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World Cup

a travel blog by Big_T


A trip to South Africa for World Cup 2010

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Day 1... and so it begins...

Perth, Australia


If anyone hasn't done it or been here, you can get a fair idea of how big this country is by flying across it. Melbourne to Perth is the shortest route from east coast to west coast of Australia between major cities. Almost 4 hours of flying and still within the same country.

Got in my seat with an empty one next to me and an almost naked girl in the next seat. I had heard her speaking to her friends in the departure lounge and she had an accent. She had obviously come from a Northern Hemisphere summer and wasn't really aware of the climactic differences. In my head I pondered “How long will it be before she asks for a blanket?”

6 minutes was the answer. She requested a blanket to cover up her modesty, and promptly slept. As usual the food was pretty bad. After the meal, and 2 small bottles of white wine (as I had gone for the chicken), I attempted to sleep myself. I outdid myself at failing at this task. It is difficult to explain just how badly I did at sleeping on the flight, but I think it can be imagined.

As we were about to land, the young lady next to me, all covered in blankets due to her coldness, started talking to me. She had spent the previous 40 minutes applying layers of make-up (not that she needed it, she would have looked better without all that shit on her face). She started telling me that she was here to visit her boyfriend who worked in Perth and that she had been on 5 planes, San Antonio to LA, LA to Melbourne and Melbourne to Perth. I know that's 3, and you know that's 3, but she seemed to think it was 5. Oh well, who am I to disillusion the young lady? I wished her a good trip and we went on our separate ways.

There are shuttle buses from Perth Airport to the city, but there was a 20 minute wait for the next one and they don't provide door-to-door service like my friend Oli the Bosnian Cabbie does. The cab cost $15 more, but the shuttle bus driver doesn't regale you with glorious stories about fleeing war-torn Bosnia in 1992 and coming to Australia with his young wife (who, by the way, is an excellent cook and if she hadn't been, he would have told her to fuck off). So, it turns out, the old ways are still quite popular amongst the former Yugoslav republics.

Get to the hotel and the room is small but clean. The TV didn't work and when I called reception, the girl told me that I probably hadn't held the power button down long enough. After holding it until my arm went blue, I went to the counter and she saw the blueness for herself and called a maintenance guy up. There was an issue with the power cord, so he sorted that and then I turned the TV off and went for a walk. It's my first visit to Perth and the city seems nice and quiet. I had always been told that outside of Melbourne and Sydney, other Australian cities weren't quite as expensive. This rule may be true, unless the word Belgian is in the name, as this adds $5-$10 to any beer price. I enjoyed a quiet beer at the Belgian Beer Cafe (about $300), and then continued on my walk getting back to the hotel at about .

Nanna nap time! I slept for an hour and went out to get some dinner. If you do this, please read the menu... I saw Bacon Burger on the menu and assumed that it would be a burger with some bacon on it... How silly I was... There was no burger... Just 6 slices of bacon and salad on a bun... The menu did say this, but I made an assumption that no-one would want a burger like that, but it was surprisingly not bad...

Tomorrow is Fremantle, and a personal Hajj to the Little Creatures brewery... I am looking forward to it immensely.

permalink written by  Big_T on June 1, 2010 from Perth, Australia
from the travel blog: World Cup
tagged Perth

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Day 2... The Trek to Fremantle...

Perth, Australia


Woke up at 7:00 am... This jet lag is killing me... Had a shower and went down to breakfast... Standard breakfast buffet fare, rubbery poached eggs, cold sausages, toast, cereal etc. awesome... Loved it... Went back upstairs to tidy up, grab my stuff and head out...

Grabbed the sign on the door and popped it on the outside of the door and put it out so I could tidy up in peace... As I was heading out, I realised that I probably should have checked which side I had put facing outwards, and as expected, the side on the outside said “Please tidy my room”... The inside said “Privacy Please”... I might put that on the outside from now on....

Headed out and walked toward the station to get a train to Fremantle. The train was on time and clean, it wasn't overcrowded, the ticket machine worked and it was full of attractive people (myself excluded, of course), so it was the exact opposite of a Melbourne train.

Train arrived in 25 minutes and as I got out of the station I realised what kind of a place we were looking at. An attractive city with lots of old buildings (old in an Australian sense, so about 100 years), and a lot of cool restaurants and cafes. I called my brother Neil to wish him a Happy Birthday and discussed Supercoach... The sizeable Italian community in Fremantle was instantly visible too, in the names of the cafes, the sight of old Italian men sitting outside said cafes, and the abundant Italian flags in various spots around the city.

But none of this mattered to me. I was in Fremantle for mostly one reason...


And I got here... It is, in essence, my spiritual home, even though I had never been here... Let me explain... I love beer... This place makes my favourite beer on earth... Hence, it was a place I needed to visit. And visit I did. I sat down at the front in the outside, patio-type, area and ordered a beer, after drinking it, I waited for the slightly unfriendly waitress to come back and ask if I wanted another. She didn't for a little while, but she served the people on the table next to me and told them that there was a group of tables on the other side which faced the water, so I grabbed my beer glass, and my water bottle and menu and stuff and walked to those tables. “Probably got better waitresses over there too” I thought, and I couldn't have been more right...

Waitresses were pleasant, the beer was delicious and I could see the boats sailing through the harbour just as Australia II did on that day in 1983 when we won the America's Cup or some shit... I don't know, I was drinking Little Creatures Pale Ale and loving every drop... I also had one of the woodfired pizzas and it was delicious too... And then I had another couple of pints... And then I realised I had better do a bit more sightseeing...

I walked around a bit further and went to a couple more pubs and had some more beers... Saw a pair of bikies get into an argument in one and almost get into fisticuffs until they were stopped by another bikie... All-in-all, a cracking day...

I headed back to Perth and walked around endlessly looking for a restaurant in the middle of the CBD for dinner... I ended up eating at an Irish pub and had some pretty good fish and chips...

Back to the hotel for some rest and to prepare for my last day in Oz before the African adventure...

permalink written by  Big_T on June 2, 2010 from Perth, Australia
from the travel blog: World Cup
tagged Beer, Perth, LittleCreatures and Fremantle

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Day 3... More Perth...

Perth, Australia



My third day in Perth and in the glamorous establishment above, and not a great deal was achieved during daylight hours. In the evening I had plans to meet Scotty, Junko, Damo and Naoko, so a mini Japan reunion and I was excited about that. Scotty called me to discuss meeting up about 3 minutes after I woke up, so strictly speaking, I wasn't lying when I told him that he hadn't woken me up.

I had been told about King's Park and how I should go and see it. So I headed up there in the morning after the breakfast in the hotel. Rode the bus about 30 minutes and then walked for about 10 and realised that it was just a bigger version of the park near my house. Called Monty who had recommended it and he told me that it was my fault because I wasn't in touch with nature. We agreed to disagree and I headed back in to the city.

Jumped on a couple of free buses toward Northbridge where I had been told there were some places to eat lunch (as Central Perth has approximately nothing). As I was sat on the bus, I spotted Noriko (Damo's wife, the same Damo and Noriko that I had plans to meet later in the evening). I knew Perth was small, but I had no idea just how small.

After lunch, I did a little more walking around and sightseeing. Then I headed up to Leederville. This is where Scotty, Damo and their respective spouses live. Went to the pub and had a beer and something to eat and a good catch up. I also got in trouble for not telling them before I was coming to Perth, that I was coming and I could have stayed at one of their places for nothing. On the way back I have a night in Perth again, so I will be staying at Scotty and Junko's place.

After the pub, we went to a cafe and enjoyed a coffee... The cafe had a number of lanterns... How many you ask? Well, we had a little contest to guess how many there were. I said 250, Damo, 360 and the others weren't even close... As we were leaving Scotty asked the guys at the counter and was told that there were about 300... The boys have been set a task, to find out the exact number, because under 310 makes me the winner, where 311 and up would give it to Damo... I think I have it...


Back to the hotel and some kip... Tomorrow is the flight to Singapore and then on to Jo'burg, so I think I will spend most of the day getting tanked on planes and in airport bars.


permalink written by  Big_T on June 3, 2010 from Perth, Australia
from the travel blog: World Cup
tagged Park, Beer and Perth

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Day 4... The flights...

Singapore, Singapore


You'll have to forgive the lateness of these entries... Internet access in Africa ≠ Very good.

Not a great deal on today... Flew Perth to Singapore, a pleasant enough 5 hour flight and not particularly eventful. There was a transit hotel there and, as I had a 5 hour layover at the airport, I thought I would use it to at least freshen up.

I chucked some of my bags into the dank, prison-cell-like dwelling and went out to grab a light refreshment. After 30 minutes of pointless walking around, I found O'Leary's Sport's Bar and knew I was in the right spot. I ordered a beer (all A$11 of it) and sat down to enjoy it...

“Bullshit mate!” I hear from the next table and realize what has happened. Even though the airport says Singapore, I was still in Australia. The boys at the next table were mostly from QLD and NSW, and one of the lads there was from Melbourne. The northern states lads talked about some World Cup related stuff mostly, but the boy from Melbourne about 3 minutes in talked about the one thing anyone from Melbourne would be panicked about going away for so long at this time of year... Supercoach... A few words were exchanged. At the time, I only had one player that had played, and that player had scored 188... Not a bad start...

Finished my 3rd pint and realised that Singapore airport was about to make me broke if I kept it up. Chose, then, to go to the room freshen up and get ready for the 10 hour journey on to Jo'burg. And journey was an appropriate term for sure... Other terms could have been, mission, ordeal, torture, all of these would have been fitting also. Anyone that has travelled with me knows that unless I smash down a heap of sleeping pills prior to flying, I can not sleep on planes. So a 10 hour overnight flight where I should be sleeping, becomes a 10 hour war of attrition. I lost... It was awful, but at the end, I arrived in Africa.

permalink written by  Big_T on June 4, 2010 from Singapore, Singapore
from the travel blog: World Cup
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Day 5... Deepest darkest Africa...

Johannesburg, South Africa


South-Africa/Johannesburg O.R. Tambo Airport was buzzing... You could feel there was an event going on... Japanese, French, Korean, German, could all be heard clearly around the airport as the tour groups and World Cup travellers started to pour in. Got picked up by a family friend (Nicky, 10 minutes late) and the first thing I wanted to do was take a nap as I hadn't really slept for a couple of days.

Met up with some people and then had a quick 2 hour power(?) nap. Not sure if it was a power nap... I am guessing it wasn't on account of me feeling like shit for the next half-hour or so, but nevertheless, it made me feel a lot better in the long run.

After awakening and having a quick bite, I decided to immerse myself in the local culture by watching some international Rugby (Wales v. South-Africa) with my hosts and pretending to care about enormous men smashing their heads together while kissing their teammates' behinds (otherwise known as a scrum). Watching the torment on my hosts' faces as South-Africa almost snatched defeat from the jaws of victory was pretty good, though...

The evening followed and we had a traditional Braai... A braai was described by one of my in-flight magazines as “Meat grilled over burning wood coals, like barbecue, only done right”. I am not sure that it is much better than regular barbecue, but I enjoyed some good meat (including ostrich) and some good South-African wine with some good South-African people. A good night overall.


permalink written by  Big_T on June 5, 2010 from Johannesburg, South Africa
from the travel blog: World Cup
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Day 6... Kruger...Day 6... Kruger...

Hoedspruit, South Africa



Woke up this morning knowing that it was the day to head up to the game reserve. The place is called Timbavati and is not actually within the Kruger National Park, it is a private park which borders the national park, but there is no fence or wall between the two, so the animals don't know the difference.

Timbavati is known for it's White Lions, as its the only place where they have been naturally born for 30 years or so. White Lion-ness is a recessive gene like red-headedness, but unlike the red-headedness thing, it is actually prized. It is totally different from albino lions too. So, I was hoping to see some of these white lions at some point.

Arrive at Johannesburg airport at about 9:30 ready for our 10:30 flight and get to the South African Express airline counter. Two guys walked over and started to help take the bags to the scale, which was in the line area and away from the check-in counter. They started talking to and I realised they were just looking for some cash. I hadn't asked for their help and they hadn't really done anything that I couldn't do for myself, so I told them I had no money. This seemed to work, and the girl at the check-in counter confirmed my suspicions and told them to take a hike in their language.

Arrive at Hoedspruit airport and the chaperone Tommy is there for the drive to Simbavati, that's the name of the lodge. The drive was uneventful except that white rhinos, zebra, giraffes, and a stack of other animals were visible on the drive in.

Had a chat to Tommy on the way in, and spoke about the tradition in Black South African families of men taking multiple wives. Jacob Zuma, the current president for example, has three. Tommy agreed with myself that outside the obvious benefits of more nookie etc. There was little benefit in this system. I was glad there was a consensus on this.

Arrived at Simbavati... Wow! Fucking wow!

The place was expensive when it was booked, but that didn't adequately prepare me for how lush this place is... Absolute lushness...

Arrived and a lady greeted us with a smile and we were told not to carry our bags any further as someone would be sent to grab them for us. Left the bags in the middle of the dusty path knowing that they would arrive in a timely fashion without us ever handling them again. Eliane (not a typo) sat us down, we enjoyed a welcome beverage, and she explained the rules of the place, pretty standard, food was all covered in the price, but the bar was not (beers are expensive compared to South African standards too, about A$2.50 a beer) , the daily schedule of game drives, etc. Oh, and the possibility of being eaten by lions or leopards, or being crushed to death by elephant, buffalo, hippo, or rhino if one ventured out of one's room at night... The usual stuff... Everyone has to sign an indemnity form (absolving the lodge of any responsibility in the likely and expected case of one's demise at the hands of the millions of beasts in the area), and you are led to your room. And, what a room... Anyone expecting a shack and/or roughing it would be sorely mistaken here.

The beds are absolutely lovely, although they had leaves and shit all over them... It was supposed to be decorative and admittedly, the next time I saw them, they were clean again. Someone says, “have a look over here, there are some elephants!” So, I have a look, and sure enough there were some elephants in the river just behind the kitchen area. That was pretty awesome... As I stood in my room, I realized that they were waking up the river, so I spot them walking right past the window. I had been in the safari lodge for about 20 minutes at this point. Just one of those moments when you stop to think about where you are...

An hour or so after arriving, we had lunch, and went on our first game drive. The vehicles that they use are open-topped Land Rovers with seating capacity for 12 including a driver/guide (Adam) and a tracker (Daniel). A tracker sits on the very front of the vehicle and looks for animal tracks, footprints, and/or any indication that there are animals in the area.
The first game drive was supposed to have 7 guests on it, but the party of 4 that were coming the same day were unable to make it. So there were 3 of us with Adam and Daniel. While the sun was still up, it was still pretty hot, but as soon as the sun set, it became cooler... Much cooler... Unexpectedly cool...

On the drive we saw a troop of baboons coming down the road towards us, a giraffe, a couple of crocodiles, a fish hawk (which was something recommended by the friends in Johannesburg), a squirrel in a tree, as well as plenty of impala. Enough animals for anyone really. Oh, I forgot the leopard that was feasting on an impala that it had killed the previous day. Fucken sweet! Seriously, anyone who likes Nat Geo, or Animal planet, needs to get there arses to Africa to do this... After the game drive, there was dinner, where we met the party of four that should have been on the same drive (they were actually 3 young Americans, Kim, Katherine and Geoff, Grant pulled out last minute) a couple of 2 buck beers and an early night.




permalink written by  Big_T on June 6, 2010 from Hoedspruit, South Africa
from the travel blog: World Cup
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Day 7... What the f*** time do you call this???

Hoedspruit, South Africa



The morning wake up call came through loud and clear... 5:19 am... 5:19!?! I actually knew what the schedule was like, but it still doesn't soften the blow of a 5:19 am knock on the door.

The idea is you are all up for a coffee at about 6 and then go out on the morning drive at about 6:15-6:30. I am still a little jet lagged, so it was about 1:19 pm at home, so I got up a lot faster than expected and had a shower. Everyone was ready for the drive at 6:15, so all 7 of us headed out with Adam and Daniel leading the way.

I thought the evening was Antarctic... My goodness me... It was farking freezing... Brass monkeys would have struggled with this... As soon as we started moving it cooled down considerably too... Would have struggled to be any degrees at all... Maybe 3 or 4... Red noses were visible all round... But the sun was about to come out, and all was well...

More impala, kudu, waterbok, were the first things we spotted. Then we hit pay dirt, we headed out and spotted some lions... A couple of regular ones, and a few white ones. Absolutely stunning creatures. I had previously been impressed by the grace and elegance of the giraffes, but there is a presence that lions have that no other animal possesses. There were 2 lionesses and a total of 4 cubs. As I write this I struggle to come up with words to describe them. It is hard to know what to say. Just know this, I am thinking about coming back to this area just for a chance to see these mighty creatures again...

Someone looked over at the car next to ours and commented on the fancy video camera, without Adam hearing them... About 5 minutes later Adam says “I would follow them a bit closer, right now but there is a National Geographic crew filming them...” No wonder they have the fancy gear... We just thought they were a tourist showing off with their expensive equipment. The lions then went on to a private property that no-one could follow them on to...

Huge herd of buffalo, and a couple of giraffe followed, you know, all the usual stuff you see driving down the road...

During the night drive, as we had our sunset beers, there was one left, so Jeff decided to shotgun his... This resulted in him cutting his hand open and requiring urgent medical attention from Daniel and Adam, which they promptly provided once they had stopped laughing...

At dinner, Adam was set a challenge to shotgun a beer and as a brave man does, he ran away from the challenge... Showing just what South African men were capable of...



permalink written by  Big_T on June 7, 2010 from Hoedspruit, South Africa
from the travel blog: World Cup
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Day 8... Last full day at Kruger...

Hoedspruit, South Africa


The morning began with us laughing at Adam at about 6:00 am for not being able to live up to a challenge... He responded by not showing us many animals. We spent the morning looking for and finding millions of lion tracks, but no lions...

A quiet lunch, and a quick nap followed...

Evening involved driving around looking for stuff and hassling Adam for running away from a challenge... Again, it was a quiet evening for animals, but a pretty good one for sunset pictures, Braais and drinking...

This time Adam was up for the challenge and he had even brought his buddy that can drink to try and bring the young American and old Australian down... We all had plenty of drinks and plenty to eat and a great deal of fun... Shot-gunned a beer and Adam raised his hands in victory... Jeff, doubting the man's ability and integrity, picked up the can and saw it was half full... He tipped it up for all to see and the evidence was all too obvious pouring on the concrete...

“Another shotgun!” was the cry... Oh well, I am not a great sculler of beer, but why the heck not? I thought... The can's were prepared by Adam and, lo and behold, a dirty tricks campaign had begun... I started drinking mine and found out that they had spiked it with some South African spirit designed to bring a big man down... Needless to say, it was remarkably unsuccessful...

As the night wore on, I found myself the only one still up and drinking, so I made my way to bed... Another couple of victims in the bag...



permalink written by  Big_T on June 8, 2010 from Hoedspruit, South Africa
from the travel blog: World Cup
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Day 9... Morning safari, Johannesburg for dinner...

Hoedspruit, South Africa



In the morning we head out on the safari, I felt pretty good, and the boys thought they'd be smart and offer me a beer... It amazes me how people underestimate me, and expect me to get hangovers... Will the world never learn?

Adam's mate, Matt, Dave, whatever his name was, was nowhere to be seen... Another victory for the foreign contingent... We start on the drive and head towards a report of 2 male lions... As we are driving, we spot a leopard crossing the road... Sweet...

See a couple of huge male buffalo... Scary looking buggers...

So we chase it and follow it up and over rivers and rocks and shit... All very exciting... We report this find to another van and they start looking for it, but they are unsuccessful... We thought the male lions had gone, but Adam thought he would head to the area anyway and we found them...

No wonder they are called the King of the Jungle by us foreigners (coz Africans think that the elephant is the king, and they don't even live in jungles anyway)... Seeing the lions lyin' down (hehe) you are just awestruck... We stayed and got some pictures and Adam turned around and asked what time we had to leave... In about 30 minutes was the answer... A phenomenal morning where we saw 2 of the most spectacular things you are ever likely to see...

Schumacher starts flying back to the lodge in a car with about 9 passengers with no seatbelts on over bumpy and sandy 3rd world tracks at about 140 miles per second... Needless to say, it was pretty awesome, and a bit challenging trying not to get thrown out of the vehicle...

We made it back and were then told that we had a further 30 minutes until the airport transfer car came... Everyone had a leisurely breakfast while I packed and got ready to leave... The transfer came, and we headed toward the airport... Boarded the hour flight back to Johannesburg and picked up our mobile phone sim cards, our world cup tickets, and then met up with the world's most expensive transfer driver... South Africa is relatively inexpensive, beer costs $1 in a bottle shop, a pint is $2.20 in a pub... This guy charged $80 to drive us half an hour... I found this out after I had booked him for the next day to go back to the airport to head to Cape Town... Oh well, you live and learn...

Got to the cottage that we will be occupying for the next couple of weeks and the place seemed to suit our needs perfectly... Had a glass of red, watched some TV and went to bed....


permalink written by  Big_T on June 9, 2010 from Hoedspruit, South Africa
from the travel blog: World Cup
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Day 10... Cape Town first day...

Cape Town, South Africa


Woke up at about 7 to get this 10:00 flight... The driver came and we took about half of the expected time to get to the airport, so I was stuck waiting there for about 2 hours... I found a Wi-Fi hotspot, and did a little web browsing and waited for my flight...

Boarded, and the flight was uneventful... Sorry, I wish I could regale you all with stories of plane crashes, hijacking attempts, international drug dealers or some other excitement... But there was none of that...

Check in to a six-room dorm and find no-one and nothing in there... Check with the receptionist Naadia and find that there is no-one scheduled to move in for at least 3-4 days... Magic...

Walk around the vicinity for a bit... I am in an area called Zonnebloom which used to be called district 6. During the apartheid era, areas were zoned to certain groups and this area became zoned to Whites, so all the Africans and Coloureds (mixed race people, but usually of Indian or Malay descent who were descended from the slaves of those areas) that lived there were forcible removed from their homes and relocated to the townships on the outskirts of town... The old beautiful historical buildings were all knocked down and new ones were put up in their place... In 1996, 30 years after being moved out of the area, and just a few years after the abolishment of apartheid, the first black residents were welcomed back to the area... There is a museum explaining the area and I made sure it was the first thing I did... The movie “District 9” is also loosely based on this story, I am informed, but not having seen the movie, I can't make too much comment...

Back to the room to drop stuff off and I come downstairs and am introduced to a group of 4 young Aussie lads who had been staying there for the 4 days prior to me arriving there... They give me a run-down of the place and the people there and this information becomes invaluable during my stay... There is a pub (The Castle) downstairs from the backpackers place where I am staying and this becomes the local... A great group of customers, and staff and the place seems like a bit of fun...

Long Street is the main drinking location for this town, so after a few beers, I headed out there to see what was happening... I have been to NY and Tokyo, I have been to London and Rome, Bangkok and Beijing, but I have never seen a more crowded place than Long Street the night before the world cup started... The people were being turned away from bars due to overcrowding, the whole street was shut to make sure the bar overflow didn't get run over by idiot drunk drivers.

Needless to say, I wasn't going to enjoy most of these places, so I had a quiet beer at one of them and then I headed back to the hotel... Was in bed by 11... Woken at 4 by some loud lunatics coming in, turns out it was the other Aussie lads and a couple of Irish lads who also stay upstairs... Then back to a relaxing slumber...


permalink written by  Big_T on June 10, 2010 from Cape Town, South Africa
from the travel blog: World Cup
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