There were issues first thing in the morning when the taxi for George and Kaz (due at Park Lodge at 5am) failed to turn up, meaning Simon (who’d been to collect George) had to take them to the airport himself, or they risked missing their flights to Port Elizabeth. At that time of the morning, there was pretty much no traffic, and managed to get there and back in an hour, before getting some much-needed sleep in before we embarked on our trip to Durban for the semi final.
We had a lazy morning, spent just sitting around chatting, before packing our bits and pieces and heading off at 12.30pm. Just 4 of us were due to travel to Durban in the cars…myself, Joe, Cath and Simon, but because of the numbers of people coming back in the cars after the game, we’d decided to hire another car for a few days, so we had to go via the airport (just a few miles out of the way) to pick it up. While we were there and Simon was organising the paperwork, Cath, Joe and myself headed into the terminal to grab something to eat…namely a Kauai banana muffin and Yoga Berry smoothie (incorporating raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, banana, and apple juice!). That did the job, and with 2 of us in each car, off we went, with roughly 600km ahead of us.
Once we’d made it away from Johannesburg, the scenery became amazing…it felt really African, which was something we hadn’t felt too often, a bit like the drive to Polokwane or Nelspruit. Cath was in the passenger seat as we sped along in the Touran, enjoying the delights of cruise control together with Slash’s new album, as well as a few others, all put hastily compiled shortly before our departure. We were halfway there when we came across the services that Simon had mentioned before we left and told us to look out for…there was a range of different restaurants and shops for us to choose from, all set against the backdrop of a Table Mountain-esque ridge…fairly spectacular, and something that couldn’t be seen without having a picture taken, which we managed to do on a self timer after we’d each polished off a Nando’s chicken wrap.
The second half of the journey wasn’t as easy, partly because we were flagging a little, and partly because the early evening meant that darkness had descended with a couple of hours still left to do. The road was becoming a constantly-winding route, uphill and downhill, left and right, and there was no way to relax because, typically, there were lorries just randomly parked up on the hard shoulder without any lights on, there were cars and lorry trailers driving without rear lights so you often couldn’t see vehicles in front of you until the last minute. However, the ever-decreasing distance reading on the TomTom proved to be the sole encouraging factor, and by 8pm we were parking up outside the Blue Waters hotel on the beach in Durban, just a stone’s throw from the Moses Mabhida stadium (having driven across pavements and up streets the wrong way to counter the road closures set up by the police).
Cath had sorted the hotel for us all, and she did a cracking job…it worked out at £50 each per night, for 5 of us in the 2 rooms (Valeria joined us when we arrived, having flown in from Cape Town early to shoot the training sessions). We got up to the room to discover it was a massive suite – a king size en-suite bedroom with balcony overlooking the city and stadium, and 36″ flat-screen TV on the wall, a living room with sofa, a couple of armchairs and another wall-mounted TV, with another balcony overlooking the beach, and a twin bedroom on the other side of that…all in all, luxury by anyone’s standards, let alone those who’ve spent the previous few weeks holled up in a security-fenced compound in Johannesburg! The view of the illuminated Moses Mabhida stadium at night was too good to resist, so to allow a long exposure without any camera shake, we turned the coffee table on it’s side, put another table on top of that and used it all as a tripod…perfect! We took turns gettin the pictures we wanted before a peckish Valeria knocked on the door which signalled time for dinner.
We all hopped in a taxi and went to the Indian Connection, a restaurant recommended to Simon by a friend. Although they told us the kitchen had closed (places all over the country seem to close quite early for dinner), the owners convinced the staff to put together one more meal for the evening, and in we went, where we had a great traditional meal (despite the ‘medium’ dish burning my mouth out!).
We went across the road to ‘Billy The Bums’ afterwards, one of a chain of bars, and enjoyed a few bottles of Savanna Dry, before heading back to the hotel.