Thursday, August 12, 2010

Travel Thursday: South Africa Day 2

On our first morning in South Africa, we were up early. 6? 6:30? Definitely not a time that we normally see on vacations but, with all of the travel, it didn't come as a surprise.

We had breakfast at the hotel's restaurant. We showered and dressed in the sky blue and white of Argentina. Meg did the shoulder exercises required by her physical therapist. We tooled around the hotel, taking silly pictures of random things. We tried to get our laptops hooked up to the hotel's archaic wireless and equally archaic network to no avail. And then we caught the hotel's shuttle to our first match: Argentina vs. South Korea.

We left quite early. Of course, we had no idea how long it would take to get to the stadium. While, distance wise, it wasn't incredibly far to the stadium, the traffic sucked. But we were still dropped off with plenty of time to spare.

So, here's a thing about the stadium: it is sort of in the middle of nowhere. This enormous, beautiful facility and nothing around it except dirt fields. Even the parking lots didn't back right up to it. So, when our driver dropped us off, we couldn't even see the stadium. No joke. We just followed the crowd. For a half hour. Through parking lots and down sidewalks and past two security checks and over a pedestrian bridge and - oh! - there it is. Beautiful.

With time to spare, we checked out the merchandise tent and took some pictures. It was outside of the stadium that we first realized that our curly-haired, blond, femaleness was a little bit unique to some other World Cup visitors. Mainly the ones who asked to get their pictures taken with us. Hilarious.

The inside of the stadium was a bit of a surprise. We're used to lavish, state-of-the-art stadiums with sushi bars and in-game hosts and all of that. This? Was new and nice and clean and so not fancy-schmancy. Just your regular, standard stadium: all cement and concession stands that all sold the exact same handful of items.

The atmosphere left us awestruck. So many people from so many countries being so loud. It was quite the sight to see.

The picture above is my favorite one taken of Meg and me from the trip. What you can't tell from the picture is how bloody cold it was that day. We froze our asses off. It was a sunny day, but we sat in the shade. The sky was cloudless and it was w-w-w-windy.

Argentina won the game, 4-1. It was exciting to see so many goals, because the tournament had been quite low scoring to that point. We were happy with the result - I'm not sure if you can tell from our outfits, but we were totally cheering for Argentina.

Getting out of the stadium after the game was somewhat frustrating. The concourses were absolutely packed and, due special sections being blocked off for media, some ramps were inaccessible and you couldn't walk around the entire perimeter of the building.

We were lucky enough to witness a little fight just as we were exciting the building. We high-tailed it out of there in a hurry. I don't think it turned into anything big, though.

Just like the walk to the stadium, the walk back was lengthy. A half-hour, maybe? A half-hour that I spent fretting about our ride. Our shuttle was just parked in the middle of a lot with no markings or signs and, well, I was worried that we'd never find it and end up stranded in the middle of a dusty field with no ride and no chance of ever making it back to our hotel alive. Yeah. I spent a lot of the trip worrying about transportation. But we found our shuttle. And all was right with the world.

That night, we went to dinner in the same area that we'd gone to the night before. We timed it so that we could eat, drink and watch the Mexico/France game. It worked out quite well. We're both much happier when we have food in our bellies.


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