Tuesday 22nd June (published Wednesday 23rd June)
We had to say goodbye to our wonderful Wilderness retreat, which was simply amazing and our equally amazing hosts John and Judy and head 350kms to Port Elizabeth and the wonder of ‘Sir Roy’s at the sea’ (‘where everyone is treated like royalty’ ) our next port of call for a two or three night stay. We would like a three nighter, but there was no room at the inn on the day of the match, so we could be sleeping in the car. Hey ho, I have had worse places down the years.
The weather continues to astonish and the wet weather cum mountain hiking gear that we have brought with us remains neatly folded up in our bags. Yes it does get a little chilly at night once the sun goes down, but every day has been shorts and T-shirt weather, and this is winter!
The driving along the pictureseque Garden Route from Wilderness to Port Elizabeth is easy. Roads are new and straight as a die. It feels like the Romans have popped in to sort out the infrastructure. We stopped off in the rather wonderful coastal town of Knysna and had a plate of oysters and and a glass of white wine. Bliss. Knysna was the base for Denmark and the now hapless French and national flags of both teams were hanging off every lamp post. The boys had passed through earlier and seen the French football team’s coach which had had it’s tyres let down.
The only downside of our brief stop off was that we would be en route whist Bafana Bafana play their last game vs France in their version of mission impossible. Thus we were subjected to the rather interesting commentary on Radio 2000, official broadcaster of the FIFA World Cup and obviously part of the deal is to mention FIFA every 2 or 3 minutes, which, like all things FIFA from their over priced tat that poses as souvenirs to the face value of match tickets sold in US dollars to loyal fans, tedious. As if to symbolise the chaos in the French camp, the radio broadcast of ‘The Marseillaise’ was interrupted for 10 seconds with a complete blackout. When sound was restored, I could not recognise the tune. It turned out that the broadcast location had changed and we were hearing the second half of the Mexican national anthem! This then segwayed into the Uruguayan anthem, which sounds like it was written by Puccini or Mozart (listen to it at their next game and you will see where I am coming from!). The commentators out here get over excited, easily. It is impossible to know if a goal is scored, as even the tamest of attempts is accompanied by a roar. I thought Stephen Pienaar had scored when infact he had stabbed an effort tamely wide. As we all know Bafana Bafana went down fighting and were left to rue the two late and unneccessary goals conceded against Uruguay a few days earlier. It could have been so different.
We hit Port Elizabeth just as the game was ending and sought out Sir Roy’s. Our directions were good and finding it was easy. Better still, we were greeted by the lovely Wendy with news that yet again FIFA’s travel department had cancelled a room at 3pm that day and we were in luck and would have a bed the night of the game. FIFA’s greed knows no boundaries – everywhere we go hotel and guest house owners regale us with tales of FIFA’s inepitude and lack of consideration. All accomodation is marked up a minimum of 30% which no doubt helped them get to their 4 billion US Dollars profit on the World Cup 2010. 4 billion!!!
We wasted no time, checked in, admired the ‘sea views’ across the docks and railway junction and headed off to meet up with the Evas ( now three on account of Jack Minimus arriving) Dave and Swiss Jimmy. The snoring fever had not stopped, indeed Alan (‘Moany’ as he has now been christened by his brother) was not on parade, as he had done all the driving and was ‘tired’. The rest suggested that it was Moany’s turn to ‘go to bed early with a headache’ (ie get some light relief so to speak). Much laughter and ‘Carry On’ humour surrounds these code words.
We also needed to meet up with Dom, Simon, Chris and Keith ( who had arrived on Sunday and replaced Pilks). A few beers in the local bar (Finnezz) and we jumped a cab to seek out the others. We found them at Kelways – probably the worst bar I have been in since we came to South Africa. Full of overweight, lary, bovine English geezers and a local bloke on guitar,with several synthesisers and amps playing ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’, ‘Nights in White Satin’, ‘No Particular Place to Go’ and other such classics whilst the Argentina game played on in its own vacuum. Dom was being put to bed as he was very tired and Simon and Keith were weighing up their options, so to speak. I decided to leave and find somewhere else to eat and drink.
Lo and behold I only needed to look next door. ‘Blackbeard’s’ restaurant awaited, like a lone beacon of refuge on a foggy night. As soon as I descended the steps down to the ‘galleon entrance’, I got this weird déjà vu. I was entering the set of the 1968 Disney film ‘Blackbeard’s Ghost’ starring Peter Ustinov. Every detail was perfect, from ship’s wheels, rigging, cutlasses through to the Captain’s uniform. This was a time warp. The menu was confusing to say the least, a mix of nautical terms and cod (sorry!) phraseology with food items. The owner was overly obsequious a sort of nervous Basil Fawlty and if he had had a forelock, would no doubt have tugged it. Maybe he had lost his forelock through over tugging down the years. He clearly had some prawns and a T-Bone steak that were getting close to ‘sell by/best before’ as he insisted on showing these to everyone, hoverring over us, waiting on the slightest bit of positive body language as a sign of compliance. When I said ‘the steak looks great’, I did not actually mean ‘yes, I want that’. Ho hum. The others joined me for the second half.
The evening tailed off somewhat after Chris joined us, nothing to do with him, rather the fact that when the owner had asked Keith ‘if everything was to his satisfaction’, Keith a part time foodie replied ‘actually no. The mussels were gritty, the sauce had the consistency of refectory blancmange and the noodles were like worn shoelaces’. Basil Fawlty, immediately ‘sold’ Keith another plate of the finest prawns. With Bafana Bafana going out of the World Cup, every knocked back cover was a lost opportunity and this chap was a consumate salesman.
We bumped into a couple of lads later on in Blackbeard’s, Dave and Andy who we had met in Cape Town. T’s funny how small the world can be. Funnier still to see Dave enjoying a rather large T-Bone steak and Andy eating prawns. You have to hand it to Basil, he sold that T- Bone and its little pink friends. As salesmen always say, ‘it’s all about ABC’.