world cup diary- the final and road trip

Spanish fans celebrate in Durban- but as every Englishman knows, it's the taking part that counts.

Spanish fans celebrate in Durban- but as every Englishman knows, it's the taking part that counts.

With the world cup finally over it’s with a heavy heart I post the last installment of my diary. As Oleta Adams once sang “just when I thought our chance had passed, you go and save the best for last” substitute the word ‘best’ for ‘daftest/dodgiest/stupidest’ and you’ll get the jist of my final week in South Africa.
In our infinite wisdom a couple of the lads I’m here with and I decided to get out of Johannesburg and do a bit of travelling, after all it’s not much of a trip to South Africa if you’ve not experienced such basic things as the seaside or seen any mountains.
We decided we’d watch the final on the beach in Durban then drvie down to Coffee Bay, as it was recommended as being a great place to visit.

For our journey we obviously needed a vehicle and due to budget restrictions weren’t going to be troubling the chaps at Avis or any other mainstream car rental company. We went with a mob called ‘Rent -A-Wreck, who could never be sued for false advertising as the car we rented from them was to put it politely an absolute sh*tbox. It was a Ford Laser, which I’d never even heard of before to be brutally honest, and would quite happily never hear of again.

Let's take a 2750 kilometer trip in this car- okay then.

Let's take a 2750 kilometer trip in this car- okay then.

We set off on saturday morning with me being designated driver due to being the only one who’d driven in the past three years, the decision was made pretty assured when my passengers proceeded to get p*ssed before there could be any form of deliberation, or talk of swapping over driving duties.
After an eight hour drive, we arrived in Durban where we stayed in one of the nicest hotels I’ve experienced for quite a while. The journey was helped at the end by the listening to the commentary of the 3rd place play off on radio 2000. The commentator is an absolute legend, putting even the pundits on SABC to shame.
My particular favourite was “Opportunity!!!! Forlaaaaaaaaaan!!!!!!!……………Nearly scores a goal.”
After we’d dropped our bags off and had a drink in the bar with the manager a Zimbabwean called ‘Innocent’ which is easily the best name I’ve come across in South Africa, we headed for a night out in Durban.
The night was fairly innocous to be honest as we were all knackered, after our long drive so we ended up sat on our balcony looking out onto the sea, putting the world to rights by about 2am.
The next day was obviously the final, which seemed almost unreal. After being here for nealry six weeks and experiencing the world cup first-hand it felt strange that in a few hours it would be all over.
After a disastrous walk up the beach, which ended up with the three of us turning round after two hours of trekking and walking almost all the way back as the tide was coming in and we were in danger of drowning, we managed to cadge a lift of some random bloke and his mates who took pity on us.

We got to the fan park in Durban about an hour before kick-off, and after chatting to some lads from England who’d booked their time out here for the latter stages months ago under the illusion that England would be involved, we made our way to the big screen. Unfortunately the fan park was full, but there was an overspill one about 2 minutes away so went headed there.

After some drama in the beer tent, where after a half hour of queueing the police turned up told the bar tenders to stop serving and close the bar, before changing their mind after ten minutes of near-rioting we went and found a spot to watch the final. We were situated nicely in front of the massive screen about 20 metres away and all happy with our decision to come and watch the final on the beach.
About twenty minutes into the game, I experienced one of the stangest moments of my trip when a woman came on the microphone and asked everyone to sit down, as I turned to my mates who were stood behind me, and laughed at her naivety, I couldn’t believe it when I turned back to face the screen and saw that everyone had complied with her ridiculous request.
After some debating between the three of us as whether to attempt to lead a mutiny and simply stand, we basically bottled it and sat down.
For the second half we stood nearer the back and after Spain eventually won were treated to a firework display and lots of Spanish singing and dancing.

I decided to get an early night as I knew I had a monster drive ahead of me the next day, so I left the lads to it and went back to the hotel.

The next morning we set off for Coffee Bay, in what turned out to be one of the worst, most harrowing driving experiences of my entire life. Driving along the Transkei part of South Africa in the daytime is difficult enough, with lots of winding roads, cliff edges, looney taxi drivers and random goats walking across the road, doing the journey once night fell was nearly impossible. I nearly killed us all at one point by trying to overtake a truck before realising we were on a bend- there are next to no lights anywhere- and another truck was coming towards us. Fortunately we all survived- just about- but that wasn’t the end of our misadventure. Due to a combination of a p*ssed up navigator and no real road signs, when we finally came to a place called Butterworth, we found out we’d missed our turn to Coffee Bay….by about 100 Kilometres!
The idea of turning back through the dodgy darkened winding roads and looking for the turning we’d already missed appealed to me about as much as a Manchester City museum tour, so we decided to formulate a plan B. Simon, my trusty navigator, had a coast to coast book, which showed we were only about 30 kilometres from a backpackers retreat called Buccanneers in a place called Chintsa.

Without any real discussion we headed there, and thankfully made it, in one piece, despite another incindent involving a sharp turn, where I almost went one better than the truck overtaking fiasco.
After all the trauma of the journey it turned out to be worth it, as the next day was one of the best I’ve had out here.

Chintsa- just like Urmston really

Chintsa- just like Urmston really

We met a few Americans there and after giving them a football, sorry soccer, lesson on the beach I then did the same back at the bar over a game of killer pool, where I finished the winner with three lives intact, take that you yankee b*stards, that’ll teach you to finish top of our group. I also managed to bump into a couple from Sale, which was mad considering we were in deepest South Africa- mind you, there’s no escaping people from Sale.

The journey home was much, much easier, apart from needing a jump start due to a flat battery, mainly because Simon decided he’d actually drive most of the way- no doubt his near-death experiences with me behind the wheel had convinced him.
We arrived back in Johannesburg around 9pm that night, after around 30 hours of driving, grateful to be alive- literally, yet sad that our World Cup journey was at an end.
Thanks to everyone in South Africa for making it such a wonderful time. “Mint.”

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