We arrived in Cape Town after the shark dive to find out our apartment was adjacent to the Bourbon Street of Cape Town. To say it was loud would be an understatement. South Africa had just played and beat France so the street and city were alive. We ended up at a restaurant called Meat. So, we ordered….meat. Turns out the chef didn’t like the meat so we were told to order something else. We ordered chicken and sausage rolls with fries. We didn’t receive any rolls…or fries. But, we did get beans, sweet potatoes, coleslaw and corn on the cob. Clearly, the Afrikaans wasn’t translating to the menu. The long day wore us out and we went to bed to the humming of vuvuzelas until 4 AM…
We woke up with intentions to hike up Table Mountain, take the cable car down and use the early afternoon to drive down to the Cape of Good Hope, check out some penguins and come back for the USA-Algeria game. After taking the long way up, our short hike took over 3 hours and by the time we got back down the mountain, it was time to head to a bar for the game.
Both the USA and England games were on at the same time at the bar, which is a large bar overlooking the bay in Cape Town. The bar was split 80/20 in favor of American fans and the place was covered with American flags. We had the entire bar singing the national anthem- which you don’t get too often in Africa.
As the game progressed and we still hadn’t scored, our hopes began to dim and some of the fans began to watch the England game in hopes of a Slovenia goal, which would have put us through. With all of our missed opportunities and chances, it seemed like we were doomed to miss out at the expense of the bad calls. But then, the goal happened. I have never seen a celebration like it. People hugging, jumping, singing, rounds of 100 shots, vuvuzelas being used as beer bongs….it was complete craziness. One Indian-American was there and was buying bottles of tequila and passing out shots to American fans. It was an amazing experience but didn’t bode well for the next 40 hours of traveling I had starting at 5 AM the next day. It was the perfect way to end the trip.
I flew on Emirates, which was the official airline of the World Cup. If you liked, one of the channels showed the previous days’ games on your personal monitor. The third game of our 8 hour flight to Dubai was the USA game from the night before. We were about 6 hours into our flight. As the goal was scored, about 40% of the plane erupted in a cheer again- pretty cool. Almost as cool as the Russian that was sitting next to me reading Russian Playboy. Even better was when he took it with him to the bathroom…yes, to read the articles.
After the 8 hour layover and subsequent 16 hour flight, I arrived home with severe jet lag but it was an amazing trip, a spectacular country that exceeded all expectations and held a fantastic World Cup.
Last thoughts: Vuvuzelas: yes, they were everywhere. Yes, they were used too often. By everyone. Construction workers, retail employees, airline employees, tourists, locals…us. But, they added a unique vibe, a special feel and provided a great atmosphere at games. Well, unless the guy behind you had one. The TV does not capture the essence of them and at the games they do not sound like a bee hive; rather, they provided an ebb and flow of emotion and decibels at games. As most of the horns were blown by the locals, they would get in synch with each other and it was actually pretty cool to listen to.
Culture: (soccer) Soccer in South Africa has a long way to go to be accepted by the white minority(10% of the population, we heard). They are still a rugby loving minority and don’t quite embrace or even understand soccer. The opposite is true of the black majority. They love soccer and don’t quite embrace rugby. The animosity is thinly veiled in conversations. That being said, the entire country was engulfed in the World Cup and the success of the South African team. Everyone had their jerseys on for game day. Mom’s, kids, workers, grandparents, whites, blacks…it was cool to see. I can’t remember any event that had such widespread support from a country.
Safety: We were warned, repeatedly, of the dangers of South Africa. Usually, the first thing we heard about the country. That fact is unfortunate. The country offers so much from a cultural, natural and tourist destination that the safety issue should not be the primary description of the country. We never felt in danger- and while we were careful- it was not a fear that overwhelmed us. We drove ourselves at night. We walked to dinner. We went to action bars and shabeens…ok, that is a local joke. But, overall, the safety issue was overblown and should not be a rationale for not going to South Africa.