Wednesday, June 30
Roma - Mohale Dam - Nazareth - Mafeteng - Quthing
While the local population go about their business dressed in blankets, an amazing light consumes the scene as cartoon sunbeams burst out of the early morning clouds and light up sections of the red granite mountains.
Smoke billows from the chimneys of the ubiquitous circular rondaval houses - their thatched roofs making them look otherworldly, convincing you that hobbit families must be living inside enjoying a late breakfast.
The mountain pass reaches 2273 metres where snow hugs the rocks. The next pass is even higher and has the wonderful name 'the God help me pass' - sounds like a 40-yard up-field punt from Steven Gerrard in Cape Town.
It feels like we are living the millionaire's lifestyle when the four of us enjoy buffet breakfast at the otherwise deserted Mohale Lodge set high on a mountain ridge at over 6000 feet above sea level. The views over the surrounding countryside and the dam below are top draw. If in South Africa you had rent-a-fan, here in Lesotho you have rent-a-country as we seem to have this whole nation almost entirely at our own personal disposal.
It is the first World Cup rest day of the tournament, which means that after an hour a Mohale Dam we don't have to factor in finding a place to stop off at 4, and a place to stay before 8.30.
On the road south, reading up on the brilliant nation-building skills of the late Moshoeshoe ('The Great'), we stop briefly at Mafeteng where an elderly gentlemen named Martin Peter, who's clearly cast from the same mold as Moshoeshoe, gets chatting to me in the local supermarket. He reckons things were better before independence under British rule. "What this country needs is leaders, not money," he tells me. "We need your people to help us learn leadership skills because without them Lesotho will be in trouble in the coming years." From my brief encounter with Martin Peter it seems to me that he is exactly the kind of community leader that any town or region could desperately do with.
Driving further south past Mohale's Hoek, where Prince Harry spent some time working in the community, the daylight begins to fade and the thin cool air helps create a special quality of light. Sandstone overhangs and impossible rock formations encourage the three of us (who are not driving) to each take a ridiculous number of photos of the wonderful scenery.
On the outskirts of Quthing, just before dark, we pull off the highway and negotiate a bumpy dirt track to investigate the twin-spired sandstone Villa Maria Mission church. It looks very much out of place but its twin spires and statue of the Virgin Mary only add to the mystical nature of the surrounding countryside.
In the church grounds a group of small boys play football, prompting us to request a quick kick about in the shadow of Maria...ten minutes soon becoming an hour. One of the highlights of my whole trip has certainly been the impromptu kick-abouts with African kids all over the southern half of this continent. They always play with a smile; they always play with passion and enthusiasm.
After a comical hour spent trying to find the Mountain Side Hotel we enlist the help of the village bobby, who's sporting a retro 1950's uniform. He kindly drives around with us in the dark to the various hotels and guesthouses. But despite his much appreciated help the four of us end up in one room sharing two double beds at the aptly named Rainbow Guesthouse II...and consume four bottles of South African red to help deal with the silliness of it all.
Friday, June 18
"Who's that idiot walking around on the shirt?"
"I don't know. Let's go and have a word with him"
"Oh, alright Fat Boy!"
He might be an hour late but it turns out it is Fat Boy Slim who is walking around inspecting 'the shirt'. Good of the lad to sign it for us.
"Nice one with the shirt mate" he tells Bjorn, after signing one of the England shirts and, with that, all the super star excitement is over. Norman Cook (AKA Fat Boy Slim) and the rest of us need to get on with the day's other business of drinking excessive quantities of beer and watching England thrash Algeria.
Cape Town Waterfront has been transformed from a wannabee millionaires' classy playground into something more closely resembling a street of boozers in the East End of London. Flags 'adorn' every restaurant balcony and cruise ship advertising hording. Tuneless cries of "Inger-land, Inger-land" fill the air. Most pubs are so full they won't let anyone else in.
Blackburn, who has come dressed for the game in a red and white Michael Caine 'Zulu' uniform, has managed to organise tickets for my Norwegian friends. Meanwhile, Columbian Richard, Robin and I bump into London Mayor and cuddly Torrie, Boris Johnson,stumbling around by himself amongst the drunken tomfoolery. It's too good a photo opportunity to miss although Boris does seem to treat my camera-at-the-ready-handshake with slightly nervous suspicion.
The Cape Town Stadium is within walking distance of the water front although FIFA seem to have gone out of their way to create a series of ingenious metal mazes and bridges made of scaffolding that turn a 10-minute walk into a one-hour long crush.
As is the case with all of South Africa's stadia, Green Point is a fantastic theatre of football. The England fans have certainly turned up. Question is - has the England team?
England are diabolical. Rooney, considered to be the best English player of his generation, can't as much as trap the ball. The rest of the team are ineffectual and, worst of all, seem to be playing without passion or character. It's not that I've got a problem with England under performing or even losing. The main things I want to see from the players are passion and a will to win.
The 0-0 must rate as one of the most inept England performances in years. Even Capello doesn't seem able to conjur up the necessary tactical changes of going at Algeria with two wingers and Gerrard playing behind Rooney for the last quarter of the game.
You won't here me booing my own team during a game but I've got no issue with the fans doing it at the end of a performance like this. They deserved to be booed in Cape Town.
We hear afterwards that Rooney sulked off moaning about the booing. Is this the same player who walked off the pitch and didn't bother to clap the tens of thousands of fans who have virtually bankrupted themselves to be at this tournament? Carragher was the only player I noticed who took ten seconds of his own time to acknowledge the fans.
At the Fat Boy Slim concert, back in town, there's talk that an England fan broke into the England changing room after the match with a dangerous weapon. I can only assume it was a football. There needs to be a sea change in attitude from the players because there is currently disharmony of the worst kind in the England camp - i.e. between the fans and the players. Unless England pull out some kind of respectable performance against Slovenia, the relationship between the fans and the players will be irrevocably damaged for many years to come.
The Fat Boy Slim concert turns out to be considerably more fun than the match. The party goes on till four with many of us partying on happy in the knowledge that we can sleep in and hide in our rooms tomorrow.
Watching England has been crap so far. Thankfully, South Africa is a beautiful place where you can eat well, drink affordably, party excessively and enjoy its stunning landscapes on the way to your next embarrassing England football nightmare.