We left Bloemfontein the day after the Paraguay game and with a few days to spare til our next game we decided to head over into neighbouring Lesotho for a couple of nights. After days of nervously driving through dodgy areas we were looking forward to a stress free stay in Lesotho, an isolated mountain country with the majority of people still living the traditional African life up in the hills.
As we are driving to the lodge we’ve booked to stay at, the Kia Pecanto hire car is struggling on the crumbling unpaved mountain roads. As we reach the top of a steep incline we spot a stationary van at the top. As we approach, the driver beckons us to him, shouting at us in some tribal language. “Shit” I say, “he must be stuck. It looks like he’s warning us not to drive past him, the road must be dangerous”.
He continues to beckon us over and just as we approach his window, we wind ours down and he continues shouting.
“I can’t understand sorry, can you speak English?” I say.
“GIVE ME YOUR MONEY NOW!”
Me and Laura both turn to each other, thinking the same thing and she puts her foot down on the accelarator and speeds off. There were several other people in the van. The only thing stopping us from complete panic was that the road was so narrow, with a steep cliff on one side, that there was no way he could turn round and chase us. We didn’t turn round to see where he was, just sped along the final 7km to the lodge.
The next couple of days were spent acting out old cowboy and Indian films by riding horses up huge mountains, riding along tiny cliff paths with rocks crumbling down, every step you take; putting all your faith in the horse.
We then drove up north to Polokwane for Paraguays final crunch group game against New Zealand. Our fate was even more important than Paraguays. We needed them to finish second so as to safeguard all the accommodation we’d booked and paid for in Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. A 0-0 draw in the Paraguay game and 3-0 win for Italy would see us through. Surely Italy would turn it on in their last game? Surely not. As it became clear Italy were going to lose, we realised a 1-0 win for New Zealand would then lead to them finishing top and Paraguay 2nd. Come on the All Whites! Every attack they had we cheered on. Every Paraguay attack we bit our nails. Yes I was wearing my Paraguay gear. No I didn’t give a shit. I was more concerned about my financial state than what people thought about my mental state.
It wasn’t to be though and we left the game, the only Paraguay ‘fans’ completely depressed about the result.
As we’re walking back to the car a guy in front of me suddenly stops and bends over slightly and as I’m rushing I bang into him and almost tumble over him. “Sorry” I say, when the correct exclamation should have been “What the fuck did you just stop for you idiot?”. Then a couple of confusing minutes followed as he grabbed hold of my hand and started walking. “Sorry, sorry” he said. Then stopped and began speaking to me in his own language. I glanced over behind him and his mate had cornered Laura and started saying something to her. Laura then pushed her way over to me and asked what was going on, just as this bloke corners me, pulls my shirt up and starts gesturing to my pockets and belt. “Is he trying to mug you?”
“Errrm, I’m not sure”
I then pulled away and we rushed off as they kept shouting stuff at us and we just jogged along to the car, confused. It had scam written all over it and I expected that they’d somehow managed to pickpocket me, but alas they had not. They were rubbish at their job. I can’t imagine their routine making it onto the Real Hustle anytime soon.
Other than that the people of Polokwane were the nicest we’d met so far. It’s not the kind of place that would attract many tourists at any other time so most people we met wanted to chat and talk about England. Whilst leaving KFC after stealing their WIFI connection, I briefly spoke to a girl for all of 15 seconds and she looked genuinely gutted when I told her I had to leave. “I’ll miss you” she said with a tear in her eye as I departed. I left, wondering what state she’d have been in if I’d have stretched out the chat out for an extra 10 seconds.
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