Category Archives: Lions Tour 2009

And I’m Spent

I have been back in the UK since Thursday morning and life officially sucks – I now have to cook for myself and I am stuck in the same place with no future of moving on anytime soon! The rain has been vial, the house is flea-d up to the nines, I am overdrawn at the bank (oops!) and had nothing but bills to open when I got home. Back to reality with rather a large bump I say!!!

My 5 days with Juliet and Uncle Ant were pure bliss. It was so lovely to spend quality time with them both. We did nothing exciting but it was just what I wanted. Juliet took me to an amazing Bird of Prey Sanctuary on the edge of Pietermaritzburg on one day, a place that she is very fond of – and I can so see why. The birds are all unable to live in the wild for one reason or another and they are in beautiful, huge cages that are meticulously cleaned. I was most impressed. It was lovely to see some of these amazing birds so close up and really appreciate their beauty. We watched a fabulous display as well and we were SO close to the birds it was unreal. The only place that is similar that I can think of is the Hawk Conservancy place near Andover that we used to go to as children – I don’t remember them being kept in such good condition though. I also went out with Juliet to lunch at her friend Rosalie’s where we had a delicious lunch with some delicious cake that I have the recipe for and am going to try and make – it sounds easy – knowing me I will cock it up however!!! They played bridge and (as old and decrepid as it sounds) I did some cross stitch.

It saddens me that the only family that actually give any appearance of giving a hoot about me live so far away. It just reminded me again that if I ever get married one day (in the VERY distant future)- the guest list is going to be piss easy as I won’t have to bother with family. They didn’t even have the common curtosy to reply to my 30th party would you believe? (I hasten to add that they are all WELL into their 40’s bar one who is 38) so why would I bother inviting them to a wedding??!!! At this rate – I think that the price of not having the others would actually pay for Juliet and Uncle Ant’s tickets!!! (Hmmnn now there IS a thought!!). I felt so comfortable in their company – as one should with family. SO alien a feeling compared to those back in the UK who don’t really bother to take the time to get to know me as a person, something I have found so very hard to deal with over the years and a major factor of why I utterly DETEST Christmas and why I am a year or two off buggering off on my own for the whole period to a country that does not ‘do’ it. It’s why time with them is SO precious, to remind me of what relatives are actually like (apart from M,D & H of course) and get my ‘fill’ of it before heading back to the dry desert of family back in the UK.

From Juliet and Uncle Ant I moved on to see Lauren which was just wonderful. Juliet sweetly dropped me off at Knowles Spa in Pinetown where La picked me up and we headed up to the Northern Drakensburg 15 km from Clarens in the Free State not far from the boarder with Lesotho. I swear we both had a case of the verbals the entire journey up which was great. Made me realise even more just how much I ruddy miss her. Why is it that 2 of my closest friends (Ile in Romania) live so god damned far away and another is buggering off in August? I am not really helping myself am I?! We had shed loads of brandy and Coke when we got there in the most beautiful of places with stunning scenery all around, bright blue sky and sunshine. We knew however that it was going to get pretty bloody cold at night. It took us bloody ages to get the fire going – I say us but really I mean Lauren! And we sat like old fricking ladies outside in front of the fire with hotties shoved up our fronts and about 3 jumpers on wrapped in a blanket each!!

Carlos and Bob joined us that evening – Lauren’s ‘friend’ (for want of a better word!!) and a friend of his. I had heard quite a lot about him and how they are very similar and so suited and blah blah blah. To be fair, yes – yes they are. I felt really quite honoured that La wanted me to meet him. I was shattered for most of the weekend and FREEZING. The reality of having to head back to the mundane shite that I have back in the UK was really starting to make me feel incredibly apprehensive about returning home. Would things be better permanently this time or would it all be just like getting back from Egypt all over again? I had to head back to the diet, the SAD light, the fricking herbal teas at night, the daily bursts of exercise, the no beer, the therapy sessions starting, the thought of no rugby with Rach, the general pants feeling and not knowing why and the fact that the excitement of a holiday ALWAYS has the flat point after when you wish you were still there – but mine is 10 times worse. I was quite glad to be left all alone on the Sunday late morning for a while to have an opportunity to gather my thoughts as I also typed up bits of the blog from the last couple of days from the trip. I convinced myself to ignore those feelings and not to let them get in the way of enjoying the valuable time with La. Looking back I feel really bad as I know that I was not the usual chirpy Em for the time we had left in Durban once back from the Berg. I think at one point I would have done ANYTHING to have stayed away from the UK for another week or so.

Saying goodbye to La was hard. I was bloody good in body but in mind I was falling to pieces. About saying goodbye, about the fact that the next time I see her will be on Skype (I officially love you whoever invented that) about the fact that this was it. The holiday EVERYONE is now officially sick of hearing about is at an end and I have not got another booked (yet!) to starting looking forward to. I had tear or two in my eye as I walked through security and was fine on the first flight as I headed up to Jo’berg. It was as we started to taxi down the runway in Jo’burg that I friggin lost it. I was trying to cry quietly – you’ve probably tried it at one point yourself, but my head was having none of it this was no few tears this was full on bawling. I couldn’t bloody stop. The oriental dude sat one away from me passed a tissue, bless, and I think I managed to make out – saying good bye to friends for him to understand whilst hiding behind Bunny and the sobs. What a pathetic mess I must have looked.

It got worse though. I was doing fine until I watched Bride Wars – please, really don’t bother it is utter crap. One of the brides no longer has any family left and so no father to walk her down the aisle and this was something that La and I were talking about over a 5l box of wine – this is us we are talking about we met over the garden fence and shared a bottle of wine each on our first meeting!!! We had made pinkie promises about a number of things and this set me off once more. Never something I have talked about before – must have been the sodding wine damn it. And I was supposedly off my face on 4 glasses at a wedding earlier this year – hmmnn I think not people – something else a foot there! I will remember that evening in front of the fire in minus degrees red faced from the red wine, sides splitting from La’s Hyperthermia in a bra moment – a true classic.

It was a brave choice to go on my own – Gulliver’s I mean. But I always knew it was absolutely the right thing for me to do. I saw it as a making of (with hopefully less of the breaking moment) in my recent bout of black cloud and whilst it has not even been a week since my return I am optimistic. I received an evaluation form from Gulliver’s in the post this morning with a reminder that the 2013 Lions in Australia Trip is now open for advanced registration. . . . now there is a thought!!!!

Final Test Day

The breakfast looked amazing and I tried so hard to eat some but my stomach was still having a party to which the rest of my body was not invited and the mouthful of croissant that I tried was quite enough so it told me.  I was of course donned in the Bath face tattoo, Lions colours and the wig, the flag and for the first part of the morning I was also wearing the Bath Tubs Shirt as I had promised Robbinhio (is that how you spell it?) from ERE that I would wear it on the last match day.  Ok I never worse it into the stadium but even if I had he would not have seen it was it was cold and so I was wrapped up.

We were taken to Soweto by bus for our big bar which today was Gulliver’s only as we had sorted out various things with Soweto Rugby Club and so everything for the pre-match entertainment was going to be there.  It was a long way from the hotel to put it mildly.  Driving into Soweto was heart warming as the streets were all full of people waving ferociously at the passing buses, namely small children. We arrived at a large gated area which turned out to be the rugby club.  The grass was all brown and there was the pitch and then the massive marquee which was brilliantly equipped inside for us all with food and drink outlets and a stage on which there was entertainment at times.  Its weird hey, in the 2,500 I saw not one of the Bath lot but then in the masses the previous week I saw each and every one!  The portaloos here were way better than the Rec – I nearly took photos of them they were that impressive, you also have ladies that were going in after each person to clean them down to ensure that they stayed in a good condition.  The thing is you wouldn’t be able to find people willing to do that.

I wandered over to the Gulliver’s Barbarians match with some of the others.  There were loads of us that were going but somehow no one seemed to follow on behind us.  Ah well, I still wanted to watch and, frankly, if anyone wanted to find me all that they had to do was to look for the wig!  See there were benefits to wearing it separate to looking like an arse! The others went of to get more drink but I stayed put after being asked to do a small report for Super Sport – their Sky Sports I guess. Well I as going to be picked on at some point really – I was asking for it rather! I milled around as I kind of lost the others and really could not be bothered spending most of my time looking for them and so I went up to quite near the stage where a bumped into FatBoySlim (the guys from Dubai – not Boyzone though) who were also taking photos of the dancers on stage.  The men all seemed to do a couple of random moves and it was like a competition to see who could land on the floor with the loudest bump. Really quite odd.

There was a movement back towards the buses and so I joined in the snake.  The open way was so small that it was a bit of a bottle neck to get out and taking quite some time I was with none of the Pink Leopards but I could hear them all right – ‘BEASTIALITYS BEST BOYS’ I didn’t half giggle – particularly as I was standing next to Cooch as they started! Finding the coach took me a little while as all of the Gulliver’s coaches were all parked in the same place.  Once back on the coach we all started moving off and I put face paints on John and Amanda at least some of them were getting into the spirit with me!

Getting into the ground was no problem compared to last week to put it mildly. I had my cans of soft drink take off me which I was quite annoyed about as I later found out that others had managed to get beer in. We stood soaking up the atmosphere for a little while.  Some Bok had a sign up that said F%£k the Queen, Our blood is green.  It was very interesting watching the majority of the other South African supporters’ reactions to the sign.  They were getting way more incensed than we Brits were.  I could not see a programme seller anywhere which was really annoying as I was not happy with the idea of going home without one.

I made a move to the seats with Val and Alan who I was sat next to.  There was NO BLOODY WAY that I was going to miss the pre-match entertainment on the pitch this time for anything or anyone. It was chilly in our seats to put it mildly.  I was glad that I had a windbreaker in the bottom of my bag as that did help keep me warmish.  Our seats were up the top-level this time and the sight of the mass of red shirts around the ground was far more impressive than in Pretoria I have to say.  I have a feeling that there was only a small selection of us over where we were as looking down to the left there looked to be a sea of green rather than broken up with the red tops of the Lions. Just to our right was the Sky box, you could clearly see Simon, Dewi, Will and the others.  I took some photos of them and we chanted Dewi, Dewi give us a wave – which he dually did!  I couldn’t stop giggling to myself as I have the picture of Jimmer shining his head on the TV with the duster and the Pledge from earlier in the year!!  I was sat near to Simon again and big Keith and then the rest of the guys were all down in front.  We had some obnoxious Bokka shite standing in the aisle for the first part of the match and Peter (of Fatboy Slim fame!) asked him if he could move or something to that effect.  The Bokka guy pulled out his VIP pass and abruptly told him that he had it which means that he can go anywhere and sit anywhere that he wants in the stadium.  How absurd was that? If there was a fire we would have all been screwed!

I was glad that we had made the effort to get there in time for the pre-match stuff.  Apparently it was exactly the same as the week before which Alan oh so sweetly pointed out to me several times, knowing full well I had not made it for the start of the last match – the shit! The anthems were awesome and I made sure that I recorded both of them on the camera.

The match was totally different to last week.  We were not so amongst the Lions supporters and I guess being more out in the open the atmosphere I don’t think was as electric.  I guess also the series had been won and we were looking to win for honours sake.  We needed a 2-1 loss and not a 3-0.  The Bokka supporter who stayed on the stairs for most of the match was an aggressive shite and nearly every time that we got the ball or were making progress up would go his middle finger-pointing to us whilst he continued to watch the play.  He was the only sort of hostile supporter that we really ran into.  The match itself was pretty violent and the fights on the pitch were frequent and namely started by them I have to say. We ended up in winning though which I have to say was a huge relief.  The trip out (rugby wise) was not all in vain – thank god!

We were all quite quiet I have to say on the trip home.  The reality that it was now all over really and the others were all heading home tomorrow and I was moving on without any of them was all sinking in.  I still had two parts of my holiday to look forward to though, firstly Juliet and Uncle Ant and then staying with Lauren.  I thought the whole thing would go really quickly – being only 12 days on tour but, to be fair it really did not speed by at a rate of knots

I packed and got ready to meet the others that I was going for supper with in the bar.  It was bloody lovely to be asked if I wanted to join people for a change than falling into gate crashing or organising it myself!  We went to a sort of burger place in the square and had a delicious steak supper.  We concocted the Pink Leopard cocktail – vodka, cherry liquor and lemonade.  It tastes rather like a refresher bar but do-able!!

I am not really all that good at final goodbyes and so come the end of the evening after we had gone on for one more drink and I had had a Milo to try and keep warm I decided that I would give more than my contribution to the drinks bill and walk away.  I could feel my eyes welling up already at the thought of saying goodbye. The only way to have done it and not look like a mahooisve tit.  I got back to my room in one piece and decided to write a little note to everyone that I had not seen that evening for Simon to read out on the bus the following day and slipped it under Sue and Clinton’s door the following morning on my way out.  I don’t know if it ever got read out but I felt more at ease for not seeing everyone the night before to say goodbye personally.

I went to sleep a little bundle of excitement.  Despite one part coming to an end I was spending the next few days relaxing with my Aunt and Uncle – I could not wait.  I had not seen Uncle Ant since 2002 I don’t reckon.  I have officially toured out!

The Last Supper

I felt like crap this morning. Lack of sleep and the anticipation of yet another bloody flight with my poor glands that were now swelling every flight day. I should have stayed on the double G & Ts the night before, I swear a hangover would have been easier to deal with! Certainly less painful!

The airport at Neilspruit was all thatched and like one of the safari lodges. The weirdest thing about it was that you could go and sit outside and enjoy the sunshine while you waited for your flight – which most of us did. I however sat in the shade and shivered as the heat of the sun and the brightness were clearly going to give me a headache. I found some random version of Red Bull that was vial in a hope that it would kick start me into gear. I just wanted to curl up in a ball and have a cuddle from Mummy. Anyone would think I was 13 not 30!! I HATE being ill. Word had spread that I was one of the last to go to bed and that I was joining Boyzone in a ‘new song’. Doesn’t take long for word to get round hey! I love the fact that people sounded surprised that I was the last to bed the previous night. Mum would have been so proud/relieved – if only I had actually slept the week before the trip and I’d have been a fricking night owl. I’m getting old!!

The hotel in Jo’burg was miles away from the airport and so it was nice to get to see a bit of the city from driving through in the security of a bus! I remember Dad once telling me that it was a tiny city when he first flew in there and that it has grown as a city at such a rapid rate. I felt that I saw evidence of that in the fact that there did not seem to be any similar sorts of areas of architecture. Everything seemed mismatched and random.

The area that we were staying in was Melrose and it is a richer area of the city and thus in some ways ‘safer’. The hotel was unreal. SO smart, so not us! The lifts were awesome, one had only tiny wee lights on the ceiling and black walls – like what I imagine the inside of the tardis to be on first entering. The other was multicoloured lights but it too felt like a spaceship! I’m not sure you area meant to rate hotels on their lifts, but if you did – this was tops!! It was very boutique style and there were flowers everywhere made out of tin cans – very African. Every little last detail had been thought of. In the room my bed was HUGE – I would have to swap pillows every hour if I was going to sleep on them all! There was a DVD player in the room with surround sound and a choice of 6 movies. The safe was behind a painting and the bath – OMG! For starters it had two rubber ducks on it! But it was massive and surrounded by a curtain so privacy could be given – clearly not needed for me. There was a separate walk in shower which was massive and a separate loo with the all important phone in. The tea and coffee selection was dead posh and they even had hot chocolate and yummie biscuits. Everywhere you looked there was something else to look at. There was a card on the bed welcoming me personally as a guest – I guess everyone’s had one of these, but still – I was very impressed.

I got out the laptop ready to update the blog. Bugger. It turned on but then the screen just went black as if it had been turned off. Was not going to worry about it – can do nothing. So I ran the biggest bath ever instead and then realised that you can actually watch tv whilst in the bath!!! I did several laps of the tub and freshened up ready for the evening – our last night all together and Gullivers had a restaurant booked across the square for us all and it was all paid for apart fromt he drinks – bonus!!. But first a celebration event of the tour held in the auditorium.

This was the opportunity to cheer each individual and point out memorable parts of the tour for them, falling down a flight of stairs pissed, Robben Mountain, are we nearly there yet?, spotting Kangaroos, temporarily loosing passport, loosing the band for the Big Bar in ½ hour of being given it and basically spending most of the time drunk. I must remember to try and get the list off of John at some point as that would be quite good for the scrap book. We all had an Amarula as our name was called out and then last but by no means least, was Simon’s turn. We had got him a Lions ball that we had all signed a Bokka Shirt as a present from us all. I think he was quite touched. He wore the shirt out the following night.

We then all headed across to Moyo which literally faced the hotel. We had no choice in the menu and so I was bit miffed when the joyous waft of ruddy peppers greeted me when the food was placed on the table. None the less it was a good evening with much entertainment provided by the staff (and guests) and of course we gave many a rendition of some of our repertoire of songs, clearly though the tamer ones. There was a band on too, the voices sounded very familiar and on reading back at the hotel in the guide book I read that they often have well known bands on at night playing for the guests. Janette and Sarah tried to get me to go and dance – not on your nelly. I don’t think that the two left feet funky chicken really goes down all that well when dancing to African Music. Most of us had our faces painted which, of course, I started as was first to be asked. I look like a rabbit in head lights in the photo that was taken so I will need to Dr that a little!

I departed early before I started falling asleep and I could already feel my stomach churning from the food that I had tasted before declining a full portion. At least it was the last night hey. I really had done rather well not to be ill with it in the Kruger. I took a moment on my balcony soaking up the noise from Moyo before I shut out the night and headed to bed. I instantly recognised the song that they were singing as one off of my Mundo Afrika Album but can’t remember the singer’s name. Happy memories!

Nkambini Tented Lodge Day 2

I can not honestly believe that I managed to make it up and out of my tented hut by 5.30am. I seriously considered showering but frankly it was a) way too early and b) it was WAY too cold to even consider it seeing as there was a gaping hole to the outside!

We had planned our truck for the day the night before but sadly it did not work out. Alan and Val sweetly made sure that I was with them as I was wondering around like a headless chicken for a while trying to work out which truck had friends on and also space! We ended up in starting a new one and had Chris and Jeremy as well as Peter and Sarah joined us. I had filled my hottie had a mass of layers on and also the blanket off of my bed as well as the blanket that was already on the truck – no seriously it was that cold as the wind was bitter and there are no sides – obviously so you can see the game easily and thus take photos. We had Pat as our guide who was great I have to say.

By 8.30 we had already seen a Lion sighting and were all hyped up and excited about what else there was to see out there. The views of the bush are just amazing hey. The natural beauty and seeing such ferocious beasts in their natural environment; NOTHING beats it. This is what I had been dreaming of after the matches. Sitting in the bush with a sundowner of a Castle (a small one mind – did not want a repetition of one of the family trips when I HAD to go and the guiders shone the search lights away from me as we were in the hunt for Lions at the time which were thought to be really close – never peed so quickly in my life!) biltong and soaking up the beauty of my surroundings. Sadly we never were out late enough in the Kruger to have Sundowners so instead it was the bar with the others – not quite natural surroundings but definitely more memorable.

All in all on the day we had 5 separate sightings of lions. Admittedly it was pretty darned hard to see some of them without binos and had we taken photos there would have been nothing there – you would have just had to take my word for it that there was a lion in the picture! I could hear all that Pat was saying much more clearly than the lady the night before and it was as fascinating as ever. I could so easily do their job – looking for game all day every day – I really doubt that I would tire from it.

We spent ages looking for crocodiles lying out of the water sunning themselves but sadly only saw one – Pat could not understand quite why none of them were out. Bless her though she checked loads of waterholes looking for them for us! We saw a fabulous sight – not for the feint hearted – of an Impala hanging from a tree – Pat had seen the leopard that had killed it the previous day with it in this tree and so we sat hopeful that we would see the leopard itself. There were so many cars though waiting there too that there was not a chance sadly. Pat was telling us that they are quite shy animals and that it would be very unlikely to see any with so many cars around. The cars were all people that are from the Gauteng area, Pat had pointed out from the car plates. She told us that they ruin game watching at times as they just sit waiting and watching the big cats and thus block off the road for others to be able to see them too with a good view. She was right hey, the amount of people in their cars that were just sitting there with their coffee and biscuits watching was unreal. Also the amount of people chatting/shouting at each other as to what we were looking at was unreal – if I was a lion I would have just though stuff you, I want peace and quiet and disappear into the bush away from all of the roads.

It was quite amusing hearing the radio calls to and from her husband in another jeep with some more of our lot – I think with Simon, Jeanette and Ian to name a few keeping check on where the other was and what they had seen and so on. They have their own names for the animals and things so that they don’t start saying over the radio lions etc as those in the tucks could get all excited and expectant and they might have moved by the time that the other gets there. She was explaining some of them to us – of course I can remember none of them now!! They were all derivatives of say Zulu and so on that only made sense to each other. Quite sweet really in some ways!

We stopped for lunch at one of the rest stops and lunch was all laid out for us ready and waiting. We were one of the first ones there though as we had been closer than the others as we were looking at the best Lion sighting that we had that day of a male lion, quite a young one we thought as the maine was not humungous. The beauty of sitting admiring him, how lucky were we? I kept having to pinch myself. A serious wow moment. Of course most of the lunch had peppers in it but truthfully I really was not that hungry anyway so it did not bother me. I spent a while watching the vervet monkies playing in the trees with the food stuffs that they had nicked off of picnickers close by before we headed off again. Chris and I were hopeful that the rest of the days sightings would all be out of the left hand side of the truck as we had had NOTHING on our side what so ever – typical!

Sadly we saw very little game in the afternoon, Pat spent most of the time looking around waterholes for us for the crocs and we also went back to the leopard kill just in case it had come back for some more food. It must have been around somewhere as they never leave their kill apparently for other animals to take. I spotted these really weird trees with sort of a green fruit of some form on them which I aptly named the Christmas bauble trees as I swear they looked like decorations on a tree. Birds had clearly sort of attacked them as they had a pattern on them of some form. I really wish that I had taken a photo of them as you SO would have seen where I was coming from!

Just as we were coming back in there was the 5th Lion spotting – to be honest pretty blooming difficult to see it through the thick grass in the area but there were loads of cars around and it could clearly be seen through the binos – but once again, not one to really get a good photo of. My hair was full of the dust from the road and so on getting back I headed straight to my hut to shower, at least while it was kind of warm outside as the sun was going down rapidly. I hate to think what colour the water was but I felt so much better after it. I applied the joyous mossie stuff everywhere. I had not seen one the whole time I was here but I was not taking any sodding risks as if anyone was going to be bitten it would be me. I am irresistible. I swear I am not going to miss the smell of the deet one little bit it hums like there is no tomorrow. I then sat and uploaded my photos from the day onto my laptop. Wow – I was actually quite impressed with my photographic skills – even when everything was on the right hand side! I phoned Juliet to see how she was and give her an update on what I have been doing and how things were going and then I phoned Mum and Dad – it was their wedding anniversary. I would not be at all surprised if half the camp didn’t hear my conversation. Poor Mum struggles so much and I guess the phone line must have been pretty poor anyway. I always sound, to those that don’t know that Mum is deaf like I am being REALLY rude as I have to speak really slowly for her to really hear well. Putting Dad on was not going to help apparently as he as deaf too at the moment as he has a double ear infection – he was clearly trying to be sympathetic for me!

The time flew by and I realised that it was past supper time. I really could not be bothered with supper as I knew that everyone would be at tables and Id look like the norman trying to find somewhere to sit. I really wished, and I can honestly say that this small part of the evening was the ONLY time of my entire trip that I wished to God I was travelling with some people that I actually knew. I’m an independent bugger but there are times when one just can’t be arsed. This was one of those moments. So the way I battled through was to order a double G & T with the full intention of getting something down my neck to take the pills with and retire to bed. Didn’t quite happen. I ended up chatting and so on to Jeanette and Sarah and had some of their vino that no-one seemed to be drinking and we all huddled around the bar area as it was pretty much only Pink Leopard left in the place and it was warmer there (apparently). As you can probably imagine another sing song was had – good old Sunshine Mountain and more. Once again we were also entertained by the bar staff who came out to join in and alcohol was consumed and such the like. I finally spoke to Boyzone and gave them shit for not talking to me earlier and that it was easier for them to come and talk to me than me to them. Anyhoo was the last to leave the bar with Boyzone and had somehow encouraged them to learn an actual Boyzone song to sing on the coach as a laugh. So they spent a while writing the lines down and practising after listening to it on the laptop. Apparently I was going to appear as a backing singer , yeah right – with my thoat I was having difficulty in even speaking/shouting. I obviously dutifully agreed (with no intention of actually fulfilling the promise)!!

And to think I would have missed out on all the fun if I had not gone to supper!

Nkambini Lodge Day 1

In reality I have no idea how I survived the flight my glands were agony and the ascent and decent was the worst by far. I grinned and bared it though – we were off to the bit I have been wanting to do the most – the Safari to see all of the animals – hopefully! I kept my head down and checked in as I was feeling so pants that I just knew that if anyone had asked me how I was feeling there would be Victoria Falls down my face. I reckon if anyone had told me that they could get me home to Mummy in 20 mins I would have gone.

We were given a torch and the remote for the air con and I remember putting my stuff in my room and it feeling like a blinking sauna and so I wacked the heating right down as I was going to roast later. Once our bags had been dropped off in our rooms (carried by people on their heads mainly despite there being a truck thing) we got extra layers as suggested as we were going out for a quick drive after ‘lunch’ but as we were later than expected (thanks to the CHAOS at Cape Town airport) we were only going to get about an hour and a bit of a drive as the Parks board are strict about what time you have to exit the park – and at this time of year because of the darker evenings it was half five.

Lunch was a bit of a no go area for me as it was riddled with peppers and I really didn’t fancy having to put up with the after effects out here and so I had a most delicious meal of potatoes and rice – with a beer too of course!! On some of the layers went with the camera and binos around the neck and I was ready to go. The breeze soon started getting to us and soon I had all of the layers that I had with me on and could hardly move for fabric!! It did keep me warm on the trip though. As we were not really likely to be able to go very far into the Kruger on this evenings visit I was not too hopeful of seeing any of the big 5 for starters and would have been quite happy just seeing some of the buck.

We were way luckier than that – we saw some zebra, a lone young male elephant, a giraffe, several buck and simply my favorite that evening of some white rhinos. There were three which we assumed were Mummy, Daddy and baby. It was simply wonderful sitting there in the golden light of the evening sun watching these three listening to us in case we were any danger to them – rhinos are very blind and so would probably not have seen us but have very acute hearing and you could see their tiny ears flapping away. When another car came up (not one of the other lots of jeeps) you could tell that they were getting flustered as their little ears were going tenfold. God it was great though. Literally just there in front of us these prehistoric looking animals in their own natural environment – once again the thought went through my mind that I really need to get a job as a ranger (is that the right word?) I would spend my life, every waking moment, going around the park just sitting and watching the animals – they are just so beautiful.

The evenings entertainment was a bomba – outside with traditional music and dancing – the clue there is in the outside bit. Bloomin freezing. But I had come well prepared. I went and put all of my bits and pieces back in my room and filled up my hot water bottle and shoved it up my jumper in between several of the layers so as not to burn my skin! OHMYGOD what an idea. I was roasty toasty standing in the bar where it all looked like we were smoking the air was so cold. Holding a cold beer too was really not the best of ideas as my hands were rather chilly to put it mildly. The conversation was hilarious and although we were all really cold it did nothing to dampen the spirits. The food itself was fairly non-plus and basic but then we are in the middle of nowhere and so there has to be a little bit of give. The ‘entertainment’ was in my view rubbish – we later heard that inside had a massive choir entertaining them where as we had 2 guys playing on xylophone type things and then one girl sort of dancing. And I mean sort of. No one was really taking much interest and I thought that she was just keeping warm until the rest of them came and joined her, but no, once she had disappeared I realised that that was actually it.

The fire was soon surrounded as we realised just how much heat it was giving off and of course the singing started all over again! We managed to keep it fairly clean though, most unlike us, as there were children around and most of our songs are not really ones that we felt the parents would be too impressed if their kids went around singing them?!!! We were however ‘told off’ for singing too loudly as there were some people that were sleeping and that we should consider at least moving inside at 10pm also as the bar closes. I think that most of us were quite happy to make our move to bed at around that time as we had a 5am wakeup call for breakfast and so on before we headed out for our full day safari. Eeeek, so excited!!! I emptied my hottie and refilled it patting myself on the back for the ingenious forward planning! Some of the others had no heating in their rooms at all; I had turned it back up to 31 when I came back after the safari and so it was nice and warm in there. I felt mighty relieved that mine was one of the few that was actually working.

Loads of the others had been really concerned about me in the morning and word had spread like wildfire that I was not quite myself. It was actually lovely to know that some were really quite concerned. I apologised for being a moody bitch and explained that if I had to talk about it that I would have started crying and wanted to go home – what a wuss hey!!

Cape Town

It is a fact Cape Town has to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. (OK take away the townships – but every city has a dodgy area – just look at Bath!)

It was an early start on our first morning after an evening of Ostrich Steak the night before I skipped breakfast, mainly because I was late and we headed off on the trip of Robben Island. This was what I have really been looking forward to doing – 4th trip and finally I made it (first trip was actually before it was a World Heritage Site). Sadly didn’t make it onto top deck which was a pain but there we go. The trip over was pretty calm which was a relief and the view of Table Mountain from the boat was just superb. Almost worth the trip alone.

When we arrived on Robben Island we were escorted onto buses which then proceeded to take us around the island looking at several of the ‘sites’ apart from the Maximum Security prison itself. We were told the history of the island, most of which I knew from reading in the guide book but I never remember reading about the buses I have to say. I was kind of hoping that we were free to walk around the island – its not that small after all – and that there would be placards at various locations to explain what things are or the history behind it. The only time that we were allowed off the bus was at a particular point which gave the most fantastic views back across the sea to Table Mountain and the city itself. Wow. Just how lucky were we with the weather – it was this time last week that the Lions played the Emerging Springboks here and the weather was AWFUL and I was personally a little worried about just what we would do for the three days (yes yes, apart from drink!) and about what a crying shame it would be for all of those that have never been here before. Really didn’t need to worry – if my legs were not as bruised still (marble effect on my calves up to my knees, from the crushing I presume) I would actually be in a pair shorts right now.

Getting back to Robben Island, Simon and I had to be content with just taking photos out of the bus window which I have to say I was a little miffed about. The view over the bay – yes. Well the photos of me there are not all that great it had to be said. I was a little worried about the water breaking behind me on the rocks as the spray kept coming up and I was rather adamant that I was going to get soaked. They will just have to do though. Once we had been whisked around the island we were dropped off at one of the entrances of the maximum security part of the prison and greeted by our guide who was a former prisoner from 1986-1991. His accent was really strong so you had to listen very carefully to what he was saying to hear and understand. It was fascinating but there were times when I really couldn’t hear a word that he was saying – namely when we were in the outside areas as there were some people who talked the whole way through. I was quite disappointed really having been looking forward to going for so long. The bottleneck to see his actual cell was mental and so I hung back in the hope that I might get a little more time to take it all in and get a decent shot. Sadly there was another group behind us and when I went to take the photo one was almost on walk by mode and I was jogged by some arse when I took the photo and so the camera focused on the bars rather than the interior – I only noticed this when I uploaded them onto the pc earlier.

It was still despite all that very, very humbling to see the tiny spaces that the men were in for such a long time for standing up for something that they believed in rather than for actually committing a serious offence and the political prisoners were deemed to be far more dangerous than common-law prisoners and were thus treated far more harshly than say one that had murdered, raped etc. It really beggars belief.

For lunch, which was part of our tour we were taken to a lady’s house in Langa. She clearly rakes in the money from this as her house had two floors to start with as well as being extended out the front as well as the back. The lady was Xhosa and made a right welcome for us going on about watches and how she never needs to wear one and that she was currently going by the time on the Chinese clock on the wall. It was all in relation to what we call different meal times and that we have different foods for different meal times, when for them food is just food what ever time there is no speciality for say breakfast. (I think that is what I understood from it anyway!) We were entertained by some Xylophone / glockenspiel players throughout our lunch, with of course the hard sale afterwards of a cd of their music. Whilst it was very authentic and all that – not quite your Ladysmith Black Mambazo stylee that I so dearly love – I decided against investing in s copy. I overheard the gentleman sitting next to me at lunch describing to another couple where he and his son came from in Surrey (he was from another group – Leopard Purple if I remember rightly, staying in the Mount Nelson) Blow me he lives in the same village as Sue and Peter and knew them. Small world hey!! Lunch itself was a massive spread of traditional Xhosa food and I got stuck into the sweet potato and pumpkin that I love so much. I had to be rather careful with the meat dishes as there were a lot of peppers lurking about in things and I really DIDN’T want another lovely reaction to them thank you very much.

The afternoon part of our tour was to a township where we had lunch and saw inside one of the hostels in the township of Guguletu. Having seen the schools of Tipini and Nelson Mandela Schools in Umtata some 9 years ago, I was more prepared for the sights that we saw than some others. The streets are full of debris and as for the little streams – they are as murky and what have you as you see on Comic Relief films. Something I certainly was not prepared for to put it mildly. Not all of the accommodation was shacks made of corrugated metal there were some houses – but I use the term loosely. But these were closer together than terraced houses; I know that is not physically possible but still. They can extend their ‘houses’ forwards or backwards or upwards but obviously not sideways. Most of this type of accommodation is used as hostels but not in the sense that us Brits think but there is one rooms with like 4 beds in. Each bed is for a different family – be that 2,4,6,8,15 children and the adults or just one male. There is no privacy. They are usually taken up by men that have come from the Eastern Transkei to find better prospects of work in Cape Town and even when their wife comes to visit they are not left alone in the room (catch my drift there?!). There were loads of shards of glass all over the floor and yet the majority of the small children were running around with bare feet. I won’t go on too much more but it once again made me thankful for all that I do have. It also reminded me that I have not remembered to arrange another sponsor child now that my time with Sein in Kenya has come to a close – must contact Action Aid again on my return.

The evening came the turn of the Gulliver’s Forum which was being held in another hotel – good lord it was posh! A 6* apparently. We had free beer and wine and soft drinks as well as some pretty decent nibbles, a lot of which I found to be fish before we had the forum. Jason Leonard and Rob Lowe (SA flanker, back in the day) were the guests, Jason was staying at our hotel and it was hilarious watching all of the guys swarm around him like flies!! Jason this, Jason that. The evening was good fun and Chris from our group managed to win the signed shirt from the evening’s stars through playing heads and tails which was nice for him. It was very interesting hearing Rob’s views on Peter De Villiers – clearly not his favourite and believes that he has a lot to answer for. Interesting, interesting.

Table Mountain was the destination for the following morning and I headed up there with Simon and the chaps from Dubai on what must have been one of the first cable cars up to the top – no queue what so ever – main point of going at that time obviously. The view as ever was simply spectacular. I don’t think that I have ever seen it as clear as it was. The smog that seemed to be lingering over parts of the bay that we could see from Robben Island the previous day all seemed to have blown away in the night. Its divine in its natural beauty and the sheer drops from the side are just amazing (and pretty scary too!) I was all ready to abseil down the side but sadly by the time that we had gotten back around to the side where they do that the wind had picked up rather and to be honest – I bottled it! We went and had a coffee instead – what a wonderful view to have a coffee with, looking back over the Twelve Apostles. Better than your average busy Starbucks in the centre of a town, even if the coffee still wasn’t all that good – the view made up for it ten fold!!!

Coming back down we headed back to the hotel for a bit, Simon was off to Camps Bay to see some friends and the guys from Dubai were planning on spending the afternoon at the Waterfront. So I gate crashed as I didn’t really fancy going down there on my own. We had about an hour and a bit in the hotel before we left though and so I totally repacked my bag so that I have everything that I need for the next few days on the top, dirty washing on the bottom – Hilda bless her can have that when I get to Juliet!! I hand washed my strip as I suddenly remembered that I had not done so and it stank. I hung it out on the back of a chair on the balcony for the afternoon and as it was such a beautiful day it was all ready to be folded up and put away in the case when I got back to the hotel later on in the day. Had a delicious steak lunch and a few beers and whilst the chaps sat and drank a bit more I popped into a shop here and there to have a look. I only ended up in buying a casual Sharks shirt though, namely because I can fit little else in my blinking luggage which is already overweight!!

Sadly the plans for Mama Africa didn’t work out as the others were lateish back from their day trips and exhausted. To be honest it kind of worked out the best as my throat was REALLY killing and my glands were all up to I went down stairs and got a packet of crisps and some chocolate and had that as my supper so I could take the Malaria tablets and so on. I was in bed at 8.15 feeling a poorly girlie I found a blanket in the cupboard and put that on the bed as well and I turned the light out at 9 hoping that it would all go away and I’d be as right as rain in the morning for the flight to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga and the Kruger.

Pretoria – 2nd Test

Breakfast was the usual thing on Saturday morning with a mass of different things to choose from. I went for the donuts, I was spotted by the manager eyeing them up wondering if I really actually could have donuts for breakfast – covered in chocolate and everything and I was spotted. He came over to tell me that I could not walk past them and not have one that they were by far the best thing on offer for breakfast that morning. I’m telling you now; my stomach will no doubt get larger as a result but eeeebygum it was worth it. I resisted the temptation to go back for seconds though for which I was most proud.

We had a bit of time after breakfast to ourselves before we went and left for the Second Test. I was feeling pretty on top of the clouds with the excitement and similar to a small child at Disneyland about to meet Mickey Mouse. I had to chill the hell out before making myself look like a right nana. So I lay on my bed for a bit listening to a radio station through the TV who were doing nothing but going on about a Michael Jackson tribute weekend this coming weekend starting at 10am – it was turned off pretty quickly and I decided to get myself all dressed and ‘tarted up’ for the match. On went the beloved Bath Rugby face tattoo. Using the pre-prepared template – laminated and everything Ill have you know so that it could be re-used for the final test as well I donned a vague resemblance to the Lions logo as well on the other cheek. The ‘skirt’ of my massive flag was put on (for now) and then . . . to top it all off was the mother of all wigs – my blue black and white wig. I was dressed and ready to go. I looked pretty darned hot I have to say (see photo!)

Camera, money, ticket, wrist band – lets go and to the lift I went with it all on and the sunglasses too, of course for the ‘cool’ look. I got some giggles from people that I passed on the way to the lift which I was prepared for. But it was when I got outside to the others – Janette and Ian (Glos supporters) Sue and Clinton (from Devon) and Mike and Irene (Porthcawl and still no bags) to name a few that the giggles came ‘oh my god classic’ – I thought everyone was going to be getting in the spirit of it. Nope, as usual, just me! I didn’t care I was still proud as hell to be supporting my club as well as the Lions. I was posing for masses of photos and I hate to think what the tag lines will be under most of them – the weirdo of the tour! Pah, who cares! It was a friggin Lions match and I was here!!!! Simon gave me the nod of approval and thankfully pointed out that there was not only one Bath Supporter and how they had to answer both of us. I am coping just fine and have already pointed out the white line on the swimming pool which I may have to indulge in later – needs must and all that!! (The vacuum for the pools trail) I thought I would get in there first and to be fair I think that saved me from quite a lot of banter as I showed that I am good humoured about it. There were several who didn’t realise it was me to begin with and it was not until they asked someone that they were told – tee hee hee!

So sitting on the bus in the car park at the time that we were meant to go and all bar 2 were on. We had already had a reminder that things run like clock work when the timings are kept to as they are there for a reason and we all agreed and discussed it was best for us all to be there well early than hold the others up. As well as the 2 that had not appeared we had Jeremy who somehow in the hour that he had had it for had managed to loose his wrist band to get him into the Big Bar (The Lions Den). The third of the party went to find his two mates who, it turned, were sat in the bar thinking that we were all still there. See it helps to keep in with the group so that you know who you are travelling with if they are not in the same place as you!! We decided as a coach that they should so be given a forfeit as a result. Sing a song at the front of the coach or buy everyone a drink. I think that to begin with they thought we were joking. Urmmmnnn no!

All aboard and off we went – it was a tight squeeze for some as the seats were 3 on one side and two on the other, I however had taken one of the front seats which was all on its own. It was evident that the driver was totally lost as he was starting to pause longer and longer at junctions clearly trying to work out which direction he should be going. Eventually he asked a car – I couldn’t see it as I was the wrong side of the coach. Before you know it we have a Police escort in front of us guiding us to the stadium. Not any old escort though sirens going lights flashing they were flashing everyone to move out of the way even at red lights and everything. It was absolutely classic as we waved at all we passed. I am glad that we had a bit of a nose through the centre but I am also glad that it was from the inside of the coach!! After a little while we had the sergeant on board with us as he was then directing the coach whilst the police in the car in front would suddenly get out every now and then to move the traffic on at the red lights. It was absolutely classic and the whole bus was in fits of hysterics, even more so as we gave other passing Gullivers coaches the royal wave as we sped past them! It was good that Simon is trying to pull out all the stops to make the day memorable!!!

We had all coaches parked in a car park a way from the stadium and there were people holding signs along the route to the Big Pub prior to the match. All so brilliantly organised – but that it part of what we pay for. It was kind of odd as we expected loads of stalls and things around the Stadium but there were none leading up to it. So we joined the masses heading into the Big Pub – aptly called the Lions Den. It was a total sea of red. So the usual witty comments of – don’t worry, you will spot me easily I am wearing red! Your wrist band was stamped and you were given your food and drink tickets. I got a wee emotional at this stage. It was all actually happening I was here I was amongst the rest of the Lions Supporters out here and the atmosphere was electric. Everyone was on a high, I think pretty much with the same type of feeling as me. I managed to catch up with all of the Bath lot that I knew were going to be there and now I feel that is done – next week I am going to be making the effort to be soaking up the atmosphere for myself. But I wanted to have a touch base with them all so that we can reminisce when we got back. I spotted a Bath flag hanging up under an shady brollie and we kind of walked towards it – suddenly I realised that it was Steve and Rich so I went up behind and smacked him on the arse – just as he would have done to me!
The Welsh male choir sang a number of songs, my personal favourite was ‘we are marching in the light of God’ and the Zulu (I think that it is Zulu) version. But to be fair the one that went down the best was the Irish Anthem but with Lions in place of Ireland. My throat was already quite sore from before we left but it was really starting to hurt quite a lot after the singing. We were looking at a no voice possibility after the match here. Deciding to take in as much of the atmosphere as possible we headed to the stadium which was a short walk from the Lions Den this was about an hour and a half prior to kick off. The sea of red and green was pretty impressive but at this point there was more red than green that could be seen. I walked in with Janette and Ian and we walked part way around the stadium trying to find our Gate. We were told by one of the Security guards that we could go in the Gate that we were currently by as the Gate 6 – that we were meant to be going through was chocker and it would take us ages. So in we went. I didn’t break down like I did at the World Cup Final ’07 but then I guess it was that I knew that the ticket was real here. We were in incredibly easily and were dying to get tour seats to sit and finally be there and marvel in the glory of the surroundings, get those Lions chants going and so on. This was not going to be as easy as getting through the Gate though.

We went up to the level that we thought that we were on but could not find the letter that corresponded to our ticket so went to ask some one. Aaaahhhh, you need to go back down stairs and to the right. So down we went fighting the crowds coming up to try and get to the entrance. Looking for our letters they seemed to be going down rather than up and so we were clearly going on the wrong direction, we asked again. Aaaahhhh no maam, you need to go upstairs and to the left. So back upstairs we went (can you see where this is going?!) to find more frustration that we, once again were back where wehad been before and still no where bloody near a letter that was near to L. This was starting to really piss me off as we had been up and down the fricking stairs enough times to sink a ship and frankly, running up and down stairs was not what I had planned on a match day in the high altitude (if it can effect their play on the pitch I’m bloody well using that excuse too – nothing to do with me being unfit or anything!!) On the penultimate time of asking we found out that we were no even on the bloody higher level – being ill advised my SO many of the ‘ground staff’ was ridiculous. So we thought that we would head up to Gate no 6 which was on our ticket to be somewhere that we should have come in by. Logical you would have thought.
In effect we were walking up the outside of the East side of the Stadium and at about the half way mark it bottle necked. I am not even sure why as there did not appear to be an entrance way where we were and it was predominantly South Africans and those Lions – like us were just trying to find our fricking seat – STILL. The crowd started pushing and I was almost a head below the size of the bastards all around me. Built like brick shit houses and clearly part of the front row – second at a push. There was no way that they were going to be looking after little old me (still adorning the beautiful wig). They probably didn’t realise that I was female to be fair as although there are parts of me that make that fairly obvious I was carrying my rucksack on my front to try and prevent any thing being nicked. We were crushed basically. I hate even crowds at a concert; I have to stand back away from it. This was my idea of hell. I had no one looking out for me really. It was me looking after me and all I concentrated on was keeping my footing and not flaking out. I kept taking BIG deeps breaths as all air was squished out of me. My legs were getting knocked about to buggery and yes. Yes I was indeed shitting myself (not literally though!) I had Hillsborough going through my head at this point. I feared the worst. Thankfully though, after what felt like an eternity, we were out the other side. I will state quite clearly here and now. There is absolutely NO WAY that they are ready to cope with the drunken masses of the Football World Cup next summer. The crush to get to your seat and the poor signing really angered me that I had spent all this bloody money on the trip and I was not even going to get to see my boys run out on pitch.

Somehow we made it in to the Stadium – thanks to a lovely lady who actually DID know the seating arrangements of the Stadium and we went in the left and corner of the East stand but our seats were all the way over in the right hand corner. We opted to walk the length of the stand down the front and, as a result had an awesome view of the boys coming out – the photo may not be awesome though as I was quick marching to get to my seat at the time! Everyone was stood up thankfully as we arrived at our row – finally, admittedly the wrong end. I made my arrival by running the entire length of the row along the seats as everyone was stood up for the South African National Anthem. I was gutted. I love the anthem and I was lucky enough to be sable to hear the South Africans sing it at the World Cup Final – but somehow I felt that this version was going to be way more passionate than I had heard before. I had missed it though as the rush of getting the fat bastards out of the way on the way up to the row was more of a task than you could have anticipated. There is, however, one more opportunity – Jo’burg next weekend.

My seat was next to Simon – bless, and I was sat next to the Welsh couple too – whose names escape me just now. We had a cracking opening to the match I have to say and the first half of the match was just electrifying and as for the atmosphere, words simply can’t describe. As I have said before I am not one for being able to commentate on the match after as I, to be fair seem to forget most of it before we have even walked out of the Stadium! However the gouging in the first couple of mins on one of our guys. Excuse me but only a yellow card??? How the hell can that be when players are cited and so on and are banned for matches? It should have been a red. The language around me was mighty fruity after that and it was evident that the match was going to be brutal. Not only on the pitch but with the level of shouting to out shout the Bokkas. I did find it amusing that they kept shouting out at us in Afrikaans, clearly going ot be swear words and what have you. In reply Bread of Heaven – I know I couldn’t believe I was singing a Welsh song either – went up tenfold. Totally drowned them all out it was awesome. We had swing low and of course the ever present Lions chant that is SO much more pleasing to shout than Bath, only because I could do so at the top of my lungs and it felt special to be able to do that I was ACTUALLY there!. We led the entire match. We, as ever, had some fairly dodgy calls that were not replicated when the infringements we completed by the opposition. Did the ref have South African ancestors or what????

We have lost 6 guys due to injuries on the pitch, concussion, broken hand/finger, smashed cheek bone and more. Considering we have been so lucky with injury all through out the tour it is bloody sods law really isn’t it. When we lost BOTH props within mins we were down to uncontested scrums, which was where we seemed to fall apart as to me it appeared that we dominated through the pack. I can now see why we didn’t have Mearsy small and mighty but I feel the other hookers on tour are a bit weightier in bulk. I REALLY hope that he plays next weekend, even off the ruddy bench.

My voice fled after the first 5 mins but that didn’t stop me. And as for that ‘try’ – his right foot was CLEARLY in touch but yet the ref seemed to choose to ignore that fact and awarded it anyway – despite the touch judge clearly pointing it out on the commentary on the ref link ‘hang on you can clearly see his foot is in touch there’. The Lions Supporters in our area were livid – like the rest of them I guess all around the stadium.

I felt absolutely gutted at the final whistle. I was rendered speechless. We had come so fricking close and then lost in the dying second. Unbelievable, totally unbelievable. It of course means that they win the series and so the celebrations went on, on the pitch and them all wandering round. No idea where the Lions suddenly all went to as we could not see them but then we were the wrong side of the stadium for the ‘prize giving’. As the final whistle/siren/horn went several of them were totally flat out on their backs taking a few moments. Clearly emotional having worked so hard after all 80 mins and loosing so many players and leading the whole time, to loose like that and be a player in that position must be gut wrenching. We paused for Paul O’Connells non-plus speech in my view. Does that man ever how any real emotion? To me he speaks in such a monotone I really can’t see how he can be the one in the changing room firing up the lads. But then who am I to presume? And then headed out of the stadium. I was fearful that we would experience the same sort of crush that I had experienced on the way in – thankfully not as most of the Bokkas were of course still cheering on their boys – lucky bastards.

The atmosphere walking out of and ¾ of the way around the stadium (we thought it best to go the long way round as we were fighting against the traffic and thus had a fairly easy path) was most surreal to put it mildly, it was exactly the same after the World Cup Final there was a deadly hush which you just would not expect. By the time that we had go to the equivalent of the opposite side of the Stadium from where we were sat, but outside we were in amongst the Bokka fans and there did not seem to be any great jubilation from them, it was like it was just any old match that bore no relevance so they did not seem o celebrate. There was not really even any jeers at us as the opposing fans as we walked through. It was just seriously weird. We got stuck rather by where the two team coaches were as there was suddenly an infestation of police which we had not seen anywhere else. The traffic slowed right down. Someone has since told me that it was because Zuma was coming out of the stadium and being led away by police escort (rather like how we arrived!!!).

We headed back to the Big Bar as Simon had said that we were all going to met there for a drink but we arrived and I made sure that I kept the wig on so that we could easily be spotted by the rest of the group and we stood by the entrance but saw not one of the group – most odd. The atmosphere was really eerie, back in the same place where all those hours ago we were on the highest spirits possible marvelling in the excitement of actually making it and now we were feeling winded sand everyone’s shoulders seemed hunched or slumped. But it was the atmosphere that really struck me. The silence, you could almost hear a pin drop as some poor bugger had the odious task of ‘entertaining us’ by coming on and saying its not all that bad and what have you. No one was in the party spirit any longer. It crept into my mind that the whole trip had been a waste of a lot of money and precious time. That soon fled though once we were back on the bus.
We had a long wait for Simon who was bringing up the rear of the group and after a ‘Churchillesc speech’ (as one of the others described it) we had the lads from earlier who seem to have now got the nickname Boyzone poor sods doing their forfeit – I don’t think that they realised that they would not get away with not doing it. A rendition of the Oasis classic Wonderwall started off the group singing on the way back with one from Simon as well – singing in the rain with actions for his tardiness. Any non-rugby person would have thought that we had won from the vibe on the bus. The motion was carried that although we lost we were blooming proud of our boys and it sure as hell was not going to ruin our trip.

That kind of followed when we got back to the hotel. The original plan in my book was to head to my room shower and take off the strip which frankly humdinged and I smelt like, well like a man. Not attractive but ho hum – never quite made it as we hit the bar first. After a few we all headed into supper in the restaurant in the hotel as Simon had organised that we all had a long table together. Well the ‘long table’ was for about 8 people and I would say that there was a darned good 30 of us all eating together. The waiters slowly started realising that spread out was not what we wanted – we wanted to be ‘as one!’ We took up most of the back area of the restaurant and had once again delicious food.

It was the entertainment that followed that has to go down as making all of our days though. We had been informed that the staff was hoping that we would sing again like the others started the previous evening. Well we like to do what we are told us Pink Leopards so sing we bloody well did. Any song with actions was sung along with usual rugby anthems and of course Swing Low with the actions over dramatized, without words and actions only had us all in giggles as there was one word – of course that was shouted out at the appropriate time. My favourite though has to be Sunshine Mountain. Oh dear god. It basically starts with one person, I can’t remember the words just now but it ends with ‘and you’ where upon you point o someone else who gets on their chair and off you go again. Safe to say we had a rather large proportion of the entire restaurant on their chairs and kept going with the ‘and you’s’ until people stood on their chairs. After that the ruder songs came out and whilst I would love to share some of the spur of the moment additions that were added, I will keep those as my own personal memory of the evening as they had us all in stitches, more so because of the comic timing. A ‘you had to be there’ moment to fully appreciate their geniusnuss!
As we were sort of winding down having had NO luck with the Bokka family in the corner joining us (the two sons faces at some of the songs really was a sight worth seeing – jaw hit the floor on many occasions) but they were having nothing when we asked them to start us off on a song. Suddenly the fire door opened and in came the kitchen staff and some of the waiters who had clearly heard the shenanigans and they came and did a couple of songs for us. It was classic, one of the chefs was using a roll of tin foil as his trumpet – and rather well too it has to be said!! Only the father of the Bokka family joined in though and only briefly at that. Superb end to a hilarious evening.
Dancing and a fair few more beers were consumed before the clock chimed bed time. The music stopped at 11 but it feels so much later always as it gets dark much earlier being in the Southern Hemisphere and winter and so on. I trundled on up to bed and sorted out my bag pretty much as we had to have them outside our rooms for the porters to collect the following morning at 9am so that we were all good to go to the airport in reasonable time. I have no idea how I thought I was going to close it the following morning.

Was awoken (as was nearly the whole group) around the 4 o’clockish mark by ridiculously loud music. The Ting Tings ‘That’s not my name’. At first I though it was an alarm on my phone or even it ringing then realised I don’t have it on my phone at all. Then checked the tv was not on radio, or my iPod suddenly turned on. It was insane and who knows where it came from, we tried working it out the following morning but could see no where that it would have come from. It was quite funny trying to work out at which point people woke up – as in which song the woke to!

On to Cape Town the following morning/lunchtime/afternoon/early evening. Bloody delays!! We passed our time waiting for everyone to come through by playing ‘catch’ with one of the rugby balls that someone had brought. I cleverly got out my camera to take photos thus taking myself out of that sort of situation, I could feel myself starting to stress over it and the fact that I could drop it and be laughed at – even though others were too. We managed to successfully break 2 pairs of sunglasses from dodgy throws and decided that surely the best place to play this was on the beach at some point. I can see many of us getting VERY wet if we do!!

And we are off!

I had an impressive 2 hours sleep on Wednesday evening with all the excitement and preparations before departure on Thursday morning. If I have forgotten any thing then I will just have to buy it!!

The journey to the airport was fairly easy, having picked Simon up from Timsbury we headed back to Mum and Dad trying to avoid any Glastonbury traffic – which we did quite successfully – down the motorway and to the folks where we put our luggage in Mum’s car and had a coffee and then left. I was worried that they would be asking Simon all sorts of embarrassing questions, thankfully not. Mum wowed him with her impressive knowledge of my boys and Dad started to show him around the garden and then proceeded to tell him that if he needed any help in organising people that he could count on me as I am very bossy – CHEERS DAD!

Mum dropped us off at Terminal 3 after a speedy journey up the M4 and I had managed to book the hotel for Andy and Hannah’s wedding for Tash and myself for the end of August. Simon cleverly thought of seeing how we could all be checked in more quickly as we were as a group yet knew nothing of what all the others looked like apart from the fact that they would have the pink Leopard tags on their bags!!! Sorted by those at the Emirates desk and I checked in after Simon and, yes of course my bag was over weight. Only by 4kg though so actually not as bad as I thought it could be! Once I was all sorted I went out to have a fag. I stared at my tickets while sitting there and started welling up. The time had come after near on a year of planning and the 175 day count down from the start of the year. The excitement, the anticipation, the hyperness – it had all been WELL worth it as I sat there with my precious boarding card not quite taking in the mammoth journey that I have been on since booking it and of course the mammoth journey that I was about to undertake!

The first flight was hell on earth. The seats I found SO uncomfortable – it was like sitting on two pieces of wood and reclining did not help that much. So much for being that tired that I was bound to sleep. So films it was – Yes Man, based on a book by Danny Wallace that I loved but nothing like it in reality. It was a pile of poo but I am glad that I have seen it on a plane and not paid for that pleasure!!! The second film that I watched was ‘How to loose friends and alienate people,’ which I actually really enjoyed. The entertainment system in the back of the seat was pretty impressive with a mahoosive range of films to watch and games even to play. I tried the latter but easily got bored and listened to some music instead. Even if I had wanted to sleep there was no way that I could have done, there was a screaming child for the WHOLE flight about 4 rows in front and then the two rather large gentlemen sitting next to me (not on the tour!) were snoring like pigs sometimes at the same time and also at times out of sync. It gave me the major giggles at one stage. Of all people on the flight – !

Getting off in Dubai at 03.15 was interesting 36 degrees it was, so we were told. The bonus was that we did not have to encounter the heat as we had to walk to transfers and then security which took a while. To be fair the walk was a welcome relief to get the blood moving as I had been doing some of the exercises but one of the things I realised that I had left behind was my DVT socks – you never can be too careful and frankly they are an incredibly sexy item of clothing that everyone has to have a pair of! The inside of Dubai airport is pretty amazing, high ceilings and full on palm trees inside and o course a/c which clearly is needed if it was that hot at that time of night – imagine what it would be like during the day?! I would not be able to wear my Lions strip in that kind of heat – actually it would be a weight loss strategy to think of – sweat it all out!!!!

I MUST have dozed off at points on the following flight – far longer and just as uncomfortable seats but as I was totally shattered by this stage they felt way worse. I was on the aisle seat again and once again I was sat next to a larger than average gentleman. Thankfully there was no fat protruding over the seat but it just meant I couldn’t lean or be anywhere near on arm of the seats. I didn’t watch any films in the very vain hope that I would be able to sleep. I got irritable and just as I was dozing off fatso needed to get out – it was like he was watching to see when I was nearly asleep and then wake me just to piss me off.

Coming into South Africa and Johannesburg we were all told by the captain that the ground temperature was a pleasant 2 degrees. Ummnn hello? Pleasant?! I felt sorry for those who had not brought a jumper with them on the flight as it was a little biting to begin with but the sun was out the sky was blue with not a cloud in sight! It was here that we could really see who was on our group as we were ushered around the airport with Gullivers Leopard Pink signs to be taken to our coach and thus our hotel out in Pretoria. It was quite interesting to see that most people second to introductions were pretty much all talking about the news of Michal Jackson passing away as there were headlines on the tv screens at most times and so it was hard to miss. It was literally only that he had passed away from a cardiac arrest. I tried to find out more info later on the news about what had happened but always seemed to try finding it at the wrong part of the hour. Ah well, I am not here to worry about that!

The transfer to the hotel was painless as was checking in. There was another Gullivers Group that had arrived earlier that day via Munich – Wildebeast Red. They, the poor sods were all sat in the bar area and not really looking the happiest of bunches on brief glimpses. I soon became apparent why – ALL of their bags were at Munich Airport – they had all made the transfer but none of their bags had. The poor buggers – I did give a little chuckle to myself though as I was so prepared for that to have been me! The hope is that all of the bags will turn up on the same flight tomorrow – if they don’t there are some that didn’t have ANY Lions stuff on and so they would have to go shopping for stuff. What a way to start your trip?!

Once in my room I opted to have a lovely long bath and was quite prepared to then fall into bed and have a much needed kip. Having spoken to Lauren though I decided that frankly that was not going to happen and the delight of being able to have a beer – and a Castle at that was frankly NOT something that could wait! So down stairs I headed and joined the plethora of people taking in the afternoon sun and blue skies out on the decking of the Hotel Bar. My good god, after seven long weeks of no beer that Castle didn’t half taste good!! So good I just felt I had to have a few more and then come the free drink from the management at 6.30pm as a welcome drink we all found that none of us had moved! Some had had to retire after not being used to the drinking in the afternoon sun scenario and were not to be seen until the following morning but the rest of us all headed into food in the hotel restaurant. A superb buffet choice with delicious primes of beef, fresh fish cooked in front of you, you could create your own stir fry and so on. I decided to try and stick to the jolly old diet as I had had a few beers – that was my indulgence for the day.

I left for bed at half nine, about the time that some of the group started singing in the restaurant, not audience participation songs but just singing. I knew I could easily have stayed there all night but the adrenalin running through me for the excitement of actually being at a Lions match tomorrow was nearly getting to much and my whole body craved bed. I know I was out like light. However I still woke at the usual time of about 3 or 4 o’clock but I felt rested and managed to doze off thank heavens!

The night before

I really can’t believe that I am actually here. The night before I fly. The last couple of days at work have been MENTAL for one reason or another and as frankly only I do best I have been doing nothing but stressing about leaving stuff for everyone else to do bladebladeblah. I am out of it now I have done what I can and I know full well they will all be fine without me – does not stop the stressing though!

I am packed – god alone knows how. I have taken stuff out twice and yet still could hardly carry the case downstairs. but now it is safely in the car ready for the morning. I have nearly everything sorted for the hand luggage which too ways a tonne as I have my laptop amongst other things in there.

I watched the last match on the tv on Tuesday on my own – for the first time this series. I had loads of things to do and was late back from work, well later than I had planned and had not been for a swim – I needed a serious glass of plonk after the day at work! Some things just have to give. So I have joined the gym and been the sum total of once since! Well that was value for money or what. I hope things will be less mental when I return and I can actually go more often.

I have taken Sky over to ‘Granny and Grandpa’ after she eventually returned at some crazy hour on Monday morning. It was as if she knew! She is all settled thankfully, sadly no Flora to keep her company as Mum had her put down a fortnight ago. We had been warned it was imminent for a fair few months – does not make it any easier though does it?

Is this really happening?

Is this all FINALLY real?

Will I get a wink of sleep?!


The First Test (on the TV)

I am not quite sure if it is actually possible to get much more excited as I was on Saturday – the goose bumps and shivers going up and down my spine were relentless all through the pre-match program, even if I had to watch it through a sea of bodies. Stace and I ended up in standing on the bench so that we could see the screen. The only issue that was raised then was the jumping up and down when we scored a try of throwing your hands in the air to celebrate and whacking them on the ceiling and thus skinning your knuckles – all the name in support! Stace, being taller than me, managed to jump up and smack her head on the ceiling and swears that she saw stars!!

The first twenty mins of the match was actually painful to watch and I was screaming and shouting as loud as ever. But dear god the last 20 mins was edge of the seat stuff. Once again it was the scrum that seemed to let us down/it looked like the opposition were cheating and we seemed to ‘give away’ so many penalties. The there was also the issue of Mears who in my mind (of course I am biased) has had a fantastic tour so far but he was made to look crap on Saturday. All of the calls for him were long and he seemed to overestimate the length needed and as a result we lost a fair amount of ball but then when a replacement is brought on all of his calls are short which of course we get. I really really hope that it does not hinder his chances of staring again next week or indeed in the final test. The Springboks looked a little like they were flaking out towards the end, where as it almost as if we picked up and increased the effort another level. I guess that might be because they have not been playing together more recently where as we have had the last few weeks or so – I don’t know.

Spoke to Lauren after the match as we were wondering around Sainsbury’s as I knew that she was having a braai with her family and stuff as the tickets were SO absurdly expensive for them out there and of course she was full of it because they had won!! (I would have been the same to be fair!) She was getting just as excited as I am eeeeek! She was telling me how she is going to get the brother that lives out in Pietermaritzburg to come down for a night and stay at hers so that I get to meet him too. SO the only Rush I wont get to see are Mummy and Daddy :O( I spoke to Daddy Rush though on the phone as it was his birthday the day before and so I wished him a Happy Birthday and commiserated that I would not be seeing them. La clearly has loads of ideas of things to and plans a foot. The Berg is all booked and I am really looking forward to that as it is SO beautiful up there. (That is when the hot water bottle will come in very handy!)

I managed to survive the jabs on Friday, my notes had not come over from my old surgery and so there was no history of my jabs. The only one that I wanted and knew that I MUST be out of was Tetanus there is no time to start having leads more and its not like plan on drinking any dirty water so I got that done and also got Malaria tablets. They are a new form which are apparently fine with my other meds (I was a little concerned) and don’t make you as sick as the old types did. I only have to take them 2 days before I enter the malarial area, while I am there and then for 7 days afterwards. Fingers crossed all will now be well with that and even if I do get eaten alive as I am apparently irresistible I won’t suffer apart from the itches and bites!

So it’s Sunday afternoon and I have not done the main thing I wanted to get done today – take Sky back to Granny and Grandpa to be pampered and spoilt rotten for the next 3 weeks. I have no idea where the little madam is – she has not appeared since yesterday morning when we left for the pub for the match. I am trying not to get concerned and panicked its just ruddy frustrating as I am going to have to come back after work tomorrow and get her and then go back to Mum and Dads, also I never got to see Dad on Fathers Day. There is no point in going back to see him anyway as they have ben out to lunch today. Instead I have done the washing the packing and the organising – well part of and I just need to put away the clothes that are dry and iron some of the stuff on the drying rack and have a nice relaxing bath and go to bed before I explode of excitement that it is 3 days tomorrow!!!

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