25.06.2010 - 02.07.2010
Pretty much straight after the damp squib of the Brazil-Portugal game, and after a week in Durban doing very little, I went and found my car, and with 8 days free before my next ticket in Cape Town, headed off. I had no specific plan, and kind of made it up as I went along, depending on who I happened to meet and what I felt like. Thus, I ended up taking a short swing through Swaziland, partly to see some of the south of the country which I hadn't seen last year (beautiful and mountainous, just how I like it), before heading back to Gauteng.
Rourke's Drift: A place of almost pilgrimage for me, site of one of the most famous battles of the Zulu wars (and immortalised in the film 'zulu') where a small group of soldiers from the 2nd Battalian 24th foot South Wales Border regiment held off several thousand zulu warriors in defence of the Rourke's Drift missionary station in 1879. More VC awards for bravery were awarded for that one battle than any other in history
I went and stayed with some Couchsurfing friends from last year, Meruschka and Guiliano [who, as an Italian, and with the Italians long since out, was not the happiest] who had moved house, gained 3 fantastic puppies – two 'old' and hence large puppies, but the 3rd of which had been rescued 2 days earlier and was barely as big as my hand – and had invited guests for that evenings England – Germany game. Two of whom turned out to be old friends from Malawi and my days in Nhkata Bay. I am used to meeting people I know, or have a connection, every couple of weeks whilst travelling, and had been thinking only a day or two previously that I had been surprised that it hadn't yet happened. I was definitely due. An Irish couple and a German girl finished the party, and two of us were extremely happy at the games conclusion. Yes, it should have been a goal for Lampard, but really, England had been dreadful all tournament, were overrun by the Germans and lucky not to lose by more. I was praying for 5-1 as, at a stroke, that would have removed the English 2 big 'crowing points' over the Germans: the astonishing 5-1 away defeat of the Germany in qualifying in 2001 (even Heskey scored) as well as the controversial goal given by the linesman in 1966 [admittedly, the English had a much more legitimate claim in 2010 than the very marginal call in 1966]. But, to be fair, I was quite happy with 4-1, especially as I had had a deep feeling of foreboding prior to the game.
I spent a day being a tourist, checking out the Cradle of Mankind and Sterkfontein, and then wandering around the Hartbeespoort dam/lake, before going and catching up with another friend from last year, Therese. It was a great couple of days.
From there I headed down to Lesotho, and spent a great couple of days doing very little except exploring the mountains, and again running into another random coincidence, by discovering a couple of people I knew on St. Helena had just moved to Lesotho. As you do. Lesotho is definitely a country I need to return to with more time, and all my walking gear, and spend some days in the mountains. As for now, I had to be content with twisting mountain passes, snow, the constant ringing of cowbells in the distance, fresh-air and glorious vistas. I had no time for anything else, and a long drive to Cape Town ahead.
Many of the roads in Lesotho are twisting mountain passes, often precarious, and with lumps of rocks on the road which have fallen off the mountainside and tumbled down. I can quite understand the naming of this pass in particular!