What a hat-trick, am loving it

Three cities, one day... My World Cup travel hat-trick.

It should have been easy. But, as I am rapidly discovering during this World Cup odyssey, there is no such thing as a best laid out plan in Africa.  

A late England-US kick-off in Rustenburg was supposed to be followed by a few hours down-time at a family friend's ranch in the Britz safari land - a place halfway between Rustenburg and Johannesburg. Not so.

Welcome to Park & Ride gridlock. Thousands of tooting cars trying to leave a dusty, fenced carpark was reminiscent of an army of ants climbing over each other to filter one-by-one through a single, insect-sized peephole. Utter mayhem. Mocking, vuvuzela-blowing locals stood by the side of the road and watched the chaos unfold; their chorus of din stirring up the building tensions.

I was parked up on the hard shoulder (well, the rock-strewn field that bordered Rustenburg's single lane R104) outside the car prison. But with my fellow ranchers trapped inside, I realised, somewhat painfully, that the Britz trip was a no-go.

I decided to drive back - over potholed roads and at 2am - to Johannesburg, three-and-half hours away.

As I trotted past two volunteer traffic wardens desperately trying to convoy vehicles out the carpark shambles, a group of American fans took control.
"Jeez," shouted one portly supporter. "You have to let 50 cars out, then let 50 cars go by on the road. 50 out, 50 along. Come on, or else we're all sleeping here."

Unlike my Stars and Stripes-clad friend, I had no intention of doing that under the skies. I buckled up and drove back to Jo'burg.

I knocked on the door to the apartment and woke my colleague Gary - who was up early the next morning for the Serbia-Ghana match in Pretoria - at 5am. He took it very well. "Your bed's been put away, you'll need to make it again - see you in the morning."

Up at 10am for a hectic day's work, before a frantic dash to the Tambo International Airport for my 6pm flight to Cape Town. Must have made check-in by a whisker because my bag was the first off the baggage belt at my wet, blustery and freezing destination.

Picked up my rental car at 9pm, programmed the address into a very complicated GPS system and set off for my Cape Town base - yet more family friends graciously putting me up. The generosity of the African people, be they black, white, rich or poor, knows no bounds and will be one of my fondest memories of this World Cup summer.

Tired, hungry and generally bent out of shape, I arrived, soaked, at 10pm. Five hours sleep in 48 hours and I've driven hundreds of kilometres and flown thousands more. Loving every minute too.

Any air miles card companies interested...?

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