scott stanton
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Sun Coast Casino, Durban South Africa

Day 22 – Back home to the land of the free?

We all had varying theories on how to best avoid jetlag on the trip back, mine being that you slept as much as possible on the first flight, being about a five hour flight from Johannesburg to Ghana, another two hour nap or so on the flight from Ghana to New York and then stay awake from New York to Portland. Marcos insisted on staying awake the entire Johannesburg to Ghana flight and doing all of his sleeping on the Ghana to New York flight, which would be immediately adjusting to Pacific Standard time. All I knew is no matter what his plan was he was probably going to be sleeping for the majority of every flight, regardless. And waiting to sleep until the Ghana to New York flight meant going nearly thirty hours with no sleep. Either way, I stuck to my plan and spent most of my first flight catching some z’s.

Once we arrived in Ghana we had to wait on the back nine of the runway for a bus to come pick us up and shuttle us to the terminal; we were way to far to walk the distance and even if anyone was up for it we were in the midst of a proper rainfall. Once we reached the terminal we had a few different airport officials helping us do what we needed to get done, the only problem was they were all telling us different things. The first guy had us fill out a customs and immigration slip, even though we were only in transit. The next guy told us we didn’t need to fill that out we needed to sign our info in this big notebook they had just sitting on a table. My first thought was, ‘what kind of information on you putting in this book for anyone to see?’ Their system was pretty old school, like 1940’s old school, and lacked any worries of identity theft, which I found both interesting and a cause for concern. Once through customs we gathered our bags and followed the guy who helped us through customs as he was leading us towards our gate we needed in order to transfer to New York, this involved leaving the terminal we arrived in, walking outside around the corner of the building, up a large flight of stairs and in to the departures terminal. The whole time we’re in the midst of a deluge and the roof’s leaking all over the airport, granted it was about 75 degrees with 300% humidity.

Once outside, the airport official helping us started screaming at a swarm of “We love Americans” locals who just wanted to help us with our luggage, get us umbrellas, and show us where we were going, for a small tip of course, to get back and leave us alone. They did so until the official went back inside and then they were on us like white on rice. We refused to let them help us, they did anyway, perhaps the most interesting being the guy trying to push our luggage cart while Micah positioned himself so the guy couldn’t push it and insisted he had it and didn’t need any help the entire way to the terminal, but the guy would awkwardly position himself to get a hand on the handle anyway. They were surprised when we all refused to pay them, there were about six other Americans in our group transferring to the same flight as us as well.

Once inside the departures terminal we had five hours to figure out what was going on and get ourselves through customs, so we were in no real hurry. There was a large line of people, whom we assumed were not Americans and not on the same flight as us, so we grabbed a seat and started to relax. After about fifteen minutes or so we realized that entire line was one large group of Americans, some sort of African drum band or something. We jumped up, and shadowed their every move, never mind that this was a female African drum band. Their check in process involved a guy standing by a scale who would weigh everyone’s bag as they walked by him. Our large shared bag that we’d brought solely for bringing home souvenirs and things purchased along the trip was too heavy for four kg, so he told us to take our 4kg and disperse it across the other four bags. Having absolutely no reference for how much 4 kg was we just started taking the heaviest things out and putting them in other bags. Second time through his line was a charm.

The next step of the process was talking to the Delta front desk concierge, and by front desk concierge I mean person at a podium with no computer. They asked a few questions, mainly where are we coming from, where we were going and what the purpose of our trip was. Considering the U.S. was knocked out of the World Cup by Ghana, the country we were now in and the last African nation still in the tournament, I decided to try two methods on getting past these security officials. The first, and one I used on the concierge after she inquired who I was supporting in the World Cup, was simply answering “Ghana, The Black Star’s. Show dem Ghana, show dem!” Breezed right past her. Next line of security was bag checkers. No x-ray machines or fancy bag scanning equipment, remember I said this place was straight out of 1940, just two people that would open all your bags and rifle through them. Not only did this feel slightly uncomfortable, as you’re standing in this massive line of people while some stranger investigates your dirty underwear, but it was also frustrating for me because I consider myself a world class suitcase packer. I knew there was no way this guy was going to rebuild my suitcase the way I had it. I’d added four bottles of wine to my suitcase without taking any of my clothes out, and only did I have the smallest suitcase out of the four of us, I also had the biggest wardrobe. As he finished his search I watched him continually fumble with putting it back together, he couldn’t even fit the wine back in properly regardless of there being clothes around it or not. I offered to fix it for him, as there was still a massive line of people behind me waiting to have their bags searched, but he’d already inspected it and I was no longer allowed to touch it. He got it somewhat close, asked me if it was good, I realized he wasn’t going to be able to do any better and told him it was fine, all the while hoping when I reclaimed it in New York it wouldn’t be dripping wine out the hinges. This is also where I tried my hand at the second method of security distraction, demand pity. Not sure how much alcohol I could legally bring back to the states and thinking four bottles was quite a bit, I demanded he had to be nice to me in a show of gratitude for his country knocking mine out of the tournament. Never mind the fact that I was decorated head to toe in Holland gear, and this was the day the mighty Clockwork Orange were to knock the most feared, number one team in the world, Brazil, out of the tournament.

After baggage check we made our way to the gate, which involved three more security checkpoints. Two put-your-carry-on-through-the-scanner-machine-take-your-shoes-off-and-walk-through-the-x-ray-machine checkpoints and one simple check to make sure your carry on met the size requirements. Carlos admitted he hated Ghana because of the such high security standards, having to take his broken toe boot off and completely apart in order to pass security. He seemed surprised when I said it had nothing to do with Ghana and security was so tight because we were going back to the states on this flight, but insisted it was Ghana’s fault and they sucked. Bitterness from The Yanks being knocked out of the Cup by them I’m sure.

The flight from Ghana to New York seemed to be never ending. But it also wasn’t full and people were able to switch seats and relocate to wherever they pleased. Carlos insisted he’d bought the seat between us for his sticks, to which I claimed it was the best $2,000 he’d ever spent. Only to have to stewardess come by moments later and tell them he couldn’t keep them there, then whisked them away to the front of the plane. Though I didn’t particularly want to leave South Africa, once we touched back down on American soil at JFK and I was able to take my cell phone off airplane mode for the first time in a month, it was a pretty good feeling. Having all that power back at my fingertips, feeling smart again knowing whenever I was asked a question I didn’t know I could quickly google the answer on my phone, quite exhilarating.

There was a traffic jam on the runway, which saw us getting to our gate about forty-five minutes late, which ate in to our time to get off the plane, make it through customs and board our final flight home, a time frame that was already pushing it with our two and a half hour layover, now chiseled down to just under two hours. Everything seemed to be flowing smoothly and quickly. From past experiences of traveling outside of the country it always seemed that returning back to the states was the most difficult. Getting in to foreign countries was a breeze, the most security and questions were thrown at you once you tried to return home to the states. That wasn’t the case this time and immigration went more like I’d always asked why it couldn’t be like that. I walked up to the immigration officer, he took one look at me, one look at my passport, asked “You go to the World Cup?”

“Yep.” I confirmed.

“Bummer about losing to Ghana…then having to fly through there,” *stamp! “Welcome home.”

The real adventure started after baggage claim. The unfortunate thing was having to reclaim our baggage at every stop and not being able to just check it all the way through to Portland. We switched airlines in Ghana and had to reclaim it there, then had to pick it up so we could take it through customs in New York. Carlos had finagled himself a wheelchair transport from a Delta employee, which was nice as we now had about an hour to make it through customs baggage check, security and make it to our gate and she could get us through secret doors and the front of security lines. She said we’d be fine to catch our flight as long as we got our bags within fifteen minutes, it took closer to twenty but she still insisted we looked to be in good shape. Somewhere between the baggage carousel and the customs baggage checkpoint Marcos managed to lose his customs paperwork. Being the last of the four of us through, he was now stuck and in the gray area of the country, similar to international waters I suppose. He wasn’t one hundred percent back in to the U.S. yet and we couldn’t go back for him since we’d already cleared customs. We tossed our bags in the baggage room, thinking there’d be no way that their convoluted system would work efficiently enough for us to see our bags roll off the carousel in Portland, and waited for Marcos to figure things out. The lady pushing Carlos around grew increasingly stressed and impatient, telling us we were going to miss our flight. We tried to figure out what the best solution was going to be, not wanting to leave Marcos all alone but also not wanting miss our flight. The first option was for Carlos and I to go ahead while Micah waited for Marcos. The Delta lady insisted there’d be no way they’d make it to the flight on time because going with her was going to get us there quicker. Micah then came up with the most logical idea, being the Ortiz boys were getting picked up by their parents and Micah and I by my parents, it made the most sense that we went on and he waited. Then, once we got to the plane, we’d be able to stall and at least inform them the other two were only a short ways behind us. Carlos immediately shot down that idea and said he didn’t want to have to spend any more time in the airport. With the outcome quickly becoming all of us ending up at the airport overnight, and all wanting to go home rather than have our trip extended another day, I made the executive decision that Carlos and I were going to move on so we could at least inform the flight crew the others would be along shortly. Off we went, cutting lines, taking down velvet ropes and going in to uncharted hallways. Just as we’d made it through the security checkpoint and I’d just finished tying my shoes we saw Marcos and Micah run by, just arriving at the security checkpoint. The line for security looked to be about a thirty minute wait so I looked at the Delta lady to see if she could get them to the front of the line, but before I could even ask she said there was nothing she could do. Knowing Marcos had cleared customs and they were now to security was a bit of a relief though. Carlos, being powered in his wheelchair by the Delta lady, and I took off double-timing it to our gate with only five minutes or so left until the plane was scheduled to depart. Not more than a few minutes later Micah and Marcos caught up to us, winded and sweating but back with us. The terminal was completely empty and everyone seemed to be seated and waiting for us once we got on the plane. However the most important thing being we made it on the plane.

We blasted off, had a nice aerial view of New York city, and were quickly flying at a rate of 480 miles per hour, give or take about twenty. Rumor had it the flight was equipped with wifi so I reached for my laptop as soon as they told me in doing so we weren’t all going to go in to a fiery tailspin and plummet 36,800 feet to the ground. It didn’t take me long to remember we were back in the states though and the wifi wasn’t free. I opted for a movie, which also wasn’t free. All the same movies that had been free on every other flight of this trip were all of a sudden six dollars to watch. I decided to scratch the movie idea and feed my newly found bejeweled addiction, which ended up costing five dollars if you wanted to play, a game which was also free on every other flight. It only seems fitting that the baggage carts you could rent for five dollars at JFK were free at every other airport we’d been to as well. Every flight we’d taken prior to this one we were also served two full meals, two or three snacks, and there was always a self-serve snack pile in the back of the plane. After being asked what I’d like to drink and if I’d like to order something off the menu or would possible like a little snack I remembered that even if it was a six hour coast-to-coast flight I was still going to have to pay for food if I wanted it. The cheapest thing on the menu was a bag of chips for five dollars. So much for being the “land of the free.”

Our pilot then came on and admitted to having a lead foot, claiming he’d have us to Portland an hour ahead of schedule, then followed through on his promise. So, at 9:36 p.m. on July 2nd, 2010 I stepped out of the plane and sent foot back on Portland soil, or airport carpet as the case may be. At 10:36 I filed a lost baggage claim with Delta, along with Micah and Carlos who had also checked their bags the same way as me. Marcos, who checked his at the security checkpoint once he’d realized he couldn’t carry it on due to the beers he was smuggling back for me, checked his at the security check point. His made it, none of ours did. At 10:56 I was seated at McMenamins Tavern and Pool Hall on NW 23rd. 11:00 p.m. I was drinking a hammerhead with a spicy chicken burrito on its way. I had to give Micah a hard time for ordering a burger after we’d spent the last three weeks eating burgers and using our expert senses, intellect and exploring skills which would put the likes of Lewis and Clark and Christopher Columbus to shame, in search of Mexican food. The only place I’d found Mexican was at Spurs, a Denny’s-like restaurant chain, at Suncoast Casino in Durban. I ordered the only Mexican dish they had on the menu, which was fajitas, my least favorite of all Mexican dishes. Surprisingly though they were the best fajitas I’d ever had. A burrito is what I’d been craving though. At 5:45 p.m. July 3rd everyone’s bag was delivered to them except for mine. At 9:36 p.m. July 3rd, 24 hours after I landed, my baggage claim code still told me they hadn’t located my bag so I called Delta. The lady told me it had just landed in Portland and would be delivered sometime the following afternoon. At 2:04 a.m. on July 4th my vacation was officially over when Russel, from Delta airlines, snuck through the dark of our driveway, crept up on the deck and left my bag outside our front door. Then called me and left me a voicemail to tell me he’d just done so.

It’s been fun, South Africa. I can’t wait to come back and visit you again soon. I have to admit, there's nothing quite like sleeping in my own bed though and no matter how good crocodile and impala meat may be, I sure missed the delicious home cooked meals my roommate makes. This whole backwards system of driving on the left side of the car and right side of the road is mighty weird though, it's taking me some time adjusting to this oddball way of driving.

Not sure what to do now besides countdown the days until my next big trip, Austin, Texas in eighteen days to visit my cousin and watch Manchester United play the MLS All-Star team. I had a lot of fun writing and taking pictures about this trip and imagine I will do the same for Texas. So, for those of you who enjoy reading about my travels, stay tune for the next episode scheduled to start on July 22nd. And perhaps if I get enough emails, texts, and phone calls from you all asking to keep writing maybe I’ll post snippets of other things I’m working on between now and then.

Added a few pics to the random album, including the plane we flew home on and Marcos encountering a Sounders fan after 30 sleepless hours.

Day 21 - Last Day In South Africa, Land of the Carnivore

Our flight home didn’t depart until 11:30 p.m., which gave us a full day to take care of any last minute things we wanted to take care of before we left. Most of us were just looking to ditch the last little but of our rand and find some last minute gifts for friends and family. Micah wanted to go to a market to find some more traditional type gifts and Heather had recommended one for us to go to. What an experience that was, these guys made used car salesmen look like amateurs. It was pretty annoying for those of us who didn’t want to buy anything and were just looking around. Immediately as we walked in there were guys all over us heckling us, trying to take us to their booth, “Come, my cousin, come. You must look at what I have for you. I give you good price.”

There was certainly some interesting stuff there, wood carvings, stone sculptures, hand made jewelry, and pretty much anything else you can think of. Yes, they even had a shop of lingerie. And I’m pretty sure it was all used, at that. Back in Cape Town the Ortiz boys had found soccer jerseys for a South African soccer team that they wanted, the Kaiser Chiefs. Which happens to be a band they like that was named after the soccer team. The jerseys were cool and I thought that would be a cool thing to bring back as a souvenir, a team that you wouldn’t be able to find in the states. I’d gotten online that night and did some research and found the Orlando Pirates had the coolest looking jerseys, in my opinion. And wouldn’t you know it, I found a “Just Do It” shop selling one. I sent expert negotiator Micah in to do the dirty work for me and he talked the guy down from 450 rand to 300. He made me proud. As we left we had to walk by the same high pressure salesmen that we passed on the way in, only this time they upped the ante and didn’t want my money nearly as much as they wanted my black and orange Nike New York City Marathon lunarglide shoes. Had I wanted anything, or even had another pair of shoes in the car I could have changed in to, I would have given them up. It was quite entertaining to see how badly all those guys wanted them. Micah gave up his dirty old running shoes for an armful of loot.

After the market we hit up the one main thing I had left on my checklist, Carnivore. For those of you who haven’t been privileged enough to experience Carnivore all I should really have to say about is that it’s a restaurant, I’ll let you fill in the blanks as to what’s on the menu. It’s not just your typical steak house, however. Carnivore serves the finer meats, those that only true carnivorous connoisseurs could enjoy. Their meats range from beef, chicken and pork to such luxury meats as crocodile, kudu, zebra and impala. Like Nicks In The Sticks, there is no menu here. You simply walk in, get seated, order a drink, then a bowl of soup, loaf of bread and salad appear in front of you. Not exactly what I was expecting, but the numerous waiters walking around with miniature machetes and spits with huge carcasses cooked to perfection kept my hopes up. After I convinced the clean up crew that I was in no way an herbivore the mayhem began. A hot steal plate was set down in front of me and I was immediately mobbed by the wandering spitters (I’m not sure if that’s the technical term for the guys carrying the huge spits of meat, but we’ll roll with it.) The following conversation took place in the span of about 30 seconds, and keep in mind they just walk to your table with this massive chunk of wild African bush life on a spit in one hand while wielding a machete that would make Crocodile Dundee exclaim, “Oye! This isn’t a knoif, that’s a knoif!”

Waiter 1: “Would you like some beef?”

Me: “Yep.”

Waiter 2: “Would you like some chicken?”

Me: “Yes please.”

Waiter 3: “Would you like some pork?”

Me: “Don’t mind if I do.”

And so on up until about eight or so waiters had sliced slabs of the majority of the animals I’d taken so many pictures of at Kruger Park on to my plate. The mountain of meat in front of me would have brought a Viking to tears. Happy tears, of course. A conversation quickly started of what not just a disgustingly huge pile of juicy meat was going to do to our digestive systems, but what impala, crocodile, kudu, zebra and similar animals of uncharted territories was going to do to us. After all, we were boarding a flight in eight hours and going to be spending the majority of the following thirty hours in the air. Clearly a fine dining establishment like Carnivore is meant for real men, and real men don’t fear the unknown. I wasted no time going to work on the pile of heart attack in front of me.

When all was said and done I think bacon has moved to number three on my list of favorite meats and I now know why crocs are so aggressive and tough skinned, because they’re delicious. Needless to say, crocodile now tops my list and impala is the first loser. Crocodile is a bit of a work to get to the meat, but once you do it is absolutely worth it. Most people were describing it as being like chicken, but that’s what most people say about any white meat that’s not chicken. I thought it was going to be like chewing on a leather boot but was surprised that it was about as tender as chicken, though it’s texture closer resembled that of fish in it’s somewhat flakey consistency. The impala was so tender it was like eating warm butter; that was meat flavored, juicy and cooked medium rare. Zebra was quite similar to just a regular steak, though I couldn’t get the picture of the zebra standing right outside our car window out of my head while I enjoyed every last bite of it. The kudu we had was in sausage form, which I enjoyed the taste of though it was like chewing on a leather boot. Other than that, their regular pork, beef and chicken offerings were nothing shy of being cooked to five star, two thumbs up, perfection.

The waiters were a riot as well. As soon as we sat down one of the waiters started telling me how much he liked Arsenal, as I was wearing my Arsenal jersey. In no time flat we swapping jerseys, my Arsenal jersey from last season for a brand new Bafana Bafana jersey. Good deal, at least I thought. It wasn’t much longer before Micah and Marcos were buying the jerseys off other waiters’ backs. Robert and I were buddies after we swapped shirts though, he kept coming by wanting to take pictures, insisting I hold the spit of carcass and knights sword. He also wouldn’t let us leave without having our picture taken by their cooks and cooking area. Definitely a fun experience, not just eating exotic animals, which is always fun, but the whole atmosphere of the restaurant as well.

With bellies full of braii (Afrikaan word for BBQ) we headed back for Heather’s to see if all of the treasures we’d collected along our journey would fit back in to the assorted luggage we’d brought. With a little elbow grease and creativity we got it all sorted out and said our goodbyes to Heather, along with gifting her the GPS system we’d just spent the last three weeks testing to make sure it was of a high enough quality for her. I also had to promise I’d send her a copy of my first book, signed at that. She even got my email address I think so she could send me constant reminders asking how it was coming along. I guess I’ll have to get serious about that once I get back home.

We dumped the bags at the departures curb with Los and Cos to stand guard over them while Micah and I went to see about returning our car. Some confusing signage put us on an onramp for the freeway back to Johannesburg rather than the onramp fifty feet later that went to the car rental return garage. A small gap in barricades, no visible traffic, and a burning desire to one more utterly stupid and ridiculous bit of driving before we returned the war wagon had me flying from the far right lane of one onramp, across six lanes and two other on/possibly off ramps, complete with various assortments of barricades, to get in the far left lane and catch the exit just as the road split, and all at speed – of course. That split second decision, that most likely had Micah’s life flashing before his eyes, prompted the question as to how big the stack of tickets was going to be once we handed the keys over. No tickets, no hassle, with the exception of filling out a little paperwork for the flat tire we woke up to this morning. Which thankfully happened on our last day of the trip, apposed to any other day. And happened overnight, so we were able to swap the wheels out in Heather’s driveway apposed to a section of road clearly labeled with “DANGER: Car Hijacking Zone Next ___ KM,” as we’d seen along the trip.

With the car returned we made it to the gate by the skin of our teeth, with only about three and a half hours to spare. Naturally, once the desk opened and the line started moving we came across all kinds of problems getting our boarding passes. The flight was through Delta, but the first flight out was with Air Naimbia and there was some sort of hold on our account. Of course this was all taking place around 9 p.m. or so and there was no one left at Delta. After lots of running around, phone calls, chasing people around, standing, waiting, and guys with fancy swipe badges that can get you whatever you need, we were on our way.

A few more pics added to the random trip album.

Day 20 – The End of the Road Trip

We took our time leaving Durban this morning, our only engagement today was dinner with Trevor’s mom (the lady kind enough to let us stay with her) and we were only looking at a five-hour drive. Just as we were loading the car a guest had shown up to enquire about a room, so Gideon (the proprietor) brought him down to our part of the house to show him around. Nothing was mentioned about the twenty empty beer bottles laying next to the garbage, empty bottle of vodka on the counter, and empty pizza and cereal boxes scattered about, but it sounded like the inquiring guest was impressed enough to book the basement and stay. We should have got a discount for our interior decorating work.

The drive back to Johannesburg went off with out a hitch; at least I hope it did. We’ve logged nearly 10,000 kilometers and passed countless signs warning us of speed limits and photo radar, but I can only think of two or three times I’ve actually seen a camera. Today’s drive the freeway was littered with cameras and of course they’d be in the worst spots. For example, the speed limit was 120, at the bottom of a long steep hill that coasting down would have you doing 140 the speed limit would drop to 100 right at the bottom and there would be a camera immediately after that. Oh well, I’m fleeing the country in less than 48 hours any way. If I got a ticket I’d be more than happy to come back for court, as long as they covered the expenses.

Heather was excited to have us back and made us a delicious chicken and rice dinner, with peas and squash and a traditional Afrikaan dessert. All of it was quite delicious. Granted it was the first home cooked meal we’d had in a month, with the exception of a spaghetti dinner after our first night in the Kruger, I think on any given night it would have tantalized the most spoiled of taste buds. She was eager to hear all of our stories and thrilled to see the slideshow I had prepared. It was fun reliving all the moments as a group and having everyone be able to throw in their little stories and perspectives on things. She seemed most excited to hear our stories of Kruger and I think the elephant charging us was really the biggest story of this trip.

It’s hard to believe this is the last night that I’ll be sleeping in South Africa, at least on this trip. It seems like the time has flown by so fast. Technically it’s not my last day here, or even night, considering we don’t fly out until 11:30 tomorrow night. But we’ve had great times over these last three weeks, met some amazing people, learned more than the internet would have ever been able to teach us, and indulged ourselves in some truly amazing experiences. Heather couldn’t stress enough at how lucky we were to see all of the animals that we did, let alone how close they were, while at Kruger Park and how lucky we were to get such nice weather while in Cape Town. Oh yeah, and I think we went to some pretty sweet soccer games somewhere along the line as well.

This blog and my pictures don’t do this country justice. Between the people, the landscapes, the animals, and just the energy and atmosphere that surround you, it is truly a place you have to experience first hand. I hope to be back here some day. Who knows, maybe I’ll score a book deal and can buy a house on the coast just outside of Cape Town to help keep me motivated and keep the creative juices flowing.

Day 19 – We’ve Got to Finish All That Alcohol

Nothing was on the cards for today, so we all slept in and took our time getting up and at ‘em this morning. The Dutch fans were obnoxiously loud yesterday morning starting around 6 or 7 a.m., telling jokes and then stomping their feet on the floor directly above my head, while boisterously laughing, but they didn’t do that this morning. We’d considered being equally as obnoxious when we got home last night, chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A! And banging on the ceiling, but we’ve got more class than that, so we didn’t. Nevertheless, it was nice being able to sleep in a bit today.

We went to The Pavillion, which is a massive shopping mall by our place. Everyone was looking for souvenirs to bring back for friends, family, and coworkers so we thought we’d try our hands there. After an hour or so spent in the mall we decided to start migrating homewards to watch the games for the day, most notably the night game between Spain and Portugal.

We’d discussed dinner plans and came to the realization we’d accumulated a fair bit of food and alcohol throughout the trip and that we should probably finish that off tonight, considering we’re flying home in a few days. We enjoyed the view from our back patio that overlooks the Indian Ocean, just caught the sunset, watched the stars come out, and then, strangely, watched the moon rise a couple hours later. Carlos spent most of this time inside finishing his book, as well as the remaining vodka. By the time he came out to join us he was all smiles, as were we watching him try to maneuver around the flat but crutching straight in to things like the TV stand and cupboards. To which he’d then pause, slowly look at us, smile, and reset his coordinates around the impeding object.

Once Carlos joined us outside he asked us what time we were leaving, a question Marcos had asked me earlier and a discussion Micah and I had prior to Marcos inquiring. We’re going back to Johannesburg tomorrow and staying with Mrs. Davies again, our friends mom who was nice enough to put us up at her house when we first arrived. It’s only a five hour drive and she invited us over for supper, so really we don’t have to be out of here until noonish if we don’t want to. When Marcos asked Micah started explaining things before I quickly jumped in and answered, “Just be ready to go around 6 a.m.” Sober minded Marcos saw through me like a Jedi and asked what time we were really leaving. When Carlos asked Micah gave him the same spiel about distances and dinner engagements and capped it off with a 6 a.m. departure. Shortly there after we migrated back inside to watch Spain vs Portugal and enjoy the last World Cup game we were going to watch in South Africa. After the game Sticks started crutch-stumbling around the house again before heading for the shower, towel and toiletries in tow. No one thought anything of it until I announced, “You know what’s funny, I’m pretty sure Carlos just went to take a shower because he really thinks we’re leaving at 6 a.m.” Upon returning from his shower he confirmed, “That was exactly why I was taking a shower.” We all got a good laugh out of it, at Carlos’ expense, of course.

It was a relaxing last night here in Durban and I’m glad we were finally able to spend some at our house. It has such an amazing view and I was hoping we’d be able to enjoy it rather than wake up to it and rush out the door every morning. Johannesburg tomorrow, sky the next day, home the following.

Day 18 – Our Last Game, All You Can Eat Buffet, and Reunion With Roses

After seeing how close the casino parking lot was to the stadium last night, Sticks (Carlos) insisted we park there for the game today. We battled through traffic for over two and a half hours being turned down at just about every final turn to the stadium until we reached the last one. Once we made the second to last turn it took us an hour to move about three blocks. Then once we got close enough to the front of the line where four different roads were merging in to one Micah told me to take the freeway onramp, the turn I was supposed to make was the frontage road that came immediately after the freeway onramp. So, having wasted two and a half hours through gridlock traffic, spiking my stress levels and abolishing the fuse to my temper, we headed for the Park and Ride station back by our house.

Arjen Robben finally got a start, after playing the role of super-sub last game, and he certainly did not disappoint. Every time he touched the ball something amazing happened, and that’s not an exaggeration. He’d either score, hit the post, or force an amazing save from the keeper. Other than that the Dutch still look as though they’re on cruise control and only doing what they have to in order to advance. We got about a ten-minute glimpse of what they’re capable of last game when Samuel Eto’o equalized off the penalty kick. But even for the first game in the knock out rounds they seem to just be screwing around and going through the motions. Their next game will be nothing shy of amazing though as they’re now set to play Brazil, unfortunately we’ll be somewhere over the Atlantic when that game takes place.

After the game we made our way to the casino to find some dinner and then watch the Brazil vs Chile game. Apparently we weren’t the only ones with this idea as there were thousands of people pouring in to the casino and lines were rapidly growing. Ironically the restaurant with the shortest line was the one with the longest line the day before at an all you can eat buffet and grill. Not only was it the shortest line they had dropped the price 25 rand as well, so it was now all you could eat for 100 rand (roughly $13 and what you’d pay for a regular meal anywhere else.) We got in and it had been at least twelve hours since I’d had breakfast so I wasted no time on catching up on food not eaten in that time span. Four plates of entrees and two plates of apple cobbler later we waddled out of there in search of a comfortable place to catch the game.

Brazil went off and eviscerated Chile 3-0, a rather impressive blow out. We went in search of a cab after the game, but the glowing and flashing slot machine lights were too inviting for Micah and Carlos, so they headed in to the gambling area. Marcos and I followed but they wouldn’t let Marcos in with the doughnuts he’d just purchased to feed his newly renewed obsession with doughy goodness. Micah had said he only wanted to gamble ten rand (just over $1 American) so, thinking they wouldn’t be long, I told Cos I’d hang with him out in the main corridor. An hour later I went in to investigate what was taking them so long. It was the text book Micah ran out of money but Carlos was still playing, so Micah put in more money. Then Carlos ran out of money but Micah was still playing, so he put in more money and the process kept repeating itself. About an hour and a half later, and now pushing 1 a.m. they emerged; Carlos with 450 rand more than he went in with and Micah with a fist full of gamblers anonymous brochures.

We caught a cab back to the shuttle transfer station and the cabby asked us how we were doing. Carlos was quick to boast about his cheerful mood due to his winnings before asking the cabby how he was, “Good man, it’s just fricken freezing out!” I did a quick assessment of my wardrobe, shorts and a Holland jersey; on top of that I’d made a mental note of how pleasant the temperature was as soon as we’d stepped outside of the casino. Once we got to “The Workshop” (not sure where that name comes from, but it’s the central transfer point for game shuttles) we were walking from the cab towards our bus when a group of girls under a tent started hollering at us. Now, being four incredibly good looking guys this is nothing new to us, but then they started calling me by name and said they’d taken pictures with us. It was the girls we’d met when we were here last week. We went to talk to them, introduced Marcos and Sticks, and started a brief conversation. They were bundled up in Eskimo jackets, scarves, snow boots, and other similar articles of clothing and were quick to end the conversation and get back under their easy up tent, which I’m assuming had some sort of heater in it.

By the time we got home I was spent, walked in to my room, face planted in to bed and woke up some time later to a dark house but my bedroom light still on. This might not seem to be odd at first, but the strange thing about it is that my room is in between Micah’s room and Sticks’ room. So neither of them bothered to turn my light off before they went to sleep, and apparently weren’t bothered by it in order for them to get to sleep. I guess in their defense I was still fully clothed with my shoes on and Micah claimed, “I thought you were going to get back up.” Then he later admitted they didn’t know what time it was when they got home and after watching TV for some time realized it was 2:40 a.m.

Just a small album, but a new album none the less.

Day 17 – Never Ending Day 16

I’m not sure where to technically end one day and start the next, but we successfully pulled off our Cape Town to Durban voyage in twenty-five hours, including stops for gas and watching the demise of the U.S.

We pulled in to the place we’re staying in Durban, same place we stayed the first time we were here about a week ago, at 9:30 a.m. I was concerned that we might have been too early to check in and if there were people who’d been staying here they might still be there, meaning we’d have to go entertain our sleep deprived and zombie selves for a few hours before they’d have our rooms ready for us. To our luck Gideon was more than excited to see us back and helped us carry our bags in. Upon inquiring where we’d just driven in from and answering, “Cape Town,” he was in a brief state of shock before telling us we had too much energy.

I got a little excited when he said a large group of Dutch fans had rented out his entire upstairs (we have the basement) but then he said they were kind of snobby. This killed my excitement of befriending real soldiers of the Orange Army, the name given to the Dutch fans for their elaborate bright orange outfits and wild behavior.

As soon as we emptied our bags from “the boot” (a.k.a. trunk) Micah and I napped while the two non-drivers caught up on missed TV watching due to the long ride. I forced myself up after about three hours and we went in search of food and our tickets for tomorrow’s game. Both could be found at Sun Coast Casino and we would be able to watch the England vs Germany game there as well, so we made a break for it. The Three Lions performance was nothing shy of a complete disgrace and I was a little bummed that my main man Wayne Rooney never really showed up at this tournament, England has now exited from the tournament and he was never ably to tally a goal. Germany’s performance, on the other hand, was nothing shy of top class, absolutely brilliant. They certainly know how to counterstrike and proved that by scoring the majority of their four goals off a counter-strike.

Back home now and just relaxing. Twenty minutes until the Mexico vs Argentina game, should be another great one. Argentina has been as impressive as Germany so far this tournament, if not more so considering they’ve yet to lose. Two hours of sleep prior to leaving Cape Town then maybe five or six hours of sleep in the car ride here has me thinking I’ll be in bed as soon as this game’s over. Tomorrow sounds as though it’s going to be another long one, Holland is the first game of the day then there’s either post game celebrating to do or the second game to watch; or both.

Having spent the majority of this day driving through the dead of night and then napping, I didn't really take any photos today.

Day 16 – The Boys Eat Trunk Pizza

It was hard getting up this morning. Not because we knew we had 22 hours of driving ahead of us or because of the screwdrivers and beer we had with our pizza last night, but because Cape Town is such a gorgeous city. Nevertheless, we were set on heading out so we could make it to Durban with time an extra day before our next game, Holland vs. Slovakia. Today was also the first day I saw Marcos get up on time and be ready to go on time, instead it was Micah who delayed us an hour. Unfortunately it took this long to realize the only thing that gets Cos out of bed is a deadline to watch the U.S. game.

Once we hit the road the Cape Town powers that be put an amazing Table Mountain sunrise on display for us. I’d asked Micah the other day if people who lived there ever became unimpressed at how amazing the scenery is in this city. His response, “That would be sad, if they did.”

First stop on our day long, literally, trip back to Durban was the Cape of Good Hope. We drove through some cool little beach towns to get there, some had houses on hillsides which had me thinking they’d make the perfect office for a writer. But, considering I haven’t written my New York Times Bestseller yet I didn’t bother picking up any real estate pamphlets to see what housing prices were like. Once we got to the cape the fog had rolled in pretty thick and it was starting to rain; California rain, not Oregon rain. Due to time constraints and uncooperative weather we didn’t stay too long, just did the whole we came, we saw, we conquered sort of thing, then got back on the road.

After the Cape of Good Hope there was discussion of going to the southern most point of Africa, but it was going to be a two hour detour and Cos was adamant about not going. He wanted to be certain we’d be in Port Elizabeth so he could see the U.S. game at the fanfest zone by the stadium, regardless of me warning him it was supposed to be 50 and raining (fanfest zones are outdoors.)

Cape Town is South Africa’s equivalent to Napa Valley and wine tasting was something we’d thrown out as a thing to do prior to our arrival in the utopic city. As coincidence would have it, just as it randomly dawned on Micah that we’d failed to do this we were coming upon a nice looking winery with copious amounts of signage boasting about various awards won for their wines. We pulled in. The bartender (?) who was telling us about each wine, though he repeatedly claimed, “I know nothing about wine, I’m just a farmer who likes to drink,” insisted today was a red wine kind of day, not white and proceeded to pour us samples of each of their reds. Once we’d tasted each and ran out of jokes he mentioned the white wines, then reached for a bottle of Captain Morgan. Only being about two hours in to our twenty-two hour drive I cashed in my chips and took a rain check, my entourage did the same.

After we cleaned them out of what they had for sale we went to get back on the road only to find the souvenirs we were slowly accumulating had taken over our trunk space and we were now going to have to make room for the arsenal of wine we’d just purchased. Luckily one of the things taking up a large amount of space was the Roman’s Pizza box containing the leftovers from last nights ‘zza. Having inquired to the rest of the guys if there was a hunger in the land every fifteen minutes for the previous two hours, and always ending up being the only one hungry, I dug in. Micah and Marcos were quick to join in on my trunk pizza feed and as I was simultaneously enjoying my slice and the landscape I realized the family sitting on the patio of the winery’s kitchen was staring at us. I was quite relieved when Micah mentioned they were all staring at us as I realized it was in fact the case and they wine hadn’t just gotten to my head, I was the driver after all. Then we heard their little kids saying, “mommy they have pizza,” “I want some of their pizza,” “why can’t we have pizza.” And the whole while the parents were looking at us like they wanted to kill us. I’m guessing the kids had been complaining they were hungry for longer than the last two hours and more often than every fifteen minutes.

We got Marcos to Port Elizabeth with over an hour to spare and as the weather had predicted, it was raining. Proper rain, not California rain. Micah had spent the previous two hours or so behind the wheel and later admitted that was the most stressful driving he’d ever done. Fog, monsooning rain, and poor lane reflectors made it difficult for him to follow the road. We did the typical no one makes a decision on where or what to eat thing, wasting the extra hour we had, before I picked a pub and we tracked it down. It was a small place, and so thick with cigarette smoke my eyes started burning, but they had the U.S. game on and 350-gram burgers, which were delicious.

At half time we split for the fan zone and got in just after the kickoff for the second half. The Yanks battled it out for 90 minutes and the game ended drawn at one a side. Since it’s now the first round of knock out stages that meant they went to overtime. Ghana scored three minutes in to overtime and the U.S. wasn’t able to level it back out. Considering Ghana is the only African team left in the tournament, the small handful of other people battling the rain (which had now eased up to a California rain) were going crazy.

This is when the real fun started. It was now past 11 p.m. and we had an eleven hour drive ahead of us.

Added one photo to the Cape Town album and some more to the random South Africa album.

Day 15 – The Boys Bail Me Out of Prison

I woke up this morning crusty eyed, feeling like decisions were being made for me and having one of the first people I spoke with accuse me of being a drunk, then I realized I was in a maximum security South African prison.

I don’t want to get in to the details of what landed me behind bars, at Robben Island Maximum Security Prison, but I would just like to say I am traveling with some truly great friends. Micah booked my ticket out of there, though he promptly made me pay him back. I think Carlos also played a hand in it as he insisted on taking my picture, while incarcerated, and making me promise I’d post it as my default Facebook picture to show every one that prison made me a “broken man.”

It’s a rather embarrassing moment for me, my family and my entire country as a whole. The only positive side that came out of today and my experience with being incarcerated was learning about apartheid and the struggles of Nelson Mandela. Though my time behind bars was rather brief, I can honestly say that what I’ve learned and the experiences I’ve endured over the past 24 hours have taught me valuable life lessons and will help me to mature further in to adulthood. They are truly lessons that will stay with me for my lifetime and something I hope I can educate with, and pass on to, my children to help them grow to be more accepting and understanding individuals.

I’m just thankful that I’m out, free, and able to safely enjoy the rest of this trip with some great friends. Making it back in time to watch Spain play and to see David Villa’s goal and post-goal celebration was also nice.

I was held against my will, so I figured I might as well also post this album...against my will.

Day 14 – 486 Reasons Why I Love Cape Town

Did the tourist thing today. We went to the top of Table Mountain for a bird’s eye view of Cape Town, drove the coast, swam with sharks, partied with penguins and watched the Brilliant Oranje concede their first goal of the tournament on a penalty kick, scored by Samuel Eto’o. It’s truly impossible to take a bad photo in this city. No matter what you’re taking a picture of you’ll always be able to use either Table Mountain or the Atlantic Ocean as your backdrop. I think the 486 pictures I took today is enough to prove this statement true.

Table Mountain was a blast and proved to be quite the test for my knee. There’s nothing quite like hiking around on unstable, uneven, rocky ground for a few hours and peeking over the edge of a cliff 1,086 meters above sea level to see if your knee is going to hold up. I got some great shots, but I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to take a bad photo in this town. No matter where you stand you can either have an amazing backdrop of Table Mountain, or a breath-taking backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean in your shot.

Once we got back down off the mountain we had lunch at an Italian restaurant in a neat little part of town. After we carbed up we cruised the coastline for a ways, passing through some ritzy beach towns, and eventually found a little vista point where we pulled off to take in the scenery and enjoy the sounds of the ocean. And, as we were all decked out in brilliant orange in preparation for the Holland vs Cameroon game that night, the sounds of passing cars honking and yelling “HOLLAND!” while giving us the thumbs up. Micah and I had a brief discussion of which town we were going to buy a beach house in. I couldn’t decide between Durban and Cape Town when Micah proved his brilliance suggesting one in each, Durban for the winter and Cape Town for the summer. The weather in Cape Town has been pretty nice to us, we really lucked out. I guess it has been dumping rain here for the last week or so, but aside from some chilly mornings and late at night it’s been sunny and nice in the afternoons.

After our jaunt up the coastline we dipped back in to town, found a place to park and decided to check out the amphibious creatures of Cape town…by going to the aquarium. There was some pretty interesting aquatic creatures in there, strange looking crab (what is the plural conjugation for various species of crab? Crab? Crabs? Crabi?), weird amphibious things, poison arrow dart frogs, penguins, and, of course, a gigantic shark tank. Why else would anyone go to an aquarium, except maybe the twice a day puppet show that the Cape Town aquarium has. We didn’t stop to watch it, though it was going on as we walked through. I did make friends with a penguin though, at least he waved at me and I took that to mean he wanted to be friends.

After the aquarium we made our way to the stadium and got there by the skin of our teeth, only two hours before kick off. Green Point Stadium is right by the Atlantic Ocean, not as close as AT&T is to San Francisco Bay but close enough that it smells like the ocean inside the stadium, has Table Mountain behind it, AND we were getting there at sunset. Needless to say I took advantage of those extra two hours to explore every crack and crevice of that stadium to get some good pics. It had been a long day prior to kickoff and I was feeling more like a nap rather than screaming for Cameroon’s head on a spear, then the game started. We’ve been discussing Holland’s lack of concern about advancing to the next round and how they play as if they’re on cruise control, not really showing their full potential and doing just enough to win each game. Tonight they wasted no time flexing their technical skills while continuing to act as if they weren’t really concerned about winning. They had some delicious plays and great chances early in the game, went up by one, and then turned cruise control off and just started coasting for a while. Cameroon drew a free kick that led to a handball in the box, resulting in a penalty kick. Samuel Eto’o converted the p.k. becoming the first person to score against Holland in this World Cup and leveling the scoring back out at one a piece. The exciting thing about this was it forced the Dutchmen to actually try for a few minutes. Arjen Robben was brought on as a super sub around the 70th minute. The orange blotch behind the Holland bench put up a boisterous cheer as he ran from the warm up end of the field to the bench to prepare to enter the game. Once he subbed in the whole stadium erupted, it was pretty cool. But not as cool as when he got his first touch of the ball and anyone who was not watching the game would have thought someone scored, based off the decibel level. Best part of it was that it was just an uneventful one-touch drop pass.

Once we got back to the car, in the nearby parking garage, it took us two hours to move fifty yards. Following the Orange Army to their preferred pub after the game was at the top of our priority list immediately following the game. But once we made it out of the parking garage and saw the dark of night we were all pretty wiped and opted to just head home and call it a night. Or did we?

Check out the condensed 106 photo album here!

Day 13 – Back to Civilization!

Our palace has premium cable and wifi, needless to say it was next to impossible to get anyone out of here today. When dinner time rolled around I was able to get Carlos and Micah out of the house for a trip to Nandos, but Marcos isn’t a fan so he opted for TV, wifi, and Corn Flakes. I, on the other hand, got my chance at Nandos Extra Hot Chicken Sandwich. I’d conquered their second hottest sandwich last week when we were up in the Kruger. It was child’s play. A spiciness level that I imagine Rambo Solterro would compare to common table salt.

We took a quick drive through downtown Cape Town and aimlessly guided ourselves to the rich district. We felt a little out of place in our excessively dirty war wagon as we cruised the strip amongst Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Aston Martins and alike. What we lacked in stunning horsepower we made up for with our stunning good looks.

Day 12 – The Songs Remain The Same

On the road all day today from East London to Cape Town, a twelve-hour cross-country trek. Pretty scenic drive with lots of great landscapes, canyon crossings, little towns on the water, and such. Unfortunately we’re trying to make time so we don’t have to check in to our place in Cape Town in the middle of the night, so we’re just powering through and not doing much stopping. We did, however, make the executive decision to make it a non-stop drive back to Durban, apposed to breaking it up over two days. We weren’t able to find a place to stay for our trip back to Durban and had contemplated asking the people we stayed with last night if they had an opening on that night, but then we discussed how we’d like to spend a couple hours exploring Port Elizabeth so perhaps we could just do it in one shot and check back in to our Durban place in the late morning. It’s about twenty hours of driving, good thing we’re young. The Ortiz boys just sleep in the car 90+ percent of the time we’re in it, so they didn’t seem to mind, and I never sleep anyway, so we figured we might as well save some money and take advantage of those hours we’d waste sleeping.

Before we left the states I had my biennial half a second of brilliance while packing and put five blank CDs in to the secret CD holder compartment in my backpack. Their stock immediately went up once we got in our war wagon and realized it not only had a cd player, but an MP3 cd player. I’d done a quick run through the 4,500 songs on my laptop and compiled a, what was limited/cut down to, five disc ultimate mix right before we left Jo’Burg for Kruger Park. There have been a handful of surprises that have snuck on (I should have actually looked at what songs were in the one hit wonder folder) and some I swear I’ve never heard before in my life and am curious how they got on my computer. We got about 120-150 songs on each of the five CDs and we ran out of fresh car tunes this evening and had to start back over with CD one. That gives you a good idea of how much time we’re spending in the car. What’s even more impressive is that we listen to the games on the radio, which takes about four to six hours a day out of that time. Another interesting tidbit about the radio here, it appears they have the same stations across the entire country. We’ve been listening to the games on the same sports station since we left Jo’Burg, and we’re now in the opposite corner of the country. Every time we scan the channels we appear to have the exact same options…and none of them are country! Just another reason to add to my list of why I should stay here.

The highlight of the day came when I set a new War Wagon record with a triple car pass. Not to be confused with passing three cars in one swoop, that’s child’s play. There was a string of traffic, six of us or so, who were stuck behind two semi trucks for longer than any of us would have liked to be stuck behind them. Every time we got to a passing area the lead semi would pull on to the shoulder so people behind him would have an easier time passing. The semi behind him would then attempt a pass, he’d get about one third of the way in front of the truck he was trying to pass, run out of horsepower, and eventually fall back in to his second place spot by default. Of course by the time this has happened we’d reached the end of the passing zone. Eventually we hit an extremely long straight, flat, stretch of road and there was no one coming in the on coming lane as far as the eye could see. Lead semi pulled on to the shoulder, semi two attempted a pass, next car back behind semi two just got angry and stayed behind semi one, and the second car back (which was the car in front of me) decided to spread the field and pass both semis while they were passing each other. Being American I’m all about going big or going home and the car in front of me wasn’t going fast enough for me. I one-upped all of them and flew all the way across the road to the opposite side, the on-coming lanes shoulder, and passed all three of them. So, at the apex of the pass we were spread two semi trucks, an SUV and a VW Polo War Wagon mirror to mirror taking up the entire road. I can’t wait to get back home to the U.S. and introduce all these new driving techniques I’m learning to the rest of my fellow countrymen!

The place we’re staying at now is a total party pad and apparently the other group that was staying here canceled at the last minute so we’ve got the entire place to ourselves. Massive rooms, massive bathrooms, closets bigger than my bedroom at home, a bar, swimming pool, and an owner that made us all take a shot of tequila with him as soon as we showed up. It’s going to be a good next four days!

Added a few more pics to the random trip photo album.

Day 11 – Durban to East London

Day one of our two day trip to Cape Town kicked off today. The GPS calculated it at nine hours and forty minutes (I shaved an hour off that, Carlos was proud.) We went through two really cool towns on the drive, cool in that we went a little inland and were quite a ways away from a major city. So, to put it in perspective for you, as we rolled in to Mount Frere I dropped the windows, turned up some gangster rap, and let them know the Yanks were in town. OK, maybe not really, I turned the gangster rap down, I didn’t crank it up. I did hear someone say, “Whoa, look! A white guy!” Apparently I’m a hot ticket around those parts…or someone wanted to kill me. There were street markets, old run down stores, people everywhere, it was exactly how I’d pictured Africa to be.

I also, albeit accidentally, got to see how little the Police care here. Well, there was an instance the other night where we were sitting at a red light in the straight ahead lane when a huge semi truck went barreling past us in the right turn only lane, only he went straight, blew through the red light and sped through the intersection making pedestrians who were crossing the street dive out of his way and cars swerve and jam on their brakes. We all sat in disbelief at what just happened as a cop car crept up to the line next to me, he was behind the semi who just broke who knows how many laws and didn’t do a thing about it, or even look like he cared for that matter. There are all kinds of other things as well, mass passing, speed limits (regardless of construction zones or not) just seem to be a laughing point, and solid or dotted lines on the road are more of a suggestion. Today we were reaching the top of a hill where our two lanes were about to narrow back down to one and there was a semi truck going painstakingly slow, so I decided to pass him. There was an American equivalent to a center lane (they’re a little different here since everything’s reverse) coming up so I figured I could just use that as a passing lane if I didn’t get in front of him on time. I came around to the front of the semi, reached the top of the hill, used the center cautionary lane, and as I was maneuvering back in to the lane in front of the semi I realized there were three police officers standing there. I don’t think they saw what I did, I’m not sure how they didn’t, but whether they did or not they didn’t care or do anything about it.

We reached our stopping point for the night with time to spare before the Spain kickoff and our hosts invited us to stay for dinner. Our plan was to just hit up the pub across the street that they talked up on their web site, but as soon as we arrived and told them that was our plan they told us the food there wasn’t very good. Of course once they put the plate of roasted lamb, potatoes, corn, and various other five star side dishes in front of me I saw their scale of “good” and bad might be slightly higher than ours. Regardless, what an incredible dinner!

Up early tomorrow to head to Cape Town, should be about a twelve hour drive. I’m looking forward to it. Everyone who has been to South Africa keeps telling me I’m going to love Cape Town and it seems like every new city we get to I like more than the last. And how could I not be looking forward to it, you can go swimming with great whites!

Added a few more pics to the random trip photo album.

Day 10 – Fanfest, Gambling and a Large Indian

Having mastered the local transit systems yesterday we decided to spend the day at the Durban Fanfest zone, which happened to be on the beach. We caught a bus down to a transfer point, then Micah and I decided to walk while the Ortiz boys opted for another cab to shuttle them the remaining 1.5 km. Before we even got out of the bus transfer area we found ourselves conversing with some event staff ladies, which lead to a good thirty minute conversation about anything and everything: languages spoke, education, race, all kinds of good conversation, not just small talk. After we snatched a number, offers for giving us a tour so we could “REALLY see Durban,” and offers at places to stay, we left. Never mind that the majority of those offers came from their manager, who was a guy. Regardless, the girls were excited to now have American friends and we took a bunch of pictures together. Comically, while grouping up to take the pic Micah and I were on the outside and all of the girls were in middle. One of them didn’t like the arrangement, grabbed our arms to pull us into the group and said, “Come on, we must mix the thorns amongst the roses.”

The walk to the fanfest was certainly an experience. As soon as we broke those girls’ hearts so we could get to the beach we ran in to a shopping mall since I forgot my sunscreen back at the house, curse of the Irish skin. It was a decent sized shopping mall, think Lloyd Center or Stonestown, and Micah and I were in there for a good five to ten minutes and we were the only white people in there, certainly a new experience for me. Also along our walk, we passed a wall with graffiti-looking paint running the length, which ended up being paintings of South Africa’s rights. Way cool.

First priority once we got to the fanzone, which was literally on the beach, was to hop in the Indian Ocean. Mission accomplished. Mission two: find beer. Mission accomplished. Micah and I met back up with Marcos and Carlos and watched the Italy vs New Zeland game, which was rather exciting. What was most exciting was how I’ve been hoping Italy finishes second in their group, which would mean that’s who we get to watch Holland play in our fourth game. I’d thought all along that Italy would easily win their group, but now it’s looking like there’s a good chance we’ll be seeing them play Holland in Durban next week.

The fanfest was pretty cool, but not the chaotic wild parties like I remember seeing on TV in past World Cup’s. Never the less, it was a fun time. The main focal point of our day was to watch the Brazil vs Ivory Coast game at the casino. We’d talked to a local guy last night who informed us that his son claimed the casino was the place to watch games. Apparently that’s where all the Brazilian chicks hung out. We figured it was at least worth a look. Sun Coast Casino is Caesar’s Palace, I think they were even less pager friendly than the not-so-real Caesar’s Palace. Micah had told me earlier on the trip, maybe even before we’d left the states, that Durban had the largest Indian (red dot) population outside of India. I’d noticed there were quite a few Indian’s around, but it was very clear once we got to the casino that they made up the majority of the population. The casino had a mini fanfest type area set up outside of the casino, which is where we watched the first half of the match. The vuvuzelas proved to be more than we were willing to deal with so we went back inside and found a sports bar to watch the second half of the game. Our bartender was pretty funny, he told us he knew all about America, then proceeded to tell us about Reggie Bush and the Kardashians. Pretty funny, apparently that’s who defines us as a nation. Oh, and he knew Obama was a basketball fan and put a basketball court in the White House.

The highlight for the day came once we got off the shuttle bus back at our car. As I stepped off the bus I took note of how pleasant of an evening it was, no wind, clear sky, about 65 degrees or so, perfect. Then I realized all the event staff volunteers were staring at me in my shorts, sandals and Brazil jersey. A drastic difference from their down jackets with sherpa lined hoods (which they had pulled over their heads), scarves wrapped around their necks, skiing gloves, long pants, and they appeared to be shivering and dancing around to stay warm. This morning Micah made some comment to the owner of the place we’re staying in regards to the weather, Micah implying it was nice, to which the owner, dressed in pants and a sweater apposed to our shorts and t-shirts, immediately started in on how cold it was and this is the coldest its ever been. Crazy Africans.

Day 9 – Holland vs Japan

The view from our place is spectacular, we’re right on a bluff overlooking the Indian Ocean. I’m a bit wore our and it sounds like we have a big day of indulging in the local culture ahead of us tomorrow. And by indulging in the local culture I mean mass consuming bottles of Black Label at the FIFA Fanfest zone on the beach.

Carting Carlos the Cripple around with us finally paid off again. We got to take the handicap shuttle bus to and from the game, apposed to the overcrowded regular shuttle buses. This also meant shorter lines and not as many overzealous drunk fans trampling you and trying to shove you out of the way to get on the bus. Of course, after the game the security lady was trying to tell us that we couldn’t get on the bus with him because we weren’t injured, awkward timing to mention tearing my ACL two weeks ago.

The stadium here in Durban is pretty sweet and one of my favorites so far. It’s hard to not like Soccer City since it’s so unique looking, but so is this one with the arch going over the middle of the field. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons I liked it was because you got a little more legroom in front of you. Or maybe it was because it was about 75 degrees and when the wind blew it was quite pleasant, not chilly like it was in Jo’Burg.

The game was a little bit on the boring side. Holland dominated, as we expected. My boy Wesley Sneijder’s goal was absolutely top class and made the game worth it in the end. Definitely appreciated the movement the players had, as well as their ball movement. It seems that Holland aren’t really trying yet, they’re just doing what they need to do to win their group and advance. Which, unfortunately, isn’t much.

Funny story for the day: Today’s park and ride, or at least the easiest one recommended to us was at a mall. We wondered around a little when we got there so I could find some more batteries for my camera, apparently taking 1,150 pictures in a weeks time really sucks the life out of them. When we got back we grabbed some food and a beer, my bacon and egg cheeseburger with fries reminded me of home, so I counterbalanced it with a local beer. Then Carlos said he didn’t bring any shorts so he wanted to go buy a pair. He knew it was wintertime here, but never bothered to look at what the weather was. Apparently all the long sleeves and pants he packed, combined with long distance crutching, were making him a little hot. The only problem was that it’s wintertime here, so all the stores are filled with pants and sweaters. The people here truly think this is cold, it’s almost 1 a.m. here and if feels mid to upper 60’s outside. After walking all over the mall Carlos finally succeeded his mission. What store in the mall had the shorts he wanted? Columbia Sportswear. I guess it’s kind of like remembering to pack them in the first place.

We also took Carlos to the hospital on the way home to get his stitches taken out. It went much quicker and far smoother than I could have ever imagined. We drove right past one on our way home from the game so I wheeled in and shoveled him and Marcos out at the front door. They were back out in no time. So quick in fact I thought they wouldn't help him and told him to come back tomorrow. Apparently the nurse just didn't want to have to fill out any paperwork so she did it real quick for free. Score for Carlos. If you ask him though he said he just walked in and said, "I'm an American," and he immediately got the royal treatment.

You can view the full album here.

Day 8 – Are we there yet?

I probably shouldn’t admit this, traveling with three other guys and all, but my butt sure is sore. We left for Durban this morning and had found a route that said it would take us a little over eight hours. I’m not sure if that meant Carlos expected me to do it in six or not, either way, I failed him miserably. The route included slaloming massive potholes for extended periods of time and lengths of the freeway that were just dirt road and I think we went through four spots where we had to sit and wait for twenty minutes. I’m not sure if it was the ten hours behind the wheel or the pain in the ass potholes that were the culprit, but what ever they were, I was glad to when we pulled in to our place tonight. We’re on a bluff right over the Indian Ocean, we got in past dark so I can’t see all that well and am looking forward to seeing our view at sun up.

Nothing too exciting to report, other than meeting the proprietor of this place a few minutes ago. We’re staying at a guesthouse, which is basically a B&B and had someone else let us in when we arrived. He didn’t know much about anything, literally. When we checked in to reception he just had us phone the proprietor, who then asked if (insert what ever that kids name was here) to which I didn’t respond, as I had no idea who that person was. So the guy on the phone hastily followed up with, “Is there some black kid there?” Not exactly the way most people in the states would word that, but never the less it was the case. Some Black Kid was watching rap music videos when we showed up before he showed us to our place. Then he didn’t even know how to turn any of the lights on, which proved to be a bit of a challenge for Carlos the Cripple.

We didn’t have much time to find food and get back in time to watch the England game so we ran out to see what we could find. With everything closed our options were limited to Nandos, which we had last night, or pizza. We opted for the pizza. We also had a rather entertaining conversation with a local while waiting for our ‘zza. I love the people here, they’re so friendly and helpful and just want to put a smile on your face and make sure you’re enjoying their country. They remind me of a small mom and pop kind of business, they go out of their way to make sure your satisfied in hopes that you’ll come back again. Any who, we came back for beers and pizza while we watched the England game, which turned out to be a bit of a boring game. I think it was Micah who discovered Janga in one of the cabinets here while looking for plates and he pulled it out jokingly asking who wanted to play. Next thing I knew Carlos was clearing off the coffee table, on to the floor, and stacking up the blocks. We played a couple games and the second game ended around the same time as the England game, so, of course, we just left the pieces scattered about the floor and coffee table and got ready for bed. There’s only three beds in this place we’re staying but one of them was a double twin (not up to date on my bed size terminology, so I’m not sure what that makes it.) So, Carlos yanked one of the twin mattresses off and dragged it in to the living room next to the coffee table. Basically, we’ve been here about two hours and it looks like a bomb had gone off in the living room. This is when the proprietor walked in and introduced himself, but not before taking a quick survey of the living room and asking, “Is everything alright?”

It got better when his daughter (late teens) arrived in our place shortly after him and said, “Oh, there’s my dad.” As if she were looking for him to ask him a question or something, but then never left and never asked him a question. We all flattered ourselves with the notion that she had an ulterior motive of seeing who the four guys were staying in her house.

Holland vs Japan in the morning at the second coolest stadium of the tournament, the Durban Stadium. Game’s at 1:30 and we’re looking to be out of here by 9 so I think it’s time to headbutt the pillow.

Day 7 - Elephant Ex-Lax

Day two of our safari kicked off at the unfortunately familiar hour of 5 a.m. again. We weren’t as early to the gate as we were yesterday, not sure why that was, could have had something to do with drinking African fire water all night last night. We’d already plotted our route and since we’d seen a boatload of elephants, giraffes, antelope-like creatures, and zebras, there was no need to stop when we saw any of those. Once we got to our uncharted territories we started seeing some new wildlife, starting mostly with some funky birds. Soon came a warthog, some more crazy birds, more hippos, and then we found a damn cool dam. It was the happening place to be. There were a heard of elephants doing their thing, crocodiles waiting to be hunted, by me, hippos swimming around and lurking underneath the Pistia Stratiotes, or for those of you non-educated plant aficionados, Pistia Stratiotes is Water Lettuce and covered the top of the water. Pretty spectacular. We spent quite a bit of time there as it was a rather stunning view and there was lots of doings transpiring.

Once we decided to pack it up Micah decided it was time he tried his hand at backwards driving. Made sense, Kruger is like the Grant Watts Elementary School parking lot that my mom took me to learn how to drive in. Nothing really to run in to, there are no lines in the road and people drive all over the road looking at stuff, I figured it was a great relaxing place for him to learn and tossed him the keys. We backed out of the spot we were parked in, pulled out on to the road, and turned the first corner only to come face to face with a massive elephant. I’m not sure if he was so pissed at us because we drove in on him going number two, or because we were in his way. Whatever the reason, he was pissed and came right at us. Luckily, I was snacking on some trail mix just then, pulled out a few peanuts and offered the to him as a peace offering. Dumbo and I are now good chums.

Next up was a particularly good find. Ever since I’ve been on the mend from tearing my ACL two weeks ago I’ve been curious if I still had the cheetah-like speed I possessed three weeks ago. And, wouldn’t you know it, we came across the Cheetos family. I challenged them to a foot race and won. It was actually pretty amazing, they were way out in the grass when we spotted them, which was really difficult considering how well they blended in. But after a few minutes they all got up, walked towards us and crossed the road right in front of us. Probably because I kept saying, “Heeeeeere kitty kitty kitty.” trying to lure it in to the car so I could give it to Nichelle as her belated birthday present. Pretty sure I remember her saying she wanted an orange, black, and white kitty. Sounded like it fit the bill to me.

Having now seen the majority of the big game we were focused on spotting the likes of hyenas and wild dogs. We failed miserably. But we did see a few more pretty cool looking birds, a municipality of baboons, a giraffe, a zebra who was almost as close to us as the elephant, buffalo, a rhino and a hippo in a place where we were allowed to get out of our car but I might not have had I known how close that thing was! We drove out the gate just before closing and the sun was setting and providing an amazing backdrop behind us.

Our first long haul is coming up tomorrow as we’re off to Durban to gear up for our next Holland game. I think it should be about ten hours, not too bad. Especially considering Carlos gave me his vote confidence at dinner saying, “I bet you could do it in 8 and a half, Scotty.”

Full album can be viewed here.

Day 6 – Wrestling The Big 5

Woke up at five to earn my Big Five merit badge and also got my 1,000-km-behind-the-wheel-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-car-driving-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-rode badge in the process. Kruger National Park opened at 6 a.m. and we were one of the first through the gate. I’m not only glad we got up so we could be to the park early and spend a full day in there but because it also meant we got to see the sunrise, truly something else. The sunsets are equally as impressive, there’s just something about watching everything come to life after the orange and amber sunrises.

The park rangers checked our trunk before they’d let us in. I’m not sure if this is an every day occurrence or if it’s because they caught a poacher the other day who had shot a rhino. And by “caught” I mean shot, he had to get air lifted to the hospital and as soon as he’s stable enough to leave the hospital he has to go to court. I like the way they roll down here. Either way, I told the ranger I was already packing the most powerful guns anyone had ever seen then kissed my biceps. He backed off cautiously and let us in.

Once we were in we wasted no time conquering some big game. The first victim was Simba, a lion who created quite the little traffic jam and I think was starting to get upset that there was a gaggle of cars in his way. He wasn’t as big as I remembered him, then again it’d been a while since I watched the documentary on Pride Rock. I punched him in the nose, he tucked his tail between his legs and ran off. Shortly after Simba fled Price Rock we came across some zebras. Their stripes reminded me of pinstripes, which reminded me of the Yankees, which reminded me of how much I hated them. Zebras are lame, but I bet they taste good. Next up was an elephant. He couldn’t fly, I already had a bar of Ivory soap, and, unfortunately, didn’t have and cinnamon or sugar to snack on his ear, so he became dead to me. We found a watering hole that a hippo was swimming around in. This proved to be the ultimate challenge for me, not having any malaria pills I was risking getting malariaped by mosquitos. I wasn’t going to let that get in the way of my bucket list of wrestling The Big 5, so I swan dove in to the lake and punched that hippo square in the mouth. Next up came the giraffe. It was no challenge. I heard they break their necks if they fall over, so I put my slide tackling skills to work and took him out. We also saw some monkeys and baboons, but they crack me up so we just had a couple Black Label’s (THE South African beer) and told funny stories. There were all kinds of impalas and various other antelope-like animals, but there were so many the traffic jams they caused made me hate them more than I hate squirrels. OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration, squirrels are the worst. We also saw an African Bush Cat, which was perhaps our most interesting discovery. We were deep in the thick of it, a good 20+ km and came across this African Bush Cat. Truly fascinating. I’ve never seen one in the wild before and have always wondered where they were native to.

After a long day of bush whacking and Big 5 wrestling we decided to find a place to eat. Since Bufana Bufana (South Africa’s national team) was playing the late game we decided to find a sports pub to get rowdy with some locals. All I can say about that is, woops. Some guidebook we had described the place as having all soccer games on their big screen, we plugged it in to our GPS and tracked it down. It ended up being a swanky white tablecloth sort of establishment and their “big screen” was smaller than my computer monitor. We were hungry, so we decided to stay. I have no idea what I ordered, but it was nothing shy of a party in my mouth and I want more of it. The owner was a mingler, which was quite entertaining. Also, I’m pretty sure he was drunk. Now, let me describe “mingler.” He’s the kind of guy that will walk over to your table, ask how everything is, crack a joke, and next thing you know he’s saying, “Mmm, that looks good.” then reaching on to your plate and grabbing a bite of something off of it. I also saw him pour a lady a glass of wine, start to hand it to her, pull it back, sniff it, take a swig, then hand it to her. I’m pretty sure the majority of the people in there were locals, but still, it was pretty entertaining. Not quiet as entertaining as when he asked us where we were from, then responded, “Oh God, you didn’t all order cheeseburgers, did you?” He came by a few minutes later and checked to make sure it was our first time in the country. Once he knew what we were all about he smiled, said, “I’ve got something for you,” then disappeared behind the bar. Next thing we knew he was delivering free shot after free shot of local liquors. After enquiring about the shot he said would put us on the floor, to which Carlos replied, “I like the sound of that!” he brought the bottle of Litchi over and it was wrapped in barbed wire. Way cool! Needless to say our plans to grab a quick bite, grab the beginning of the game and head home early so we could get to bed and be well rested for our 5 a.m. wake up call for day two of our safari didn’t go as planned. But we had fun!

Full album from safari day 1 here.

Day 5: Over the “Mountains” and Through the Woods

Up early today for our drive to Kruger Park. We tested the GPS out and I think Micah was telling me not to listen to it and take a different route more often than he was telling me to follow its directions. I think that was mostly due to us taking the recommended scenic route here, apposed to the freeway.

The scenic route was, in fact, rather scenic. We went through some nice little foothills, which I’m wondering if the locals call mountains, forests of what looked like eucalyptus trees, and some cool little towns. The drive actually reminded me a lot of taking Vernonia Highway from Scappoose to Astoria with the forests, little hill passes, and little towns, with the exception the kinds of trees.

There was a little town called Sabie that we drove through, but didn’t stop at, that reminded me a lot of a small Swiss village. Just in the way the buildings looked and the vibe I got rolling through town.

We pulled in to our time-share and walked through the door just as Ivory Coast and Portugal were kicking off, which is what we were aiming to be here in time for. And it didn’t take long to realize something was wrong with Marcos. The man who is always hot, the guy who runs his A/C at night when it’s sub-20 degrees outside, was cold. I was sitting here in shorts and my CR7 (Cristiano Ronaldo) t-shirt while he was putting on his jacket, wrapping himself in blankets, and still complaining that he was too cold. We put our expert medical knowledge to work, which is limited to what we remembered being diagnosed with in the game ‘Oregon Trail’ which we used to play in fifth grade. So, at this point we’re pretty sure Marcos has cholera, scarlet fever, and dysentery.

Just finished watching the Brazil vs North Korea game, which was definitely not what I was expecting but a great game no doubt, and I think it’s bed time. Up at 5 a.m. to go wrestle the big 5 tomorrow. Hopefully Marcos is able to calk the wagon and float to kick what ever this bug is that he has so he can go wrestle a rhino tomorrow.

Just a couple pics updated to the random album here.

Day 4: Clockwork Orange

Had to get up early today so we could meet up with some friends and catch the train to Soccer City Stadium for our first of four Holland games. When we entered the train station the, “You guys need to be safe,” warning we were given by the ticket lady was certainly a little disconcerting; especially since she said it in a “you guys are going to get mugged/robbed/killed” kind of tone. But we didn’t, South Africa is nothing like the media plays this place out to be. I’ve never seen such a happy and friendly culture before, I can certainly get used to it. And I’m now hoping nothing happens in the next two and a half weeks to have me eating those words. The train ride certainly didn’t take the most scenic route to the stadium, but we did get to see some kind of industrial area and a few more slums! I was also happy to see I’m not the only person fascinated by them, the Dutch fans we were going to the game with were snapping just as many pics as me. Aad, one of the Dutch fans, and I had a conversation about how you don’t see places like that in the U.S. or in Holland and how here in South Africa there’s such a huge difference between rich and poor.

Carlos had quite the trek from the train station to the stadium on his crutches and got quite the work out from it, but we were happy to be escorted to an emergency fire elevator that took us up to the fifth level where our seats were. It was a great game, the Dutch definitely play some beautiful soccer. The first half wasn’t the best I’ve ever seen, but Denmark came out of the half looking to score and that caused the Oranje to kick things up a notch and get after it.

Holland won 2-0. The first was an own goal from Denmark and the second a nice passage of play that lead to a shot by Elia that he curled perfectly around the keeper that went just wide and bounced off the post but Kuyt was right there to tap it in to the back of the net. I think the play of the game was from a Danish defender who didn’t give up on his run and did a bicycle kick on the goal line to deny a goal that was fractions of a millimeter from crossing the goal line. Simply amazing.

The train ride back was pandemonium. There was only one train to the game and one train back from the game, at least that was free for game ticket holders. Either way, the results was massive hoards of people mobbing towards the train station, exactly the kind of thing Carlos loves maneuvering around in with his crutches. We made it back, found our car (which we were able to conveniently park outside of the towns main police stations, for free,) and made our way home.

After a delicious pizza and beer dinner, for the second night in a row (same pizza chain even, Romans) Micah and I ran to the airport to pick up a GPS. Between having to listen to three different people tell me three different directions at every intersection, maps as detailed as the continent of Africa with a dot labeled “Johannesburg” on it and a road and freeway system that seems to have absolutely no logic or order behind it, I think I’ve lost at least five years off my life.

Up early tomorrow for our three-day safari. Heather, the lady whose been so kind as to put us up these last few days, was able to get us in the Kruger National Park. We tried to schedule a safari a month or two ago and after an initial response from our safari travel guide asking what days we’d like to go on the safari, we never heard back. But I guess we’re such terrible guests that Heather wanted us out of her house as soon as possible. I guess I can’t blame her. Bummer since I never bothered to get Malaria pills since I didn’t think this safari was going to happen. But, on the plus side, I’d rather die of malaria than have to hear another one of these damn vuvuzela horns!

Check out the full photo album here.

Day 3: Chill

I never thought I’d be able to get a full night sleep on a concrete floor, but I proved that thought wrong last night. I was beat before we left the stadium and still had a two-hour drive, with no post-game traffic, ahead of me. Needless to say by the time we made it to our friend Trevor’s house it was only a matter of seconds before I was out, once I headbutted the pillow.

We spent the day just relaxing on the couch watching all the games from yesterday on his fancy World Cup satellite package, four channels dedicated to nothing but the World Cup 24 hours a day. We cooked some sausages on the “braii” (bbq) for lunch, which were mighty tasty and ordered a monsterous portion of pizza for dinner – which was also quite delicious. I think this American eating splurged was justified by a halftime walk around the block just before sunset.

Our first Holland match is tomorrow against Denmark at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg, this is the main, big, stadium and should be pretty exciting. It holds something like 85,000 people and is typically the stadium they show in advertisements and things. It’s an early game (1:30 local time) but getting up and finding the stadium and all that is quite the project, so we left Trevor’s around 7 pm and headed back to his moms house, where we’re staying. In a nutshell, that drive made us all agree that renting a GPS was in our very near future. From what we can tell there is no theory behind how highways and freeways are numbered and half the time they’ll just randomly change numbers when you’ve never turned or changed direction. I think my job as driver is taking weeks, if not more, off my life every time we attempt to venture anywhere that’s not just around the block.

In all, I’m having a hard time picking a highlight for today, but I think I’m going to give the award to my shower. After all, it happened at 8:30 Sunday night and the last one I had was around 8:30 Thursday morning before I left my house for school and then the airport. In my defense, we were flying for 24 hours, didn’t get to bed until 2 a.m. then up at 7:30 and immediately out the door to Rustenburg. We’d thought we were coming back that night but ended up staying at a friends on the opposite side of town (30 minutes if you know where you’re going,) so none of us brought a change of clothes. Then more friends arrived at Trevor’s plus we had to wait for Trevor’s mom to get home so we could get in once we got back. Definitely gross, but it was such a glorious moment once it happened.

You can check out this album for random photo uploads of the trip. Big days will probably require their own albums.

Day 2: USA vs England

Nothing cures jet lag like having to wake up early and making the two-hour drive to Rustenburg for the USA vs England match. Especially when the match isn’t until 8:30 p.m. and you realize you realize, once again, you won’t be getting to bed until 2:30 a.m.

We were fortunate enough to be able to follow Mrs. Davies, the lady who has generously been putting us up for these past few days, to a place just outside of Rustenburg where we were meeting up with some friends for lunch before heading to the game. Being able to follow someone certainly helped take a load of stress off and was a nice opportunity to get some more wheel time and settle in to this whole driving on the wrong side of the road and wrong side of the car business without having to worry about where I was going. Of course, we were following two ladies and had they not pulled over every ten minutes or so to inform us of how much more lost we were than the previous time they told us, we would have had no idea we were lost at all.

One of the things I found rather exciting, though it’s truly quite sad, about taking the scenic route was my first exposure to slums. I’m strangely fascinated by them. These shacks are built out of left over scraps of metal and wood, they have no electricity or running water (at least I can’t imagine they do, I sure as hell wasn’t about to pull in and ask them for a tour,) and are smaller than my bedroom. Knowing that a family lives in there sure puts things in to perspective about how well off some of us are. Especially once we got to the house where we were meeting up with our friends for lunch: inside a gated community, floor to ceiling retractable walls, a beautiful back patio sitting just off the fairway of a golf course, giant wall mounted HD flat-screen, and a wet bar with multiple bottles of Johnny Walker Blue Label. Unfortunately I didn’t have the nerve to pour myself a drink. What really got me about the slum village places we had passed through were the people walking around inside some of those village; dressed in pristinely clean and fashionable clothes, smiling, laughing and appear as happy as can be. I’m freaking out that I’ve yet to find free wifi in the past two days, I can’t even imagine not having electricity to be able to keep my laptop charged ­­­– or not having lappy at all.

The town of Rustenburg looked like a city that was put inside a time capsule around the 1950’s to 1960’s (and I say this based off of movies I’ve seen set in this time period, I know I’m old but I’m certainly not that old.) We were tired, but jacked off adrenaline realizing the fact that we were not only in Africa, and at the World Cup, but also on our way to watch England play the USA for the first time in 60 years! So, we were on a mission to get to the game and since the stadium was about 13 km north east of the actual town of Rustenburg we just drove straight through the main drag and didn’t stop.

Once we finally found the park and ride lot we claimed the second to last spot. A bit of advice learned from that adventure, never trust that the pack of cars ahead of you knows where they’re going; stick to what the signs tell you. Once we parked and rode the walk from the drop off point to inside the stadium was nothing shy of a Mecca. Carlos was shedding clothes and claiming his armpits were on fire having to make the entire trip on crutches. Once inside we found our seats and realized how epic they actually were. Eleven rows from the pitch, just off the half way line and so close to the beer vendor and mens room that we barely had to get out of our seats! It was exciting seeing all the players that we’ve seen on TV and in pictures for the past few years in the true flesh and blood. And after looking through the pictures I took at the game I’m beginning to think my obsession with Wayne Rooney, the player whom I dubbed as the “Best Player in the English Premiership” yesterday before escalating to the “Greatest Multi-Celled Organism Ever” today, might be bordering on the unhealthy side of the spectrum.

The game was fun, the result was tolerable, I obviously would have liked to see The Greatest Multi-Celled Organism Ever score rather than having a fairly quiet game, but I guess that just means I’ll need to go to England next year and watch him play for the mighty Manchester United at Old Trafford. The guy to my left was a Limey and certainly passed my test without me ever having to ask him any questions. I’d said I watched more English Premiere League soccer than anything else to which he asked me, “So do you like any of these over-paid assholes then?” Before going on to admit he was a rugby fan and soccer players were nothing more than celebrities. Steven Gerrard’s fourth minute goal was nothing shy of brilliant, while Dempsey’s happened with an awful lot of luck, thanks in part to the English keeper. Either way, the result was pleasing.

Check out the full photo album here.

South Africa 2010 - Day 1

Johannesburg – Day 1

After 24 hours of traveling, three dinners, two breakfasts, two bags of peanuts, three security checks, layovers in Amsterdam, Holland and Nairobi, Kenya, we made it! Powering straight through from Portland to Johannesburg in one go of it certainly had its advantages and disadvantages. The major advantage being that we got here sooner, while the major disadvantage meant 24 hours straight of traveling. By the time we arrived in Johannesburg I’d been in the air so much, on my feet so little and had my feet up approximately zero times within that span that my ankles had completely swollen. Once we arrived at our friends moms house and I was able to take my shoes and socks off, my ankles had swollen up around my socks, which resulted in my feet looking like mushrooms.

Traveling as a cripple also has its perks and setbacks. The major and quite possibly only setback, other than being a cripple, of course, is the amount of time it takes you to get through security. Other than that, it’s all perks. You get all sorts of attention, you get to board the plane first (meaning there’s always room in the overhead for all your luggage), and you approach large crowds like Moses approaches the Red Sea. Another thing you’ve got working in your favor is that you get to cut every line imaginable: security checkpoints with roughly 200 people in front of you, don’t mind us. We left those same 200 people, and quite possibly even a few more, jealous of their superior health and physical conditions jealous when we were escorted to the front of the line at immigration and passport verification once we arrived in Jo’Burg.

We certainly can’t forget the “assistance” the Dutch gave us in Amsterdam. Once we got off the plane, sporting our brilliant orange Dutch national team gear, we were immediately offered seats and asked to wait while they got us assistance to help us get to our next gate. We arrived around 9 a.m. local time, which would have made it midnight back home. Help arrived in the form of a four-seater go-kart looking vehicle with a wheelchair somehow attached to the very back. Carlos called shotgun while I hopped on the back, there wasn’t enough room for the freaks Marcos and Micah who weren’t carrying any injuries.

Our go-kart driver was a nice woman who gave us many helpful tips during our commute on the Dutch and their soccer team, and judging by the way she was hanging corners and weaving through pedestrians I’m next to positive she was on he amateur rally car circuit, if not the professional one. She told us they absolutely despise of the Germans and they are their rivals, think USA and Mexico; she even elaborated on that by trying to teach us a chant, in Dutch, about how much better the Oranje were than the Meinschaft. She then asked us who our favorite players were on the Dutch national squad to which Carlos promptly answered, “I like (Arjen) Robben.” Robben, not only being injured, is one of two players who plays in the German Bundesliga for his club team, Bayern Munich. I took the classier route and said I liked Wesley Sneijder, Inter Milan’s star midfielder who just lead his club to a Champions League victory over Bayern Munich and were crowned Kings of Europe. She then tricked us by slyly informing us it was a trick question; apparently her neighbor was Dirk Kuyt, Dutch national team and Liverpool winger. Before delivering us to our gate, where we were dropped off at the front of a 174 person long security check line and escorted straight through via some secret door, she went on to inform us that Holland has so much pride in their national squad that all of the toilet paper in the airport was oranje.

Things got progressively more exciting from that point on. We were now on a flight of 174 people, 70 of whom were continuing on to Johannesburg for the World Cup and all of whom still spoke flawless English, with the exception of some technical medical terms I suppose. The guy who checked us through security coined my new favorite word for crutches when he asked Carlos, “Can you walk without sticks?”

Unlike our flight from Portland to Amsterday, we were all split up on this leg and didn’t have our own personal TVs with a selection of on-demand movies to choose from. Mom and Dad you may want to skip this next sentence and carry on as though I’m still following the life advice you gave me as a little kid. The lack of entertainment and fact that we weren’t all sitting together meant I had to talk to strangers to keep myself amused. Well, The New Yorker I picked up before departing Portland helped as well. Strangely though, and I don’t know what it was about my appearance, everyone spoke Dutch to me. I don’t know if it was the way I looked or smelled or perhaps just the fact that I was decked out head to toe in Dutch national team gear. Whatever it was, they’d always start in Dutch then switch to English once I responded with a blank stare. My favorite rebuttal was from a stewardess who asked, “You’re an American but you’re a Dutch fan?”

“I’m a fan of beautiful football,” I responded and was treated like a King for the rest of the flight.

We got off the plane in Nairobi, Kenya to catch our final flight to Johannesburg around 7 p.m. local time. Now, I don’t know if it was the fact that we were on the equator or the fact that everyone around me on the previous flight was blasting their a/c which froze me out, but as soon as I stepped out of that plane and on to the jet way it was hotter than Africa. This is where things REALLY got kicked up a notch. I think it’s safe to say of the roughly 200 people on that flight, everyone was going to the World Cup. Of those 200 or so people there was a group of Nigerians who had no problem setting the atmosphere. If you weren’t Nigerians fans they’d give you a hard time unless you cheered for the right club team, Manchester United. We got along just fine. There was no air conditioning on that flight and it remained hotter than Africa from Nairobi to Johannesburg.

We got in just before midnight local time and had a laundry list of things to do. We went through customs, got our one checked bag full of guns, knives and grenades…or liquids and non-carry on items; Marcos (who, clearly, never was a boy scout) bought a Holland jersey, we rented our car, a Volkswagen Polo (Jetta,) exchanged fat stacks of cash, and around 1 a.m. local time headed for our friends moms house, that’s when the real adventure began. I was nominated to drive, Micah would have had to put his contacts back in and we’re the only two allowed to drive. After Carlos and I exchanged quizzical looks as to why we were both standing on the right side of the car and about to get in the front seat, he did call shotgun after all, I thought to myself, “what better time to learn how to drive a car with the steering wheel on the right side and traffic moving on the left than when I’ve only gotten about 5 hours of sleep in the last 48 hours?” Luckily it was 1 a.m. and with the exception of a quick check of how things looked on the correct side of the road, after making a right turn, everything went smoothly.