Understandably, Bjorn is feeling exhausted by his exertions of the past 13 months. I also feel pretty done in - both mentally and physically - by my much smaller contribution to 'The Shirt 2010' project.
It is hard to say, therefore, at this point in time, where exactly the project will go from here in the coming months. I very much hope there will still be an exhibition, book and 'The Shirt 2014', but it is impossible to say just now.
My advice would be to check this blog (let's say) once per month for any updates, and to continue logging on to www.theshirt2010.net every now and then to hear Bjorn's news and updates. I guess new previously unpublished photos will be added to both www.theshirt2010.net and www.justinworldcup.weebly.com on a regular basis in the coming weeks.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank every single one of you who has followed this project and supported us in any shape or form. The messages of support and encouragement were always greatly appreciated whilst on the road in Africa. I am sorry that it was often impossible to reply to you personally at that time.
I hope this project has encouraged us all to think more about the world's refugees. I hope each and every one of us will continue to think of the refugees in the future and, on occasion, offer our personal support to them wherever in the world they may be.
Thank you to you all!!
All the best,
Saturday, July 10
I meet Bjorn who is looking even more knackered than me.
"You must be more than ready to go home?" I ask him
"You can't imagine. I don't even want to think about these last five days here. I want to see my kids now."
Bjorn (as well as Blackburn) is hoping to get into tomorrow's final here in Joburg.
I will be more than satisfied to watch it on the TV if I get back to the UK in time.
I say my temporary goodbyes to Blackburn, who has been a brilliant laugh over these past few weeks at the world cup.
I say my temporary goodbyes to Bjorn, who was an absolutely amazing companion to travel 6500 kilometres with from Kenya to South Africa.
I will miss both of them, but now it's time for me to catch the brand new 'Gautrain' from Sandton to Joburg International and my plane home...
Well, at least that's what I had hoped: When I get to the airport I discover that there is no record of my flight booking on Emirates' computer system.
It's a bit stressful for a few minutes but, luckily, I somehow manage to get rebooked on to my original flight by paying for a new ticket at the airport ticket office. It's fortunate that I arrived at the airport 4 hours before the flight.
Germany are playing Uruguay in the third-place play off. The idea of this match is a bit pointless in football but I am more than happy to watch messrs Forlan and Ozil take to the pitch one last time in South Africa.
One of the things I have loved about this country is how laid back the people are. Point in case is two dozen of us sitting on the hallway floor in the departures terminal watching the match. At least half of those present are airport staff. In another country they'd probably lose their jobs and I'd get a telling off for lounging about like this. But here, nobody cares. I think it's brilliant.
Forlan hits the crossbar with the final kick of the match. Simultaneously passengers begin filing on to the aircraft for our flight to Dubai. My last image of South Africa is a black airport worker holding his head in his hands and remarking "Forlan is brilliant. I wish he could have scored that goal and got the golden boot."
I'm really going to miss this beautiful country and its lovely people.
Wednesday, June 9
The latest stats for this blog reveal that the site now has a decent following in South Africa.
The top 10 countries following www.justinworldcup.weebly.com over the last 7 days are...
1. United Kingdom 2. South Africa 3. Latvia 4. Lithuania 5. Switzerland 6. Kenya 7. United States 8. Zambia 9. Australia 10. Denmark
Please encourage your friends and work mates to follow my blogs over the coming weeks as well as those of Bjorn at www.theshirt2010.net
Monday, May 24
I am fortunate enough to attend South Africa's pre-World Cup friendly with Bulgaria at the Orlando Stadium.
The stadium is in the infamous Soweto suburb of Johannesburg, within sight of many of the country's most notorious townships. After total refurbishment in 2008, this new state-of-the-art arena now seats 40,000 fans.
It is chaos on the roads leading to Soweto. Despite leaving another Johannesburg suburb at 7, we are only able to double-park on one of the roads adjacent as the match kicks off at 8.30.
Many of the streets leadng to the stadium are unlit and the noise is deafening. Once inside the arena the volume level goes up several more desibels. It is so raucous, in fact, that I cannot hear my friend Norris, stood next to me. It is very cold; maybe only 6 degrees Celsius. It is more like a chilly November evening than the summer paradise many foreign football fans are expecting.
The Orlando stadium actually shakes as tens of thousands of fans jump up and down in unison and dance rythmically from side to side. Truthfully, I have never heard noise anything like this from 40,000 fans. It is deafening.
When Bafana Bafana take a deserved 1-0 lead it is time to apply index fingers inside the ears.
Bulgaria have good support in the stadium. I can only assume the couple thousand present reside here in the Rainbow Nation. Cyrillic flags include: Slavia and Lokomotiv.
When the Bulgarians equalise it also feels more like a full international rather than a friendly.
At half time I realise, if I didn't realise before, strolling around, that the majority present here are straight out of the Soweto townships. There are a lot of, shall we say, quite 'rough and ready' lads present. In the toilets the local males think little of sharing urinals, rather than waiting their turns. Three blokes sharing one urinal is a first for me.
The stadium is located inside a giant natural bowl and, as it gets colder, mist begins to hug the floodlights giving the occasion the feel of a packed out November evening FA Cup replay.
Bafana Bafana look like a much more decent side than they are given credit for, look dangerous at set pieces, and are inspired at times thanks to Steven Pienaar. If this kind of support is behind them for their Group A matches with France, Mexico and Uruguay I believe they can and will qualify for the second round.
The match finishes 1-1. I break my 'never-leave-a-match-before-the-final-whistle' rule on 87 minutes, otherwise I will be spending the whole night in Soweto rather than one of Joburg's rather leafier suburbs.
Wednesday, May 19
Nata - Gaborone, Botswana
Peter, the owner of North Gate Lodge, sorts out a large portable board for us that we place surrealy by the road sign marked simply:
Very little traffic passes here in this vast, sparsely populated country of 1.2 million. Nata is on the edge of the Sowa Pan, part of the world’s largest, the Makgadikgadi Pans. Sadly, we neither have the time to cycle all the way south from here or to bike west to visit the pans and their magnificent bird life.
We find a lift to Francistown, 120 kilometres away, and then pick up a midday ride leaving for Gaborone. Truthfully, the 600 kilometre journey down the A1 is rather monotonous compared to much of what has passed these past weeks. We cross the Lose River and spot the first mountains in Botswana as the Mahalapye River comes into view.
But best of all we cross the Tropic of Capricorn, meaning I have completed one of my personal targets; namely ‘hitchbiking’ from roughly the equator to the tropics.
I wish we could have spent much more time in Botswana. It is certainly the most developed country I have seen in Africa. We have seen no poverty. No-one appears to beg on the streets. I guess the tourist board might Christen it ‘Zimbabwe as it once was’.
The numerous national parks and game reserves deserving of many hours will have to be visited another time, but at least I have educated myself about the beauty of this place.
In Gaborone we cycle through the city centre to our hotel. The capital is decidedly more European than African. We swerve in and out of rush hour traffic, negotiate traffic lights and roundabouts and finally make base for the night at the President Hotel.
The UNHCR, well aware that this is the final night for us of the journey south, have shouted the night at the President for us. It is a gorgeous hotel although bizarrely the adjacent shopping centre is so reminiscent of its counterpart in Coventry city centre that it sends my head-a-spinning as I stroll through it on my way to the local Spar. Outside the local newspaper headline reads:
Botswana foils World Cup terror plot
“I don’t know what to say on my final blogs. I am not sure how I feel,” Bjorn tells me as we crack open the first of the celebratory beer and whisky. Although we still have two or three hours of cycling in the morning, this hotel room represents the finishing line in many ways. Tomorrow we will be in South Africa and the ‘expedition’ will be completed.
“Don’t write anything just yet. Just enjoy the feeling of completion and the relief of making it all the way here safely. I don’t think you will understand how you feel now till you are back in Norway reflecting back on all this.”
After meeting the UNHCR representative for Botswana, the affable and extremely knowledgeable Mister Shana Kaninda, it is time for alcohol and reminiscences. Tales from the road; happy and scary memories merge. A sense of satisfaction and accomplishment builds inside. Dreams of what can be achieved at the World Cup in South Africa are discussed.
Part of me can’t wait to get to South Africa to know I have completed the journey. Another part of me wishes this wasn’t over just yet and that more adventures on the road were around the corner.
Thursday, May 13
Lusaka - Livingstone, Zambia
We leave the millionaire expat lifestyle behind and return to the two-poor geezers-with-bikes-harassed-by-bus-station-spivs game.
It is a "five hour journey south to Livingstone," we are told - and your heart sinks, because in A.T. five probably means ten.
Luckily for us, we are the last to board the 'Namibia Bus', stopping at Livingstone.
"You wouldn't happen to be a Norwegain bloke cycling to the world cup, would you?" a young Muzungu asks Bjorn. Tim has got a copy of the Zambian Daily Post in his hands with said story about said Norwegian. Somebody else reading the Zambian Times also gives a knowing nod: today's fresh off the press article mentions a Norwegian cyclist, (Mr. Bjorn Heidenstrom), and his new travel companion 'Justine'. Makes it sound like Bjorn's picked up a random transvestite en route.
The road south to Livingstone is unspectacular, by the standards so far experienced, and certainly the most industrial to date. Fuel is 8500 per litre, or 1.20 pounds - about the same as the UK.
5 hours...6, 8, 10, 11 hours later we pull into Livingstone, the bus violently rattling over a stretch of road that wouldn't be out of place in delapidated Burma.
We are met off the bus by Tore, a locally-based Norwegian, who kindly contacted us by phone 24 hours earlier and offered to put us up for a day or two. We don't know his name so he's been stored in ou phone as 'Dr. Livingstone I presume".
Tore works for Norwegian Christian Aid.
Sadly though, the two hitchbikers sit in the back of his Toyota as he pulls into his private house whispering "Shit, if he's a full-on Christian he probably won't want beer in his house,"
"Yeah, I'm dying for a beer...alternatively though he could be an axe murderer so it's not the worst result,"
Tore leads us into his home from home and tells us, "Help yourselves to some beers from the fridge."
There follows an excellent Norwegain supper, countless beers and several hours of good chat.
Friday, May 7
We pass the brand new Chinese-built parliament building due for completion any time soon. It is rather reminiscent of the kinds of impressive but rather monstrous constructions that you find in Astana, Kazakhstan. Lilongwe itself resembles a giant, slightly unkempt park or wood with embassies, lodges, residential compounds, banks and NGOs. From the capital’s rooftops huge, oddly-shaped mountains,
that puts one in mind of Ayres Rock, soar out of the almost flat horizon.
At 10am, Malawi’s lone state television channel, MNC, the country’s leading newspapers (The Nation and the Malawi Daily Times) and the top independent radio channel, Zodiac, arrive for a press conference arranged by the Lilongwe UNHCR and run by Bjorn and I.
Bjorn is a very good public speaker. All those present seem to enjoy the presentation and by the end of it we have appeared on Malawian State TV in front of 4 million, and another significant share of the country’s 14 million population will have heard our message through the papers and radio.
What else can I tell you about Lilongwe? The country has been independent since 1964. An obvious British-influence still remains. In 1989 it was home to more refugees than anywhere else on earth: 1.2 million were guests of the Malawian government as a result of the civil war in Mozambique at that time.
Supermarket prices here are absurd - often 2-3 times the prices of goods in the UK. The biggest bank note in general circulation is the 5000 kwacha, worth slightly more than 2 pounds.
After the press conference and several hours of blogging and press communication to Europe and South Africa we return home to Kuka Lodge for an evening of home comforts. The excellent local support of the UNHCR has enabled us to make the most of our visit to Lilongwe.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
The Landmark Hotel has been the perfect bolt hole. I buy some new shoes to replace my dead Adidas Sambas, find a very honest fundi (only wants to charge me ten pence for his work) to repair my bike (again) and manage to get Internet for an hour to post some blogs and let my family know I am OK.
The road from Tukuyu to the Malawi border is down hill for the first 20 kilometres. It should be a perfect day of cycling once we are out of the rain clouds.
Thirty minutes by the roadside.
Beautiful mountain scenery and well-kempt tea plantations.
Glass in tyre. Puncture. Brow of a hill with lorries and minibuses zooming by.
Puncture 3, puncture 4. I am ready to throw my bike in Lake Malawi. I feel ridiculous to be slowing down Bjorn so much.
By puncture six it is clear the problem isn’t just the rotting tyre and buggered inner. The badly/cheaply designed Chinese wheel is also creating its own punctures.
This is the most beautiful scenery we have seen so far in Africa. We are cycling a ridge with dramatic valleys either side. Tea plantations are once again replaced by bananas; thousands upon thousands of banana trees as we travel south. Green, lush vegetation covers the peaks that surround us. There are waterfalls, smiling kids by the roadside, strangely shaped mountains covered in rain clouds soaring out of the landscape. This is an incredibly beautiful part of Planet Earth, and we have it practically to ourselves. I will call this place ‘Paradise Ridge’.
But as the hours roll by we realise we may struggle to find a ‘safe place’ to spend the night. I must cycle on a flat tyre, and I must cycle very quickly if we are to make it to the border before dark.
Knowing we are in a tight spot is enough motivation.
The sweat pours off me like the rain did previously. Even my trousers are soaked from sweating.
We do of course make it to the Kasumulu and the border before darkness, I having felt every bump and vibration in the road from my flat back tyre.
It has been another amazing day of highs and lows. I am sorry for slowing Bjorn’s journey down so much, but the reward has been to spend many hours in one of the most beautiful and serene places I have ever seen.
Lubele Village Motel, Tel 0754 391650, Box 35, Kasumulu, Tanzanian side of border. Ask for Clement.
Thursday, April 22
Chogo Refugee resettlement Camp, Tanzania
Due to a little bit too much beer (at least I hope that is his excuse) Bjorn was cuddling up closer to me in bed than I would have liked and clearly was thinking I might be his Marianne :) Consequently, I elected to spend the rest of the night trying to sleep on the floor.
We travel up to the Chogo Refugee Settlement, less than 100 kilometres from Tanga. The camp is run by REDESO (The Relief to Development Society).
The vision of REDESO is as follows:
"A community where vulnerable people have access to equal opportunities and empowerment".
There are around 2,800 resettled Somalis living at the Chogo Camp. The idea is that they become self sufficient and naturalized as Tanzanian citizens.
Both these ideas seem appropriate to me. Chogo is a beautiful place. It is hilly, full of lush vegitation and enjoys the occasional cooling breeze.
The camp's residents, young and old, are very friendly. We meet the camp's Elders. They want to be totally self-sufficient, but first they need a little more help from people like you and me. They need school books for the kids; they need electricity and running water.
Much has already been achieved at Chogo from when it was originally nothing more than one huge UNHCR tent. Now thousands live happily in their own houses, go to their mosque, cook on coal-heated stoves and, of course, play football.
But these people have shown that if they are given the tools to become self-sufficient, they can do just that.
It would be nice to think that somebody who reads this might help to put those books into the Chogo classrooms and the waterpumps into the orange Chogo soil.
For more details:
Wednesday, April 21
After the previous day's trials and tribulations, a relaxing evening consisting of several Safari beers, a tasty Indian curry, Champions League football, clean white sheets and an air-conditioned room meant that I slept like a baby and woke up feeling as fit and sprightly as a teenage lad.
The two hitchbikers sat out on the breakfast veranda with its fine views of the Indian Ocean, and the dhows that ply the waterways in the distance. It might only be just after 7am but the Tanga Immigration boys are out and about early doors looking for foreigners who might not be who they say they are. So breakfast is spent with Tanga Immigration who, perhaps not surprisingly, are a little taken a back to hear Bjorn's well-told tale of cycling from Norway to South Africa for the refugees. Our Indian-Tanzanian hosts look a little tense. I guess we look more like drug smugglers than cyclists. Well, Bjorn certainly looks dodgy :)
A photo of Bjorn with Sepp Blatter and a letter from the Tanzanian Ministry of Home Affairs soon clear things up.
Wednesday is supposed to be what we call 'a communication day'. This, as the name suggests, is a day when we set aside 5 or 6 hours to blog, email and edit stories. It is also the first time I have had proper access to my emails in around a week and the first thing I discover is that my father has had what he calls 'a mild heart attack'.
It goes without saying that this news worries and stresses me greatly. My dad is in China and must have a serious operation the following day. I know there is nothing I can do to help and that only adds to the tension.
In the evening I am hoping for a quiet beer alone but as I enter the hotel bar I get introduced to two South Korean lads wearing German football tops who want to talk about football. There is a 1997 calendar on the wall, two toy white Persian cats plonked near our beers and a white man with a German accent who speaks fluent Swahili stocking up the beers. I am worried about my father but I guess surreal distractions are a good thing.