Learning through travel

Travellers are interesting people – especially travellers who commit to a substantial amount of time in a country, going far and wide, engaging the locals and absorbing the scenery.

I met two such travellers who stayed in Port Alfred for a few days this week, more than halfway through a long trek by bicycle through South Africa, starting in Polokwane and set to finish in Cape Town.

I chanced upon the couple as they were approaching the Nico Malan Bridge on the R72 at about lunchtime on Saturday on their heavily burdened bikes. Curious, I turned around and saw them head into the CBD along Causeway.

After parking at Heritage Mall I lost sight of them and was about to give up, but told a colleague about the couple on their oddly-burdened bicycles. Unbeknown to me, she sent her son out to look for them in the CBD and he found them on the corner of Main Street and Masonic Street.

So I got a call and headed back into town. Then I heard the story of how these two foreign visitors were surprised when a young teenage boy went up to them and said. “Two people on heavily loaded bikes – it must be you. Come with me.”

They became a little suspicious. “No one knew we were coming to town,” Ivan Martinez told me as I chatted to him and Manon Saenz in the street. In what is now humorous in hindsight, they wondered if they were being set up for a mugging.

Easy-going and approachable, the Spanish visitors agreed to tell me their story and relaxed over a couple of beers at my favourite watering hole, Kenny’s, where everybody knows your name.

It was lovely getting to know them, and to feel their excitement and energy at experiencing new things.

We sandboarded down the dunes at East Beach and a little walk along the beach on Saturday evening encouraged them to return there on Monday and spend six hours walking along the coast.

After a chat about faith and the Bible over supper on Saturday night, they wanted to visit the church I attend on Sunday and enjoyed the worship experience and the warm greetings of the people. More good feelings they will carry with them.

After a bit of shopping we had to rush to the movies as I had told them we had a cinema and they might enjoy A Star is Born. Another good experience. Seeing Port Alfred through their eyes made me appreciate my hometown even more.

What a blessing it is to forge new relationships with people from far away.

– Jon Houzet


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