Hope you are all doing well. I returned from South Africa the day before yesterday...quite late in the evening, exhausted and drunk from the cultural experience and the constant travel. Needless to say, I loved every minute of it. South Africa is a beautiful country - culturally diverse, rich in resources and dazzling in her beauty. She is also a nation struggling with racial issues that linger from the apartheid era to economic problems that show in her streets and cities - All these issues were set aside for 1 month to host the biggest event on planet Earth. It's amazing how a game can bring people together by transcending race, age, sex, nationality, language and several other barriers.
I was warned about several things before going to South Africa, mostly about theft, robbery and such. To be honest, I think Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town are not that different in terms of being dangerous than any big city around the world. If you're a colourfully clad tourist who walks around with a fat camera, lots of jewels and wades into a dark alley, you're bound to attract attention and of course probably get robbed. It's more about common sense than being scared of your surroundings.
Let me get to the point before I digress too much, I was unable to update the blog during my travels because of several issues including lack of connectivity to the internet and the fact that I lost my phone while I was there because I was jumping around in the stadiums and it slipped out of my pocket. Anyhow, I did manage to maintain a few notes every other day when we all had a chance to sit down and take a breather and I have copy pasted them here with the date on top so you can take a look. I'm sorry if it turns out to be quite long but I'll try and add a few pictures here and there to keep it interesting. Thanks a lot for reading and hope you enjoy it!
June 11th – a day to remember
A lot has happened since I left the shores of USA on the 11th of June. It has been quite an eventful journey thus far. I quickly wrapped up work on the 11th and left to the airport, my friend Aviral was kind enough to drop me off amidst rough traffic on a Friday evening. My flight took off on time and I was quite excited on multiple counts – Firstly, I couldn’t believe I was finally leaving for the world cup and secondly, I was checking out Emirates’ in flight entertainment and realized that they had Led Zeppelin albums (Bonus!). Fittingly enough, I was listening to “Stairway to Heaven” as the flight took off and I felt that moment couldn’t have been better justified by any other song so thank you Zep!
It was a long 15 hour flight to Dubai with a 10 hour transit before my next flight so I managed to catch the USA vs England game with a few fans at a bar in Dubai. After the game I rushed off to the airport again to board my next flight to Johannesburg. Bordering on no sleep for 48 hours, I realized I was too excited to be tired, our gate was packed with fans from every country – each one chanting, singing and causing a ruckus with their vuvuzelas! Quite an electric atmosphere I must admit.
After boarding the plane, courtesy of Emirates’ in-flight entertainment; I watched “Invictus” on the flight which I thought was a great way to kick start my journey to the Rainbow nation and also got my fill of Led Zep on this 8 hour flight which meant no sleep again. I made a few friends during my transit to Dubai, some of whom were coming over to JNB along with me; Darren (a USA fan) hung out with Sesh, my brother and I over the next couple of days, we also watched the first Netherlands game together.
Upon reaching Jo-burg, my initial plan for a place to stay didn’t really materialize and we were pretty much stranded until we found someone walking around the airport terminal with a sign that said “University of Johannesburg Accommodation R350 a night”. Seemed like a good idea versus sleeping on the street at that point so we jumped on it and checked in at the University dorms. It was a nice little place even though it was a bit far off from all the action, the students were quite friendly and willing to help with directions and transport for a fair price. Darren, Sesh and I went to a local bar to catch a few matches and met a few British guys there who were supporters of England. We found these guys to be jolly good fellas who were also going to the same matches we were going to during our stay at Johannesburg and Durban. We went to bed a bit early that night and I tried hard to sleep but couldn’t since I was quite excited about the match we were going to watch the next day. I tossed and turned about for a bit and decided to get out of bed at around 3:30AM and take a shower and get ready for the game adorned with Jersey, face paint, flag and wig. It was a long wait until 11:30 PM when we reached the stadium but once we got there it was quite a sight to behold! There was a sea of orange everywhere; people were dressed in various orange costumes that spanned from orange knights to mythical creatures. Our very own British friends we met at the bar last night were dressed as blue Smurfs – I thought this was quite clever since they stood out of the crowd given that everyone else was dressed in Orange.
The game started at 3:30PM and it was simply awesome…My brother and I couldn’t contain our excitement and we were jumping around the whole time. It’s quite an overwhelming experience to be in the midst of it all, sitting in the stands with the players coming out into the field, the incessant sound of 80,000 vuvuzelas blowing continuously through the game, the football chants…all of it was simply amazing. I am quite thankful that I had the opportunity to witness it all. Netherlands won the game 2-0 thanks to an own goal by Denmark. After the game I realized that all my jumping around and dancing in the stands was a bit excessive since my phone had fallen out somewhere and I’d lost it. It was a bit of a downer really to lose the phone since it had quite a lot of information in there that I had saved for almost 3 years in the form of pictures, documents and several other things. I decided to file a police report on the matter and try to change my passwords while also informing my phone company (Sprint) back in the USA about this incident. This was not an easy feat mind you because we had to leave to Kruger National Park bright and early the next morning at 6:30AM.
I am writing this in Kruger at the moment and the sorting out the whole phone deal is still a work in progress. Kruger is a beautiful place btw – calm, serene and captivating. We have gone on quite a few drives, both early in the morning and later during the day. Watching the mist hang over the waters in the lakes or just watching sunlight scattered across vast regions of the land while standing on a high peak is quite a thrill. We saw quite a few animals here, most of the Big 5 notably…the Big 5 include the Lion, Leopard, Water Buffalo, Elephant and Rhino. We managed to see a whole pride of lions walking on the road while we were driving by, the leader of the pack stared at us and let out a deafening roar, being in the presence of the king of beasts is quite a belittling experience. We were quite fortunate to see so many of these wonderful animals in their natural habitat…the Hippos, Zebras, Antelope, Water Buck and several other animals to name a few. We’re off on another safari at 5:30AM tomorrow morning to try and catch sight of Leopards and Cheetahs, hope we get to catch a glimpse of a few of these wonderful animals before we leave Kruger. Right then, I will try and update this again later…I’m writing this as the Bafana Bafana game goes on and I can hear loud cheers from the TV area in my camp, I’m tempted to go and check the score so I will leave you all with this and update it when I next get a chance.
Thank you for reading and hope you have a wonderful day…
This is Sandeep, signing out…
June 23, 2010
We did it!!!
A week has passed since I’ve updated the blog, the laptop ran out of batteries and we were running full steam for the last couple of days so there was basically no time to sit down and write. We’re at Knysna (Nice-na) at the moment along the famous “Garden Route”. Quite a scenic drive down here from Durban, all three hours of it was quite wonderful. Today started out quite eventfully, we woke up, had a large fry up at the Lake Superior Backpackers (named after Lake Superior at Michigan, USA) and drove off for an hour towards Bloukran’s Bridge with butterflies in our stomach. After getting there, we signed off on our disclaimer forms giving Face Adrenalin (the company that runs the show for the bungee jumps) full authority over our lives. We stood in a group and waited our turn, the walk to the bridge was quite a thrill…we could see the bottom way down below as we walked towards the jump point. When we got there we were made to jump one after another based on our weight. Since I weighed the lightest at 69 kgs, I had to wait till the end to jump. It was all worth it though, the adrenaline didn’t kick in until after I took the leap off the bridge, I realized that the ground went missing underneath me and I was hurtling towards the ground for the next five seconds at 120 kmph. With my arms outstretched, I saw the ground inch closer with every micro second and then there was a huge tug and a feeling of weightlessness for the next second or two…I realized that this was the “first bounce”, the period where I was bobbing up and down until everything went steady and I waited to be roped up to surface up above. It was quite an amazing feeling lying upside down while I was being roped up, I looked around me and could feel the heady rush of blood into my brain, my eyes were heavy and blood shot, I was slowly yanked up as I sang “Stairway to heaven” by Led Zep…the whole experience was quite heavenly. I was thankful for being able to experience this.
After the jump, we also spent a few hours afterward in a rehabilitation center for Cheetahs and other wild cats, it was fun being able to walk with these cats and be in close proximity to them! Check out the picture below....
Around 6pm we sat down to have a meal cooked by Alfonso – the owner of the backpackers we stayed at. Spring bok, Chicken, garlic bread, mushrooms and papayas – it was a meal fit for a king!
After dinner we hit up a local bar along with Alfonso and Jerome to have a few drinks with other locals. One of our members ended up attracting a granny’s attention and spent most of the night talking cricket with her much to our amusement. The night ended by the fireplace back at the backpackers hostel thanks to Alfonso’s hard work in starting a huge bon fire for us. This was quite a memorable night which will be remembered infamously for this song – “Na na naa na, Na na naa na…Hey Hey Hey, Sanjeev!” I’ll leave the details out for now but we were all thankful for the great meal and great time that night.
June 24, 2010
Breathtaking drive along the Garden Route...
The next morning we left for Cape Town in a rented Toyota Yaris, it was a beautiful drive along what is called the “Garden Route”. With the ocean on one end and mountains on the other, it reminded me of the coastline along France, such a beautiful drive this was. We made a pit stop at Mossel bay to take in the sights and score a few photos, I’ll post them here once I get everything organized so you all can see. I highly recommend this drive along the Garden route – from Port Elizabeth to Mossel bay, it is really beautiful and worth every minute of the drive.
June 25, 2010
Netherlands vs Cameroon - our final match
Today we spent the first half of the day driving down to Cape Point, the southern tip of Cape Town, the scenery on the way here was again one of the best I have ever seen. The roads hugged the coastline with clear skies above and blue waves crashing against the shore, there were huge mountains that rose from the sea adamantly trying to stop the waves from advancing to the shore. There were penguins resting along the rocks and seagulls floating above, trying to grab food or anything else they could from tourists who had stopped to take a few pictures. It was such a beautiful day that we had to stop quite a few times by the roadside and step out of the car to let it all soak in.
The second half of the day was spent going to the Cape Town stadium to watch our final match – Netherlands vs Cameroon. It was quite a cracker, sorry to see it all end though because we wouldn’t be going to the stadium anymore to watch matches live. Great game, great atmosphere, all in all – couldn’t have asked for a better day.
June 26th 2010
Cage Shark Diving at Gaansbai!
Today was a bit rough in terms of having to wake up early, real early at 3am since we were going to get picked up to go to Gansbaai for our great white shark diving experience. Gansbaai is famous for its shark infested waters, it has a variety of sharks from Great Whites to Makos and Tigerheads. The reason these waters are shark friendly is because of their abundance of seals, fish and other source of food for these sharks. June and December are the best seasons for shark viewing we were told, we went out on a boat quite early while it was still really cold outside (10C or less), the waters were choppy and rocked the boat quite hard. It was a great way to start the adventure, after driving a few kilometers into the Atlantic ocean, we stopped at Seal Island where the sharks were known to most likely frequent. The chumming process began and the bait and seal decoy were thrown into the waters, within three minutes of this we had our first sighting, a large dorsal fin cut through the waters and then quickly dove back in. A few seconds later we saw the Great White in all its glory, she stuck her head out and gently tugged at the decoy, playing with it to see what it would do…it was a breathtaking sight. We were all eager to see more so we suited up in wetsuits and jumped into the cage, almost everytime we peaked into the water we could see one of these magnificent beasts gently swimming underneath and patrolling the waters. It was quite a humbling experience to watch these giants in their terrain, they seemed so gentle yet so powerful, and they could turn on a dime when needed and accelerate at a blistering pace to attack prey if needed. The most amazing experience under water was when one of the sharks rammed right into the cage while trying to grab a hold of the bait that lay in the water, the force with which the cage shook reminded us that these creatures were no laughing matter. I was thankful for the experience and am very glad to have been able to witness these creatures in their natural environment.
That evening we returned and went to watch the Brazil Vs Portugal match at a bar on Long street in Cape Town. Long street is quite famous for its bars and restaurants and is quite similar to Sixth street in Austin. The match itself was quite boring but dinner at a Middle Eastern food court made it all worth it – chicken biriyani, mutton, naan, tandoori chicken and bhel puri were some of the items that were demolished in ten minutes or less. Two hours later, I’m still so full that I can barely move as I write this. I must try and get some sleep now since we have another early day tomorrow as we plan to trek up “Table Mountain” and also visit “Robben Island” later during the day. I will write again with more updates, thanks a lot for tuning in my friends, hope you have a great day.
This is Sandeep, signing out…
That's pretty much all I had time to write while I was there, hope it's a fun read. Here are some pictures from the Brasil vs Ivory Coast match we watched as well in case you're interested.
Here's a picture of Drogba, Lucio and Fabiano!
On the whole, I walked away from this short trip wishing I had stayed for a lot longer, through the entire tournament mostly...hope Oranje can pull it off this time around! Great day today with Holland beating Brasil to enter the semi finals, it will be awesome if they can beat Uruguay and move on to the finals. GO ORANJE!!!
Hope you enjoyed reading this entry. I'll update again when I have more to write. Take care and thanks for reading...
This is Sandeep, signing out!