I ended up with quite a bit of rain in Port Elizabeth. And lets face it, nowhere looks its best in the rain.
P.E.’s position at the end of the Garden Route and the edge of the Eastern Cape means it is a very popular holiday destination with international travellers. It’s really well kept and is one of the safest cities in this infamously unsafe country.
For the duration of the world cup, FIFA have paid to convert the city’s cricket ground into a area dubbed a “FIFA FAN FEST”. These areas involve airport-style security checks, an overdose of Coca-Colaâ„¢, MTNâ„¢ and VISAâ„¢ branding and lots of cheesy performers. And yet, somehow, the FIFA FAN FEST is a FIFA FUN FEST. Groan. Of my four nights here, I spent 3 of them down there (along with most of my hostel) to see England, Germany and Brazil’s attempts to light up the first round of matches. All were great for very different reasons; the sense of shock amongst England fans as Green spilled the ball into the net, the bravado and pace of the young German side tearing a new one through the Ozzies and the search for some North Koreans fans as they almost beat Dunga’s Brazil.
The hostel also arranged a trip to Addo Elephant National Park. This game reserve is set on 630 square miles and houses over 450 elephants and a host of other animals including all members of the infamous “big 5“. I checked off a Kudu, Warthog, Zebra, Water Buffalo and of course some rather majestic elephants from my “I’mprobablygoingtojustthrowthislistinthebinwhenigethome” wildlife check-list. Because it had rained the night before, most of the animals had no need to come to the watering holes so it was a case of just driving round for 3 hours with your eyes peeled and your window rolled up. Apparently there are lions and black rhinos in there but your chances of seeing them are always slim.
And of course, lest we forget I went to a football match in P.E.! Portugal V Cote d’Ivoire. And it was nil nil. You know things are bad when the two most exciting things in a game are a substitution (Drogba) and hitting the post from a wild shot from far out (Ronaldo). My seat was brilliant, just near the bottom right corner flag for you TV viewers, so got a nice perspective on things.
I’m glad this first round of games are now over as it seemed everyone was too edgy and more focused on a clean sheet then getting goals. The Spain game on Wednesday did provide a great spectacle (and finally a goal for Nigel), but more on the Durban experience in a few days.
Photos: Real elephants, fake dinosaurs & Ronaldo’s heavy breathing (Port Elizabeth photos) [high-res]