Day 27 : Road Trip – Cape Town to Johannesburg

So here goes – instead of a gigantic rant on how South Africa spectacularly let me down in not providing ample transport at a ‘reasonable’ cost and how South African Airways stuck two fingers up at everyone wanting to travel from Cape Town to Durban for the 2nd semi-final because FIFA went for Emirates as the official airline sponsor, I embark on another road trip – who needs aeroplanes!

0135h Cape Town – I say my farewells to the rest of the guys on the ocean’s edge. Tom Tom says 1415 KM until I reach my destination of our lodge in Randburg. The route is simple – out of Cape Town, up the N1, onto the Johannesburg Western Bypass, and turn off into Randburg. I don’t NEED a TomTom for directions, but to act as a co-pilot alerting me on approaching bends.

0226h – I go through a tunnel! It reminds me of 2 years ago in Switzerland. I develop a new act of snapping whilst driving. (For the safety conscious, I do my editing AFTER the journey!)

0245h All is quiet. I make steady progress. I pass a sign for Worcester. But this is the N1 and not the M5 in England. I spend the time listening to Chris’ The Black Crows CD. When I had a regular job as a newspaper staff photographer, in my spare time I used to do some live sound mixing for some regional soul bands. The film, The Blues Brothers was the catalyst for some great bands. The Commitments actually killed it off, but it was fun when it lasted. I reset the sound settings on the VW and head off with Too Hard To Handle. The mix is perfect!

0625h – The VW needs fuel. I fill up at a cost of 82 UK English pence a litre. After over three hours of The Black Crows, I put on a random Simple Minds live concert that I have on my iphone. When I realise that it is a show from Glasgow, I rather spookily pass a sign for Aberdeen! I have to stop and take a picture. It is -2c outside. Next set of pictures will be taken through the windscreen. It is too cold for me to be outside unless I have to

0643h – I still have no real idea where I am. I am literally in the middle of nowhere. For the past half hour I have not seen another car. I have not seen any buildings or signs of life. The TomTom shows me when the long stretches of road curve to the left or right. It starts to get light. I see some great shapes made by the mountains. I slow down to shoot them. A lorry passes – some would say the resulting image is the best I have taken all month! The VW thermometer tells me it is -5C outside.

0644h – These digital cameras are great but they still don’t totally record what the eye sees. I fill the road with full beam to light up the foreground. Its fun shooting whilst driving!

0632h – Finally the camera records what I have been seeing for the past 10 minutes. A deep orange/yellow glow. Like my previous road trip I have never seen this kind of dawn before, only on NASA TV when the Spare Shuttle has been in orbit. With my sunglasses on top of my head (as ever) I prepare myself for daylight!

0733h – I am finding this really tough. Not because I am tired or anything but I simply can not see. I would gladly swap for some dense fog right now. I am heading East, directly into the sun. I have my sunglasses on, the car visor down, yet I have to slow right down to 10kmph. I am totally blinded.

0853h – Every 5 minutes I can afford to decrease the angle of the car visor enabling me to actually see where I am driving. One hour after sunrise and I have to drive differently. No longer do I look out for the red cats eyes on the road alerting me to dips in the road, I can see them! The power of the sun rapidly warms up the cold winter landscape.

0941h – I am back waving to the roadwork people. In England I curse them. Apart from the petrol station attendants, men and women dotted up and down road work sections waving red flags to telling motorists to slow down with a nice warm smile dressed up as though they are about to climb Mount Everest – even though it is now 14C –  are the only people I see. I see the turn off to Port Elizabeth where we left some days ago. Remarkably, the roadwork people have finished a 10km section of road. It is now wider, straighter and enables drivers to progress quicker and some newly laid tarmac. This would never happen in the UK. The authorities would be too busy raising revenue from the poor motorist, antagonizing his mind by taking picture of motorists going over 50MPH through the roadworks which usually seem to last for months. Lorries lead the way, flying through at over 70MPH (+110KMPH).

1117h – Driving in the dark now seems like a distant memory. The landscape in this area is not as impressive as the road that goes more East to Durban and Port Elizabeth, but it is still vast and ever-changing. Once more, I applaud the South African drivers. ALL move over to let passing motorists. No lane hogging. The lorry drivers are legends – indicating when it is safe to pass, they have their lights on full beam as you pass. Two flashes of the hazzards and the lights go off and sometimes a wave. Driving is a friendly occupation here. No road rage. No one cutting anyone up. Everyone is speeding like hell, but everyone is driving so aware of their surroundings and other vehicles on the road.

1124h – The road tolls start again. 13 Rand this one. That is about £1.30.

1147h – Back on the open road, and I pass a sign alerting motorists that they are driving through a High Accident Zone. There are no Police, no other crazy signs, just in spectacular fashion, all the motorists increase their distance from one another. It is certainly not like this on the M1 when flooring it to cover Sheffield Wednesday on a cold Tuesday evening with people in a hurry cutting me up.

1147h Just as I too decide to keep my distance, I spot a township on the side of the road. A group of boys about to start to play a game of football. I guess they have a 12.00 kick off.

1149h – Only 302KM to go! I’m doing really well. Alarmingly I pass a sign to Durban. If I stay awake I could make it to the stadium by six o’clock. Perhaps there is a spare tribune pass I could have. I seriously think about turning off but decide to head on. I have achieved a World Cup milestone! I have now broken my record of covering every single World Cup Final. It does not feel nice.

1157h – I came to South Africa with no preconceived ideas or conceptions. The only thing I wanted to do was share some of the great places that I know with the rest of the group. However on this road trip I am alone. Last year when Simon, Chris and myself covered the FIFA Confederations Cup we learnt the important lesson that if the fuel tank is on half full then fill up when passing a service station as you never know when the next one will be.

Running on petrol fumes for what seemed like 50 miles, we came across an old style South African service station. We had run out of energy and perked ourselves up with a £1.49 full English breakfast. We were all magnetically captivated by the service station and took lots of pictures of it. They also had a parrot above the doorway. I made friends with this parrot and took lots of pictures of it! Unfortunately it was too cold for the parrot today, so I could not re-kindle my friendship with my feathered friend.

I left knowing that Johannesburg was not far. I resigned to the knowledge that my road trip would be over soon. I put my iphone ipod on shuffle. I go through the last set of mountains before Johannesburg, rather fittingly the “Shuffle” shuffles up Move Any Mountain by Sophie Ellix Bexter.

1239h – Bethlehem approaches. The Shuffle churns out Take Me Home by Phil Collins. I could have not made up this soundtrack any better myself!

1333h – More fires – yet to be mentioned on this blog, but it is winter here. Farmers burn the fields ready for the new harvest. Some of the fires spread to the roadside.

At night it looks like lava flowing from a volcano. In the day time there are usually workers in the area with hoses controlling where the fire spreads.

1421h – The countryside comes to an end and the city starts. Johannesburg is a huge city. LA Woman by The Doors is the next track. I think of my time in LA when I was speaking to a friend back home trying to arrange a pick up from the Post Office. Not having a regular 9-5 life causes all sorts of logistical problems! Just like in LA, cars here on all 4 and 5 lane motorways move in unison at 120 kmph. I’m on cruise control too. No need to worry about drivers cutting in, drivers undercutting one another or flashing and getting angry, everyone seems content.

1434h – Being cold all those hours ago now seems a distant memory. It is 21C. I turn off the N1 Western Bypass and onto the road that takes me in to Randburg. Randburg is ‘after’ Johannesburg and ‘before’ Centurion (where South Africa usually beat England at cricket!). It then spreads into Pretoria. Bolted on are Soweto and Alexandra. No more sweeping mountains or amazing landscapes. I am in a different jungle now. A man tries to sell each and every passing motorist a giant Spain or Germany flag. I don’t think he does much trade!

1427h I arrive in Randburg still wide awake. Signs remind me I am in the host city for the World Cup Final. DJ Sammy comes on. I have this on my iphone as a reminder of a 24 hour drinking session I had with a friend of a friend in Hong Kong some years ago. Lui Cheng Hui is a friend of a friend I know called Rachel. Rachel had gone to India and had instructed Cheng Hui to seek if I was OK in her great home of Hong Kong. I have no idea where these two friends are now. Always on the move, it is very hard to keep in contact without Facebook with my job!

1428h – I am nearly home. More World Cup signage. Rather fittingly a Ryan Bingham tack comes on. Chris and Simon and myself had this on repeat for a week last year. Chris and Simon are both in Durban and I class them as good friends. Again my business is strange in that my friends that I keep in touch with are my rivals!  Other great people I meet, I have difficulty keeping in contact with.

The only thing that would have made this day perfect was if I was shooting a game this evening! I still have a few features to undertake. I need sleep and rest. I have to pick Ito and Kaz up from the airport tomorrow. I still have a mountain of editing to do. I will probably have to upload them to my clients servers at Soccer City. I hope tomorrow is as nice as today. All the newspaper placards are reporting ‘normal’ news again. No FIFA stories. No Bafana Bafana stories. Most are in Afrikans so I don’t even know what is in the news here!

I go to sleep, and wake up at 2030h. I watch the Spain v Germany game on TV. It is OK but seemingly not a classic like France v Germany in Guadalajara during Mexcio 86. The commentary is shocking. On South African TV, Phil Scholari looks embarrassed to be in the studio, I feel sorry for him with stupid questions being fired at him. They show the Ghana v USA game again. John Helm is the commentator. It instantly becomes a better game! I hope I see him before I go home.

I am still surprised on how the South Africans got behind Ghana. If the World Cup was in Germany, I do not see too many Belgians, Brits, Italians getting behind someone like France! Although there are some wars, the African nations are more friendly towards each other.

Our lodge finally has internet. The telephone company has stopped the strike and they are now back to normal. I wonder if they went on strike so that they could watch the majority of the World Cup?!

I get the lodge nice and warm by putting more wood on the fire ready for the others when they return back from Durban.

4 responses to “Day 27 : Road Trip – Cape Town to Johannesburg

  1. As music has played such an important part in this adventure , why not put together the AMA compilation album
    “the sounds of 2010” – crap title , sure you can think of something far better.
    Maybe some Ian Dury in there – “back to blighty ” for instance


  2. HI Matt

    Really enjoyed reading your blogs mate, super stuff. Have a good final!!

  3. Hi,

    Sort of stumbled upon this post and had a blast reading it. As a South African I’m really stoked to hear you had a good experience in our country! Oh and well done on completing the epic Cape Town-Joburg road-trip all by yourself… not an easy feat!

  4. Hope you don’t mind me borrowing your flag-flapping picture (with acknowledgement) to illustrate one of my rhymes on the subject – if you do let me know and I’ll take it down.
    Your impressions of driving in SA were very kind, or things have deteriorated a lot in five years.

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