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.
Sunday, June 13
It is 3.30am as our minibus finally reaches the Joburg Golf Club and a 30 pound taxi for Robin and I to get back to Bjorn's flat in Randburg.
The joy of following England - it is a quick two hour kip in Randburg and then back out of bed at 6am so we can get down to Joburg City Park coach terminal for our transport to Durban.
We are on the 8.30am coach to the sunny coast. It is an eight-hour ride but the double-decker Greyhound is suitably comfy and the views spectacular.
Aussie Tim, who Bjorn and I met at Victoria Falls, Zambia is waiting for us at the fanpark in Durban. Where Rustenburg and Joburg were cold, grey and often uninspiring, Durban is sunny, warm, exciting and buzzing. Gary and Keith from Smith's Cottages have very kindly invited us to stay at their place in Durban for free for a couple of nights. They really like 'the shirt' project and want to help us by putting us up while we are in Durban. Keith even picks us up from the coach station, drops us at the casino close to the fanpark and then takes our rucksacks back to the cottages.
England hung round a shopping mall before their opening match; Australia are warming up for theirs in a casino. This is not your normal world cup.
The Durban fanpark is at the back of the casino and is stocked with enough beer for tens of thousands of German and Aussie beer monsters. Tim seems like he has personally drunk half of it already.
A good few Aussies don't have tickets but are able to pick spares up for face value or less. One Scottish lad who's with us gets a CAT 1 (face 1500 Rand) for 400.
The Durban Stadium is a beauty. With the beaches and sea on one side, rolling hills behind it and the Miami style apartment blocks its location would be spectacular enough in itself, but this is only added to by one of the aesthetic wonders of the football world. If footall has become the world religion, then the Durban Stadium is one of its global cathedrals.
One year ago I would have fancied the Aussies to push the Germans in this match but the northern Europeans are on the up.
Despite having most of the support in the stadium, Australia are outclassed from start to finish. Germany are simply brilliant. Ozel looks like he might be 'the find' of the tournament; Schweinsteiger could end up being the player of the tournament.
My seat is about 15 rows back from the pitch. My 560 rands gets me one of the most complete performances I have ever seen from an international side. An Englishman doesn't really want to admit this but it was a pleasure paying 50 pounds to watch Germany play this well.
Afterwards the Aussies are in surprisingly good spirits. They are agrieved about the Cahill sending off but all admit they have been totally outclassed. Predictably enough they drown their sorrows drinking vast quantities of Castle in the casino. It must be 3 or 4 by the time we get Tim home.