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Our Travelling Lives: Turns out Tannie Evita & Pieter-Dirk Uys don't always travel together

The stars of the new show '#HEToo' have had some seriously strange experiences on planes. They tell us more about their travel highs and lows

Times Live, 14 August 2019

 

How often do you travel?

 

Evita Bezuidenhout (EB): It seems as if I am always travelling somewhere, especially now that President Ramaphosa sends me all over the world to try to encourage investments in SA. In the past too many other comrades raised the money to put in their pockets, so I am very transparent and so far, quite successful.

 

But the real world worries me: the United States is in a state, the United Kingdom is not united, the European Union found 27 ways to do nothing brilliantly. I'm not even referring to the so-called democracies of Russia, China, North Korea and some who will remain nameless. So when I get back to Tshwane, I know it's home sweet home.

 

Pieter-Dirk Uys (PDU): Besides a weekly schlep from Darling to Cape Town, I try to make an annual visit to London, often to present a show. I also try to spend a week in Berlin, which is my other favourite city. I seldom travel for holidays; I prefer spending those in my back garden with the dogs and cats.

 

Describe the first holiday you remember as a child.

 

EB: We were too poor to have holidays. Me and my mother and little sister lived in Myrre Weg Bethlehem and we had to just entertain ourselves at home. Sometimes my mother would take us to a local veld where she says a Boer War concentration camp used to be and we looked in the stones and dust for souvenirs, but that was no holiday.

 

PDU: It was 1952, I was seven and was taken to a farm outside Worcester belonging to cousins of my father, Oom Faan en Tannie Dolla. Their two glamorous daughters put me in their new Ford and raced along the gravel roads while we all sang … I even think they were early Elvis songs, strictly verboten at the farmhouse.

 

And your first trip abroad?

 

EB: In 1956 my new friend Mimi Coertse asked me to go with her to Vienna in Austria where she was to sing at the State Opera. I always thought overseas was just past Bloemfontein, but imagine my surprise when it was 12 days on a Union Castle boat and two days on a train. I didn't like Vienna, because no one spoke Afrikaans and everything you ate made you fat.

 

PDU: It was 1965. I had finished school and mother, who was born in Berlin, gave me a return ticket to Europe. She said: 'Here, go see where I came from.' And so I was in London in winter, in Germany in snow, in Paris in rain, in Amsterdam in feeble sunshine, and in Rome in excitement at finding Sophia Loren's apartment and leaving her a love letter.

 

What's the most adventurous destination you've ever been to?

 

EB: The white enclave of Orania in the Northern Cape. I left after tea.

 

PDU: I love adventures and going to places that are not on the beaten track: St Helena. Easter Island, the Ngogoro Crater in Tanzania ... the most spectacular was Antarctica. I spent a week in the icefields seeing whales, penguins and other wildlife that was totally unphased by us, the aliens in our rubber boots and layers of clothes. When I hear that the icecaps are melting, I want to cry.

 

What's your favourite international city?

 

EB: New York, New York! Every time I am there I think I'm going to meet a movie star round every corner. I spent some time in NY in the 1980s helping the SA Mission at the United Nations with their catering: koeksisters, melktert and bobotie. Feeding the enemy was the best way to fight sanctions against South Africa and it worked — some countries agreed to send embargoed things to us via Israel.

 

PDU: Berlin where my mother was born and grew up; she left in 1936 because she was Jewish. It gave her [a love of music] and she was a wonderful pianist. When I'm in Berlin, I feel at home. My German is getting better with each visit; I hope to soon do a whole show there and make fun of them in their own language.

 

What's the oddest experience you've ever had while travelling?

 

EB: I once sat next to singer Ge Korsten on a flight between Cape Town and Johannesburg and he sang the entire opera Turandot, which he was going to do in the State Theatre in Pretoria. It was like having a radio on which you couldn't switch off!

 

PDU: Many years ago, when it was still allowed, I was invited into the pilot's cabin on a flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg. The two pilots were fans of Evita; they had a movie camera and asked me to send messages to their wives — they weren't even looking where they were flying! One of them even asked if I wanted to sit in his chair and fly the plane. Please thank me, everyone who was on that flight, for saying 'no thank you'.

 

What do you hate about travelling?

 

EB: I hate travelling alone because a second opinion is always very welcome. And now that I've got used to holidays with my grandchildren, I realise how important young people are when you explore a new place. They make it all so fresh, because everything I now see at my age, I've seen before. Their first look at life is always glorious.

 

PDU: The words travelling and holidays make you think you will be able to just sit back and relax. On the contrary: travelling is a minefield of confusion and suspicion, where you have to prove who you are round every corner: undress, take off shoes, walk through x-rays that show the secrets of what's in your underwear.

 

What's your best piece of travel advice?

 

EB: A travel agent who knows what your likes and dislikes are. Yes, I know everyone does it online, but I prefer that I have someone to blame when something goes wrong.

 

PDU: Plan ahead, even for things that might go wrong so that you are not caught short — take copies of your passport, visas, that yellow-fever document.

 

What destination is on your bucket list?

 

EB: I would love to go to India, but I'm scared my tummy won't agree with me.

 

PDU: I want to see the wonderful colour flashes of the Northern Lights in the Arctic Circle.

 

• Catch Pieter-Dirk Uys and Evita Bezuidenhout in #HeTwo at the Pieter Toerien Theatre at Montecasino, Joburg, until August 18. The show then moves to the Theatre on the Bay in Cape Town from August 27 to September 15. Book at Computicket.

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