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The lo-o-o-o-o-n-g trip over

After a fairly late night (all things considered) having decided that my toe nails needed painting just as I was about to crash, I woke earlier than the alarm. Excitement brewing! Looking at my bags I am not actually sure that I’ve packed enough – looks like I’m off for a week not 3?!

At check in I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief, having failed to have weighed my bag one final time, I managed to come in at 19.7kg – the stupidly light allowance is 20kg for travelling this distance with a possible 4 seasons to pack for!


With my stomach rumbling something chronic with a mixture of both excitement and nerves, we headed to get some food after passing through security. I’m fine with flying but the mere idea of being sat on a plane for just shy if 13 hours, followed by a seven hour flight was not a pleasant thought. I never sleep on planes, no seriously – NEVER, & as per usual I couldn’t select a meal to cover my allergies so I knew damn well all the food would be riddled with peppers & shell fish or just look mighty unappetising!

Of course we were boarding during the match (National Shane Williams Day – as confirmed by the Dai Lama on twitter) with about half of Wales on our flight, primarily all in made up tour t-shirts with their dodgy given nicknames on the reverse, it was hardly surprising that huddles could be seen as we approached the gate – groups of people all crowding round iPads to try and catch as much of the match as feasibly possible before being called to board. We boarded at 0-5 to the Brumbies.


The plane was MASSIVE & as I was advised by Helen’s Dad the night prior – it would be very spacious. It was indeed, with a window seat just behind the wing and clearly right over where the wheels came up I was sat next to a couple who were flying home to Perth. They were very nice, didn’t smell, weren’t obese &, most importantly – didn’t have screaming kids. All obvious nightmares averted!


After fiddling around for a whole getting myself sorted & comfortable I settled in to the journey and looked at the film options that I had for the flight. I’d looked on the Singapore Air website prior & not seen too many that I actually wanted to watch, thankfully there was a far wider choice & so I was a happy girl – movie marathon and a half ahead!! I think in total in the first flight I managed 6 – let’s see, Identity Thief, Life of Pi, Parental Guidance, Quartet hang on that’s only 4? Oh no I give it a year too – ok 5, all in a row!! I make that pretty bloody good going!!

As predicted the food was pepper infested but having the food earlier at the airport I was not really too bothered.


Don’t worry, I didn’t take a photo of every meal I ate!! The non-slip try was a bonus, as was the proper knife and fork – larger than the one that we had breakfast with at Heathrow?!! Didn’t even try sleeping on this flight though as the timings were all a bit screwed. We arrived in Singapore at like 8 in the morning, it was already 28 degrees – SWEAT CENTRAL! Man am I glad I had the foresight to pack a change of top & undies in my hand luggage!!

We had a 2 1/2 hr stop over only in the airport which by the time we had wondered around to stretch our legs, visited the Butterfly Garden (no, really!) checked out the price of a massage & sat in a wifi area to touch base with home to let everyone know that leg 1 was done safe & sound and of course checking in on the rugby score. Thinking back that’s possibly not entirely true, there was a GOD ALMIGHTY bang about 5 mins before we landed which sounded like the wheel beneath is had fallen off or something – pretty bloody alarming! Then as we came in to land it felt smooth until we actually touched down which was more than a bit jolty – kind of like he’d forgotten to actually land it in time even tho he was bringing it down smoothly?!) we sat by the Koi Pond too – there I was spotting all the greenery everywhere, living walls & a shed load of large leaved green plants in the smoking area to take away the pollutants!







The onward leg was on a smaller plane & I was stuck in the middle, thankfully there was a spare seat next to me as the man on my right decided to sit with his legs a kimbo – not exactly very comfortable to sit next to! I decided to watch The Fall which I had downloaded the series of from iPlayer and as it was a 7 hour or so flight I managed to watch all of it, infuriating ending I must say, but I guess that it opens it up for a second series? The food was riddled with peppers once again & so all I managed was cheese & biscuits & 3 Ferrero Roche on the flight – very filling!! Thankfully it seemed to pass quite quickly though & I think I must have slept for an hour as when I woke with a start I felt suddenly hanging!

Coming through immigration was not too much of an issue & although my bag was last of our small group to come off the carousel, I thankfully was not waiting too long. Coming through customs I was in a line to be sniffed by the dog with all of my stuff – scary as, even if the pooch was only a black lab! Transit to the hotel was only about 30 min after dropping others at the 5* accommodation & I made it up the 30 floors to my apartment which I was sharing with Sophie, another tour co-ordinater. Very swish I have to say. I jumped straight in the shower pretty much & hit the sack hoping that sleep would happen after a brief chat with Sophie (who I hasten to add I’d never actually met before then!) Must remember to check in the morning if the water does go down the plug hole the other way as totally forgot this evening!

This time next week & all that jazz x2

The mid week match saw me back in the pub again across the road form work. This time though I had a partner in crime as Steve (from Roman Candles) joined me in the Lamb and Lion taking a break from what sounded like a hectic day in the shop. We partook in breakfast whilst watching the match. It was more than one sided to say the least but a very surreal feeling to thing that in a weeks time I would be on a plane slowly making my way out there!!

Classic - stolen off twitter

Classic – stolen off twitter

Felatau spotted just before he ran on - spot the tags still on his shirt!!

Felatau spotted just before he ran on – spot the tags still on his shirt!!

Tom Croft, Simon Zebo - replacement to Tommy B who he is sat next to (he had to have a plate put into his broken hand)

Tom Croft, Simon Zebo – replacement to Tommy B who he is sat next to (he had to have a plate put into his broken hand)

Our view of the big screen in the Lamb & Lion - why do people choose to sit UNDER the big screen??

Our view of the big screen in the Lamb & Lion – why do people choose to sit UNDER the big screen??

Stuart Hogg, Jamie Robert & BOD post match

Stuart Hogg, Jamie Robert & BOD post match

The remainder of the week was of course spent trying to remember all the things that I would be likely to forget and regret once I was on the plane! I attempted packing, realising that it was only a restriction of 20kg I was very strict with what made it into the bag! If I haven’t got enough warm clothes – I’ll just have to buy a jumper or two out there!

My first attempt of pacing - well the bare essentials right?!

My first attempt of pacing – well the bare essentials right?!

POC ready for a team meal

POC ready for a team meal

Adam ready for team meal (I really do worry about the choice of attire!!)

Adam ready for team meal (I really do worry about the choice of attire!!)

Manu ready for a team dinner

Manu ready for a team dinner

Mike Phillips, Manu, Croft, Parling & Youngs on top of the Harbour Bridge - I want to do this when I am there!

Mike Phillips, Manu, Croft, Parling & Youngs on top of the Harbour Bridge – I want to do this when I am there!

Tommy B showing off his sown up hand (he had a metal plate inserted into it)

Tommy B showing off his sown up hand (he had a metal plate inserted into it)

Watched the last Saturday match before the tests in the Royal Oak again. Thought the plan was a few drinks and a spot of lunch after & was really looking forward to it, sadly it didn’t happen. I felt really bad for telling Mum and Dad that they couldn’t come over and see me before I went as they really wanted to, as I had made other plans – which never materialised. Story of my life! Guess I should have arranged to see them regardless, you would have thought I’d have learnt by now – history repeats itself yet again!! I had tingles throughout the majority of the match as departure day comes closer & closer.

Zebo & Halfpenny after Saturday's match

Zebo & Halfpenny after Saturday’s match

Faz & Kearney post match

Faz & Kearney post match

Spent the majority of the rest of the weekend curled up with my furballs and doing the last min packing and hoping that I actually have all hat I need. Sleep on Saturday night was pretty sporadic and I have a feeling that it will be the same again this evening and certainly tomorrow night!

Stuart Barnes uses word of the day loo roll again

The first of the Saturday matches against the Reds spent in the Royal Oak, with friends needing to be in work to cover an audit taking place over the weekend it was only going to be a quiet one. Several others in the pub as always & a couple who fly out on Tuesday who were, like me, trying to work out how many clothes the crowd were wearing so as to work out how many warm clothes we need! Didn’t manage to be very successful in working it out as it was also raining.

Stuart Barnes had, once again, clearly been using a word of the day loo roll as this week he managed, somehow, to squeeze in impresario – not quite sure how it fitted in?!!

Love the Sky Sports as for the Lions which I’d only really taken in today, I can’t find a clip of it on YouTube at the moment which is really annoying me but will add it at a later date if I can find it

The table saver in the Royal Oak for the Reds match

The table saver in the Royal Oak for the Reds match

The coin toss before the match with Warberton & Quade Cooper

The coin toss before the match with Warberton & Quade Cooper

The non-playing members of the squad making the way for the boys to come out

The non-playing members of the squad making the way for the boys to come out

Poor Tommy B - how did I manage to miss him breaking his hand during the match :O(

Poor Tommy B – how did I manage to miss him breaking his hand during the match :O(

Two weeks and I’ll be in the very same city that the match was played in today – even if I don’t actually make it into the stadium :o)

First MidWeek match

I am pretty darned sure that there are not that many bosses out there that are as accommodating as mine.

I checked with the pub across the road, that I can see from the window that my desk is against, that they would indeed be showing the first of the midweek matches in the hope that I would not have to travel far to see it and be able to nip back tot he office after it in a flash. I think I was quite a sight to behold to the group of 6 or so construction workers as I arrived a little later that kick off after trying to complete something in the office first. I pulled out not only my phone but also my iPad mini so that I could get my work emails in there whilst watching. I did get a few looks from them when shouting the usual ‘ave ‘im at the screen and of course cheering for the tries as well as the penalties and conversions.

My fellow watching crew left at half time however and I was left, still catching work emails on the iPad as well as tweeting from my phone, all alone in my area of the pub. Sadly that didn’t last long and several pensioners joined me not least the couple below

Company in the second half

Company in the second half

They really were quite bemused by me and the fact that it possibly looked like I was staring right at them and shouting, but they did come in and CHOSE to sit right under the screen, there were plenty of other tables around. I had the following snippet of conversation with them:

I need very little to need me to enthusiastically support louder and that was coming for a while!! Safe to say I gave them a BEAMING smile when I left!!

Nicked several images off twitter & Instagram from the players post match which are below:

Manu & BOD share the love and appreciation of talent (Manu posted this)

Manu & BOD share the love and appreciation of talent (Manu posted this)

Manu & BOD sharing the love & appreciation of talent - BOD posted this - BLESS!!

Manu & BOD sharing the love & appreciation of talent – BOD posted this – BLESS!!

The lovely Tommy B and Rory Best post match

The lovely Tommy B and Rory Best post match

Vunipola & Faz sharing a moment on pitch

Vunipola & Faz sharing a moment on pitch

The Youngs brothers - quite an achievement to be in the same England Team, but Lions too?!

The Youngs brothers – quite an achievement to be in the same England Team, but Lions too?!

And so it begins – Lions 2013

The story behind how I have managed to end up travelling to Australia for the Lions Tour does, in reality, sound almost too unreal. I was booked & initial deposit paid to travel out having been saving since I returned from South Africa. For reasons I’m not going to go into, I had to pull out. I needed the stupidly large sum of money that I’d been building up for other sudden pressing needs. I had to pull out of going, I had no choice. Devastated did not even come close to how I felt. Having built up to it for so long, the realisation I was not going on top of everything else that I was struggling to cope with was almost too much.

Fast forward to the beginning of May and a random throwaway reply to a post on twitter and I am now officially back on and booked on a flight out to Australia on the 18th of June. Now the tickets are not definite, but to be honest the mere fact that I am actually going to Australia is enough. (But then ref RWC2007 final, we all know damned well that’s not strictly true!) Getting into the matches would be a DREAM. Thanks to a glowing reference from my awesome boss and the quick response to the post on twitter, I am now officially going as a tour co-ordinatior for VU Ltd. I have managed somehow convince Victor & Fliss that I’d be IDEAL for the job! I hope I didn’t come across as too desperate when I was being ‘interviewed’?! All in the past now though, I must have said the right sort of things as I’M GOING!!

The excitement has been building over recent weeks & sharing with friends who live overseas has been great. It transpires that the flight home in July is the same as friends who I initially met through ERE (now ComeOnMyLovers) back in the day (Tim & Sue Parsons) who are now based in Singapore and have baby Jenson with them too. Of course Phil, former neighbour, has been in communication. Now living in Hong Kong with his wife Laura, he has greatly enjoyed sharing his photos of meeting some of the Barbarians squad (what IS with those hats?!!)




as well as some photos from before the match today with a photo of his local out there which was heaving & some of the boys arriving at the stadium.



I in return shared my view for the match!! Having to take the car in for its MOT I combined with a trip back to my parents and so watched the match there, on my own as they went out to lunch for The Derby with some friends. This time in 3 weeks I will (hopefully) be watching the first test in Brisbane!! Quite a scary thought really!



Some of the current Lions related adverts from here & Australia as well as an unofficial Lions song from the guys at RockStar Rugby.

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!!

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