Saturday 26th June

My first day off since the start of the group stages started with a lie-in, and this was followed up by a trip to Brightwater for lunch with Leechie, Steve, Marc, Pottsy and Adam, where I dined out on a greek salad followed by a Hawaiian pizza (with avocado)…the salad made me feel healthy again, but the pizza soon sorted that out. We nipped into the Pick n’ Pay shop on the way back to the car to grab some essentials for the forthcoming journey to Bloemfontein – these essentials turned out to be 2 briefcase-style bags of Hansa lager, 12 bottles of cider, and a few packets of crisps…not quite what I’d initially imagined, but once we got on the road, it became obvious a good choice had been made. While some members of the house drove to Rustenburg for the USA vs. Ghana match (a game that would do well to return from before 3am, at the earliest, assuming no extra time or penalties!), we headed south. With Kleiny driving, Bellis took the passenger seat as his guts were playing tricks on him, and this left Leechie and Steve in the back, with myself wedged in between them. The beer flowed, as did the music we’d burned to CD just hours earlier – the Forrest Gump soundtrack, the Best of Jimi Hendrix, and Creedance Clearwater Revivial, to name just a few. The journey seemed to fly by, and we arrived at the Palm Lodge hotel in Bloemfontein just 4 hours after setting off from Park Lodge in Randburg.

Half-cut already, we made our way out into Bleomfontein in 2 taxis. Both drivers were quick to point out the places we should look to go to, and the places we should look to avoid. It appeared that the ‘westside’ was a no-go, unless we wanted nothing but a punch-up and a few less teeth to wake up with. We were dropped off on one of the main streets in the town, where neon lights lit up the scummy-looking bars and clubs that lined the road. All around, we could see a mixture of English and German football fans, all of which looked relatively placid at the time. After a quick look around, we decided to head into a bar that was rammed with people sitting, standing and squatting, all watching the USA vs. Ghana match. Although this made for an easy introduction to the evening, the novelty wore off and we looked for somewhere to get a bite to eat. Based on our experience last year, and considering the town had been described as little more than ‘a shithole’ by the majority of people we’d spoken to this year (including some who lived there), we weren’t holding out much hope of tracking down any fine cuisine. However, following a tip-off from another restaurant who were closing for the night, we headed up away from the waterfront to ‘New York’, a bistro-style place away from the hustle of the town.

Best meal of the trip…no question. Cordon Bleu…cooked. Lovely.

Back into town, and for some reason we decided to pay to get into a bar that was rammed – RAMMED – with football fan hooligan blokes (this wasn’t obvious until we got in unfortunately). A ration of 1 woman : 50 men. It was a testosterone hothouse, and it felt like it could explode at any moment. We drank up, and quickly got out of there, ringing our friendly taxi company on the way. Just 10 minutes later and we were back in our luxurious (!) hotel room, discussing sleeping arrangements…even though we’d booked a ‘family room’, there was only a double bed and a single bed in our’s, to cater for myself, Leechie and Steve, whilst Bellis and Kleiny slept in a twin room nextdoor. I wrapped the outer blanket round myself, wedged a spare pillow down the middle of the bed, and passed out, sleeping through an apparent earthquake of snoring from Mongo’s side of the mattress.

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