Sunday, June 27
Aliwal North - Bloemfontein
We are awoken at 2am by the sound of drunken red necks fighting outside the pub and drag racing across the bridge over the Orange River.
We are awoken at 7am by the sound of Dutch reform church bells and Swiss Cheese Fabio's 17-piece orchestra alarm clock.
One fantastic buffet breakfast later and photos by the adjacent Hertzog statue and Orange bridge and we are on our way to Bloemfontein, Oasis tunes blaring out of the van's speakers as we pass endless frost-covered fields of sheep. You have to pinch yourself to really believe we are on our way to watch England v Germany in the world Cup, instead of on some bizare road trip with John Candy.
Somebody has had to have a word with Swiss Cheese Fabio because he's decided to dress in a Scotland tracksuit top for today's match. He's supporting England but naively thinks that many of the England lads, who will have been boozing since 7am this morning, will like his top. As we reach the outskirts of Bloemfontein truck fulls of lads from the local township give us the thumbs up as we go in search of the FIFA ticketing centre.
This is either the start of something beautiful or more World Cup heartache at the hands of the Germans...
Saturday, June 26
Grahamstown - Aliwal North
Peering out of the window, past the electric fences, security gates and the barbed-wire world of paranoia, Camper Van Nick's red and white England van appears to be voilently rocking from side to side in the car park. I hope he hasn't damaged his suspension.
Breakfast from the local 'bread shop' is enjoyed strolling around the Edwardian and Victorian era streets of Grahamstown. The town centre is ethnically 90 per cent non-white but architecturally 100 per cent white. Pride of place is the English style saturday market where you can buy African masks, hand-made wooden statues and Bafana Bafana memorabilia. Everything is so African; everything is so English; everything is so ridiculously surreal.
Our route north towards Bloemfontein takes us through the Eastern Karoo - a vast semidesert that is more cowboy and indians than any John Wayne film set you've ever seen. It is often 30 minutes before you see a single other vehicle in this part of the world. Temperatures hit 45 degrees here in the summer months but at this time of the year they can drop to minus ten. If you ever want to get away from it all and enjoy the peace and serenity of the big open spaces then this is the place for you. Leaving the semi-arid plateau, the snaking mountain pass takes us up over 2000 metres where, briefly, cacti, red aloe, shrubs and grazing sheep are replaced by snow, ice and sheer rock faces. Forget the Garden Route - this is the best road trip in South Africa.
After we pass Queenstown there are numerous dusty little township settlements where people live in the most basic of huts. The poverty is rather humbling and upsetting at times.
By around the time the first of the World Cup second round games between South Korea and Uruguay kicks off we reach Aliwal North on the banks of the Orange River. From here you cross a River Kwai-style bridge into the Orange Free State and the world of the Afrikaners. Actually, judging by the fact that all those present in the Riverside Lodge bar are six feet wide, wearing rugby tops and speaking Afrikaans, it appears that the Boer World begins here.
We are preparing for tomorrow's match in style staying at the adjacent four-star Lodge. Our suite comes with a balcony overlooking the Orange River, our own little lounge area to watch today's knockout matches and electric blankets on each of its four beds for when the temperatures dive down subzero as soon as the sun sets.
A little known fact is that it was the British, not the Germans, who invented concentration camps. One of them was here in Aliwal North where more than 700 Afrikaners died at the hands of the British. In total 27,000 Afrikaners and 14,000 black South Africans, most of whom were women and children, perished in camps during the second Anglo-Boer War. Most of the camps were in this region. In the case of the Afrikaners and the apartheid regime they spawned, it seems, as so often happens, that the abused became abusers in later years. In the case of the British, it appears to me that another of the shocking chapters in our brutal history of Empire has been all but conveniently swept under the carpet of time.
I don't think the Afrikaners in this part of the world are quite as happy to see England supporters as in other parts of South Africa. Consequently, we decide to skip the local bar full of 'large red neck units' and enjoy the luxury of our 25 pound-per-head luxury suite...now where's that switch for the electric blanket?
Friday, June 25
Port Elizabeth - Grahamstown
One good option for getting to Bloemfontein for sunday's match is today's 3pm train. It only costs 130 Rand and includes a night's accommodation on board. Camper Van Nick, however, has come up with a cunning plan to take us to a festival in nearby Grahamstown en route.
Rich won't be coming. Although he is guaranteed a ticket for the Germany match he needs to be back at work on monday. He had been hoping for England to play in Rustenburg on saturday, but now there is no way he can get back from Bloemfontein to London in time.
Grahamstown is one of the most attractive towns in all of South Africa. Actually, the drive in puts one in mind of Derbyshire both in terms of the local nature and the architecture of this former frontier town. This is a little piece of nineteenth century protestant England plonked near the southern tip of the African continent.
It is also the festival capital of South Africa. There is another part to Nick's ingenious plan: he will sleep in his van with a female friend he met in Cape Town, while the rest of us kip down on the floor of her bungalow situated on the aptly named Africa Road.
While most England fans are singing 'ten German bombers' in Bloemfontein square, we instead find ourselves hanging out in temperatures of minus five with a bunch of hippies and young university students in the back of beyond. Italy and France are crap. The World Cup has never been this strange before.
Thursday, June 24
The silly post-match drunken shananigans of wednesday night have left me with a mobile phone full of beer. Where once it read 'MTN mobile' there is now a wet dirty brown tide mark. My phone is Kaput.
There is chaos in the England supporters' ranks. Wherever you look they lie comatosed on the Port Elizabeth beach and on the grass of the BP petrol station. Others stumble around with the mother of all hangovers trying to work out what to do next. Many England that we meet are hastily trying to cancel accommodation that had been booked for Rustenburg - often many months ago. Others face the prospect of unwanted flight tickets to the north and comedy tickets for Ghana v USA. In the case of Robin and I, being disorganised with travel plans (i.e. making it up as we go along) and pessimistic about England's chances has turned cluelesness into a tournament-winning formula.
"I couldn't get rid of me spare England tickets. The Yanks wouldn't pay 50 quid each for them so I found some young local lads working outside a shop and asked them if they wanted to go with us."
"I s'pose they couldn't go 'cos they were working?"
"No, I asked their boss if they could 'ave the rest of the day off. He said yes, paid them their salaries. I were gobsmacked when they told me how much they earn - 12 Rand for a day. Anyways I gave them both the tickets for free and took them to the game. They bloody loved it. One of them was so happy he were nearly crying. I gave them 50 rand each after the game so they could have a beer or some'it."
Brilliant stuff from Blackburn.
The crowd roars as Italy crash out of the tournament to Slovakia.
With Bjorn up in Joburg and me following England around my input to the shirt project and contact with Bjorn have been minimal for the past few days. The big news from the past few days is that the shirt is now up at the Brightwater Shopping Mall in the suburbs of Johannesburg. You can catch images of it here:
The appearance of Bjorn and I on the BBC has also attracted a fair it of attention from both friends and strangers. When you mention the project to anybody out here now, chances are they have already heard about it from the ongoing press coverage. The 2-minute BBC video of the shirt in Cape Town can be watched here:
Make sure you watch it to the very end so you can see just how good the English are at penalties.
I decide to call it an early night in Port Elizabeth. Nick, Rich, Robin and our new friend - Fabio the Swiss Cheese - are all on the wine early doors in celebration of the English advance and the Italian exit. I can't face it and stroll home around 11pm.
Being sensible clearly isn't the way forward though as suddenly, a few hundred yards before I reach the B&B, a Toyota 4x4 pulls up next to me and some local lads start shouting and abusing me in Afrikaans. At least they don't shoot me, I suppose.
With all the ridiculous hype about crime and the general violence in South Africa it says something that my first incident of any kind is care of a bunch of local red necks.
Wednesday, June 23
Knysna - Port Elizabeth
Camper Van Nick spent the night sleeping in his camper van in Knysna high street and wakes up as rush hour traffic crawls past his window. I leave Robin and Rich to enjoy breakfast at the ostrich egg theme park hotel and set off early with Nick for Port Elizabeth.
The scenery is stunning the whole way with the only exception being Mossel Bay where an industrial complex has been plonked slap bang on the beach front. A huge township stretches just beyond this with dozens of men stood by the roadside hoping somebody will stop and give them a day's casual labour.
If anything some of the views from the N2, passing through the eastern Cape, are actually more inspiring than those on the Garden Route.
After having narrowly avoided running out of petrol in the middle of absolutely nowhere -3 miles worth of fuel left in the tank- we reach Port Elizabeth, an hour later, and park up at the Boardwalk Casino on the seafront.
The Summer Strand district of Port Elizabeth resembles parts of Bournemouth with hundreds of hotels and guesthouses just yards away from the beach.
England flgas cover the restaurants, bars and the entrance to the casino. Pre-match Rustenburg was a shopping mall; Cape Town a marine waterfront; Port Elizabeth is slot machines and roulette wheels.
I meet a cyclist from Slovenia on the way to the stadium. Turns out he cycled from Nairobi to here and flew into Kenya on exactly the same day as me - April 9. We wish each other good luck and with that I don't spot another Slovenian during my long walk to the stadium.
The atmosphere inside Port Elizabeth stadium is top draw. England, as ever, have taken over the entire stadium, which is a sea of red and white.
England look as bad as they did against Algeria in the opening exchanges and our right back, Glenn Johnson, decidedly suspect in the defensive aspects of his game.
But as Defoe scores England are lifted. It is not a brilliant performance, by any means, but the players do seem to play with a sense of urgency and...passion. You can see that by the way they celebrate the match-winning goal and the way they embrace collectively at the final whistle.
Truthfully, England deserve to win by two or three but the last minute clearance by the English defence and the 93rd minute goal by the USA against Algeria prove just how easily things might have turned out very differently for all four teams in this group.
Back at the casino far too much alcohol is consumed by all present, although all the subsequent silly behaviour is good natured. You'd think England were through to the semis to listen to everyone. Instead we have a very, very tough second round match with arch-rivals Germany in Bloemfontein on sunday.
Many England lads won't be attending though. They assumed England were going to finish top of the group and had already booked flights home for sunday, thinking we'd be playing on saturday back in Rustenburg. School boy stuff.
Several verses of "We're not going home, we're not going home" don't go down very well with some Heathrow-bound supporters.
Tuesday, June 22
Wilderness - Knysna
We stop off at beautiful Wilderness for the Bafana Bafana match versus France. The town nestles next to a long stretch of pristine beach and is surrounded by old growth forests. It is the kind of place where you expect to find the dying breed of old school hippies living and, sure enough, the majority of those in the pub watching the match look like they've spent several weeks partying with the band 'the Doors'.
South Africa have France completely on the ropes but Mphela misses a guilt edged chance to put them 3-0 up in the second half - a third goal that would very likely have seen them through to the next stage. As it turns out it is a very respectable 2-1 victory over the French...but our hosts are going home!
Rather than treating their exit as a tragedy the general consensus is that South Africa have made the nation proud and, most importantly, united many South Africans in the process. It has been an absolute pleasure to witness this happen during our time here.
Home for the night is Knysna, another hour down the road.
Bed for the night is a spot on the floor of a theme park hotel, which has imitation ostrich eggs and African masks but no door on the toilet. Strange.
Tuesday, June 22
Hermanus - Knysna
I reckon the breakfast at the Potting Shed B&B alone is probably worth 200 Rand each.
It sets us up nicely for the majestic views that await us on Hermanus harbour front.
Unfortunately, prime whale-watching season does not begin for a few more weeks so we are not going to spot any of the ten or so whales that are currently resident in the watery neighbourhood. In October they often get 150 whales here at one time.
This obvious disappointment aside, we are compensated by one of the most fantastic coastal views I have seen anywhere in the world. I would liken it to an other-worldly scene from Avatar mixed with the highly imaginative artisitc skills of a New Age painter. The sea roars; the fjord-like mountains are wrapped in fairytale mist; the heart is lifted while the imagination begins to build castles in the sky. Hermanus is a magical place.
We could sit here in silent admiration all day; staring out at this wonder of nature, but we have several hundred kilometres of travel ahead of us if we are going to make it to Port Elizabeth in time for the decisive England match. The way it's going I'll even end up resenting the England team for stealing an afternoon spent in Hermanus from me.
Monday, June 21
Another team I don't like is Portugal. I love the country Portugal - particularly its islands - as well as its people's laid back, down-to-earth attitude to life. I just don't have much time for Mr Cristiano Ronaldo, Carvalho and their mates. It is more bitter and twisted stuff from me that dates back to Portugal-England games of the past, where I feel we have been cheated out of tournaments by Portuguese gamesmanship.
I am explaining this because this is the background to Robin, Rich and I leaving Simon's Town in driving rain to return to Cape Town in search of tickets for the day's Portugal v North Korea match. Oh, how we would love to be there inside the stadium to witness the cheeky North Koreans dump the arrogant Portugal team out of the tournament.
On the 'fanwalk' to the stadium there's a surprising lack of tickets being sold on the black market. In fact, demand appears to be outstripping supply by a conservative 5:1. The one thing we have got going for us is patience. It certainly isn't the end of the world if we don't get in, and if we miss the first few minutes of the match stood outside trying to buy last minute tickets, then so be it.
Half an hour before kick off plenty of category 3's are being offered out at face value (560 Rand). But that's too much for us on our increasingly slim budgets. We want to get in for a maximum 20 quid.
Twenty minutes before kick off two South African gentlemen come over.
"Our two mates can't make it here. Do you mind giving us 500 for their two?"
"Is 400 OK?"
"Yes, sure. You can give us the money inside so that you know the tickets are genuine. You are now our guests"
Everybody is a winner...including FIFA. The stadium is nearly full.
The North Koreans start very well. They look well organised, play the ball on the ground and their number 10 looks better than most central strikers in the tournament. But when Portugal go 2-0 up you know it is all over for them. Suddenly the Koreans appear to be playing with three at the back and are about to get a thrashing.
So, I came here hoping to see Portugal lose and instead I end up privileged to watch Portugal put on one of the most complete halves of football in World Cup history. Sublime is an overused word but it must be applied to descriptions of this performance. Brilliant is another word that comes to mind. The game finishes 7-0 with gasps of excitement drowning out the increasingly headache-causing vuvuzelas. I still don't like the Portugal football team but I have to take my hat off to a truly inspiring second-half performance by the claret and greens.
Camper Van Nick is ready and waiting for us in Greenmarket Square. The road trip to Port Elizabeth begins.
120 kilometres out of Cape Town we pull in for the night at Hermanus, the 'world's best land-based location for watching whales'. After more good food and drink and a few giggles at Fernando Torres' expense at Cubana, on the sea front, we call it a night at The Potting Shed Guesthouse, where a triple is ours for 650 Rand between the three of us. It's a normal price for a very decent little B&B...and definitely beats sleeping in the van when we might need to do that in the coming nights.
Sunday, June 20
There's a one-page spread featuring a photo of Bjorn and the shirt in Die Burger newspaper.
Checked out of the Inn on the Square we catch the Cape Town metro 23 stops to Simon's Town, where a colony of 3000 African penguins can be found hanging out, a couple of kilometres down the road, at Boulders Beach. With all the negative press you read about South Africa most people would assume that instant death awaits anybody foolish enough to board a city train in this country. The journey down the Cape feels safer than the Leeds-Manchester line to me. Mind you, Cape Town also feels safer than every major British city I have been to in recent years. I think there's more chance of being randomly attacked and beaten up in Nottigham or Liverpool of a Saturday night than in Cape Town, from the evidence I have so far seen.
The scenery on the train journey to Simon's Town is top draw: near vertical cliffs dropping into the glorious sea below; white sand beaches forever drenched by huge waves.
Hundreds of penguins waddle backwards and forwards on Boulders Beach, while thousands of sea birds swoop and dive along the shore. It's a dramatic and heart warming scene only made slightly silly by the donkeyesque chatting noises of the penguins and a sudden personal desire to find a Jabulana ball and enjoy a kick about with the flightless birds.
The 2'and 6 pub is the perfect place to watch the 'Eye-ties' (as Paul Ince refers to them live on SABC TV) struggle to a 1-1 draw with New Zealand. They, along with the French, actually look worse than England.
Why are Brasil most football fans' second team? Personally, they annoy the hell out of me. They cheat and spoil matches as shamelessly as any other South American or Italian team does and, worst of all, the players seem to believe that Jesus is their twelfth man. Why do they think God supports Brasil? Why has Elano got Mother Theresa shinpads?
Reading this you won't be surprised to hear I'm disappointed that the Ivory Coast fail to beat Brasil, and that I chuckle to myself in the 2' and 6 when Kaka gets sent off. Am I just bitter and twisted because England are so crap?
Saturday, June 19
"What is wrong with your football team?" an Australian bloke asks me in the lift on the way to breakfast
"England were very bad, weren't they?" the South African waiter serving coffee at breakfast suggests.
"I thought you guys were good: Rooney, Lampard, Gerrard. What's the problem?" the Kurdish restaurant manager states and questions at lunch at Mesopotamia.
Cape Town is a very cool city. As well as its beautiful setting and being a good night out there're also loads of quality sights to be discovered. Our afternoon football-free stroll takes us around the castle, parliament buildings, botanical gardens and into the earthy streets and painted houses of Bo-Kaap, where the locals are friendly and very pleased to see foreign football fans. Those of us who are visiting South Africa for the first time still can't quite comprehend the seeming lack of undercurrent between the resident blacks and the whites. Blacks never seem to double take whites, and only a handful of whites, most of whom are nervous tourists, appear to do it to blacks.
Near the History of Slavery Museum there's a bench marked "White's Only" left to remind and educate about the apartheid era. It is incomprehensible to me that individuals could be so bigoted as to even write signs on benches prohibiting people from sitting down there if the colour of their skin was not white. It is absurd beyond words.
Saturday night Cape Town lives up to expectations, the bars and clubs of Long Street and Cape Quarter guaranteeing a hangover upon a hangover...upon a hangover for sunday morning.