A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about events

Yet another disclaimer

Erm. Yes. Well. Ooops?

I'm ashamed to say that there will be a slight lul in entries now. Basically, I have run out of time to upload them, and have a ship to catch. Yes, I am aware that is a gawd awful excuse. Many are even already prepared. But I will try and get more uploaded as and when I find some internet again. Which continent, hemisphere, country or month that will be in, is, as yet, entirely unknown.

Apologies

Rich

Posted by Gelli 00:54 Archived in South Africa Tagged events Comments (0)

The first Oranje invasion

From there on in, the World Cup proper started for me. Sam, Remco and Luc arrived pretty much on time on Sunday lunchtime, and games could begin to be watched and beer consumed. Come Monday, and it was time to go to Soccer City. Glen and some friends also had tickets, so the 8 of us piled into 2 cars and headed to the Park & Ride for Netherlands v Denmark. Large queues – of Dutch and locals, plus 6 hugely outnumbered Danes - later (which we later discovered was caused by a wildcat strike amongst the bus drivers) and we were on a bus, on which with surprising ease, we made it to Soccer City stadium on the edge of Soweto.

Soccer City was a strange stadium. Fantastic inside, but from the outside in day light it almost looks unfinished. Sandy coloured cladding mean't it was dull and not shiny as most new stadiums are, and it has lots of holes in it. At night, it comes into it's own as it is all lit up like a traditional cooking pot. But by daylight, it looks a bit odd. The 94,000 capacity all sat in orange seats, which mean't that even where there were no Dutch fans, the stadium looked Oranje. But there were also lots, and lots of Dutch fans. The three guys I was with were no exception: Lucus, all 205cm of him was not exactly inconspicuous to begin with, whilst Remco had a large orange traffic cone style hat on his head, and Sam was in a plastic suit that basically made him look like a large orange condom. Naturally all wore orange jerseys as well. For me, my Swedish links made me more a Danish supporter than a Dutch one, though I was heavily out numbered, and essentially, didn't really care.

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The match was a slow burner – you can always tell how bored the crowd is by when the first attempts at a Mexican wave start in the crowd. It was 8minutes here. There were some quite large gaps in the crowd, and the capacity was later announced to be 84,000: impressive, but still 10,000 under capacity, which was quite sad. The dreaded vuvuzela's didn't shut up for the entire match, but they really weren't too bad. Because it's quite a low pitched tone, it's easier to tune out, and the fact that they are all the same tone means you quickly get used to them. Despite their protestations, I actually think that they work against South Africa. They have no soul or passion. They have nothing specific to your team. Which means that more people blowing them has no noticeable affect on the team. Compare it to, for example, the sort of singing you get from many European fans, or the Brazilian drums, which are much more passionate and help get behind *your* team. In the opening game, I think South Africa would have held on had they had South African songs sung after they went a goal up. Instead, just more vuvuzela's (which are nowhere near as noisy or passionate as most latin American teams are used to) worked more for the Mexicans who duly equalised.

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The first half was fairly poor. The Danes had a couple of decent chances, the Dutch much more possession but no width or final ball. The second half started with an own goal, and along with substitutions led to the Dutch growing in confidence and width. But they ended up with absolutely no central focus, often leading to lots of pretty passes out wide, but nothing more. The second goal was definitely deserved – and they could have had more – but to my mind, they have much work to be done. The Danes tailed away disappointingly, but should still have qualification in their own hands against Cameroon and Japan.

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As the noise slowly dispersed, so did the fans. Getting away from stadium was much more queuing, but only as to be expected, whilst leaving the car park and trawling through the evening rush hours traffic in the increasingly cold and dark evening was surprisingly easy. With that, it was time for a fantastic chicken skewered dinner and a beer whilst watching the Italians play in the cold wind and rain of Cape Town.

Tomorrow it all starts again.

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Sat not far in front of us, these are the lovely Bavaria girls, who later gained fame/notoriety by all being arrested for alleged ambush marketing. If they had been ignored, nothing would have happened. As it was, Bavaria gained huge amounts of publicity from the exercise

Posted by Gelli 05:53 Archived in South Africa Tagged events Comments (3)

My brief interlude with Botswana

Because of my change of plans and 3 week later arrival, all my plans were up in the air. Some things i'd had to cancel, some rearrange. Something that I hadn't been able to change except to delay it was an appointment in Gaborone. The problem was that I needed to be in Johannesburg on Saturday night and it was now Wednesday evening. So it was that I picked up a hire-car as early as possible on Thursday morning, and set off immediately. 1007km (generally very pretty, if empty km, which I would love to have more time enjoy properly) later, I stopped for the night. A 6am departure followed by another 800km followed, and I made it to my appointment in Gabs with 30mins to spare.

It was my first time in Botswana, but I barely saw anything and am not counting it as somewhere I have been. Originally I was going to have a couple of weeks to enjoy it. Instead, it was barely 30hours, and most of that work-related. I had also only expected to be needed Friday afternoon, not most of Saturday as well. Thus, by the time I was able to leave, it was gone 4pm on Saturday, the sun was going (and chilly – it had got down to -3 the previous night, and had been raining in the morning. Yup, it's definitely winter), I had no where to stay – my original plan depended on arriving much earlier - and I still had close to 500km to drive. In addition, the World Cup was well underway, and I had only managed to catch one full game in the first 2 days.

There was a slight problem crossing the border which delayed me further – the only time in my entire life I haven't instantly checked my passport after it had been stamped, and then discovered they had put the wrong stamp on. By the time I was in South Africa, it was dark. I decided to avoid the main N2, both because of the numerous tolls, and the fact it goes past Rustenberg where USA and England were due to kick off in a few hours, and instead cut through. The folly of that was only discovered much later when I spent over an hour sat waiting for traffic lights at major roadworks.

With other options expired, I had managed to convince a friend of a friend to let me crash in Joburg, and somehow managed to find his house without a map or too much problem. At least my worries about driving around Jo'burg alone, at night, and lost, had come to nothing. But it was gone 22:30 by the time I got to Glen's, after basically driving 2300km in 2.5days. But i'd made it. The England game had even finished, though, sadly, despite Robert Green's best efforts, without England loosing. Damned it!

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Always a good thing to know in advance. No guard docs in Botswana, just guard Crocs

Posted by Gelli 05:50 Archived in Botswana Tagged events Comments (0)

Cape arrival

Fourteen days later, and with only hours to go, Table Mountain slowly began to loom out of the sea ahead. Covered in cloud to be sure, but still an amazing sight, and one I never really expected to see. Stunningly, our aborted Luderitz stop mean't we were actually early arriving, whilst the weather (which had sounded dodgy at best) had suddenly brightened dramatically – decent heat, lots of sun and blue sky's, albeit with cloud on the table, made for a great arrival.

And just like that, it was over, and I left my home for the previous 2weeks. And which will be my home again in a month's time. Immigration and customs were no problem, and I was back in Africa. A free shuttle took me to the waterfront, and from there on, I was back on known ground. In Cape Town, the atmosphere was electric. National shirts, flags and colourful hats were all around. Fans of all nationalities were singing, dancing, cheering and laughing. It was great. The town was pretty much one large party zone, and at least half the population seemed to be blowing vuvuzela's at every opportunity. Just walking into town to collect my tickets was enough for me to be sick of them and their monotonous droning noise, to the point where I started fantasising about turning one into a way of blowing out poisonous darts, which I could use to subdue all other vuvuzela blowers. The problem is, I would probably need to carry several tons worth of darts, which is just not practical...

Instead, i'll just enjoy the atmosphere for the evening, and then leave sharpish to get myself into position. The opening game is 48hours away, but the fun starts here.

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Posted by Gelli 00:46 Archived in South Africa Tagged events Comments (0)

Kuomboka

sunny

And so to the mythical ceremony of Kuomboka. Happily, it wasn't even mythical. It was a real ceremony. We even turned up on the correct weekend. Will wonders never cease?!

Partly because we had no firm information about, well, pretty much anything, we arrived in Mongu a day early in order to give us time to find out exactly what was going on and where. In some ways we lucked out: though not exactly idyllic and with prices raised by many hundred percent just for the ceremony we discovered that our “hotel” had a glorious view across the Zambezi's flood plains, was right near the start of here we needed to be and had magical sunsets. Pushing our luck just that bit too much, on the first day wandering into town for the hell of it, we were picked up by a passing policeman, Mr. Manda, and taken on a tour of some of the key places which included the palace at Limulunga, but of more importance (to Mr. Manda, at least) was a local slaughterhouse where an associate of his, Mr. Phiri, was in the process of buying a cow. The police have to eat during such ceremonies, after all. By now alone, and the guest, I had the pleasure of feeling up the cows innards and deciding whether it was a worthy cow. Yay.

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Kuomboka – which literally means 'to get out of water' - is a traditional ceremony during which the Litungu (the Lozi king - Lozi being one of Zambia's 73-ish tribes) moves from one palace to the next in order to escape from floods of the Zambezi: At this point, the Barotse flood plains are over 50km wide at the end of the wet season, as it was now. Part of me wondered – and still wonders – exactly why he chooses to wait until the end of the wet season to move: to my mind, if you are going to move to a palace on higher ground, surely it makes sense to go at the start of the wet season, and not wait until the end when the water levels then start to fall.

In fact, he hadn't. Well, he kind of had. But he had actually moved a couple of weeks previously, and just come back a few days earlier in order to take part in the ceremony. So to recap, we have the most important traditional and tribal ceremony in all of Zambia delayed at short notice for a week just to suit the president's whims, whilst the whole reason for the ceremony had actually already occurred earlier still, rendering the whole thing pretty much nothing more than a money grabbing tourism and publicity stunt. Hmmm.

It wasn't bad, though.

At 6am the following morning, we were up, had joined forces with a group of American volunteers and were at the harbour. The feeling of excitement was obvious rising. And we still had no idea where we were supposed to be going. We watched a couple of boats shoot out, curiously almost entirely full of white tourists. Much faffing and waiting later and eventually we were allowed to get on our boat, although cunningly, we weren't all allowed to actually sit down before we got pushed off. A couple of panicked sittings by some Americans later (read: they fell into the bottom of the boat and stayed there), some impressive rockings as the over enthusiastic crew tried to capsize us and my idly wondering just how good the lifejacket I had been given actually was, and we were on our way.

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The main problem was that I just could not get the Hawaii 5-O theme tune out of my head for the next 12hours or so.

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This guy really is on a canoe and not walking on water with a pole, honest

Traditionally, tourists die by drowning pretty much every year here, and heading out through a weedy, semi-swampy river which was currently wider than some countries that i've lived in, despite my impressively renowned abilities as a swimmer* I had no desire to experience the water first hand. And so it was that we discovered that we were on pretty much the slowest motorised boat in Zambia, taking a route through the fauna that mean't that we couldn't even use the motor much of the time, heading a long way from anything resembling land, and in a boat that, as those Americans who had fallen on the floor and not moved (for fear of capsizing us) were rapidly discovering, was not quite as water tight as perhaps it could be. And we still had no idea where we were going.

All we did know is that we had been told that it would take about an hour and that the ceremony probably won't start until about 10am. As we had now been on the boat for close to 2hours, and it was 10:20 with no other boats in visible range in any direction this started to be of vague interest.

But we need not have worried. Well, not much. A short-ish while later and we arrived at Lealui. Not so much an Island, as a small clump of slightly higher land with a few houses which hadn't flooded: Even better, it was where we were actually supposed to be. After ambling around for a while (well, wading around) we discovered the palace, and crowds of people who were not quite as large as i think i expected and were at least half composed of foreigners. Hmmm. We then waited. The '10am absolute latest start' was by now well past 11:30, and we were being 'entertained' by some guys on a microphone, who pretty much spent their time telling us where to buy souvenirs, apologizing for the lack of traditional dancing and music (apparently there was too much water...) and for the delay in the ceremonies start, for which they had no idea whatsoever and were obviously trying to make up plausible sounding excuses on the spot..

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The King's barge waiting for events to begin in Lealui

Then at midday, after a sudden burst of drumming, a group of people strode rapidly out of the palace gates and disappeared down the path to the harbour. It was so fast that I didn't even realise who the king was. The crowds all rushed after him with chaos ensuing as some people ended up rushing into water slightly deeper than expected...

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A quick wade back to the harbour was required, though at least we chose the drier path

At the harbour, to great fanfare, the Kings barge - the Nalikwanda – a large barge featuring a central superstructure with a large elephant on the roof – was loaded, and the paddlers (150ish strong local men, all veterans of previous Kuomboka's) prepared. Though things are slightly more civilised now, the previous king used to insist that any paddler who was struggling or not pulling their weight got unceremoniously dumped over the side and left to drown.

And so the vast barge slowly heaved off. It was followed by another 9 official barges, including that of the Queen, caterers and baggage (no, not the same barge), plus any number of smaller private vessels and dugout canoes full of enthusiastic Lozi's (and some tourists). And with that, part one was over. Not having a boat to follow the King, and no huge wish to spend the next 6hours in the searing heat in a dugout canoe, it was time to head back to Mongu.

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Canoeists waiting for their guests to return before following the King to Limulunga

It was at that point that we discovered our boat was missing. Hmmmm. Some waiting and calling later with no news, we found space for 6 on another boat and sent 6 on their way. The remaining 3 of us then started haggling and eventually talked our way onto another small boat. It was a drier journey back, though not without a few almost capsizing moments. And we still made it back first.

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A few hours later, and we loaded into a minibus and headed over to Limulunga, where Mr. Manda had taken us yesterday, and the destination of the Royal barge. It was here we suddenly discovered the crowds. And the locals. It was absolutely heaving with cheering locals and Lozi tribes-people. But it was also depressingly commercial. Tickets needed to be bought to get to the harbour, and the whole event was sponsored by mobile phone companies and Barclays bank, amongst others.

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Not a minute too soon, and after 2 scouting canoes had appeared the Royal Barge arrived to rapturous cheers. The elephant's trunk was moving up and down, and the oarsman chanting. The Royal barge moved in and out of the creek 3 times, the oarsmen showing off their skills and greeting the crowd, before finally docking, swiftly followed by the rest of the flotilla. I got talking to locals, and amongst much else had 3 requests to be my friend, 4 for photos, 2 from people offering booze, 2 offering drugs and 2 whose hands seemed to want my wallet. Sigh. The king disembarked, went to his throne and then made a speech. This was followed by speech by President Banda, which, I later discovered, barely mentioned Kumoboka or the Litungu, and instead was a not even vaguely disguised political attack on his opponent. Such class.

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And with that, the meaningful sections (for us, at least) of Kuomboka were over. Much milling around and, for some, shopping, followed before we made our retreat. Proving that our luck had indeed been all used up in the first day or so, we then spend ages in a traffic jam getting back to town, whereupon we went to a restaurant with some of the worst and most incompetent service I have ever seen (that episode in itself, is worthy of a whole blog entry, though I have no desire to recall it) where amongst much else i got a bad case of food poisoning. That was topped off with a less than savory incident back at the hotel, and ended the evening with my stepping knee-high into a hole of raw sewage whilst trying to find a hedge to vomit in. What fun, what fun.

And i can confirm that raw sewage is not a good thing to step into when there is no water at the hotel to help you wash it off, and you have to leave early the next morning.

Despite that, I would certainly recommend Kuomboka to anybody that happens to be in Zambia at a useful time, though possibly won't be making desperately urgent efforts to go back myself next year...

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  • I can't swim. Heck, i cant even float. But I can go down/sink with hugely impressive speed and not return.

Posted by Gelli 17:07 Archived in Zambia Tagged events Comments (0)

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