Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dreaming of Brazil 2014

Here comes my next blog for the World Cup in Brazil 2014,

For those with an interest in how this all gets planned, stay tuned for more....

Monday, August 1, 2011

A New Blog

For any of you that may still be watching this blog, I have created a brand new blog for the upcoming 2011/12 English Premier Football League, where I will be following my beloved Tottenham Hotspurs through out the season.

So if you enjoyed my ravings from South Africa last year, come and check it out at

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Finished for Another 4 Years

Well Fiona and I have been back in New Zealand for a couple of days now, and we are stuggling to come to terms with the cold, wet and the jet-lag. The thrill & excitement of travelling around Southern Africa and being a part of the World Cup seems a long time ago now, but we both have some great memories to keep us going until next time.

Once again I would like to thank all the many people that we met during the course of our travels, both old friends and new ones for their hospitality and friendship, and for helping to make our trip as memorable as it was. And a big Thanks to everyone that left comments and encouragement on our blog, your involvement has made the effort worth so much.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What can I tell you about Singapore...?

Well I can tell you that it it’s hot, humid and 6 days/5 nights here have just flown by. Partly the reason that time has flown by here is that on the first day, Fiona & I spent an extraordinary amount of time sleeping, almost 18 hours...! I guess leaving Africa just takes it out of you...

Day two in Singapore was spent lying around the pool at the hotel, doing nothing more strenuous than listening to the iPod, reading the paper and magazines, and ordering beers. We took advantage of a whole day of sunshine at a time when all the forecasts said rain and even thunderstorms. It’s the rainy season here, but being so close to the equator means that every day has the potential to have a rainy season and a dry season, and I guess we were just lucky.

Day three and the rainy season was back... We spent the day touring the city on the free hop-on/hop -off bus, hopping on when it was raining and off when it stopped, I think we did nearly 2 complete circuits. Managed to get to wander over to Boat Quay during a lull in the rain and conveniently find a pub the moment the rain started to get heavy, where I enjoyed an unexpected pint of ‘Old Speckled Hen’. We had a recommendation of an Indian restaurant in the middle of Boat Quay, but there seemed to be a handful of them nearby, so we plumped for the one near the middle that was open, (Khusbu), and enjoyed a very nice meal.

Day four and it was back to the dry season, back to the very hot, very sunny and very dry season. Fiona spent the morning shopping, which is not hard to do in this air-conditioned nirvana for shopaholics, as there is appears to be major shopping mall on every corner. In fact on Orchard road I would go as far as saying that there is a major mall on every corner and in every building in between, plus under the street and possibly overhead.

After lunch we continued our tourist activities with a trip out to the new, and somewhat startling, Marina Bay Sands integrated resort, hotel & casino, which stands like a set of massive cricket stumps, overlooking the city. The resort element of this huge complex sits at the top of the three, 60 storey towers, on an interconnected platform, that houses an excellent observation deck, and possibly the world’s most impressive set of infinity pools. Unfortunately the pools are only open to the hotel guests, as both Fiona and I would have happily taken the opportunity to get out of the thick and clammy heat and cool off. Back to ground level and then straight back to our hotel to make the most of our somewhat less impressive, but equally cooling, pool complex.

Day five rolled around and we thought it was time to check out Sentosa Island, a sort of resort destination for Singapore, for which we had some freebie tickets for some of the attractions. We planned our journey to make the most of the various free buses and arrived on the Island in the sweltering midday sun, almost melting into a puddle as we wandered somewhat aimlessly around this sub-Disneyland type theme park. I would imagine this is the sort of place that families visiting Singapore would dream of, offering over-heated parents the chance to off-load the kids onto the various attractions whilst they lay on a man-made beach somewhere. Suffice to say that Fiona and I were reaching for the bus timetable to see when the return bus would be, within 15 minutes of arriving. With a couple of hours to kill we did manage to ride the chairlift to the lookout point, and then go up the Sky Tower for a great view back across to the city, before the weather broke and the cooling and refreshing rain set in. An interesting place, but we were back in the city for a very late lunch before heading back to the sanctuary of our hotel for the evening.

We won’t be doing much more than packing today, as this is our last day in Singapore and we will be making our way to the airport later this afternoon, and then back to New Zealand by tomorrow morning. It’s funny, this being the last day of our holiday, I should be feeling a bit sad, but instead there is a sense of comfort in knowing that we will be back home soon, and back to the routine of our normal life.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Guess What...? It's Bloody Hot......!!

Just a very quick post to let you know we have arrived safely in Singapore, and guess what...? It's bloody hot & humid here....

After traveling for 18 hours we arrived at Changi airport at 5:30am, (our body clock thinking it wasalmost midnight), and it was a staggering 27 degrees.... Luckily I had booked a shuttle to our hotel, so after getting slightly lost in the airport we arrived at our hotel, Traders, just before 7am, waiting for our room to be made up. Once we got to our room it was just a case of going straight to bed and sleeping for 8 hours...! We have now been out & about on Orchard Road for a while, enjoying the rush and bustle of this futiuristic city, and we have eaten a huge cheap & tasty meal... Time for more laying around.

Forecast for tomorrow....., more laying around, maybe by the pool this time....

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Last Day at Abloom

Well there comes a time in every holiday when you just have to accept that it is drawing to a close and start the dreaded packing process again. One of the greatest things about staying anywhere for over 4 weeks is that you get to unpack every single thing you have brought with you, and hide away your suitcase or backpack. The downside to this principle is that you then have to reverse the process and try and cram all that stuff you brought with you, plus a load of other crap you have picked up along the way, back into the offending suitcase or backpack and then lug it to the airport. Can you tell I wasn’t looking forward to packing...?

Well as today is our last full day here in South Africa, Fiona & I have spent a portion of the day looking at how we can pack everything up and make it as easy as possible to travel on to our next destination. I think we are okay, but I’m still not sure how we will carry my hand made New Zealand ‘Makarapa’ , (think of an adapted construction helmet), I might just have to wear it on the plane....

But it hasn’t all been dreary packing and worrying about carrying our stuff through various customs and immigrations departments. Our wonderful hosts, Carmen & Louie, took all three of us out for a breakfast at a local landmark home that once belonged to a local industrialist called ‘Sammy Marks’. This was a spectacular 5 course champagne breakfast that we had sitting outside in the warm winter sun, overlooking the formal gardens. It was a sumptuous meal which I am still digesting now 6 hours later, made all the more enjoyable by the quality of the company and conversation. Carmen & Louie have stopped at nothing to make sure that our stay was not only comfortable and relaxing, but they also went the extra mile to make us feel like we were visiting old friends, they could not do enough for us. If there are two more friendly, approachable and hospitable hosts in the whole of Africa I would be totally stunned. Thank you guys, you have made us feel more than welcome and we will endeavour to come back some day.

After breakfast, (which lasted until 1pm), Fiona Yates & I did the house tour to find out a little more about Sammy Marks, a Lithuanian Jew that left his homeland penniless in the 19th Century, only to make his fortune in South Africa through a number of different ventures. Although this is not a surprising story, and Sammy Marks was not particularly extraordinary in himself, but in his will he bequeathed his house and all its contents, not to his immediate decedents, but to the fifth generation that succeeded him. The net result of this was that for 60 or 70 years, none of the estate or a single piece of furniture, cutlery or even linen could be sold, and when the fifth generation did come along, they in turn bequeathed the house and its contents to the South African people. The Sammy Marks house has therefore become a late 19th century South African time-capsule, with 98% of its original features and details that is being lovingly restored and open to the public. Our tour, which was brought to life by our very knowledgeable guide Thabi, lasted about an hour and it was like going round a BBC film set for an Edwardian period piece, I expected someone in a top hat and tails to pop out at any moment... This was another very interesting place that we would not have seen if it was not for the excellent local knowledge of our hosts.

The rest of the day has been spent finalising bills, sorting our paperwork and doing some packing, I think Fiona is finished already...! We will be having our last (sob!) gourmet meal at the lodge tonight and Louie intimated that it would be a special one, so we are looking forward to that. Tomorrow, Fiona and I will be heading out to the airport at about 8am and then onto Singapore. As Yates’s plane is about 7 hours later than ours, he is getting a ride to the airport later in the day that will also be giving him a driving tour of Soweto, which should be an interesting end to his time in South Africa.

I will be updating the blog from Singapore, but as I intend to spend as much time sitting by the pool, don’t expect anything too riveting....

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Origins & Endings......

On Saturday we completed our trilogy of ‘Cradle of Humankind’ experiences by driving in to Johannesburg to the Origins Centre at Wits University, an innovative museum where art installations alongside museum exhibits, tell the story of human development in Southern Africa. As an extra bonus, the museum is also showing for a short time the near complete fossilised skeleton of a previously unknown branch of the hominid family tree. The ‘Sediba’ remains of a 1.9 million year old distant cousin to the Homo sapiens, were only announced to the world in May 2010, and were only on display in Johannesburg during the period of the World Cup, before being shipped off for more research and various presentations. We took the audio tour of the museum and watched a presentation on the Sediba discovery before having to get one of the local anthropology students to unlock the room with the skeleton in it. The young student was obviously very proud of being part of this discovery and was eager to answer any questions we may have had, but our somewhat limited understanding of the world of paleo-anthropology and evolutionary science meant that we had soon exhausted ourselves of any deep probing questions.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in one of Jo’burgs many shopping complexes, and while Fiona went in search of clothing bargains, Yates and I had a few beers after lunch, meandered slowly around this huge outdoor shopping centre, before meeting back at the car later that afternoon. We headed home to chill out for a few hours before reconvening in Yates’s suite to watch the 3rd/4th place final between Germany & Uruguay. This was one of the best matches at this year’s tournament, with a highly entertaining, end-to-end epic between two teams that did not want the indignity of finishing 4th.... Germany came out on top, although it was a ding-dong battle right to the end that the Uruguayans could have easily have snatched away. I was hoping against hope that the next day’s World Cup final would be as good as this match, but didn’t really hold out much hope of that wish coming true...

We had made plans with Carmen and Louie, our excellent hosts at Abloom, to return to the ‘Holland House’ Dutch bar once again, to watch the World Cup Final on their big screen, along with a huge crowd of those ‘crazy Dutchies’. Our plans started to awry when both Carmen and Louie’s cars broke down, and we found out that the local authorities were closing down the main motorways between Pretoria & Johannesburg from 2:30pm until 5:00pm, in some bizarre plan to ease traffic...?? Always adaptable, we agreed to drive our hire car down to the bar in Fourways, and leave the lodge at 1:00pm to avoid the road closures.

This worked out quite well as it meant that we arrived in the vicinity of the bar in time to sit and have a nice lunch in the sunshine, before staking our place at the venue when it opened at 4pm. Even better, I had driven in to Jo’berg and Fiona would be driving home, so I could start drinking early and pace it out through the rest of the day, in hope of not getting absolutely ‘smashed’ as I did on our previous visit. We were some of the first people into the bar and staked out a whole bunch of chairs directly in front of the big screen, ensuring we would have a prime position for the game that would start in just over four hours time. We stood around chatting and drinking for a while and the time seemed to slip by quite quickly, and before too long Carmen’s friends arrived and after eating a couple of plate loads of some traditional Dutch food, it was almost time for the closing ceremony to start. We all enjoyed the entertainment and the reflections of the 2010 World Cup that was now nearly at its end, and I was warmed to see what a great reception Nelson Mandela received from the patrons in the bar and at the stadium when he was ‘wheeled’ across the pitch.

What can I say about the Final itself that has probably not been said before...? Well, I enjoyed it..., but this probably more to do with the 6 hours of drinking that preceded the kick-off. I was expecting a tight and nervous match with limited opportunities, and the lack of flair or skill on display did not disappoint. I was somewhat surprised that the Dutch team were taking such a negative approach to the game, and that kicking the Spanish off the park was one way of trying to beat them, but really had little to do with the style of ‘Total Football’ that Holland had the capacity to play on occasion. It really was a terrible advertisement for the beautiful game, and was not a fitting end to what had been a great tournament here in South Africa.

As the game wore on, I kept reminding anyone that would listen that my prediction of a 1-nil score line was looking good, but at that point I didn’t really much care who got the goal. Obviously being in a bar with hundreds & hundreds of orange clad Dutch fans, and wearing a Dutch emblazoned t-shirt myself, I was cheering for the Dutch and booing the referee.... But secretly deep down inside, I was hoping that maybe the Spanish would sneak a late goal and go on to be the more than deserving winners of the trophy. Unfortunately I had to wait until the last few minutes of extra time to get my secret wish granted, when Iniesta had the ball slid to him in the box and he neatly lifted it over the keeper to sneak the aforementioned goal. With the sending off of Van Bommel the Dutch seemed to capitulate and minutes later, Spain were home and dry and the deserving winners of the 2010 World Cup.

The atmosphere in the bar dipped a little when the goal went in and as the final whistle blew, but you know those crazy dutchies, they just cleared back the chairs and pulled away the tables and started dancing. For us it had been a long day so we did not stay at the bar too long before we hit the motorway home, and with surprising only a single stop for a nature break, we slipped into bed around 1am. It was the end of another World Cup and thoughts about matches and teams would be have to put away for another 4 years, or at least until we start the planning stages of our trip to Brazil for 2014.

The last couple of days have been rest & unwind days for us around the lodge, in which have planned little and done even less. We had talked earlier about taking some time out after the Final so that Yates could go to a proper game reserve and see some of the animals that Africa is so famous for. But when it came down to it he was so indecisive and non committal, and surprisingly apathetic, that in the end it just never happened. Fiona & I saw more animals than you could shake a stick at when we were in Namibia, so we were not missing out, but I think when Yates gets home and reflects on his time here, he will regret not doing a safari which is what most people do when they come to South Africa....

Just another day or so before we each head to the airport and go our separate ways once again. Yates has a lot of personal stuff to sort out with work and living arrangements and he will be heading back to the USA via Frankfurt. Fiona & I on the other hand will be heading for a 5 day stop-over in Singapore, to soak up a little of the tropical heat before making our way back to the cold & wet of New Zealand. All good things must come to an end.....