Friday, July 2
Umzumbe - Flagstaff
All good things come to an end. We say our goodbyes to Robin who has managed to grab a cheap one-way flight from Durban to Joburg, and changed his return flight so that he flies out of Joburg to the UK tonight at midnight.
England aside, it has been a brilliant few weeks. I've rarely had such a good laugh.
Nick, Fabio and I drive southwest into the land known as 'The Wild Coast'. I was rather assuming that the 'wild' part of the name was pure reference to the local nature, but it equally describes this Xhosa homeland. This is Nelson Mandela's tribe - the second largest black African group after the Zulus.
This place is roar and quite unlike anywhere else I have seen in South Africa. Many of the people live in multi-coloured rondavels and stroll about, adorned in colourful jewelry, as if strolling is the national pastime. They believe in witches here, and many of the Xhosa have the top of their left little finger removed to ward off bad luck.
The R61 takes you through rough and ready Bizana and up into the wild mountain communities of the 'Transkei'. There are numerous dead dogs on the road and small groups of local youths march with intricately-carved walking sticks by the roadside. It's almost like one great big township on cultural steroids set in mountains. It feels scary, but I can't honestly say whether, in reality, it is. We are met by countless looks of bemusement during our drive through but also by many beaming smiles and welcoming waves.
At my request, Camper van Nick calls it a night when we reach Flagstaff. I'm not up for driving through the rest of this region in the darkness with all the animals on the road so we find a bed and breakfast and check in just as the first of the quarter finals kicks off between Brasil and the Netherlands.
This is the evening that England should be playing in front of 90,000 in Joburg. Instead we find ourselves cooking pasta on a camping stove in a hotel bedroom in the middle of nowhere and washing our filthy clothes in the bathroom sink. It says it all really.
I'm not sad to see Brasil go out, but I am infuriated to see Ghana eliminated by the cheating Uruguayans. Who said cheats don't prosper?
Thursday, July 1
Quthing - Qacha's Nek (Lesotho) - Umzumbe (South Africa)
The four of us emerge from our two double beds and go off in search of dinosaur footprints...just another silly day at the 2010 World Cup.
Lesothosaurus dates from the late Triassic and early Jurassic period 200-208 million years ago. You can see his footprints and get your fingers on his bones on the edge of Quthing. I guess this is definitely the first and the last time that I will get the chance to hold dinosaur bones in my own hands.
I have run out of superlatives to describe the road trip through Leostho. So let's just say the three-hour drive along the Senqu River (to the sounds of Delphic), and up through the ice-covered mountain passes, past the ever-friendly shephard communities from Quthing to Qacha's Nek is more of the same inspirational stuff experienced throughout our time in this very special place. Fabio is of course sleeping through all of this.
Camper Van Nick, who's been to the Grand Canyon, reckons the similar topography in southern Leostho is actually more impressive in its entirity than the world famous US equivelent. A word also about those who inhabit Lesotho: they seem like lovely, genuine and often-passive people. The rarely matched landscapes and skyscapes of Lesotho are perfectly complemented by this nation's genuine people.
The customs and immigration officials at the Qacha's Nek border crossing are, of course, the last people we meet in the country.
"What did you think of Lesotho?"
"Brilliant. We loved it."
"Can you please tell everybody you meet about our beautiful country? You have only seen some of its beauty...and please make sure you come back and enjoy more of it yourselves."
We will - don't you worry about that!
Four hours hard driving from the border we reach the Indian Ocean and call it a night at Umzumbe.
Mantis and Moon Backpackers has got a jungle-themed garden, which looks like the film set for 'I'm a celebrity, get me out of here.' Inside the garden there's a tee pee, several tree houses, a bubbling jacuzzi and a very well stocked bar. Geordie Robin parts company with us tomorrow so there's nothing for it but to drink copious amounts of beer and wine by the open-air bonfire into the early hours.