Town in his car. We ended the tour at the Water Front which actually looked very much like the famous Pier 39 in San Francisco, USA. We had lunch in Steers, which Frans told me was his favourite burger place.
After the meal we made for the 2 Oceans Aquarium. It was very good, and they had fish there, I did not know existed. I was most impressed by the muraenes, who had draped their long beautiful bodies in and around the rocks. Also some giant crabs were amazing.
We went home and rested for a while before Frans had to pick up his bike. While he was away I took a look at my e-mail.
When Frans came back he told me that the mechanic had suggested, that he changed all the spokes. When one spoke broke, he had told Frans, all the other spokes became weak, and they will probably break shortly.
At 6 o'clock we had the arrangement with the library. As I have mentioned earlier, it is a co-operation between the library in Bellville near Cape Town and Svenstrup Library in Denmark .I was not sure what was going to happen, but when Frans talked to Ilze Swart from Bellville Library she told him, that she was in control of everything.
As soon as we arrived at the library we were shown into the exhibition room, where I was introduced to the committee of the friends of the library.
There were about 12, and we chatted for an hour or so. There was red- and white wine and delicious snacks, which we enjoyed, while we talked.
At one time Ilze bid all of us welcome and explained a little about the project. Frans presented me to the group in Afrikaans, before I told a little about myself, and my background for joining this project.
I had brought a parcel with Danish books and posters from Svenstrup, and Ilze had also some nice things from Bellville library. We unpacked and took a lot of photos. All this happened in a very nice and friendly atmosphere, and I have every possible reason to believe that we have seen the start of a good and interesting co-operation.
We were back home around 8.30, where we had dinner. We had very nice lamb meat balls. This family does not eat very much pork. While we had dinner I could explain that very few of the things people eat here in South Africa looks like or tastes like the food we have in Denmark:
And that is very good, because people do not go to other countries to eat Danish food.
I pointed out to my friends that the fact that I did not know the food did not mean that I did not like it.
This day too was filled with interesting activities, so we did not stay up late.
Day 15 - Tuesday 19th March 2002
"Cape of good Hope"
Today we were going to Cape of Good Hope. This place has always been very special to me. It is the dangerous point I read about in the novels from my boyhood. This was the place they had to pass at the risk of their lives.
We left a little after 8. If you leave earlier in the morning you'll probable be stuck in the traffic. To get to Cape Point we used the roads where we had ridden on the day of the Argus. But now everything looked quite different. To tell the truth I had a hard time recognizing the route.
You have to pay to get to Cape Point because it is a nature reservation. From the box office there are about 10 km to the outermost point. The vegetation is scattered and only a few trees can be found there because the wind normally is very strong. However, we did not notice that. We had calm weather and 22 degr. C.
From the parking area it is possible to walk up the mountain, but we chose to use the cable car. It's so much easier. First of all we went to the upper light tower, from where we admired the view. Earlier on we had not been aware of the fact that there was a 300 m steep descent from the tower to the very point. When we got there we took the photos which must be taken, and we enjoyed being at the most south-western point of Africa.
We went back again and realized again how hilly the path was. It really made us sweat a lot.
We took a look at the souvenir shop, but were in no way tempted by what they could offer.
Fortunately we happened to meet the baboons just before we left.
It was obviously that they owned the place. From Cape Point we went on scenic small roads to Groot Constantia, which was the place the Dutch first arrived at, when they came to Africa. The purpose was to establish a base they could use on their way to their possessions in the East Indies.
We had lunch there, and once again I could not resist "Catch of the day". This day it was Yellow tail, which was quite good.
This place was a very distinguished place, and especially a table with 4 English aristocratic ladies worked me up.
In connection with the restaurant there was a small museum, which we visited briefly, before we went back to Cape Town. I had asked Frans if we could visit a flea market, and he wanted to take me to Green market.
Fleamarket. It was a place where you had to look after your possessions constantly. It was not a safe place. The boys are the worst. A boy, who was probable 7 or maybe 8 years old, asked Frans for money.
- You have to work if you want any money, Frans told him.
The boy did not like that at all.
-Then I'll rob you, he said to Frans.
Not a nice thing to witness.
We looked around for about 30 minutes, so I could get an impression of what things were available and the price level. Finally we decided to return to the place another day.
A slide show in a local bicycle club had been planned for this evening, but it was necessary to cancel the arrangement, because a lot of the members were out of town because of the approaching "Human rights" holiday.
In stead Frans had arranged a gathering with 4 of his library friends:
I did show my slides to these people, but it was not at all satisfactory to me. It's so difficult to give a slide show in a living room.
But that's history now.
We had a cup of coffee and a cookie, before we went home.
Before we went to bed, we shared to Black label beers. They went down very well indeed.
This day was a holiday here South Africa, and as far as I know they celebrated "Human rights", which is always a very nice thing.
Frans had made an arrangement with a friend of his, who would take me on a longer bicycle ride, while he himself would stay at home and enjoy himself mowing the lawn.
Well, we all have different ways of enjoying life.
His Friend's name was Eddy, and he lived about 20 kilometres from Frans' home. I found out that he earlier on had been a big shot in South African bicycle riding. Among other things he had been South African champion in his age group, and in St. Johann in Austria he was number 2 in a time trial. He was also number 8 in an Argus ride, which is very good. All in all a very talented bicycle rider.
But this day we were out there to have a good time, and he did not punish me on the hills and mountains we rode on. Among other things he took me to the very scenic part of the Argus route which had unfortunately been closed because of falling rocks. We rode about 85 kilometres and the temperature was around 25 degr, so it was a perfect day.
After the trip we had a cup of coffee together before Frans came and picked me up.
It was time to have a nap after lunch. Frans' son Jacques and his girlfriend Ann had returned from a small holiday, so it was once again Braii time.
About 8 o’clock we were all seated around the table. We had lamb sausages, kebab and chicken. We had a good wine with the food and finished the meal with an ice dessert.
It had been a long day, so I returned to my room with a good book around 9 o’cDay 18 - Fredag 22nd March 2002
"The post lady, the hairdresser and the monument"
I had written some post card, which I wanted to mail. When Frans previously had sent letters to Denmark on of the female employees had taken a great interest in what he sent away, and now I got an opportunity to talk to this very nice lady. We chatted for a while and I was allowed to take a photo of her. She told me, that her husband was from Hungary.
All of a sudden I realized the my hair was too long. Frans told me that he normally had his hair cut by an elderly hairdresser, who lived in the neighbourhood. he also told me that he only paid 20 rand for that. I had to try that.
I had to wait for a while in the shop and while I waited I took a look at the equipment, which was extremely old-fashioned. But finally I got my hair cut and I also got off with only 20 rand. With my new improved appearance we went to look at the wine estates in the area. Frans' plan was to take a "Cellar tour" but we could not find any. We went to Hazendal Wine Estate where there was a small Russian museum. Unfortunately they had closed it for the day because they were busy with the preparations for a wedding the same evening, so we just had a cup of coffee before we left again. Now we headed for a place which Frans was very fond of. It was the Afrikaans Language Monument near Paarl. It is one of the few existing language monuments in the whole world.
It was easy to feel how important Afrikaans is to Frans. He really enjoyed showing me that place.
We drove up and down in Paarl which I found was a very beautiful town, We ended our stay there at a restaurant where I had a burger with chicken liver. That kind of food was not to be found among Frans' favourite dishes, so he chose something else.
It was now a little after 3 o'clock p.m. and we decided we had had enough for the day. We went home where I attacked Frans' computer, before I relaxed for an hour or so.
Later in the evening we went to a gathering with Frans' reading group. They were going to see some of my slides. It was ok, but once again I was not 100 % happy with my performance. But I had a very nice hair cut.
We left around 10 o'clock pm because we had to get up early next morning.
It was time for the next bicycle ride.
This time in Malmesbury.
Dag 16 - Onsdag den 20. marts 2002
"Stellenbosch og Franschoek"
Cykeltur i bjergene. Herligt. Efter morgenmaden kørte vi i bil til Stellenbosch, hvor stigningen begyndte. Vi parkerede bilen ved universitetet, som Frans anså for at være et sikkert sted. Frans fortæller mig, at han altid vælger at parkere ved siden af en rigtig flot bil, fordi han regner med, at der så bliver passet bedre på den.
De voldsomme stigninger begyndte som nævnt umiddelbart efter Stellenbosch. Det gik opad over 3-4 km. Jeg fik ordre til at vente på Frans på toppen, fordi han påstod, at jeg gjorde ham nervøs? Vejene var pæne og brede, og trafikken ikke så slem. Lige efter nedkørslen passerede vi en farvet landsby. Vi kørte ud af en lidt større vej, og den førte os til Franschoeck.
Denne by ligger fantastisk smukt ved foden af et bjergpas, og den byder på lidt af hvert. Ved indkørslen til byen passerede vi en squatter camp, hvor de sorte lever i et ubeskriveligt svineri. De bor i skure af blik, pap og træ, og det er helt klart en no-go-zone. Det er noget, der for alvor gør indtryk på en rejsende fra Danmark.
Lidt længere henne ad gaden finder man så en luksuriøs wine estate, der bevogtes af vagter i fine uniformer. Det er to vidt forskellige verdener tæt på hinanden.
Vi fandt en restaurant, hvor vi fik en kop kaffe og en scone.
Vi trillede langsomt gennem byen og fandt et Huguenot mindesmærke, hvor vi selvfølgelig tog et par billeder. Vi kiggede indenfor i det lille tilhørende museum, men lod det blive ved det.
Lige udenfor mødte vi et par, der egentlig var på cykeltur, men som denne dag havde bestemt sig til at holde hviledag.
De forklarede malende, hvor vild og voldsom opkørslen til bjergpasset var. Det skulle de aldrig have gjort. Nu måtte jeg derop. Frans valgte at hvile i skyggen af et træ imens. Han havde turen hjem i tankerne.
Det blev en herlig klatretur. Opkørslen var nok omkring 5 km. Den var da ganske rigtig stejl, men jeg har nu prøvet mange bjerge, der var meget værre. Jeg måtte ikke engang overveje at trække. Desværre var der ingen mennesker på toppen til at råbe begesjtrt og tage billeder af bjergets besejrer, da jeg kom derop. Så må man jo gøre det selv.
Et par hundrede meter nede var der en udsigtsplads, Og der mødte jeg naturligvis en flok tyskere. De er overalt. Dette selskab var fra Hannover, og de ville da gerne hjælpe
Nedkørslen var ikke slem, og det indikerer at procenten sjældent rundede de 10.
På vej hjem holdt vi pause ved den før omtalte squatter camp. Vi blev øjeblikkelig omringet. Jeg tog mit kamera frem, og børnene stillede beredvilligt op til fotografering. De øjnede en forretning. Frans syntes ikke, vi skulle give dem penge, og vi kørte derfra igen, da de begyndte at pille ved vores ting. De unge mennesker havde ventet en anden udgang på den sag, og de blev så utilfredse, at de fulgte os på vej med stenkast, som heldigvis ikke ramte.
Efterhånden var vi lidt stegte, så det var ikke noget voldsomt tempo vi holdt på den sidste stigning mod Stellenbosch. Jeg regner med at have kørt i alt 90 km denne dag.
Temperaturen var omkring de 20 grader, og solen skinnede uafbrudt.
Efter hjemkomsten trængte jeg til et lille hvil, mens Frans gik i gang med aftensmaden. Det bestod af steaks i strimler med ris, frugtsalat, meloner og mange andre rare sager. Vi sluttede endda af med is med chokoladesovs som dessert.
Senere på aftenen så vi en underlig video om en cykelferie. Det skulle forstille at være om et par, der kørte rundt på New Zealand, men de var åbenbart kun med som staffage, for det var ikke andet end en turist-film.
De kørte lidt frem og tilbage engang imellem, og det kunne lige så godt have været optaget i Østrig.
Frans fortalte mig lidt om sit besøg i Rusland i 1995. Det havde helt bestemt ikke været nogen dans på roser. Alt hvad der kunne gå galt gik galt. Det eneste, der stort set fungerede, var hans møde med de almindelige russere. Han har skrevet en bog om sin rejse, men den findes desværre endnu kun på Afrikaans. Jeg regner da med, at han snart går i gang med at oversætte den, så den engelsksprogede del af verden også kan følge hans oplevelser.
Dag 17 - Torsdag den 21. marts 2002
"Cykeltur med Eddy"
Denne dag var helligdag i Syd Afrika, og så vidt jeg ved fejrede man "Human rigths".
Det er jo altid en god ting.
Frans havde truffet en aftale med en af sine venner, der ville tage mig med på en længere cykeltur, mens han selv ville blive hjemme og hygge sig med at slå græsplænen. Sådan har vi jo hver vores.
Vennen hed Eddy, og han boede ca. 20 km fra Frans' hus. Frans kørte mig derhen ved 8-tiden lige efter morgenmaden. Det viste sig, at Eddy havde været en af de helt store kanoner i Syd Afrikansk cykling. Han havde bl. a. været sydafrikansk mester i sin aldersklasse og ved VM for veteraner i St. Johann i Østrig havde han opnået en 2. plads i enkeltstart. Han havde ogs� som sit bedste Argus resultat opnået en 8. plads, altså en særdeles habil cykelrytter.
Han opførte sig nu pænt denne dag og straffede mig ikke på de bakker og bjerge, vi passerede. Vi kørte bl. a. hen til den mest naturskønne del af Angus-ruten, der i øjeblikket desværre er lukket p.g.a. nedstyrtede klipper. Alt i alt blev turen på 85 km. Temperaturen holdt sig omkring de 25-26 grader, så det var da til at holde ud.
Efter turen nåede vi en kop kaffe hos Eddy, inden Frans kom og hentede mig.
Der var tid til et hvil efter frokost. Frans' søn Jacques og hans pige Ann var kommet hjem fra en tur, og det var meningen, at der om aftenen skulle serveres Braai.
Omkring kl. 8 var vi alle bænkede omkring middagsbordet. Der var lammepølser, kebabspyd og kylling. Vi fik vin til maden, og vi sluttede af med isdessert.
Det havde været en lang dag, så allerede ved 21 tiden trak jeg mig tilbage for at løse lidt.
Day 19 - Saturday 23rd March 2002
"Sugarbird Cycle Tour -Malmesbury"
Bicycle ride in Malmesbury.
We could choose between 38 or 88 kilometres. Of course I chose 88km, while Frans decided to go for 38 km. We had 45 km to Malmesbury, and we were there quite early. The scenario did actually look a bit like it would have done in Denmark, but of course there were some differences. In South Africa they have seedings, so you can always find your match. Age is of no importance. What matters is the speed.
On a gravel road leading up to the start line the organizers had put up big signs with the letters A - Z, so it was very easy to find the right group. I had not been seeded and consequently I had no group. I started last with all the others riders without seeding. Very slowly we were guided to the start line. I believe there were about 50 riders in my group, and they started the ride at a very high speed. Normally that would have been ok, but very quickly I could feel that I had not touched a road bike for several months. It was obvious that I was not in top form.
We had a little more than 20 degr. C when we started and while we rode it grew hotter and hotter. We finished in 31 degr. C which is a lot. There were numerous hills, but none of them were extremely steep. But they are twice as long as the hills we have in Denmark. There were practically no turns on the route, which developed into a loop at the turning point.
I learned very quickly that the fastest riders in my group would kill me if I kept their speed too long, so when a small gap opened I did nothing to close that gap. In stead I looked around and saw riders dropping from the front groups and riders coming up from the groups behind us. I saw now that there were about 8-10 riders in my small group.
I hid myself in that group the rest of the ride. Not once did I lead my group. That is not a decent thing to do, but after all I can hardly believe that I will ever ride with those people again, so who cares?
What a quiet bunch, I was riding with. I had a small Danish flag on my bike, but not one of my new friends were interested in that. They did not want to know who I was or where I came from. Strange! When I tried to talk to them they just mumbled.
Maybe they found my accent to strange?
The speed was quite acceptable, but as we got closer to the finish line I could feel with a lot of satisfaction that most of the riders suffered much more than I did. Normally I would have left them under circumstances like these, but why should I?
I finished the ride with an average of 32 km p/h which is acceptable.
When I sat down after the ride I could feel that it had been harder than I had though. But a meal with chicken and salad and a lot of coke consumed in the shade made me feel much, much better.
We stayed until 12 o'clock where they made a draw between all the riders. But something went terribly wrong. I think it was a bungled job. I was actually ready to go and get one of the two bikes on stake, but they never mentioned my name!
All in all I have been happy with my meeting with South African bicycling. A lot of things have been extremely different from what I am used too, but that's only natural when you are about 23.000 km from your home country.
Going home we made a detour to take a look at the towns Tulbagh and Wolseley. We passed a few very impressive passes. However, I felt a little battered after the ride so I could not fully enjoy the beautiful views.
We had planned to watch the local rugby heroes The Stormers on TV in the evening, but Frans had got the wrong time, so when we opened the TV it was almost over. That was not a big problem, because at that time the Australian guests had already humiliated the home team, so there was not much excitement left in that match.
After dinner I watched BBC News for a while, but I had lost most of my magic power, so already before 9 o'clock I retired to my room with John Grisham's "The painted house".
A dog keeps barking most of the time and this night too I woke up because of that. It's a long way from here, but I hear it clearly. I feel pity for the poor people who live near by that dog. And what about the owners?
I must say that's a big mystery to me.
How can those people live with that.
Day 20 - Sunday 24th March 2002
"Going to Oudtshoorn"
Today we set out on a long voyage. We will be away for 4 days. We are supposed to leave around 8. The weather forecast talks about hot weather, which in this neighbourhood is close to 30 degr. C Our first destination will be Cape Agulhas,, which is the most southern point of the African continent.
We left according to plans, and very son we found out that hot weather had to be changed to very hot weather. We stopped on the way for a cup of coffee and a sandwich. Both of us were of the opinion that noisy children are not good. And unfortunately that was what was to be found abundantly where we stopped.
Frans had told me that Cape Agulhas was no big deal. I had a quite different opinion, but before we even got there we had to drive 50 km on a gravel road, which was very unpleasant.
We noticed that the temperature was now a little more than 39 degr. C. We would have liked the temperature to pass 40 degr., but unfortunately that never happened.
The first thing I noticed after our arrival to cape Agulhas was the light tower, they have put up out there. Frans insisted that we went to the top. From below it did not look high, but when I cane to the top platform, I simple had to sit down. Frans thought I was joking which I was not. I have huge problems with heights.
We came down (good) and took a lot of photos.
We came across a couple from Prague, and they found it very interesting, that I had a friend in Vysoke Myto. Maybe Frans is right when he claims, that there is not a lot to see at Cape Agulhas but to me the thought of being that far south in Africa is fascinating me.
On and on we went. We still had a long way to go. We made another stop in Swellendam, where we had a little lunch. The place was a bit strange. The female German owner was very red in her face and she sat and drank wine with her family between the guests. Frans was in no way impressed with the standard of the place and he suggested I did not tip her at all.
I did not want to argue with Frans, so he had it his way.
Around 6 p.m. we arrived to Oudtshoorn. It had been a long drive, but fortunately on very scenic roads. We had conquered several mountain passes and driven through the wilderness for hours.
We were going to stay at the very nice Oudtshoorn Inn, which presented itself with 3 stars.
We had our bikes locked into a room in the basement, and after that hard work we needed a drink in the bar. After the drink we went to have a look at the town. The temperature was still around 39 degr. C so we did not feel like jumping around too much. We found a restaurant, where there wasn’t' a seat available, and because we did not like too much what the rest of the town could offer, we decided to return to the hotel's restaurant.
There we had filet of chicken and a glass of wine. When we came to the restaurant very few people were there, but later on a Romanian party arrived, and it was quite interesting to watch what they were doing. There were about 20 and they were out there to have a good time. First of all we tried to guess, where they came from, and I am happy to say that I was closest when I said Eastern Europe. According to Frans one of them was definitely a bus driver. Their leader looked like a gypsy and she came to the restaurant about 30 minutes before the others. She was there to arrange everything for her group. They finished the very impressive buffet surprisingly fast.
We returned to our rooms around 9.30 p.m., and we were very happy when we turned on the air condition in the room.
Day 21 - Monday den 25th March 2002
"Ostriches, Cango Caves and Jean- Christophe"
We slept very well that night. We had a big room with 2 double beds. We had breakfast in the hotel restaurant. We got all that the heart could desire - and a little more. It was difficult to stop gain.
Our friends from Romania were there too. We were still a little curious, so we attacked them. First Frans
threw oneself into a conversation with some of the ladies in the party, and subsequently he told me that they were all from Bucharest, and that they did not find South Africa very expensive. But they thought the air line tickets had been expensive. Now it was my turn. I had to know if the bus driver was a bus driver.
He was not!
He told me in was into computers and he also told me that his wife worked in a bank. We were able to communicate in German.
Our first adventure this day was a visit to an ostrich farm. Our guide was a very funny man, whose name was Innocent. I am sure he was not. Together with 8 - 10 other people we went by car to the farm itself about 2 km from the visitor centre. Here we had a lecture on ostriches, their history, way of life etc. We were introduced to Susan the stripper and Jack the ripper. Susan was a friendly bird friendly and Jack was not friendly at all. We were allowed to play a little with Susan. We saw two ostrich eggs we could stand on to test how solid they were.
Now they caught an ostrich and put a bag over it's head. Then they backed it into a kind of enclosure and we could climb the huge bird and have photos taken. Finally the smallest and lightest of us could have a real ride on the ostrich.
The last part of the show was a race on ostrich back between two professional jockeys. They had definitely put op an interesting and well organized show.
Next stop was the famous Cango Caves, but before we got there, we met a long distance bicycle rider. It was Jean-Christophe Paquet from Bruxelles, (photo of him) who was just about to finish an enormous bike trip from Bruxelles to Cape Town. This very day he would round 21.000 km. We talked to him for about 10 minutes, and we decided to take a look at he caves together with him. He arrived to the caves just before 12 o'clock a.m., when a guided tour was about to start. I suppose 80 - 100 people were there, among them also a German from Hannover, whom we had met outside the cave. We were taken through 6 very impressive caves and had a spell-binding and interesting explanation from our black guide. At a certain point he turned off all the lights and the sudden darkness was so total that it was quite scary.After the tour we had lunch with the Belgian guy and also the German came and sat with us, as he was all on his own.
Next destination was a crocodile farm. Once again I greeted green and especially black mambas, whereas Frans did not want any contact at all with those creatures.A guide showed us the different alligators and crocodiles. He went into the small ones, but when they grew bigger and more mean, he stayed outside. chicken!
We went to the cats department where they had lions, tigers and jaguar. I was pleased to see that the animals were treated nicely and had a lot of space in their cages.
The climax of the visit vas the meeting with the cheetahs. They told us that people older than 16 years for 30 rand were allowed to go inside and touch the cheetahs. After all it was my birthday and I had to try that. They let 4 of us in at a time, and we were not allowed to wear hats or sunglasses. And they had other rules as well. Little by little I started getting quite nervous. I never found out if these big cats were purring or snarling, but whatever it was they were doing they did very loud. While I went inside Frans took care of my camera. It was quite nice to get out again.
In the evening we once again tried to find a decent restaurant, and once again we did not succeed, so once again we ended up in the hotel's restaurant, which actually was a very nice place.
There was not a soul in the restaurant. The coloured waitress did what she could to make us happy, but it was quite difficult for her.
When I asked her about the catch of the day, she got very confused. A couple of minutes later she returned very happy to our table. In her hands she was carrying to fish which she had found in the deep freezer in the kitchen. We thanked her, but felt a little sorry for her, so we did remember to tip her before we left.
She did her very best. What else can a person do?
After the dinner we went into the bar and had a double brandy.
I think I had a wonderful birthday.
Day 22 - Tuesday 26th March 2002
We changed our plans a little. The first plan was to go by car to a mountain pass on a gravel road, but after the long drive on the gravel road to get to Oudtshoorn, Frans wasn't too happy about that. In stead we went to another beautiful mountain area.
We were back again around 10 0'clock a.m., and I picked up some pictures I had given in for development the day before. Once again they were great. When I handed over the film I needed to take the last two photos, so I just aimed at the young lady in the shop. I had to find something.
How surprised can you possible get?
I also bought a few souvenirs in an "ostrich-shop". Among other things some toe-claws. It's hard to live a normal life without those things.
The time had come to say good bye to Oudtshoorn and move on to Wilderness, which is an extremely popular holiday area along the coast on the Garden Route. On our way we passed the Outeniqua pass.
After lunch we went for a short 17 km ride and we stopped at a fish restaurant to book a table for the evening. The rest of the afternoon we passed the time doing next to nothing, but I managed to spare a few minutes for a catembe.
At 7.30 p.m. we had the above mentioned dinner in the fish restaurant. I did not like the place too much. I ordered Fish-pot, but all the different kind of sea food was swimming around in a white gravy, and it had more or less the same taste. The communication to the people in the restaurant was not too good either.
At a certain point the female chef walked around in the restaurant and asked the guests what they though about the food. I was very surprised when she said in French "Bon jour". If she was from France, I suppose it was ok, but I am more or less convinced she was from South Africa, and in that case I'd call it a ridiculous piece of snobbery. But I have been wrong before.
Besides she did not listen to what I said to her. But I did not speak French.
They could whistle for a tip. Actually it is very nice, when you have a tipping system like they have in South Africa opposite what is normal in Denmark, because it gives you a wonderful sensation to be able to leave the restaurant feeling you have punished these people.
We ended the evening in the hotel bar, where a party with a very strange accent proved to be from Iceland.
Day 23 - Wednesday 27th March 2002
This day was simply set aside for a train trip, from where we were supposed to ride our bikes back. The train trip was from George to Knysna and the bicycle trip from Knysna to the hotel.
Frans had made an arrangement with a young girl from the reception. She would meet us at 8 o’clock a.m. and then go with us to George, where we would get on the train, and she would take the car back. She was a long time coming, and Frans sent a message to her room to tell her that we were ready. And then she came with a friend.
The car trip went without any problems, and we were seated in the train about 1½ hours before the departure. In that way we secured ourselves some very fine seats. It was a very old fashioned choo-choo, which they here called Choo-Tjoe. A very funny name, I think. The trip in the train was about 55 km and lasted about 2½ hours. We had a soft drink and a sandwich before we left. It was a very interesting trip. However, there was not as much to look at as I had expected, because we were driving a lot through woods and ravines. But then it was extremely interesting to watch the other passengers. While we were on the train our bikes were placed in a goods wagon.
Click at photo to enlarge.
After the arrival to Knysna, we pedalled through the town to the coast, where we had a little to eat. We decided to start the ride back to the hotel in Wilderness right away.
The ride was quite strenuous. The temperature was around 20 degr. C., but the wind (head wind) grew stronger and stronger and it kept on doing that the rest of the afternoon. Of course we also had to fight the numerous long hills. Some of them were very steep. The worst one was the hill right after Knysna, but it was only one out of many.
Frans suffered a bit in the strong head wind, and on the steep hills he politely asked me to go away, because I made him nervous. Of course I did what he wanted. I went a little ahead and waited for him on the top of the hills.
But even if we had a hard time dealing with the wind and the hills the worst thing was absolutely the traffic. There were simply too many cars, and from time to time the road was very narrow.
Furthermore we did not quite know what to think about the stripes they had painted on the road. Were they for us or were they for the cars?
A number of times we discovered that the cars exceeded the stripes and when that happened they obviously only gave us a false security.
Frans measured the distance to 41 km and in with a traffic like that, this road is definitely not suitable for bicycle riding.
We arrived at the hotel around 4.30 p.m. and rested for a while. But first we went to have our reward in the bar.
Dinner was at 7.30 p.m. and Frans suggested we had the buffet. Dear me. I have rarely seen so much food in one place before. It was almost as strenuous as the bicycle ride. Again I could only recognize very few of the dishes, and some times the taste of what I put on my plate was quite a surprise. The culmination of the dinner for me when I had sea food which was prepared while I stood watching.
I doubt this meal was healthy, but it was absolutely marvellous.
When we went to bed around 10 p.m. it was still cold and windy out side. Maybe autumn is getting closer in South Africa.?
Day 24 - Thursday 28th March 2002
"Back in Cape Town"
We got up around 6.30. Frans suggested that we should leave the hotel at 8 o'clock, and then we could have a little breakfast on the way. We alos stopped to visit one of Frans' library friends. We stayed there for about half an hour. We had coffee, but no breakfast, so we were getting quite hungry. We did not find a place to eat until 10 o'clock, where we got into a restaurant at the coast. This place was no big deal. It was not too clean and we had to wait for ages before we finally got our breakfast. But we had to get something before we started the long trip back to cape Town.
We had an appointment at the library in Bellville at 3 o'clock p.m. and we were the ten minutes after 3. We took a look at the very nice exhibition Ilse had made with the books and posters I had brought from Denmark. They had made an appointment with a photographer, who turned up half an hour later. He took photos of the exhibition and Frans, Ilse and myself. A journalist from the local news paper called us on the phone, and Frans and I talked to her for a while. She will publish an article on the project very soon.
After the return to Frans' home, I checked my e-mail. I had planned to be on-line with my ladies, but when I logged on they were nowhere to be found. Instead I decided to spend the rest of the evening reading an interesting book about a bicycle ride through Siberia.
Cape Town is cold today. In fact it is the coldest day I have experienced here. I even had to put one a sweat shirt for the first time since I came here.
Day 25 - Friday 29th March 2002
Just like in Denmark this day was also a public holiday, and the program for the day was not too big.
We began with a 27 km long bicycle ride. A few kilometres from Frans' home you get into the countryside. We had a very nice ride with only one very long hill.
After a little rest, we went to Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. Originally we had planned to bring a picnic basket, but the weather did not look to promising in the morning, so we changed our minds.
The garden is huge and not it is filled up with trees and flowers (surprised). Little by little the weather got much better, and we saw a lot of people, who had decided to have their lunch their. To tell the truth it grew very hot, and this combined with the long hills in the garden made the walk quite strenuous. We went around for an hour or so.
We relaxed the rest of the day.
Day 26 - Staurday 30th March 2002
Mr. Louis Pienaar
We were going to have lunch with Louis Pienaar and his wife, who lived in Sandbaai near Hermanus. He is a former member of the South African parliament and a very good friend of Frans'. He used to have a number of prominent posts in South Africa politics, and he has also been an ambassador in Paris.
He is in his early 70ties, and we visited the family in their weekend cottage, which is situated very beautifully near the water.
Of course this was not the time or the place for me to discuss politics with Mr. Pienaar, but I did get an opportunity to get his opinion on South Africa now and before, and to hear how life is for the South African population from his point of view. Obviously he was a man with an enormous knowledge, and at the same time he was a man, who expected people to listen to what he told them.
There is no need to describe in details about all the things we talked about, but it was extremely interesting to hear these statements from a man who was there when it happened. Then it is likely that one gets an interpretation which is a bit different from the one given by the local medias.
Among other things Mr. Pienaar could in details tell of a demonstration in the 70ties, which caused the death of several young people. Mr. Pienaar was of the opinion that the demonstration had not been announced to the authorities, and if had been carried through according to the rules the result might have been a different one, he said.
We did find the time for other things than politics.
Mr. Pienaar made Braii for us. We had lamb steaks with vegetables and before we headed back to Welgemood, we had a cup of coffee.
We had spent a little more time on the trip than we had expected, so the visit to the flea market at "Green Market" was postponed to the following day.
In the evening I showed my slides to the van der Merwe family. This was the third time Frans had to look at these slides, but he is a nice and friendly man, so he told me it was not a problem.
The fairytales of H. C. Andersen are made possible by
Day 27 - Sunday 31st March 2002
Now the party is almost over. Today the bicycle will be exercised for the very last time, and tomorrow I am going back to Denmark again. The stay in Durban and also here in Cape Town have been absolutely marvellous and fortunately I have not any accidents or nasty experiences.
Everything has been perfect, but tomorrow I will be ready to go home.
We had planned to conquer a mountain near Simonstown, but because we wrongly thought a Marathon run was going on there, we changed the plan. In stead we went for a small 20 km ride in the neighbourhood. We finished on top of Tygerberg, which is the closest you can get to heaven in the area where Frans lives. Thus ended my career as a South African bicycle rider for the time being.
After a shower and a refreshment we headed for the flea market "Green Market", where we did not find the time to go the day before. I was going to buy the last souvenirs for my family, friends and of course myself.
However, id did not go off too well, because when we got there we were all alone. Not good.
But Frans remembered that he might have mistaken "Green Market" for "Green point", so we went there. Much better. Here they all were. It was a huge market, and we stayed there for about an hour. But first we had to go through the usual hullabaloo with black boys who were of the opinion that they were car park attendants there. If you do not let them look after the car there is a very good possibility that you will find scratches and other damages on it when you return.
It was not necessary for us to see all the stalls, because a lot of the products are the same. A price is never a price, and after Danish conditions you can get a lot of interesting things at a very good price. If you do not want to pay what the want they will ask you: "How much do you want to pay". It is not a good idea to answer that question. I found out that when I told them that I was buying, not selling, they got a little silent. A little. And only for a very short time.
We returned to Welgemood with a lot of plastic bags, and we had a late lunch.
I relaxed until 5 o'clock p.m. where I started disassembling my bike. It was quite easy and I did not bother too much about being careful when I wrapped all the bike parts in papers and bags. Time will show if it was enough.
After the killing of the bicycle, we visited a couple of Frans' friends. Among them the man who Frans called Mr. Bird, because he had those funny birds with babies in his garden. I tried to get some photos of the shy birds, and before we left the nice man gave me an ostrich egg, which made me very happy.
Back home the preparations for the very last dinner started. Of course it was once again a wonderful braii, which I enjoyed enjoy to the full.
After the dinner I realized that I was a little tired, so I decided to postpone the rest of my packing to the following day, where my plane leaves at 3.40 p.m. Frans will take me there and I have told him I'd like to be there 2 hours prior to the departure, so I will have the time do discuss any luggage problems with the staff.
Day 28 - Monday 1st April 2002
Last day in South Africa. I slept and read until 8 o'clock, where I had my last South African breakfast this time round. I had fruit salad, strawberry yoghurt, coffee, 1 glass of fruit juice, 1 bun and a muffin.
With a meal like that I suppose I will be well prepared for the 23.000 km long journey to Denmark.
I was told that 33 degr. C was to be expected in Cape Town this Monday, but it follows naturally that I was unable to mobilize a lot of interest in that fact, and I cared even less about the weather forecast for Tuesday which talked about similar temperatures.
At that point I plan on being back in Denmark, where I will be happy if the temperatures reach 12-14 degrees.
But there is a time and a place, so it is exactly as is it should be.
Before I returned to my packing I attacked the computer for the very last time, to prepare the world for my approaching return.
Frans has a household help, who comes to the house a couple of times every week. Her name is Sari, and she speaks Afrikaans only. She is a very nice lady, who among other things saw to that I, for the first time in my life, have been wearing T-shirts with knife-edge creases.
I was allowed to take some photos of her, and it was very important to her, that, Frans' very nice and friendly dog Nina was also included in the photos.
It's time to leave. Before I came to South Africa Frans wrote to me about this day, which was at that time just a distant spot in the future:
-Today we say goodbye, but I really hope and truly believe that we will see aech other again, in South Africa and possibly in Denmark.
Day 29 - Tuesday 2nd April 2002
"It's not about the bike"
Your mind will be filled with emptiness, when you return to your home from a long and eventful trip. Your body is back, but mentally you are still out there. However, the sight of the well known buildings and landscapes convince you that the party is over. Aalborg and it's vicinity do not look like South Africa at all.
It takes some time before the soul also returns, but in this case I could not wait for that. My cruel employer insisted that I went to work the following day. Physically I was able to fulfil that demand. Mentally it was not that easy.
My usually faithful wife of first marriage was busy somewhere else, and therefore my two favourite daughters, were allowed to carry all my stuff from the air port in Aalborg.
The trip home went according to plans. In Johannesburg Airport I bought Lance Armstrong's book "It's not about the bike", which I enjoyed very much. It's not at all a literary master piece, but I admire the man's will power and the way he deals with his cancer. I am crazy about that book.
I permit myself to equate the title of the book "It's not about the bike" with the expeditions I have had all around the world.
Because that is fundamentally how it all adds up.
When you ride your bike across the USA or tear from Nordkapp to Gibraltar, it is not about the bike.
It's about something which is much bigger and much better.
- How have you been, my girls asked me, while they tried to find out what I had planned to do with all the presents they could spot in my bags.
- You know what, I told them.
- I couldn't have been better.