Compact tin-shack settlements, small industrial towns and expanses of wasteland have replaced seemingly endless stretches of desert and veld as the train, on a slight incline, chugs through the fringes of Gauteng towards Johannesburg. At 26 hours, with one more remaining, it’s probably been the longest train ride of my life – a very comfortable one, it must be said, using the twice-weekly Premier Classe service out of Cape Town. The service, the courtesy, the bonhomie, the little touches have been well worth the £200; the time has passed entertainingly in the company of a Vancouver-based Manchester United fan, a family of Evertonians living in Perth and their 75 year-old friend whose football knowledge might well exceed that of anyone I’ve recently met. Very shortly, after the succulent appetiser that was Cape Town, my World Cup really begins.
A German family darted off, in the dead of night, at Kimberley. I didn’t join them, despite the quandary detailed a couple of days ago. Meeting friends Dave and Andy at the airport, I’ll then travel with them to our accommodation in Kyalami, catching the match on television before heading to Soccer City for Argentina v Mexico. It could be the most fascinating match yet – you’d have to say that if Uruguay can shut out the Mexicans then Argentina are almost equally mean, but they’re a little more exposed to the counter at times and you’d expect the Central Americans to create. Overall, I think Argentina should simply be more clinical and perhaps win 2-0 or 3-1 as they near a probable final with Brazil.
My schedule for next few days: Argentina v Mexico (today), Brazil v Chile (tomorrow), Paraguay v Japan (Tuesday); Uruguay v Ghana (Friday), Spain/Portugal v Paraguay/Japan (Saturday). Phew, and wow.
I’ll have a lot to say about all that. I’m also looking forward to Wednesday and Thursday – a couple of days off that won’t be spent on the road to a great extent and, I intend, will allow us to get beneath the skin of our surroundings a little and make for an interesting story or two that veers from simple description. It’ll be a long way from Llandudno Beach, near Camps Bay – and a certain personage we bumped into on the promenade further along the coast (see above).
That’ll do – it’s morning coffee time before the ground stops moving and I step back into something resembling real existence. The surroundings are becoming thicker with life and also with dereliction. Chat more soon.