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.
Friday, July 9
The Shirt is proudly hanging in Brightwater Shopping Mall, Joburg. It's a fantastic sight.
While I've been roadtripping it around South Africa these past three weeks, Bjorn and Marianne have been hard at work in Joburg continually spreading the word to the international press. Bjorn has even been featured on Costa Rican TV.
Catch all his latest news here
Truthfully, I'd be very happy to fly home today, but I am hoping to spend my last full day with Bjorn catching up on the past few weeks and reminiscing back over the adventure from Kenya to Kopfontein.
It turns out though that Bjorn is booked up with shirt commitments around the Gauteng area and, as I don't have transport, I can't meet him.
Later on friday he also has to pull out of our planned 'last night on the beers':
"Sorry mate. I'm with Nelson Mandela's photographer and Morgan Freeman. Catch you tomorrow lunchtime in the pub."
Blown out for Morgan Freeman! I suppose I can forgive him on this occasion :)
Instead, Blackburn and I spend my last evening in South Africa in the Nigerian gangster pub over the road from our guesthouse. This is where I first found Blackburn stumbling around all those weeks ago, before the World Cup had even begun.
It's Castle and Klipdrift, then time to pack my bags...
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
Here follows the attempts by a ticketless football fan - let's call him 'Dave' - to find a ticket for the 2010 semi final in Durban:
The first 'sniff' of a ticket is in an Internet cafe, just off Durban beach front. Dave overhears a conversation in Spanish and asks the gentleman sitting next to him:
"tiene usted un billete?"
Dave tracks down his friend - let's call him 'Blackpool' - and asks him if he's up for paying 600?
"No, I reckon i'll be able to get in for 100 Rand"
Undeterred, Dave tracks down the Argentinian gentleman and his three friends, who are walking around the FanFest looking for potential buyers.
"Can I just buy one ticket off you? Is 400 OK?"
"Yes, you can have one but my lowest price is 500."
World Cup semi for 45 pounds, Dave thinks. Can't be bad...
Under the shadow of a Durban seafront apartment block, military helicopters hovering overhead, Dave begins to count out his money in front of the four Argies.
"Three, four, f..."
"Why are you counting rand? Where are your dollars?"
"Sorry? You said 500, didn't you?"
"Yes. Five hundred dollars"
Silly misunderstanding out of the way Dave heads off along the beachfront towards the casino. There's a submarine out at sea and more police and army than there are fans. Every hotel and apartment block appears to have at least 3 or 4 police out front. Meanwhile, four helicopters are patrolling the airspace above the football stadium and the nearby sea as if they are searching for would-be terrorists. It is 7/7 - are they expecting trouble?
At the casino there are no tickets. Outside the adjacent ticketing office Dave gets chatting to a German couple:
"We came to South Africa with no tickets but we have got into all the Germany matches. The most we have paid is 400 rand. You just have to stay patient."
Moments later, a thirty-something Afrikaner ticket tout, who looks like a young Arnold Schwarzenegger is over
"You looking for tickets?"
"Yes, but yours are going to be too expensive for me my friend."
"Well, how much are you looking for?"
"Don't waste my fookin time"
"I told you not to waste your time."
"Fookin #### (etc.) "
Dave knows that a fight with Arnold wouldn't last more than two seconds, but so incensed is he by South Africa's rudest man that he can't help abusing him back. Luckily for Dave, most of this is drowned out by the whir of another helicopter flypast.
It is still 90 minutes to kick off, but Dave fancies his chances are better down outside the stadium.
Having narrowly avoided certain death at the fists of South Africa's rudest man, Dave soon meets the country's rudest woman - A coked-up white girl wearing a 'Ballack' German top. After initially offering her spare ticket to the ticketless for free, she prefers to tease people, abuse them and then walk into the stadium, chosing to pointlessly keep it rather than give it to somebody for a few hundred rand.
Dave has had just about enough. If he sticks around much longer, he might get into a fight - what are the odds on meeting the biggest two idiots in South Africa in the space of half an hour?
"Hello Sir. Are you trying to buy a ticket?"
Uh, oh. These two very smartly dressed black gentlemen look suspiciously like police officers. Better play dumb.
"Oh, no, I am not trying to buy a ticket. I am just hoping somebody will give me a ticket for free."
They can't arrest me for that, Dave thinks.
"OK, come on then. Let's go."
"Sorry, how do you mean? Go where?"
"Into the stadium."
"Sorry, I don't understand."
"Here - I have an extra ticket. You can have it."
"But I can't buy it."
"Yes, I know. I want you to have it." "Steward - is it OK if I take this gentleman into the stadium with my spare ticket? Our friend couldn't come."
The steward nods and with that Dave is inside the cordon. He has got into the semi-final of the world cup for free. Face value of the ticket? 600 dollars.
Dave hugs his two new friends and tells them he will never forget this wonderful gesture. The three of them then take their category 1 seats in row 1 of South Africa's best football stadium for Germany v Spain.
I can't believe it, Dave thinks. Unbelievable.
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.
Monday, July 5
Port St.Johns is the kind of place where you stroll down the road for five minutes, climb down a grassy embankment and find yourself with a fantastic deserted beach, hundreds of seabirds bombing into the waves and a huge shoal of sardines trapped by the seashore. And if you stick around long enough you might find yourself lucky enough to spot a lone whale surface, probably getting some well-earned oxygen to help digest several hundred sardines.
Port St.Johns is also the kind of place where people of all colours and creeds laze on sofas smoking marijuana, strumming the guitar, discussing life theories and enjoying a rum and coke sundowner.
Sunday, July 4
Highlight of the day is being sat in the back of a pick up truck with three hippies, their four kids and two dogs on the way to one of the best beaches in South Africa. The wild, untouched beach is totally deserted but for a herd of cows!
The rest of Sunday is spent sleeping, eating, reading, thinking back over the last 3 months...and looking forward to what I will do after the World Cup.
It's brilliant here in Port St.Johns but, truthfully, I'm about ready to go home now.
Saturday, July 3
Flagstaff - Port St.Johns
More goodbyes - this time it is me parting company with Camper Van nick and Fabio when we reach Port st.Johns.
I need to lie low somewhere for a few days to get myself together and to plan my last few days in South Africa. Port St.Johns is perfect because the town has an eastern African vibe, stunning beaches and vistas, and is home to a colony of hippies.
Again, it is sad to be saying more goodbyes. Nick has been an absolute star driving us all around during these past few weeks. He's also been a bloody good laugh as has Swiss Fabio. We have had an hilarious and very memorable time here. I am sad it is all coming to an end...
...but slightly relieved because I feel exhausted.
Luckily, 'Jungle Monkey' has brilliant 360-degree views of the sea, cliffs, mountains and lush green valleys from its vantage point above the town. It also has hammocks, a pool, World Cup footy on a big screen and local bands playing live music to a hippie vibe.
I expected Argentina to walk this World Cup so seeing them eliminated 4-0 at the hands of Germany shows just how brilliant this young German side can be. Schweinsteiger is the best player at South Africa 2010, and Ozil is the 'find' of this tournament alongside players like Mueller. I'm not sure why Maradona didn't bother to use the likes of Veron and Milito. Regardless, they simply weren't anywhere good enough to compete against this brilliant young German team.
They will meet Spain, who were fortunate to get past Paraguay. I will travel up to Durban next week hoping to get into the semi.
Meanwhile, I need to chill and get some sleep...
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?