All the housemates went shopping early.
Two of the cars were returned to the car hire company. It really feel as though we are winding down and preparing for the big exit, but there are still two weeks to go before we touchdown back at Heathrow.
We depart at three. We have another epic 1025km to drive to Port Elizabeth.
The sky is crisp and clear. The shadow of our vehicle chases us as we head South.
The night falls quickly. I go to sleep. I have a tough shift to drive in 300km!
I awake at another fuel stop. The amount of receipts that I am collecting is crazy!
Chris puts on his favorite band, The Black Crows. The Black Crows create a great soundtrack to the black sky. Once again we are in the middle of nowhere. Galaxies and stars shine a thousand times brighter that we see because of light pollution.
The road works from a few days ago have disappeared. Although things move slow here, unlike back in the UK the South African road works seem very efficient!
Our stop over is in a place called Cradock. We stay in a B+B. It is an old big manor house. A suitable location for a horror movie. We go to sleep. There is nothing to do in Cradock, besides we have to be on the road by 8.
DAY 21 : The garden is quaint. My garden at home is terrible. I snap away in the morning light.
I am no gardener – I suffer from terrible hay fever, but I like the design. I got my house in 2002. I live in my car more than I do in my house.
The hosts give us an unsuspecting English breakfast. We get on our way avoiding the huge monkeys running around in the road. Chris says that they are Vervet monkeys.
We arrive at Port Elizabeth at 10am. The sun is shining. I have seen some amazing architect-photo images of this stadium. However will all the TV trucks, security fencing, there is no clean view. The World Cup circus is certainly in town anticipating a great Quarter Final fixture.
We all spend what seems like 2 hours researching suitable hotels for our trip to Cape Town. We have all been evicted from our Big Brother house and are on the road until the semi final, leaving the others back up North to cover the other games. After hours of googling, we fail.
Step forward David from Mexico. “OK lads he asks?” – replies and mutterings of failing to get a place to stay resorts him to get out his telephone, “I know someone”… 5 minutes later we are booked into an oceanside apartment for £50 a night. Using Google Maps we are left speechless at the view!
I however am staying in Cape Town itself with Ito. Small consolation. Cape Town is like Miami or City of Fort Lauderdale in Florida. Not necessarily for the climate but its vibe and buildings.
I try my own stadium shots. When I came here last December I was more interested in getting inside the stadium as that was my brief and requirement from magazines and other agencies. Then it was cloudy. Today was a clear blue sky. Perfect for close-ups of the stadium, as mentioned the media centre tents, VIP entrances, satellite dishes when removed would make a great wide view.
There is still something missing from this World Cup.
All the photographers talk about it. Again it is refreshing to know that others feel the same.
We all come to the conclusion that although there ARE fans inside the stadium (obviously) many are South Africans dressed up and treat the event like going to the theatre.
There is a vibe, but it is a different vibe.
We thought that fans had not travelled in huge numbers when the World Cup was staged in South Korea and Japan, but upon reflection they did.
I fondly remember thousands of fans from the Republic of Ireland in Tokyo Station.
The English, Germans, Argentinians, Dutch and especially Brazilians always travel in numbers, but for this tournament we don’t get the impression that there are thousands watching and partying in bars in the city centres.
Every one who is here, is here – in the stadium.
Even when 5,000 Japanese girls dressed up in Argentina shirt and went to watch Argentina in 2002, there was more of a big game feel to the event.
In France and Germany, tens of thousands poured over borders, filling stadiums, city centres and bars.
The South Africans are great, but for me it is not the same as France 98. We quiz the older photographers, veterans of Spain 82, Mexico 86 – they feel the same.
Hopefully by now, I have got the message across that our job is quite simply just a job. It may be a seemingly glamorous and privileged job but we are workers. Hard workers. Paying fans normally do not understand. I don’t expect them to. It is every school boys dream to be at Old Trafford for Manchester United v Liverpool. Nine times out of ten these epic games let you down. At the end of every season it is a random second round FA Cup game or a seemingly boring fixture like Wigan v Aston Villa that is the highlight of the season.
I like questioning and listening to older photographers tales of World Cup games gone by. For Spain 82, I was glued to the TV in my house. Speaking to photographers who were at the epic game Italy v Brazil, their words echoed what I saw on TV, a classic.
So far for this World Cup, the games that we have seen on TV have seemed good. However at the stadiums every one feels that they were not that special.
Today was different though. It was one of those games that if I had done in the English Premier League I would have cancelled a night out in order to watch Match of The Day when I got home.
A good early action picture helps the photographers fragile soul.
In essence, it was only a header picture, but compared to some of the action that I have been churning out, the World Cup had re-kindled itself. And about time too.
Brazil scoring up the other end from me. It did not matter. I knew I was going to witness a World Cup classic.
As probably everyone knows by now, the Netherlands scored two goals in the second half knocking normal favorites Brazil out of the competition. No one hates Brazil, but it gives other countries hope when this famous footballing nation exit!
We all left the pitch smiling. Although we had been at the ‘wrong’ end, we all felt that this had been a good game, producing good pictures – even though all the celebration and dejection images were a long long way away! The karma of football photography is storing up a big picture – hopefully at the final.
Ito, Dave, Chris and myself say goodbye to German Tim. He is flying to Cape Town. Instead we venture out for another near 800km trek.
Myself and Ito chat for two hours in the back of the VW. iPhone handy to constantly work out currency calculations from Yen to Pounds. He has already received a bill nearing £800 for his mobile phone. I decide to end my dreams of living in Ginza in Tokyo, it is too expensive! But his positiveness in wanting to expand his photo agency is an ideal escape route for me should the industry in the UK continue to be on a downward slide. Accountants control our industry now. Great photographers who saw the writing on the wall keep telling me, “I told you so!”
One of the great Allsport photographers is retiring so my facebook pals tell me. This industry is ever changing but there seems no light at the end of the tunnel. No new youngsters to challenge the old timers. Just office workers judging cash over quality.
Rumours of ‘new’ requirements for photographers to shoot the England National team continue to circulate causing mass depression. I am fed up of hearing about the goalposts being changed, I just want to cover the World Cup at the moment. Sometimes it seems we are all being sucked into a big black hole, eventually leaving the no competition for the others.
As we travel East, through George, myself and Ito fall asleep. Chris and Dave do a sterling job in getting us to our destination just after 4am. Although it is dark, we see that Mexican Dave’s recommendation and help did not fail. It looks just like it does on Google Maps!
I snuggle in to bed. The temptation of the TV is too much. Cath had text me to sell me Uruguay won, but a highlight programme was on – it looked an epic. I knew I would not regret my tiredness tomorrow for now sleeping. The buzz of two great games in one day was more important.