The taxi system in Port Elizabeth is the absolute business.
I got here after a 9 hour drive from Cape Town on Saturday passing through the famous Garden route. Saw some bitching ostriches and quite a lot of pretty landscapes too. I must have passed about 500 people along the sides of the road trying to hitch-hike to the next town. It was quite touching though as they’d hold up apples and oranges to try and entice you to pick them up. The Europcar Kia Picanto didn’t really have that much room though so I just kept truckin. Truth be told you could easily spend at least a week doing this route, but unfortunately I was just focused on making it to Port Elizabeth before darko see England take on USAAA.
I had a quick stopover for Lunch in Knysna which is the town where the France and Denmark teams are being put up. No sign of any of the Frenchies though, they were probably too busy bickering and trying to work out who to blame after their turgid 0-0 draw in Cape Town on Friday night. Aside from the Henry-baiting and the spectacle of being in Cape Town’s Green Point stadium, in footballing terms there’s very little positive to say about the game. Ribery and Forlan were the only ones who even looked like they could kick into gear, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be.
I’m staying with a wacky homosexual couple here in P.E. They guys run a small hostel 10 minutes outside of the city centre. They’re absolutely hilarious and have 2 dogs, a lame cat and a photo collage of “Brian’s 40th birthday” in the hallway. It’s just a 5 minute walk from the Port Elizabeth fanzone which is great. I can only imagine how quiet the area would be if the World Cup wasn’t on as the city has a real air of an old seaside town in winter. The overcast weather of the last 48 hours hasn’t really helped but thankfully hasn’t dampened spirits of the locals who are all stupidly happy to be part of this Wooooorld Cooop BAFANA BAFANA eeeeeh yaaa! They’ve really put in the effort though with lots of added security, shuttle buses to and from the stadium and plenty of friendly faces happy to answer any questions. I wish however they could have experienced our BIG FREEZE 2010, as everyone is saying how incredibly cold and nasty the weather is, and yet I’m still in my green hoodie and jeans. This is warmer than most of our Irish summer!
I took a walk around on Sunday to avoid watching Algeria and Slovenia and ended up down in the city’s boardwalk complex. This is a big holiday village along the beachfront. With the evening chill setting in (hits around 5pm, coming up to their shortest day round these parts!), I decided to get a taxi back to the fanzone in time to eat and watch the Germans take on Australia. I think there’s only 25 cabs operating in the city, and the rest of the city’s transport needs are served by a complex system of minibus taxis. To understand them properly, they really need to be experienced. You’re walking down the street and you hear a whistle and see “a conductor” hanging out of the side window of a white van shouting something like “Greenacres, eh eh!”. You hop in and pay the going rate of 5ZAR which is about 60c in proper money, and they take you to your destination. Sounds simple, right? Of course, nothing could be quite so easy.
The journey may involve pulling into a petrol-station for diesel or swapping minibus a few times at any of the city’s un-official terminals. And of course, they’re gloriously over-crowded. In order to speak to the media accurately in the potential “Irish football fan loses leg and wallet after taxi turns over” story that I was drafting in my mind, I took a quick headcount on one of my trips. The result? 25 PEOPLE. IN A HIACE. This included 7 children, 6 middle-aged women, 5 infants, 4 old dudes, the driver, the “conductor” and the one and only whitey, yours truly. It took a while and the constant stopping and starting would presumably lose its novelty value after a while, but it’s perfectly safe and I figured if we did crash, the fact we were so compacted would mean we’d all just absorb any impact. The worst that could happen would be a baby going flying out the back window.
Broadband or Wifi don’t seem to be very prevelant here so I’ll upload some pictures and other thoughts from the last few days once I get to Durban tomorrow. A group from our hostel went to the Addo National Park yesterday and hung out with some pretty awesome elephants, so there’s some great shots of them even if the rhinos and lions weren’t arsed coming out to see us. Plus the designated SAFE FUN AREAS that are the Fifa Fan Zones are gas, so will try to pictorially explain that experience a bit too.
It’s going to be a hectic 24 hours coming up for me. I’m attending Portugal V Ivory Coast in Port Elizabeth this afternoon, then I hope to find a solitary North Korea fan in the fanzone as Kim Jong II’s boys take on a lot of people’s favourites for the tournament, Brazil. Tomorrow I will fly to Durban to see Spain take on Switzerland. Seeing Spain in the flesh is going to be great as they are one of the few teams who still manage to live up to the entertainment expectations. And the potential chances of seeing Ronaldo, Deco, Drogba and his broken arm, Kalou, Xavi, Iniesta, Villa AND Philippe Senderos in the flesh over the next 2 days is pretty mouth-watering.
And with the weather meant to be hitting 25* over the weekend, Durban aint gonna be a bad place to try to survive the depths of a killer African winter either…