Saturday, June 19, 2010

Catching up on the last week

ok we've been busy since the last post and i've managed to let 5 days slip by so i'll be catching up on those last few days in this one post.

We wake up to yet another wonderful breakfast here at the Guest House we are staying in. Since we're about a 10 walk from the stadium and today it plays host to Ghana vs. Serbia - we decide to try our luck on getting tickets.
We head to the Brooklyn mall where there is a FIFA ticket office, this was a waste of time. The line to buy tickets was too long so, we come back, park our car and walk to the stadium.
We see some people scalping, but not many. The Ticket Office is on the opposite side of the stadium, which because so many streets are shut down, is quite a walk. It's cool, in some way, cause you get to see more fans walking around.
The ticket center had no tickets. We start looking for scalpers. The BUZZ around the stadium seems positive we'll get some for a decent price, but will we get 7? We find a couple of Ghana fans that are selling. We say we need seven, No Problem, we are told. One guy runs to another place, and brings back a wad of tickets. He says we can have them for $90. No way, we tell him. We're not paying more that 400 rand (about $35). He walks away, but another guy, with another huge stack of tickets, says he'll sell them for 500 rand. Again, we say we're not paying more than 400. He takes it. So we've all got a ticket and head for the gates since the game has just started. On our walk to the gates we speculate
Why did two people have so many tickets, and why did he so easily accept our offer? Where the real?
We take a closer look at the tickets and they say Ghana Football Federation. We laugh :)
We have 7 tickets near each other so at first we're split up, then decide to find each other and all stand behind the Ghana group that wore bright colors, had drums, sang, swayed, danced - it was GREAT and to date was the best soccer experience i've ever had! When Ghana scored late in the game, we found ourselves right in the middle of a massive party.
Ghana holds on to win and we sing and dance our way out of the stadium with all of the Ghana Supporters.
What a night!

Today we decide at yet another wonderful breakfast that we should try and catch the Holland vs. Denmark game in Johannesburg. (which is about an hour away) Due to the lack of planning and our late start we hit MAJOR TRAFFIC and w/out tickets we are denied at the park and rides.
We decide to turn around and head back to Petroria to watch the game at the official FIFA FanFest. It was at a cricket ground. Unfortunately, it was nothing like what we'd seen in World Cups Past. There were the 2 large big screens showing the games but it was anything but full due to many of the locals having to work we expect. The lack of a crowd was a nice change for us as we were able to sit on the grass and enjoy a quick lunch and beer and relax.
During halftime of the game Curtis, Clint, German and Myself decide to participate in a quick 3min 4v4 game. We didn't do bad however the Argentina fans ended our hopes with a cheeky goal that we are all still wondering how it went in?
We head back to the guest house and over dinner we make plans to head out early tomorrow for a Safari. I'm excited for this so it's off to bed early with dreams of Lions and Tigers and Elephants OH MY!


We wake up around 7 am and drive from Petroria to Pilanesberg National Park, which was about a two-hour drive northwest. We had done part of this drive last week on our way to the U.S. game (Rustenburg is past the park). As you drive along the highway, large hills can be seen in the distance, as can platinum mines and factories. It’s kind of desolate, with a lot of open space. If there are cities nearby, they’d have to be small. When we pull off the highway, we begin to drive down a rural road with signs that read: No fences, watch out for wildlife – with a picture of an antelope and ones with cows. However, the best sign was this one and what soon to follow it.

It looks like this sign says no street vending but i guess this guy didn't see the sign :)

We continue on, we see tons people with machetes chopping down the tall grass that grew high near the roadside – or at least that was our observation without knowing if they were in fact doing.

We passed by tiny shanty houses, some built out of aluminum or tin and we think WOW how hot would that be in the summer. On multiple corners we passed people that had set up stands to sell fruit and other goods. We really are in the middle of no where.

As we approach the Park, now with fences separating the large expanses of green and trees to both sides, on our way in we get our first look at some wildlife, some spider monkeys in the trees to our left.

We pull into the park. The initial idea was for us to drive the two cars through the park – which is permitted – and apparently inexpensive. However, we also kind of wanted a guide, and to try to get us all together. Our car was happy on this decision to go with the guided tour because our "Mid-sized" car that we have now named "the ant" would not of been the best choice in the park since many of the animals in the park would be twice the size of it.

No one would flat out say it, but I think there were at least a few that felt more comfortable being higher up in a vehicle with a guide that would hopefully carry a gun in case we were approached by a dangerous animal. (Some guys admitted to this after the fact). We found out we could get a personal safari vehicle for about $35 each. Done.

We meet Justin, our driver who had been working in the safari guide business for 17 years. As we begin, we’re told the rules. Absolutely no one out of the vehicles. Also, no loud noises or attempts to startle animals should we see them. "IF" being the key word here.

It was FREEZING!!! and i myself was not prepared for this kind of cold today seeing i only wore a long-sleeved shirt and a light hooded sweatshirt. Our vehicle was an open-air safari truck. After some laughing at us who were not ready for the cold, we all accept the blankets that were passed around.

We’re on our way. (this section of the blog is from one of German's emails)

Right away we notice the massiveness of the reserve. And right away we see our first animals. A bunch of Impala antelopes bouncing around the side of the road. We stop for photos – and see them on both sides. We’re on a real safari!

A little further down, Brett spots something moving in the trees: warthogs and a lone wildebeest. They are barely visible through the trees, but we snap away.

Far up a hill we see zebras – too far for photos. We keep driving and pull off the paved road onto a dirt path. About 100 meters to our right, Brett again spots something. Justin puts the truck in reverse – and we all jump over to the right side: beyond the four foot waving blades of yellow grass, and slowly moving near a tree, is a white rhino. Awesome. The first of the big five.

We begin to pester Justin with questions. Have you seen any kills, do cheetahs live out here, what about giraffes, or elephants. He has a bunch of answers. There are so many lions out here, in this 55 hectare reserve, and they are so dominant that they have nearly killed off a bunch of animals. As far they know, there are only a handful of cheetahs even still around, less of other animals.

I’ve forgotten the exact order of the animal sittings. One reason is because we saw so many wildebeest. You could often see them far into the park and then wonder what all is out there that can see us, but perhaps we can’t see them.

We see a watering hole – next to it are two hippos, a momma and baby.

Then, we come across a larger open area near the bottom of a hill where a bunch of wildebeest and zebras are playing around. In front of them are springbok, another type of antelope. Two impala behind them, noticeable because of the horns.

Suddenly the antelope take a few quick hops forward before stopping to continue pecking at the grass. The impala are in a trance. They are fixated on something behind them, so they stand at attention and look back.

We look in front, trying to figure out what they are looking at. We see nothing but tall grass with sprinkled in trees that stretched for thousands of feet onto the bottom of another hill. Something is out there, the driver tells us. The impala can sense it, which is why they are looking like this.

I get excited. Will we see the beast!

We keep driving, slowly. We’re all quiet, seven sets of eyes surveying the entire terrain in front of us. What is out there?

The driver hits the breaks. We jump. What, what is it? Where? Our heads are spinning around. He puts the truck in reverse and jumps out. He takes one step and with his hand circles a footprint. It’s a lion’s paw. Holy shit! Adrenaline is kicking in. We continue driving and I can see 6-7 more tracks before they fade away. I can’t stop looking up and out, somewhat expecting to see the tall grass moving. I see nothing.

Further along, after more wildebeest and zebras, we come to a large lake. As we find our way closer to the lake, we see at least four more hippos on the opposite side. On the near side, we see three waterbucks, and, laying behind them, a crocodile.

We begin our drive away from the water and spot a giraffe, eating a bone for calcium. We are so close, and to our left are at least four more, eating off the trees.

We’re now a little over three hours into our drive and returning to base. We see the rhino is still in it spot. After another turn, we see a family of elephants – including a tiny baby. They stay a bit away, somewhat behind trees, though they are too big to hide completely.

We’re on the last stretch and we see the impala jumping across the road again, so we slow down. Seconds later, there are a bunch of baboons playing around.

For as much as I’ve written, I think it’s difficult to describe in print how cool it is to be in the wilderness like this. To see these animals in their habitat – not in cages, not staged, not placed out here for tourists to see.

After the Safari and i regained feeling in my fingers and toes we set off to "SUN CITY" it's described as the RENO of South Africa... It's not it's not even the glitz and glamor you get in Black hawk or any Indian Casino. The view is nice but the casino needed some work. We have lunch and watch whatever match is on the TV and then decide to drop by the casino before we head home. Ryan and German hit the tables while the rest of us mill around. Ryan is doing well and as i pass his roulette table he offers me 50$ Rand (about $7 usd) so I have a seat. quickly beginners luck strikes and i find myself with over 1000$ Rand (About $125 usd) I decide this is enough to buy a ticket to tomorrows game so i walk away :)

We all depart the casino w/ more money than we've lost so over all not a bad trip.

The drive home was one for the books. The nights sky was black as can be and only being on this two lane road once i was a little nervous. We made it back fine and went straight to bed. I was exhausted and excited that we decided to head to J0-Berg in the morning and hopefully catch the Argentina vs Korea game.

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