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Big_T


44 Blog Entries
3 Trips
59 Photos

Trips:

Big_T's Travel Blog
Chris's Wedding USA and Canada
World Cup

Shorthand link:

http://blogabond.com/Big_T




Day 25... Piss off...

Johannesburg, South Africa


I just said on day 24 that Italy was out... Piss off... Did nothing today...

permalink written by  Big_T on June 25, 2010 from Johannesburg, South Africa
from the travel blog: World Cup
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Day 24... Italy out of the cup...

Johannesburg, South Africa



Italy v Slovakia at Ellis Park was the last group game we had tickets for... Italy pretty much needed a win to qualify, or a multiple goal draw would have done the trick... Read the "Park and Ride" tickets and they said to park 4 hours before the game kicked off...

We arrived at the "Park and Ride" at 11:45 which was 4 hours and 15 minutes prior to kick off... As previous games had taught us, there is no problem arriving too early, but sometimes it can take up to 3 hours to get to a stadium... On this day, it took about 15 minutes...

So we arrived at the stadium 4 hours early like a pair of dickheads... Serves us right for doing what we were told... There were maybe 5 people there when we arrived and about 5000 security staff... I was sick and so in no mood to drink, otherwise the 4 hours could have easily been filled... Instead it was filled with nervous anticipation, boredom and quite a bit of walking around...

From about an hour before the game, the crowd started to fill up and we could get on with the business of watching Italy qualify for the knockout stage of the tournament...

We all know, now, that wasn't to be, and the Italian team served up the same shit for 75 minutes of the game... Then, in the last 15 minutes, scared of being humiliated, they decided to play... And play well they did... They scored 2 and if the referee's assistant knew his job it would have been 3, and a draw... They would have made it... But on the balance of play, they didn't deserve to go through...

The whole thing angered me also... If they were capable of playing like they did in the last 15 minutes, then why did they spend so much time serving up that awful crap... If they had played like that the whole time, they would have won each game about 3-0 and would have been feared by the rest of the teams... Instead, they were a laughing stock, and I spent a fortune coming all the way here to bring my Dad to the games...

I will have more chances to see World Cups (e.g. every 4 years), but the old man is over 60... Unless they play the World Cup in Australia (which looks increasingly unlikely with all the bribery scandals etc.) he may never get a chance to see the old country play again... His anger was directed at the disallowed goal, and it was much less than mine...

Oh well, there goes the 2010 World Cup for me... I had a TST 5 which meant that as Italy were out, I could follow the group winner, Paraguay... I decided immediately that I didn't want to go and see any more games live, but as always, I would watch every possible game on TV...

Left the stadium devastated, and get to a queue for the "Park and Ride" bus... 25 minutes later, we got on the bus... Couldn't find the car in the car park, that took about 40 minutes or so... So, overall, the getting home took an hour and a half...

Got home to watch Japan dominate Denmark and for them to show the rest of the World Cup how to kick the Jabulani properly...



permalink written by  Big_T on June 24, 2010 from Johannesburg, South Africa
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Day 23... Soweto...

Soweto, South Africa


There is no place in South Africa which is more famous in the battle against oppression and apartheid than Soweto...

It is where Mandela and Desmond Tutu lived and live respectively... Mandela was not from there (he is from a village in the cape), but he moved there and lived there with his first wife, and then with Winnie, and Winnie continued to live there while Nelson was in prison...

The only way it is recommended to go to Soweto is on an organized tour... Our tour guide Fefe picked us up at 9... We were outside waiting and ready to go... We picked up a couple of fellow tourists on the way and drove through downtown Johannesburg on the way to Soweto...

The city of Johannesburg used to be the financial capital of the country, but it is no longer really the case... Sandton, the new city built for wealthy Joburgers to avoid the crime of Jozi has now become one of the financial centres and some other companies and government departments have moved to Pretoria, but downtown Joburg is now mainly a commercial centre...

Drove through and saw some neighbourhoods that were mainly wealthy white areas which have been inhabited by black South Africans... Fefe explained the changes in the areas on the way through and then we arrived in Soweto...

The name derives from South Western Townships... It was an area where black people were moved to from country areas outside of Joburg and came in to work in town... They were like labour camps where men (and men only, wives were not allowed to stay) stayed in dormitory style accommodation. This area expanded and people were not provided with government promised housing and so they moved in to the shacks and huts so often seen on the TV today...

Not all of Soweto is like this, though... As you come in to the township of Soweto, you see some quite nice houses... There are some people in the area, e.g. Winnie Mandela, who live in wealthy houses in Soweto... But as you move through, you see the informal settlements... This means the shacks...

We were led to a guide there who took us through the settlement and then we were shown through a house by one of the residents... The settlement had been in existence since 1994 and this family of 8 had lived in the same three-room house since that time and still had no running water or electricity... This girl could not have been more than 18, so she would know no other lifestyle... We gave her a small donation as well as the tour guide, and drove on to a museum...

The museum was about a student revolt by black students who were being forced to study in Afrikaans... A language entirely unfamiliar to them, and one in which they had no interest... The students started to march and peacefully protest about the fact that they had to study some subjects in Afrikaans... The Police, obviously, started to fire on the protesters and shot and killed a 13-year-old boy named Hector Pieterson... Hector became a symbol of the oppression and violence against a group of schoolchildren by the authorities, and so the museum was named after him...

It had a pretty good rundown of Soweto and some aspects of Apartheid... It was quite emotional too as there was audio and video from the people involved in the student protest, but not too much as many of those people had since fled South Africa, including the boy who picked Hector up and carried him to his family in this picture http://cronkite.files.wordpress.com/2008/06/305px-soweto_riots1.jpg

We left the museum and went to see Nelson Mandela House... Not Nelson Mandela's House, but the house which had now become a museum to Nelson Mandela or Madiba as he is often referred to... The house was small and humble and had been refurbished to look as it had when Madiba had lived there... The street it is on (Vilakazi Street, for the record) is the only street in the world where 2 Nobel Peace Prize winners had lived... Madiba at this place, and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who still lives on the same street... It's a bit harder to go inside that house...

Once we had left there, our Soweto tour was done, we drove back toward our guesthouse, but not without briefly driving past Mandela's current house (which is right around the corner from the guesthouse)...

Certain times in your life, you reflect upon how good you and most of those you know have it... No-one said anything, but visiting some of those places, really affected all of us in different ways... How this will affect everyone in the long run is yet to be seen...



permalink written by  Big_T on June 23, 2010 from Soweto, South Africa
from the travel blog: World Cup
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Day 21 and 22... Back to Jozi and a vehicle...

Johannesburg, South Africa


The trip will now be centred around Johannesburg as the remaining games are scheduled in the Johannesburg and Pretoria areas...

Got to Joburg and rented a car... I had to wait for the folks as their flight down was scheduled to arrive 90 minutes after mine... Got to a bar and watched Portugal v North Korea...

Wow... What a bunch of bullies... Portugal wanted to show that they could beat a team of children and they did... 7-0... Teams that do that never win the World Cup... Last time I remember a team doing that was Russia winning a game 5-0 and one player scored 4... They didn't win the World Cup and neither will Portugal, mark my words...

Had a couple of beers, met up with the oldies... Rented a Chevrolet Cruze... Asked if we could rent a GPS... Were told that the cost of renting a GPS was almost the same as buying one... I told the folks I would buy it so that I could have it at home...

Now we have the care we can drive places, like to the Supermarket and shit... Drove to buy some booze... Bought more than we could have carried...

Got home to drink it and watch the late game...

Day 22 was much the same with watching games and relaxing... Not much else happened...


permalink written by  Big_T on June 22, 2010 from Johannesburg, South Africa
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Day 20... Italy v New Zealand...

Nelspruit, South Africa


Woke up at 6:15 so I could get in my cab at 7... The cab was waiting for me as I headed outside at 7 am... I had given myself a lot of time to get there as I had been told it took ages to by the train ticket (got mine in 30 seconds) and I was told that there were massive queues to get on to the trains (there was no-one there when I arrived). I was also told there might be long delays for the train to run (I had to wait about 6 minutes)... So I was at the airport too early...

Sat down and did some web browsing and see what was happening in the world... Nothing really happening there, so I tried to upload some photos to the blog...Note to self airport wireless hotspot connections are not great for uploading photos...

Finally boarded and promptly slept for the whole 45 minute flight... Woke up at the other end at Kruger-Mpumalanga airport... If anyone has been to Koh Samui airport, you can kind of imagine what the place is like... Except there is more of an African motif rather than the South East Asian vibe of Koh Samui...

Came through the doors and there was a man holding my name on a board... Felt all fancy and that... He introduced himself as Rodney and he drove me to where I would be staying that night... The drive was about 25-30 minutes and the man didn't stop for breath that whole time... It was incessant... Giving his opinions about social matters and talking about the recent group of Chilean “Ratbags” as he called them...

Got to the place, met up with the folks as they had flown up the day before, and dropped some crap off and got a lift with Rodney to the Park and Ride... At the same place there were some Italians and New Zealanders going to the same game... The New Zealanders were three young lads who had obviously made it their mission to party pretty hard... They were doing their trip in almost opposite order including going to Simbavati (the same lodge we went to)... I told them that with that party hardy attitude, Cape Town would be a perfect match for them... They only had 3 nights there and I knew that would not be enough... But they'll find that out...

Get out of the van, and there is a line longer than the number of people that the stadium holds to get on the buses... We are waiting about an hour to get on one... And it is little more than organized chaos... And I am using the term organized very loosely...

We get off the bus, walk 20 minutes to locate our gate and walk the half an hour back round the other way to get to our seats... Even though we had left with what we thought was ample time, we arrived at our seats with a couple of minutes to spare...

The game's result and goings on are known, so I won't bother... But we were, of course, less than impressed with the performance of the team... Went back to the hotel, and had a good meal...

Plenty of wine and watched the Brazil v. Ivory Coast game with a mostly knowledgeable football crowd in the common room of the hotel... Once the game was over, more wine was consumed and then bed...



permalink written by  Big_T on June 20, 2010 from Nelspruit, South Africa
from the travel blog: World Cup
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Day 18 and 19... Nothing...

Johannesburg, South Africa


Italy played their second game on the 20th, so I had a flight to [[South-Africa/Nelspruit]] on the morning of the game... I had nothing on the 18th and 19th at all, so I enjoyed the nothingness of the days...

Watched a couple of games... Had a few beers... Did some grocery shopping... Had a nanna nap... Watched another game...

On the evening of the 18th, we went out to dinner at a family friend's place, so that Dad could meet another Sicilian who had emigrated to [[South-Africa]] fom the same city as him... Dinner was nice... And most of the company were good people...

Called the cab company number that I had cleverly sought ought the night before to book my cab for 7 am the next morning... The machine said that the service was suspended for 48 hours...

“Shit!” I thought... What the fark am I supposed to do now... I was lucky enough to find another cab number and they came through for me...

Went to bed early as I had a 6 am start the next day...


permalink written by  Big_T on June 19, 2010 from Johannesburg, South Africa
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Day 17... Last Day in Cape Town...

Johannesburg, South Africa


Woke up at the crack of half past twelve again to see the only good day of weather I had seen since my first day in town... It would have been a good day for Table Mountain or Robben Island, but I had no time for that kind of thing... I was flying out that afternoon at about 5:00, so I had planned to leave at about 3, giving myself an hour to get to the airport and plenty of time to clear customs and board my flight... I had heard that there was a MyCiti Bus that left from Cape Town station that would take me to the airport for 50 Rand rather than the 160 Rand it cost me to get from the airport to the city...

Zaid wasn't there... I asked his mum, Naadia, where he was and she said he would definitely be there before I had to go at 3. After breakfast, I went to the Fan Fest again to see what I could of the Argentina game before I had to head back to start packing up my stuff and head out toward the airport...

Zaid was in the bar with his Dad when I got there, and he told me that I was late... After discussing the fact that he should have been there when I got up and he wasn't, it was decided that we were both on time and I asked him if he had the 2 Rand coin I had given him the day before... He said it was in his mummy's purse, so he grabbed a coin out and asked if it was the same one... After a careful inspection I decided it was and the Championship was played... I thought it was best of 5, as this was all I really had time for... But when I won that, Zaid said that the Champion must win 5 games... I lost the next one and then won the one after that so I won the Championship 4-3. Zaid said that we needed to play more games to decide the true champion. I explained that I had a plane to catch... I am looking forward to finishing the Championship off one day... It will happen... I promised Zaid it would...

During the game I had received a call from Lionel, and he said that he was coming in with some paintings that he had done and he wanted me to choose one... He showed me a couple of them and I asked him to choose the one that best suited giving to me... He picked the one I liked... It was a special moment, and one that I won't forget...

After I had taken it and put it in my bags, Lionel offered to walk with me to the station to get my bus... Zaid heard this and offered to come down too, so each of them carried some of my stuff... When I made a joke to Lionel about him carrying my stuff, he explained that in Zimbabwe (where he is from), someone who is leaving for good or on a long journey never has to carry their own stuff... The people from the village will carry their stuff for them... Well, I wasn't in Zimbabwe, so I carried the heaviest stuff and they carried some of the lighter things...

Got to Cape Town station and looked around for an airport bus, but I was told that there wasn't one... Went to an information counter and they told us we had to go to another information counter and they told me that the bus went from the Civic Centre... Lucky I had Lionel with me, otherwise, I never would have found it... Lionel said that the Civic Centre wasn't far, so we started walking in the direction indicated by some newly placed signs...

Walked right through the newly-renovated Cape Town Station... A very pretty spot I must say, and kept following the signs to the Civic Centre... By this time it was coming up to half past 3, and I was getting worried that if it took much longer to get to the bus stop and then the bus was scheduled half an hour later, and it got caught in traffic, I might miss my flight...

10 minutes later I reached the bus stop... Bought a ticket and the lady said the bus was leaving imminently... Said my goodbyes to Lionel who thanked me, and Zaid who said he would miss me and told me he would say goodbye to his mum and dad for me, and boarded the bus... It departed at about 3:50...

Luckily Cape Town airport is not too far from down town and there were some bus lanes for when the traffic was busy... The bus trip took about 20 minutes, so I arrived at 4:10... Checked in and the lady asked if I had anything fragile in my bags, so I told her that I had the 4 bottles of wine... She said, that I need to check that bag in separately at the oversized check in... Cape Town airport is not that big, but the walk to the oversized check in was about 3 and a half miles... Once that was done, boarded the extraordinarily uneventful flight...

Got off at Joburg, took the Gautrain... The Gautrain is a brand new high speed train that runs from the airport to Sandton (near where I was staying and a 40 minute drive away) in about 15 minutes... Then from there I planned to get a cab to the guest house... I have only been there once and don't know my way around the city, so I needed a cab driver that knew where I wanted to go...

There were no cabs anywhere to be found... I waited in the cold for about 45 minutes and I decided that something needed to be done... I saw that there was a hotel across the road and thought that there must be a taxi rank or similar at the hotel... No such luck... I asked the guy behind the desk if he could help out and the guy said that he could arrange transport... Now, in South Africa speak, a taxi was 100 Rand and arrange transport was 200 Rand... As there was no other option, I agreed and took the transport, but committed to getting a taxi number from now on so I wouldn't be stuck like that again...

Finally got home, had some dinner, and relaxed... Watched the late World Cup game and went to bed...



permalink written by  Big_T on June 17, 2010 from Johannesburg, South Africa
from the travel blog: World Cup
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Days 15 and 16... Quiet days, and busier evenings...

Cape Town, South Africa


As with every other day, I got up at 12 and had a breakfast... The Breakfast Special at The Castle is 12.50 Rand (about $1.75) and is a full breakfast... Even locals think it's cheap... It usually finishes at 11:30, but as I was staying there, so Naadia gave me some grace.

Played Zaid in a couple more pool games and grabbed my computer and did a bit of writing, as it was too cold and rainy for Table Mountain or Robben Island. The Cable car up the mountain was cancelled as were the ferries to the island on both days... I am loving this country and this city, but it's weather reminds me of Melbourne... Cold and wet winters... Summer is supposed to be quite stifling, but that doesn't bother me so much... As I was leaving Cape Town the next day, Zaid decided we had to play the Championship game... I gave him a 2 Rand coin and told him to hold on to it so we could use it to play the championship the next day...

Each of the days involved me watching some games either at the bar or at the fan fest and then making a call or getting a call to go out for some drinks... I was supposed to get a call from one of my friends to hang out on the day of the 16th, but the call never came, so I watched some games instead... It was good, I got to see the Spain Switzerland game on that day...

Each night I got home late after having a magnificent evening and woke up late again the next day... Before I went out on the 16th, we all watched the South Africa v. Uruguay game.

The feelings on the first day of elation were now cancelled out by utter the devastation felt by the whole crowd with South Africa's capitulation 3-0 at the hands of the South Americans. Some of the guys in the bar were proud of some of the efforts of the players, but a man in the airport on the 17th when I left summed up the feelings of South Africans best when he said “Bafana bafana embarrassed our country...”

Lionel, who ran the bar of an evening, said he wanted to go out for drinks with me after work one night... He didn't drink, but he wanted to hang out... That was cool, so on the night of the 16th he kicked everyone out of the bar early and we met up...

Again, had a few drinks, went to a couple of bars... Lionel had to go home as his wife was expecting him... I went to another couple of places and met some lovely people... Got home at 6 ready for my last day to pack up and go back to Joburg...



permalink written by  Big_T on June 16, 2010 from Cape Town, South Africa
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Day 14... The first game...

Cape Town, South Africa


2 weeks in to the holiday to see the old country play at the world cup and I still hadn't seen a live game... Today was the day of the game...Italy v Paraguay...

I woke up at about 12, and had breakfast... The game was being played in the evening and there were 2 earlier games than that... I wasn't all that interested in the others (and I wasn't allowed to watch the early one as a Springbok game was on)... I was here to see one team play, and that's all I was interested in. I was in the bat early as the weather was awful... No chance to climb Table Mountain today...

Zaid asked me if I wanted to play him in pool. I haven't explained Zaid yet. Zaid is a 9-year-old pool shark. Naadia that runs the backpackers and the bar at The Castle. Zaid's Dad runs The Castle's sister hotel, The Kimberley. While Zaid is on school holidays, he has nowhere else to be as both his parents are working... So he is hanging out in the pub...

I had met him on a few occasions, but when I first arrived most of his attention had been taken by the Aussie boys that were there before me. Now they were gone, it was my turn to play him in pool. Of course, the first time I was challenged I didn't want to play him... Because I had seen him play... This kid is a bit special... He plays like a 9-year-old (he doesn't line shots up as well as he should, he doesn't really consider where the ball will end up etc.) but he can hit the ball straight and he can read the table well... We played half a dozen games and I crushed him... Admittedly I got lucky a bit, but I was happy not to humiliate myself as so many before me had...

Before I left the bar, Lionel recommended I buy some sachets of booze, so I wouldn't have to buy anything at the inflated stadium prices. For a pair of plastic sachets, with one shot of whiskey, rum or tequila in each, it was ZAR7.5 (or about A$1.20). Took some rum for me and some whiskey for dad...

Watched part of the second game and then decided that I would need to head toward the stadium... Got a lift to the bus stop and then got on the Stadium Shuttle Bus from the Cape Town Civic Centre... The buzz on the bus could be felt... Everyone was excited, including me...

Arrived at the stadium stop and the short walk to the gate... Flags and vuvuzelas were going crazy... Not only the flags of the participating teams either, but flags of all the participating nations, plus plenty of South African flags... Walked up to the stadium and found the gate (as usual, the furthest one from where I entered)... Walked in and found my seat. Lower level, Row 2 seat 7... The second row from the front... Sweet...

As I sat down, the rain started falling... So I got up and bought a 500mL Coke to mix my Rum with... Tasty! As the game neared I sat down and the ran became intermittent...

Of course, as the game started, the rain got heavier and heavier... Paraguay scored and Italy were playing like shit... I decided that I wasn't going to put up with getting soaked and watching a team play like crap, so I stood up at the back under the shelters...

It was much better there, I started to dry out, Italy scored, and all was well... At the end of the game, I did the fan walk which was marked out through the streets of Cape Town... It was a pleasant and, halfway through, incredibly soaking 25 minute walk... I was supposed to meet up with people for a drink, but when I got to The Castle, SOAKED, I grabbed a couple of beers and decided not to call the people I was supposed to go out with... A quiet night and straight to bed to warm up...



permalink written by  Big_T on June 14, 2010 from Cape Town, South Africa
from the travel blog: World Cup
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Day 13... The wineries of the Cape... and disaster in Durban...

Cape Town, South Africa


Woke up at 8:00 as I had to be waiting downstairs and ready between 8:30 and 8:45. Was waiting down there and no-one came. I thought this would be a disaster and when Naadia informed me that he had gone to the wrong hotel and he was on his way, I had even less confidence. When the guide, Aubrey, arrived, and told me I was the only one on the tour, I thought “Can I get out of this now?”.

Could not have been any more wrong...

Price was the same and the tour would be unchanged, but I would get more say over what we did, so the going into old shops to look at old stuff could be bypassed, and we could head on to more wineries. Sweet!

First winery we visited was called Zevenwacht and it was in Stellenbosch (the Western Cape's most famous wine district)... There I tasted some pretty good stuff... Nothing to blow the mind or anything, but then there was a cellar tour... That was pretty cool... A big guy took us through the cellar and explained how the wine was made... He started salivating when he said the word “juice” too, which I thought was telling.

After the cellar tour, we moved on to a winery called Tokara. It is named after Tom and Kara, the owner's children. Tasted a few really special wines here, guided by a lovely young lady, but they were pricey and I didn't think I'd be able to lug them around South Africa for the next 3 weeks. So I decided (unwisely) against purchasing any.

After Tokara, there was a fair bit of driving through the lovely countryside with Aubrey explaining some bits and pieces of history and getting lost halfway through a story as he got distracted by something else. His genealogy stories became stories about South African history which morphed into a story about a particular flower as he would change mid sentence.

As always, the wine region countryside was quite magnificent and there were some lovely towns. We got to Boschendal which was where the tour stopped for lunch. This winery has claims to be the oldest in the Cape as it was established in 1685, and they have a range of wines named for this fact. First there were the tastings. 5 samples were allowed and you had to choose off a list with accompanying tasting notes. I picked the 5 that looked interesting and they arrived on a sheet of paper with 5 wine glasses and a glass of water. I chose 2 whites and 3 reds and some of them from the premium “1685” range. The “1685” Chardonnay was a gem as was the shiraz of the same range. The standard shiraz smelt of dog's arse and tasted like dog's arse juice, a point sadly neglected in the tasting notes. The Chardonnay was too good... I bought a bottle and headed to lunch.

Lunch was the only thing not covered in the cost of the tour, so I chose something to go with a white as they had the Chardonnay available by the glass in the restaurant. Lunch was delightful and then there was a chance to check out the Manor house. A lovely old home from the 17th century which had been preserved as a museum. Photography was banned here, so I only took one or two quick photos when no-one was looking... hehe...

Next was Vrede en Lust in Franschhoek. For those who don't speak Afrikaans the name means Peace and Passion as was explained to me by the extraordinarily attractive young lady that came and sat with me to explain the place and get me ready for the wine tastings. As I sat and waited, I had a brief look around and saw that even though the girl running through my wine tastings was a stunner, she was not alone in being pleasant on the eyes. She was also very knowledgeable about the wines, the estate and it's history and the whole Franschhoek region. I got to sample about 7 wines in this winery and there were a few absolute crackers. I bought a red and a white and wished I could have bought more.

Finally headed off to the last winery. A place called Fairview and was told that there was a 6 tasting limit. I asked the guy behind the counter what he would recommend to give me a good overview of the winery. He said OK, and started numbering them 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5 etc... 11 tastings later and 1 bottle bought and an idea of where I can by more, we got back in the van and went home.

Received a text to let me know that Mum and Dad had arrived as the game was on the next day. The plan, was for Dad and I and 2 others to go to the games, but the 2 others had to pull out about a month before we left...

They invited me up to their place to watch the Australia v Germany clash... I went, Australia weren't good... Tim Cahill got the worst red card I have ever seen... Got a call from one of my friends from the bar... Had a few drinks... Got home at 4...



permalink written by  Big_T on June 13, 2010 from Cape Town, South Africa
from the travel blog: World Cup
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