Thursday, July 8
Durban - Joburg
So Spain managed to get past the brilliant young German side. It must be their trophy now...
It wasn't the greatest semi final you'll ever watch, but it was certainly intriguing. The young Italian bloke in a wheelchair, who miraculously rose to his feet and ran onto the pitch in the middle of the match blowing his vuvuzela, was another highlight of the evening for many football purists.
I don't know how much publicity it got abroad but there is a big stink here today about the 1,000 plus football supporters whose aircraft were unable to land at Durban Airport for last night's match. The story goes that a good half dozen scheduled flights were unable to land because of private jets belonging to celebrities and FIFA officials blocking the landing berths. It's an absolute disgrace. The media though hasn't mentioned the significant number of police and military aircraft that were patrolling the skies last night. I suspect that also had something to do with the mess.
Blackburn and I check out of our Durban beachfront flat (more like an upmarket prison cell) and make for the coach station.
"Can you believe it?" Blackburn tells me, "I even got told off by one of the street beggars for being too rowdy a couple of nights ago. 'Blackburn', he said. 'You shouldn't get so drunk'. It comes to something when the local beggars are telling you off."
Prior to coming out to South Africa there were not only horror stories in the press about crime - we were also told that the price of domestic travel would be unaffordable. More nonsense from the world's media. Down at Durban coach station a 7-hour journey on a luxury double-decker from Durban to Joburg will set you back the grand total of 180 rand (16 pounds).
We are heading back to Joburg so I can fly home and Blackburn can try and get into Sunday's final at Soccer City. Four coaches leave Durban at the same time, the morning after the world cup semi. We spot a grand total of two German fans and zero Spaniards making the journey north.
South Africa has been brilliant but Joburg isn't exactly my favourite place. We arrive at Joburg Park Station late afternoon. It's more than 10km from here to Randburg where Blackburn has booked us in to his old guesthouse.
The problem with Joburg is that everywhere is so difficult to get to if you are relying on public transport. And then there's the threat of voilent crime...
A policeman at the station advises us against walking the couple of blocks it is to the minivan taxi rank.
"To be honest, it isn't safe at all. You are much better off taking a taxi to Randburg."
The taxi ends up costing as much as the 7-hour coach journey but at least the last long road trip of this adventure is over.
I grab an early night. I feel exhausted and ready to go home. It seems more like years rather than months since I left England. I can't imagine how Bjorn must feel after nearly 13 months away.
Wednesday, July 7
As we depart the apartment lift what appears to be a four-man SWAT team gets in.
It is world cup semi-final day but you wouldn't believe it strolling around the streets of Durban. Down at the city coach station, looking into options for a coach back to Joburg tomorrow, you'd expect coach loads full of Spanish and German fans to be arriving. Instead, nothing. There isn't a single football fan to be seen...anywhere. In fact, it's almost as if this particular part of the city has been emptied; Blackburn and I wander around like the two lone characters in the film 'Book of Eli'.
With no football fans to knock about with I spend my afternoon down at Durban Water World.
So, this is where all the Germans and Spanish have been hiding! (well, a good hundred of them anyway).
The aquarium is good value and well worth visiting if you are ever in Durban. I have to admit though that I have one of those 'how did my life get to this point?' moments as I sit in a football-style stand watching the 'sea lion pantomime'. The world cup semi final kicks off in about 4 hours and I'm in a crowd of football fans applauding a performing sea lion.
The first audible football chant of the day is heard on Durban waterfront at 4.17pm. I mention this because if England were ever to get to another semi on foreign soil you wouldn't be able to escape the flags, chants and thousands of fans.
There don't seem to be many tickets knocking about for this evening's match. At this point in time you can't really judge how much they are likely to go for. I suppose given that there don't seem to be any travelling fans here, they should be affordable...
Tuesday, July 6
Port St.Johns - Durban
I'm gutted to be leaving the backpackers in Port St.Johns. I wanted to find somewhere to chill for a few days and this place has been absolutely perfect.
I'm down the minibus terminal at 7am. One of the drivers organises breakfast for me with one of the local ladies and while we are waiting tells me about the last years of apartheid when "some people" came down from Bloem and Joburg and opened fire on the local black population in '83. "They just wanted to kill as many of us as they could," he tells me, "but none of them ever left town. Now all anybody is interested in coming here for is to relax and have a good time."
It's closer nine before the minivan is full and we can set off for Durban. Predictably, I'm the only white person in the van and there in't a single white on the whole journey back along the R61. Again, the dead animal count on the road is near double figures but the road to Durban doesn't seem half as intimidating as it did on the way down with Camper Van Nick and Fabio.
I find Blackburn at the Costa Do Sol bar just off the beachfront in Durban. It's a bit sketchy down here where the colonial buildings stop and the dive bars begin. Blackburn's the wrong side of drunk so after a couple of Klipdrifts and Castle I chuck my bags in at our digs for the night on the beach front, just across from Joe Cool's.
Durban beachfront is absolutely packed in the evening for the first semi-final being shown live at the Fanfest. They've been getting 70,000 here on a regular basis throughout the world cup.
A big bonus is the sudden appearance of K'naan, whose song 'Wavin Flag' has been the soundtrack to this world cup finals. K'naan was a Somali refugee so you can't blame me for a sudden attack of goosebumps when he sings a second rendition of 'Wavin Flag' in front of tens of thousands on Durban beach. Images flash in my mind of the refugee camps I visited in Tanzania and Malawi. I think of all those lovely people Bjorn and I met, many of them from Somalia; I reminisce over the last three amazing months on the road and here at the World Cup in South Africa. I bite my lip to stop the odd tear or two rolling down my cheeks.
A gale blows on Durban beach as the Dutch experience a late scare against Uruguay but go through 3-2. Tomorrow it's the semi-final here. It will be a result if i can end my world cup by getting into the semi before I fly home.
Friday, June 18
'Stadium guards shot' is the main headline of the Cape Times today. The local police opened fire on workers who were demonstrating against poor conditions and not getting paid yesterday here in Cape Town. The same thing happened in Durban. FIFA are making billions out of this tournament. It is an absolute disgrace when the local workers are not paid the few rands they have been promised for helping ensure the tournament runs smoothly. Sort it out FIFA!
Tuesday, June 15
Sami Pievilainen, one of the Finns staying at Smith's Cottages presents me with a Finnish national shirt at breakfast. What a fantastc gesture from Sami who really wants the shirt project to set the record for the world's biggest shirt.
You won't often hear this but Durban is freezing. As well as driving rain a bitter wind blows in from the south west. It is time to catch up with my blogs before what should be an exciting few days in Cape Town.
With flights booked to Cape Town we catch the final game of the day at Joe Cools on the Durban beachfront. The Swiss are here in force and fancy their chances against the Spanish in the city the following day. The Finns win the drinking; the Swiss win the partying; the English are still waiting to turn up at the tournament.