We were feeling pretty helpless after Paraguay finished top. The tickets we now had were for Pretoria, Johannesburg and Durban. The only accommodation left in these places was likely to be beyond our budget, and the two weeks worth of accommodation we had booked was gonna be wasted. So we crossed the border into Swaziland for a few days to plan our next move.
We reached the border and the immigration officer started to fire off the questions. “Where have you been, where are you from, how long are you staying for, where are you staying…”
To the last question I replied “Mantenga Lodge”
“Mantenga Lodge? That’s near where I live. Can you give me a lift home?”
She was pregnant (or had a big pot belly, not quite sure) so we couldn’t really say no so we shoved her into the back with all the luggage and kicked her out a hour later.
We then arrived at the lodge, a beautiful place overlooking ‘Sheba’s Breast’, the mountain which was the setting for H Rider Haggard’s King Solomons Mines.
The following day we drove out to the National Park which was a few miles down the road. Upon reaching the ramshackle reception, we paid our couple of quid each then found you were just to drive around yourself on a self drive safari rather than being driven around by a ranger. The only thing we were told was “DO NO GET OUT OF YOUR CAR AND KEEP WINDOWS WOUND UP”
At this point I have to say, if any of you ever get the chance to go on a self drive safari, do not attempt to do it in a Kia Picanto. We’re driving around passing all your usual African big animals when after a few miles we noticed we hadn’t seen anyone else. We also didn’t have a clue where we were, no signs and the tracks were getting gradually worse. After taking one wrong turning too many we hit a path that a 4×4 would struggle to get down. All of a sudden we hear a big thud and a spinning of wheels. The car is stuck in a ditch and the wheels are just spinning and digging themselves more into the dusty ground. It’s clear that we aren’t going anywhere. The worry of nearby hippos, crocodiles, pythons, black mambas and other dodgy looking animals means neither of us are too keen on getting out to try and push the car out. I realise after a while that no one is going to come past or know that we’re here so it’s either get out and risk being killed by something or stay in the car and roast to death with the heat of the strong sun beaming down through the windscreen. Our water supply had also run out by this point.
So I get out and push. And push and push and push. And the car doesn’t move an inch. Just seems to be digging itself further in. I try everything, Digging it out with my hands, looking for wood to make a ramp with. Nothing works. And I’m stuck on the floor covered in all kinds of shit, coated with a thin layer of red dust from head to toe everytime the wheels spin.
A while later, Laura spots a receipt with a phone number on. I get my phone out and see the dreaded one bar with “battery low” flash. Of all times. However, it lasts long enough and we’re able to ring the number on there (or rather, Laura rings for help. I refuse to admit that we need help, and would happily stay sat there for days before I rang anyone)
Someone answers the phone, Laura explains what has happenned and then they reply.
“So what do you want us to do?”
“Er, well send someone to help get us out?!”
“Well, I’ll see if I can find anyone that can help you but canlt guarantee anything. Where are you?”
“What can you see?”
All we can see is the same as we can see everywhere in the park. Fields with long dried grass and trees. There is nothing we can say that is of any help. We will just have to stay here while they scout the entire National Park looking for us. We could be here for hours and hours.
We wait and wait and wait. And no one comes. Then all of a sudden, I decide I’ve had enough. I get out of the car and tell Laura to put it in reverse and floor the accelarator. I then somehow manage to summon up Incredible Hulk type strength and the car starts to move slightly. My head is going bright red and I can feel blood vessels and veins starting to pop in the side of my head. A few seconds later and success, the car is out of the ditch! I’m ready to collapse. “Can we go home now?”
The next day is England V Germany and we drive over to the only place in the village that seems to have a TV, Quatermains restaurant. After seeing no tourists at all for the past 2 and a half days we suddenly find this place is full of them. And they’re all fucking German.
The game starts off badly when I see that South African TV coverage, which has been great up until this point has now took a turn for the worse as they have just signed up Paul Ince as a pundit. Every pundit comes out with sensible comments on the game and suggest that Germany will edge it. Then they get to Ince. “Nah mate, easy win for England this one, no problem at all”
“where do you get that idea from Paul?” One of the other pundits asks him. “England have shown nothing so far to demonstrate that they will have an easy game here”
Then Ince comes out with this pearl of wisdom. “Well y’know, we beat them 5-1 in their own backyard”
And with that Ince displayed the same kind of arrogance that most of the team seemed to show during the game. Expecting to win it because there were no big name players in the German squad. It’s probably better that Germany knocked us out. If they can put 4 past us, Argentina would have put 8 in. I’ve not seen the UK press or reactions yet but I’m guessing the excuses are already rolling out. Its the managers fault, the refs fault, the balls fault. When in reality we’re just shit and won’t admit we’re not in the same league as at least 9 or 10 other top teams. The squad was already fairly weak and as soon as Ferdinand was out it was clear we were gonna struggle badly at the back. Not to mention in attack, where two of our strikers can’t even get a regular place for their club team. Time’s now up for the so called “Golden Generation”. The problem is now that you think about the next world cup and you have to wonder who will be playing for us then. There are no obvious young talented players that seem to be coming through like there has been in the past. The under 17’s just won the Euros so we just have to hope there is a handful of them that can make the breakthrough.
Whist in Swaziland we’d searched the net and found a cheap place to stay in Pretoria so decided we could afford to stay there a few days and make use of the Paraguay v Japan ticket. So we headed back to the border and I passed my passport to the border guard. As soon as he realises it’s a British passport he shakes his head.
“What happen yesterday? Disgraceful! To go out is no shame but to go out with a performance like that is an embarrassment. Why didn’t you send Wigan Athletic over instead. they would do better job”
“Wait a minute, what did you just say?! Did I hear that right?? Are you a Latics fan?”
“Yes I say, why you not send Wigan Athletic over, they do much better job than England.”
And with that he stamped my passport and waved on the next customer.
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