Donations are welcome: I am going to save up for a solar panel as I really need more (green) power. I appreciate every little bit, as a surprise is always lovely. The people below have already been a big help to me.
Donations by several good people are surprisingly well accepted : ) Thank you Timothy, Stephen (twice!), Andreas, Serge…
Ann and Christian
I had only one ocean bath in two weeks, my clothes were all dirty and batteries were all down. I hoped for someone to invite me into their home and when I entered Chañaral I was ready to take a shower at gas-station Copec when Christian spoke to me. ‘I am going to take a shower while I have my batteries charged here and then I’m off to to the ocean to wash my laundry,’ I said to Christian and his wife Ann. ‘Come with us, we have a washing machine and a dryer.’ I made sure he meant what he said, and off we were.
I could never have thought someone would bake me a cake on my 45th birthday but Christian’s mom did so! Christian lives in Belgium and with his Belgium wife he stays for some months with his parents. His mom frail, very weak but illuminating with a full family living in.
We had plenty to talk about, Ann and I talked for two days straight and with Christian there was a lot of laughing going on. I felt part of a Chileno family and that was a very precious experience.
They came around when I needed them. Thank you Ann, Christian!
Januari 2017: Claudio asked me if he could help me when I tried to ask a waitress, in Spanish, whether there was a campground in Iquique. No, there was no campground. So I decided I would shower at a gas station, do my laundry there too, and sleep at the beach. ‘Come to the hostal where I stay,’ said Claudio ‘and don’t worry about costs.’ Chile isn’t a cheap country to stay but suddenly I could stay four full days and had very cozy, and luxurious, dinners with Claudio. It left me amazed and surprised to meet with this much hospitality and generosity. Thank you Claudio!
October 2016: At the border in Paraguay I was hosted for a week at a military camp. ‘Can I stay one night please, I need shelter from the wild animals in the bush,’ I said. ‘You can stay as long as you want,’ said the colonel. He didn’t want to hear from camping and gave me a huge room to stay in. It was good fun and interesting to see life from a whole different angle. The food tasted good and was plenty, the company was refreshing and my stay was highlighted by two piglets, Pinky and her bro.
Marilyn and Gert
September 2016: In Filadelfia, Paraguay, I meet with Marilyn. She hears me coughing at the cooperative Fernheim and invited me over to her house. ‘Everyone seem to have some sort of flu, even the cows are coughing,’ she tells me. Marilyn speaks English and since she is a retired nurse she gives German lessons to Paraguayans, and English to Mennonite children. She and her husband Gert provides me with a room, good food and a stay at their farm in the Chaco. It keep surprising me, how open and inviting people can be! Thank you Marilyn and Gert.
Winter 2015: Thanks Wim, a second treat! You really shouldn’t have done that! But I do appreciate it. So very kind of you, dank je wel.
Summer 2015: Thank you for those magazines Wim!
It’s not so much whát you did, although it makes me smile very much, it is more that what you have done is an act out of love. And that’s why I want to write a little about you. I met you 13 years ago and through the years we kept contact, however little. I must have been a pain in the ass for you, with my demanding needs and wanting. We drove for 2 months across U.S.A. That is, you drove and I sat or slept or drank chai. This photo shows one of the rare moments we camped, something I love doing, and finally found the rest for it. Back then, when I was 29, I had no rest at all. Sorry for that Seth, I know I drove you mad at times. As you did with me. I remember in Nicaragua, where we met, you took your cup of maté chai out to the streets -I am not sure you had shoes on your feet- and sat somewhere comfortable, drinking your chai. I thought that was eccentric. Now I know better.
Thank you Seth, for your generosity. For your friendship. For your depth.
Hannemarie & Dennis
Cycling through India, seeing temple after temple, I concluded temples did not bring me the much needed rest. Sure, temples are beautiful and the roads through agricultural scenery too, but India being India: I needed rest. And rest is not to be found in places where there are no tourists, simply because I am the main attraction (10.000 worse than Africa). It happened I was close to Bangalore, so I cycled to the nearest transport hub and took a bus to Bangalore. I would not have found much rest either in such a mega city, but since it happen my cousin is living there, I thought it a good idea to meet up with family I hadn’t seen for many years.
Hannemarie is the daughter of my father’s cousin (do I say that correct Hannemarie) and her husband Dennis is working here as a tennis teacher. Suddenly I am drenched in a complete different India, one where I have never been before. And at once I understand the comfort of a ‘luxury complex’. Also I notice the immediate ‘normalness’ when I sip tea at the tennis court. So, after 18 days, I get to recover from the huge difference from Oman to India. Then, I am off again, five days did me good.
Thank you Hannemarie and Dennis.
Another Couch Surf Hostess, Francesca living in Muscat surroundings, was so good to host me. Her apartment became my apartment, complete with own bedroom, double bed, shower and a kitchen I was free to use. She has a lovely rooftop garden where I sat only twice – busy cycler had to get an Indian visa and arrange her bicycle for cargo- but we’d managed for a few walks on the beach and a private beach for swimming. What I find most special is that in an Arabic country, where hospitality towards the stranger doesn’t exist as it does in Iran, other options pop up. Such is Francesca! This was my first Couch Surf experience with a Westerner and a woman, and I liked it. It’s a lot different in experience than staying with a local family, so that now I got a feel as if I were in a student house, though, thankfully, without the mess. We had pleasant talks and good food together. As a cycler I could not always predict exactly when I would arrive and it happened twice I was faster than I thought I would be, but arriving a day earlier was no problem. We’d arranged for two nights but I stayed about 7! Ah, that bathroom, the luxury of a kitchen where Francesca made a few very good things (included in the ‘Recipes‘ under ‘Woman Department’) and the air flowing through the open windows, carrying a scent and feel of the spring arriving, not yet time to switch on the annoying air-conditioning…
Pappy and Dany
December 2013: Searching for an address through Couch Surfing I ended up with three serious, trusted guys who would be able to host me. Only Pappy appeared to be a family man, which I prefer. So I made clear I’d chosen him to stay with in Dubai. I needed a place to take off from, and to leave my bicycle behind for about 6 weeks: having met Henrik, decided to meet up with him as soon as possible, it happened I would fly to the person I met in Iran, from Dubai the 25th of December, not a date who would fit every host, as it is the second Christmas day.
Pappy and Dany nevertheless invited me, had me over for about 7 days. Not that I was planning to stay that long but Pappy and Dany kind of asked me to stay just a bit longer, one more day only… I was most welcome to spend the Christmas evening with them, as well as with their family. I went with them to a birthday party and had my bicycle shifted from a friend’s house, to their house to Pappy’s workplace, all to keep my bicycle stored safely. He and his wife Dany got also quite excited to give the cause where I cycle for some publicity, and both got me interviewed for several newspapers as well as a life television interview. More so, Pappy and Dany got two lovely daughters and an adorable mother, Leela, who is, without exaggerating, the best cook of Cochin ánd Ajman! Pappy put me in touch with his uncle and together with Shiva I went to visit a beautiful museum in Sharjah. I met a large part of the family and all were just so friendly and good to be with.
I want to thank Dany and Pappy to take me along, to a birthday in Umm Al Quwain, a full vegetarian restaurant in Sharjah, their workplaces, the market and most of all, accept like a sister! I always keep being amazed by people I don’t know, yet feeling so familiar, by being so hospitable! Thank you Pappy, Dany, Leela and beautiful daughters. And oh yes, thank you for the nice deep blue top, Dany : )
After I came back from Denmark and the Netherlands Pappy picked me up from the metro and I stayed another 4 days with him and his wife Dany. We visited a few family members of them and at last, I was reunited with my bicycle who was stored all this time at Pappy’s work place (about 8 week)! Ah, what a bliss! She was taken excellent care for and as a bonus I maintained it carefully as well: off we are!
Cycling in Dubai. December 2013
Cycling up to Jumeira was not such a good plan. I hoped for camping possibilities along the pristine beach but all I see are fancy houses fenced with large walls. Camping on the beach would be very uncomfortable with constant strollers, not to say foolish. So I cycle on, past more fancy houses and high rise buildings in the distance. I start to become a bit worried. Where I am going to spend my much needed rest for the night? I already asked a local where I could set up my tent, unfortunately he did not offer me his huge palm tree filled garden. I search for a police but I can’t find one. I decide to stop worrying and as I remember myself it always has worked out. ‘Just keep cycling, Cindy and something will come up,’ I tell myself…
I park my bicycle against the low wall facing the white sandy beach while a man comes up to me. ‘I have seen you in the newspaper today!’ My first thought is that there are not many cyclists out here in Dubai and that it indeed must be me. ‘Yeah, that’s me, I guess, Cindy,’ I introduce myself. Bill is from South Africa and an expat in Dubai. While a heavily tattooed and overweight man’s jogging up and down, Bill offers me to stay the night in his house. I must be careful not to look too eager to accept!
Only a few moments later, after Bill drew me a perfect stylized map where I cycled the wrong direction, I am in a house opposite the impressive skyline of downtown Dubai. The tall and elegant Burj Kalifa is piercing proudly above all others. I praise myself when I take a shower, water of a mud brown dirt flowing along my feet. I watch my body in the mirror expanding over the whole of the wall and see a small worked out one though a bit chubby around the waist. Way too much food.
Soon we sit around a plastic cover spread out on the ground. Bill, Anna, their two children and me are going to have a diner. I am so happy that by now I have no problems in accepting what ever is presented to me. I just follow but keep praiseful: a night out in a Yemeni restaurant. And the finishing touch of this evening comes when Bill shows me the glittering shining lights of the nightly skyline huddled around Kalifa tower. What I see puts me right back where I come from…
The Fairy Tale…
Cycling in Kurdistan
2013: I can honestly say Kurdish hospitality is one of the greatest I have ever experienced (together with Pakistani Kalash, and Iranian). I am amazed. I knew people would be hospitable, but being on a bicycle intensifies everything a hundred times more. I can’t possibly thank every one I came across, but you all are in my mind and to you all I say ‘thank you’ again.
Oct. 2013 Riding into a tiny village in Iraqi Kurdistan, in search for bread and a shop, there’s nothing to be found but help from people. The man I asked where I could friend bread called Adnan for me, perhaps sensing I was from the Netherlands? Adnan comes over, speaks Dutch and said to me: ‘Tell me what you need, I will give it to you.’ So my answer is: ‘Can I sleep with you?’ Of course, in Dutch, not in English, so it’s not that vulgar Dutch directness. His answer is ‘yes’ and I am saved. I got to have dinner with Adnan and his sisters in law. After we drink many chai’s and talk endlessly in Dutch, I get to sleep with one of the sisters in her room and fall into a deep deep sleep. The next morning I have breakfast with one of his cousins, Farhad. And around 12 o’clock I wave goodbye to Adnan and his remarkable relaxed family.
A few days later, Adnan passes me on the road past Amedy, an apple and a fruit juice in his hand: ‘You need to take more vitamins…’ how sweet!
Farhad invited me while I am at Adnan’s. A few days later, past Amedy in Iraqi Kurdistan, I stay a night at Farhad’s family. Adnan comes over too and we spend a lovely time together, starting with my third breakfast that day and then off to the hills above Amedy. It’s an experience I would never had when I would be alone, it’s wonderful: the company I am with, the surrounding I am in and the awareness of where I am. It’s special. We have an excellent pizza as dinner and the next morning Farhad’s wife prepares me a heavy breakfast. Farhad waves me good bye after he arranged a SIM card for me, isn’t that caring : )
Salem is another guy who’d lived for 15 years in the Netherlands. His story made me shiver, escaping the terrors of Saddam’s regime. He runs his restaurant underneath the hotel I stayed in and once I knew he was from Holland I visited him. He refused to let me pay for anything I ate in his restaurant, took me around town and to his family where I got to meet his wife and father. The next day he again let me have food and waved me good bye with a bag full of fruit and the genuine words ‘be careful and take good care of yourself’…
It is great to meet local people who lived for some time in the country where I am born, it provides a kind of understanding and natural way of communicating. The barrier of the cultural protocol is gone.
Having made two requests on Couch Surfing for a coach in Cizre, both guys answered my request. Problem: I have no SIM card and so it’s very difficult for me to respond in time. By the time I was almost in Cizre I decided to have some soup and chai before I would make it into the city. Luckily there was wifi and I called Veys to ask if his request was still available. Veys said ‘yes’ and drove fast from work to Cizre.
What I did not know was that I was at only 5 minutes from Cizre and that Veys would truly be fast. As I was quite worn out by the family visits and lack of rest, I decided to check in to a hotel. This was really not so friendly of me, as Veys told his wife immediately to start cooking and prepare a bed for me. When he told me this I felt so guilty and so decadent at the same time. Why could I not wait half an hour to let Veys arrive and host me.
Yes, people who know me well, know I can be impatient.
Veys got a beautiful solution: I got to stay at the hotel, get my rest. And the next day he would let his brother pick me up at 12 o’clock and we would move to his house. The next day Veys in person picks me up. He just took a day off. We move to his huge house. I meet his very beautiful wife Inci, and about the whole family who lives in the 3 levels above where Veys and Inci are housed. I am arriving at the right time because a big lunch is served: dolma!
When we have finished lunch Inci shows me what she’s going to prepare next, a traditional dish from Cizre: iru keri. These are the intestines and the stomach of a sheep, filled with meat and rice, stitched by a cotton thread, cooked. Delicious, especially for a vegetarian. I enjoyed the meal, I have come to get used to meaty meals. And I genuinely think it would be downright rude to deny food given by you because you are something so silly as a vegetarian in Kurdistan. As you should know, I adapt easily.
Veys took me out to show me the town. We went to a park where we drank chai. Then we went home and eat again. Then when I thought it would be a decent time to get to bed, Veys, his elder brother and his son Burak took me out to eat some threats, künefe. A kind of baklava and so heavy on an already filled up stomach, none of us can finish our little plate of sweet cheese, pistachio, honey dripped pastry. Then we have some more chai. And then, another friend accompanies us at home. This friend invites me for lunch the next day, on my way to Iraq…
But not before Inci makes up the couch, neatly, beautifully. She hands me over a pyjama of herself. Sweetly, tenderly. I was hosted with a lot of care and love. Thank you Inci and Veys!
I decided to use Couch Surfing for a few reasons, one of them to get more immersed in the culture of where I am at present. This turned out to be a good decision, as Ferat joined a cyclist group gaining more awareness to choose a bicycle over a car. Ferat is a young man and, unlike many other Turkish, although I must say Kurdish, men he looks way younger than his actual age of 37. He’s good-looking and his young wife is beautifully pregnant of their fist daughter. I have plunged into a modern family, into a quiet, comfortable area some distance away from the crowded Diyarbakir.
As soon as I am near and try to find the address Ferat has given me over the last few days before my arrival, a man is guiding me towards the correct address. He makes a phone call, deliver me right at Ferat’s doorstep, and an orange coach is being prepared for me to sleep on.
Ferat is participating in a cycling group with whom he’s making trips around Kurdistan, including Iraq and also a weekly city tour. This time they will dress up like business men in impeccable suits and like students in sharp-edged trousers and bright white blouses. I am surprised by the three women involved, including one on a decent mountain bike and dressed as a real woman. Unlike me she’s wearing a flowery dress tumbling behind her back wheel and her eyes are shining through lush mascara while her cheeks are red from blush. Damn it! Why did I not put some make-up on? I am also surprised by the guy whom we in the West would never thought of liking cycling, he’s wearing a beard typical for devote Muslims. I like this style, but many people associate it with different activities, except cycling. There’s a female architect, dressed rather unofficial, Ferat’s teacher dressed as a mechanic and Erkan is an artist dressed as such. Erkan is handsome too, and he’s my cycle partner for today’s ride through city.
We all scream for attention, slogans like ‘cars are no good for our environment, cycling is the way to go’ and ‘buy a bicycle, get out of your car’. We block the roads and ring our bells. People react enthusiastic, no one throws stones. Although this does happen to Ferat as well, now and then, when children assume he’s a tourist. It even happens the next day when he’s cycling with me to the direction of Mardin.
Of course, bicycling in this part of Turkey, although every one refers to Kurdistan, is not as normal as it is else where. It is regarded as something only children do. Well, if this is so, then it will be in my favor: cycling in Kurdistan as a child is not a very sexy activity. When I cycle back home together with Ferat, one of the other members of the group joins us, he asks me if I am married? I say I am not. I ask him if he’s married and he says he is. He also ads that his wife doesn’t like his cycle activity. She thinks it’s something for kids. So… I think it takes a long time to make people understand how liberating cycling can be, how much quietness and meditating powers one can find in it. It keeps being hard work though, but if you can afford it, go for it. Ferat thinks exactly the same.
Ferat, thank you for accepting my request on Couch Surfing. I had two good nights on your orange foldable couch, I had a real great dinner (although a bit meaty ; ) and was happy to be with your family a little while. Spass!
Ben Maamar Jamel
July 2013, Paris: Jamel is a bicycle repair man found near the heart of Paris by my friend Dominique. He is no comparison to the African bicycle repair men in black Africa. As soon as he saw me coming with a new bearing in my hand he said, in French (damn! Being in Europe, having left Francophone Africa, still all is in French): ‘That’s not a good bearing, too small.’ First I was a bit in doubt whether he was right about it. I mean, this bearing was sent by Eric from the Vakantiefietser where I bought my bicycle. Eric had called the Santos factory to verify which size bearing I needed, and send it to Dominique in Paris. I had flown with my broken bicycle from Cameroon to Paris, get my bicycle fixed and cycle on. And now Jamel said the bearing in my hand is too small?
Well, what to do? Listen to Jamel and leave it to him. A wonderful man from Tunisia, who immediately seem to understand why I cycle through Africa. Most other Africans think I am crazy, not Jamel. He fold his hands into an embracing fist, pats it tender to his heart and says: ‘Cycling is melting closer with the heart. Nature and you become one on a bicycle.’
The bicycle get’s a bigger size bearing and a new chain, as it was completely destroyed. Probably by the salt from the Ghana ocean adventure.
We talk intensively. About the reason I cycle, about Congo. Jamel wants to give me a discount but I don’t want to hear from it. I mean, we all have to work for our money and Jamel living in such an expensive city as Paris. Not that I have any income but I think it’s not reasonable, so I don’t accept. Jamel insist. I also insist on not taking it. ‘Then give it to the Congo project,’ is Jamel’s option. And I agree on that. Thank you Jamel!
Once in the Netherlands I soon cycled on to Amsterdam to get my back wheel repaired and to have it checked in general. Job, the cycle repair woman in Eric’s shop, says how professional Jamel is. If he can see in one quick glance that the bearing is too small, he’s just very good in his job. And it surely was too small…
Merci beaucoup Jamel, Shukria!
Belgium: Dank je, lieve nicht. Je bent een lief mens en ik wil je hierbij nog maals bedanken voor je goede zorgen, je lekkere eten en ook bouvier Haba, die mijn bed nog eens extra verwarmd heeft, toch wel nodig in koud België, ook al was het zomer en had jij drie dekbedden op bed gelegd. Ik heb het altijd heerlijk bij je. Dank je wel.
The Gambia: Soms vroeg ik me af: ‘Hoe komen andere reizigers toch aan sponsors?’ Ondertussen weet ik het antwoord. Je komt sponsors tegen op het moment dat je er eigenlijk helemaal niet mee bezig bent.
Marloes van de stichting Vrienden van Gambia heeft mij goed gesponsord. Marloes fungeert als tussenpersoon voor Marijke en Jacques van de stichting Focus on Education en laat mij kosteloos in een prachtig rood huisje aan een school logeren. Dit huisje hoort bij Crown Nursery School in Tujering en is gebouwd in opdracht van meneer Hardenberg en uitgevoerd onder toezicht van Marloes.
Dat niet alleen, we eten elke week wel een keer samen, ontmoeten elkaar regelmatig op bijzondere plekjes en bij interessante families en hiermee heb ik een veel beter beeld van Gambia gekregen. Dank je wel Marloes, je hebt me heel wat uitgespaard.
Sometimes I would ask myself: ‘How do other travelers attract sponsors?’ I’d stopped asking myself and found out that people who want to sponsor you will show up suddenly.
Marloes from the organisation Friends of The Gambia is such a person. She sponsord me well. Marloes is living in The Gambia for more than 15 years and function as a link between Marijke and Jacques from Focus on Education, where I check things for. Marloes offered me to stay in a beautifully red house just next to the school in Tujering. Crown Nursery School is built by mister Hardenberg and Marloes took care it was done nicely.
Not only that, she invites me over every week and we’ll have dinner together. Now and then we’ll meet in special places surrounded with interesting families so that I got a better view of this country. Thanks Marloes, you saved me a lot.
Paris: Dominique was standing outside the entrance gate of an old fort in Bundi, in India’s province Rajastan. I was also standing there but without a 10 rupees note to pay the entrance fee so I asked Dominique he could borrow me this little sum of money. Ofcourse he did and that’s how we met. We did not know we also stayed in the same guest house, an old haveli, and a soothing sweet place. The monkeys must have thought the same because soon, when Dominique and me took our breakfast every morning together, they came try to steal half of it. And they succeeded.
That was a couple of years ago, on my previous 3 year travel. We stayed in touch, because our view of life is quite equal. Dominique is a person who love to be on his own, just like me. Therefor it was surprisingly pleasant to find out how well we got along when I stayed almost a week in his oh so little humble appartment in the heart of Paris.
Dominique, I want to thank you for the way you took care of me. It was a very French experience wrapped in the perfect portioned food, lot of untouristic culture and genuine friendship.
Thank you for having me again, Dominique, I treasure your friendship…
Hello !! I’m the man on the photo above ; I’m Dominique. I’m very happy to have made a long travel in India to meet Cindy in Bundi ; and to have kept in touch with her ; and to have become a Cindy’s very-near-friend ; and that she continues to share that with me. And I’m also proud of all that because I really admire her ; for what she’s doing in her life and from her life. I didn’t imagine that a 10 rupees note had such a huge value and could make me get such a big treasure !!! Thank’s for all Cindy !!
Gora comes to meet me in The Gambia
Gora is a guy whom I met more than ten years ago in a temple in Bangladesh. He was the first person not to scream in surprise by seeing a tourist, like most boys in Bangladesh tend to do, neither he start starring at me, which áll boys in Bangladesh do. He was there to work on his very own project, to preserve the Kantanajee temple by photographing it. A glossy book is being published after and Unesco protects it now. This temple work brought him eventually to Europa. Completly on his own power, while every one thought he was wasting his time, he managed to get permits, work and steadiness in Denmark, where he’s living now. It is not easy for him as a second choice resident, as how he describes his feelings about it, but he’s managing, like they use to say in The Gambia.
We kept contact all those years and he too surprised me with a visit in The Gambia. My stay here keeps being extended but a little rest is never wrong as a cycler (although I keep asking myself where this rest actually is?) Together we went cycling in the crazy African traffic, found all the embassies I was searching for and Gora amazed me with his ability to move smooth and fast through the rush hour of busy Serekunda. We had a real rally, after cycled 75 kilometer in search for the visa of Guinee Bissau, Conakry and Sierra Leone.
Thanks Gora, for all you gave me. It is really too much: the 250 gram honey, the 200 gram blueberry marmelade, the 500 gram dried apricots, the 500 gram raisons, the 600 gram dades and figs, the 750 gram muesli and the two packages of rice crackers. Those I try to eat to a lighter weight. The light weight T-shirt won’t be a problem since I cut off the two sleeves. The tigerbalm, blue pen and eraser are not too heavy either. But the other four favours you gave me are heavy, not in weight but in the mind. I accepted them and know they are coming from a good heart. I thank you for that Gora. Now, watch yourself and keep yourself from freezing in Denmark! I hope to continue in a week to Guinee.