Monday, July 12, 2010

World Cup Final and Going Home

The end is finally upon us - we will be departing Johannesburg in exactly 5 hours on a non-stop flight to Atlanta. Last night we each witnessed our very first World Cup Final match in person, as Spain defeated the Netherlands 1-0 in extra time.

It was a surreal experience. We arrived about 5 hours early to the game to avoid any hiccups, and cruised around the stadium until it was time for the closing ceremony. I'm sure the ceremony looked a lot better on TV, because where we were sitting, it wasnt great and you couldn't hear much.

Unfortunately we were all sitting separately, having bought tickets on our own accord, but we each made friends with the people we sat next to. I had a Moroccan on my left and two Dutch fans on my right. The Dutch guy next to me had just flown in that morning from Thailand to see his team play in the Final.

As a side note, we also met a USD alum in the stadium before the game, just because we were wearing our USA gear. Small world, and a picture that needs to go in the alumni magazine!

It wasnt the classic we had been hoping for, because the Netherlands clearly thought their only chance at winning was to foul the Spanish midfielders each time they touched the ball. Eventually this backfired and Heitinga was sent off just a little bit before Iniesta put home the winner.

Nonetheless it was quite the spectacle. Being there is totally different from watching at home - we got no commentary, no replays, just the pure sport for 120 minutes.

So we close the chapter on our month-long journey to South Africa, with wonderful memories and solidified friendships. See you in Brazil!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cape Town / Durban / The Final Weekend

Monday we went up to Table Mountain in Cape Town pretty early, about 9am, but the visibility was poor as a thick cloud cover was over the city. So at the suggestion of the hostel, we hopped on the train and headed south about a half hour to a place called Kalk Bay, and ate at a delicious seafood restaurant right on the water.

Kalk Bay is a heavy fishing town, and people were buying boxes of lobster as soon as they were loaded onto the dock. We took the train back up to Cape Town in the afternoon, and since the weather had cleared up, we decided to make another trip to Table Mountain.

The line at this point was quite long, and we were concerned that they wouldn't allow us to go up since 5pm was the cutoff time. But we were one of the last groups to make it, and we took the lift up to the top of the mountain. Although it was somewhat cloudy, we were able to get some great views and pictures of Cape Town from the peak. We also got a nice sunset on the Atlantic Ocean.

Tuesday we spent the first part of the day in Clifton, an area about 15 minutes southwest of Cape Town (on the road to Cape Point). We were all pretty tired from having to wake up early and check out of the hostel, so after we attempted to get Bill to fall in the ocean while climbing rocks, we just laid around in the grass and in the car. Eventually we headed over to the Green Point area, where the stadium is. Had lunch and got to the game way too early. This was the first game where we knew we wouldnt be able to sit together, but it wasnt too bad. Ben had great seats right off midfield just 2 rows up, I was in the 2nd of 3 decks behind the goal, and Bill and Ron were just a row apart in the upper level at midfield. It was one of the better games of the tournament, with possibly the goal of the tournament by Van Bronckhorst.

We left with 5 minutes to play, so we didn't see Uruguay's last goal, but we had more important things to do, like catch a 2:25am flight to Durban.

In Durban we were pretty low key, our lodge was in Umdloti Beach (pronounced um-shlo-tee), about 20 minutes north of the city, but only 1 exit from the airport. We rested on Wednesday (it was cloudy), but we did get in the Indian Ocean for a little bit. Thursday we did much of the same, laid on the beach, ate good food, and Friday... yep pretty much the same.

Got up really early today (5am) to catch our flight to Johannesburg. We are back at the Humphrey's and are all very excited about the Final tomorrow between two excellent teams. My prediction? 2-0 a la Furia Roja.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Mother City

The four of us took off for Cape Town at 7am on Saturday, and a 2-hour flight later we were in the Mother City. Saturday was a relaxing day for us, as we were all tired and Ben was under the weather. So we had a big Mexican lunch (it wasn't half bad), and watched the two quarterfinals.

Today we split up, Ben and Bill went shark diving (there was only room in the group for 2), while Ron and I headed down to Cape Point/Cape of Good Hope, which is the southwestern-most point on the African continent.

Ben and Bill said they enjoyed themselves, but the water was quite cold. They were able to see two sharks, and returned with all limbs attached. Ron and I had a great day driving down to Cape Point, a little over an hour south of Cape Town. Stopped off for a seafood lunch on our way there. It really was picturesque and the weather today was magnificent.

Photos can be found towards the back of this album:

Tomorrow ... Table Mountain.