501 SE Hawthorne Boulevard
Maple Room 1 & 2 (4th floor)
Portland, OR 97214
This is very likely my final blog entry!! Tomorrow my flight leaves at 3:50pm, but I will be taking no chances and arriving at the airport very early. Dave and I were just reflecting on our last four days here, potentially one of the greatest, most enjoyable, four day spans in my entire life. Shark cage diving, kayaking, taking a boat tour of False Bay, going on a safari, touring Robben Island, and hiking up Table Mountain is quite an impressive line-up to be completed in four days. Looking back, I'm glad we waited till the end of our trip because the weather has been fantastic. In addition, I'm exhausted now and shouldn't have any issue sleeping much of the time on the plane.
Yesterday was our safari to Fairy Glen. I really have to stress how amazing Jamaica was at organizing and taking the initiative to drive to Fairy Glen with our rented vehicle. I'm not sure I would have done so well driving on the left side of the road. After being here a month I still usually look the wrong way first when crossing a street. While I'm at it, I should mention that Dave and Jamaica were both terrific this whole trip. They planned absolutely everything, and I really attribute how great my experience was to their initiative. Not to mention I would still be completely lost walking around Cape Town if I didn't have them at my side (my sense of direction is awful).
Traveling to the safari went very smoothly, although leaving at 4:30 was quite painful. The drive was about an hour from Cape Town and the scenery was magnificent along the way as we watched the sun rise behind the mountains. I can't say enough times how beautiful the entire area is surrounding Cape Town; the mountains are nothing like in Oregon as the elevation changes very rapidly to make for an impressive profile. Upon arrival we were served a very filling buffet breakfast. Our tour guide, Gerard, was full of great information and humor as he took us on the large jeep-like vehicle through the reserve. It was a beautiful day and we were fortunate enough to see a lot of great animals. We got very close to all of the animals we saw including elephants, lions, rhinos, a hippo, giraffes, zebras, springbok, wildebeest, bontebok, ostriches, eland, a crocodile, and others I am forgetting at this moment. Ashley got lots of great photos that I was able to steal. She is the only one with a camera left on this trip! My camera was lost or stolen, Jamaica's charger broke, Dave's camera broke, and their video "flip" stopped working as well.
After seeing all the animals we returned to the lodge for another great buffet meal. They really fed us well; it was definitely my best meal since I've been here. After lunch Dave, Jamaica, and I went on a horseback ride on a scenic path. I really enjoyed riding my white horse Pearl, although she was occasionally a bit temperamental. All of the horses behaved for the most part, but they had moments of being quite stubborn. Dave rode Socks and Jamaica rode Pica. We had a great time, although my thighs definitely felt the bumpy ride after it was over. The entire day was absolutely perfect, as was the weather once again. I can't believe how amazing it has been this last week considering we are in the middle of winter. I'd love to portray more about the animals, but it will be best done with the videos and pictures that we took once I get back home.
Today was another early morning, and my sleepiness caused us to miss the first train out of Fish Hoek by just seconds. Oops. We still made it in to town early enough to make it to the Waterfront for our boat taking us to Robben Island. For those who know nothing of Robben Island, it was a massive isolated prison on an island off the coast of Cape Town that housed prisoners and notably political prisoners during the Apartheid of South Africa. Most notable amongst the prisoners held at Robben Island was Nelson Mandela, whose struggle for equality in South Africa lead the country out of Apartheid and was elected for president in 1994 after being released in 1990. Nelson Mandela is still alive today, and we celebrated his 92nd birthday Monday, Nelson Mandela Day. The tour of the island and the prison was very interesting. Our tour guide, Sadik Levy, was actually a prisoner at the island, so all of the information was really coming from his heart. He told us all about his personal hardships at the island as well as the life of Nelson Mandela and other famous prisoners who fought for human rights and the equality of blacks and whites in South Africa. It is amazing to consider that Apartheid just ended in 1994. The country has progressed so much since then and most everyone who lives here seems so proud of the unity they have now. Unfortunately we had no camera at the island because just Jamaica, Dave, and I went, but the pictures would have been pretty depressing anyway. I would not say that the Robben Island experience was "fun", but I'm so glad that we had the opportunity to do it. The prisoners of Robben Island and especially Nelson Mandela are such important figures of why South Africa has taken such positive steps in recent years. Without Nelson Mandela's impact I really doubt that this country could have ever hosted a World Cup.
Our final big activity of our incredible journey was to climb Table Mountain, one of the most well known landmarks in all of South Africa. Jamaica unfortunately wasn't able to join Dave and me on the hike because she was feeling ill from the boat ride. Dave and I set up the mountain trail on a descent pace, passing lots of other hikers panting along. The hike was definitely not for someone that was out of shape, the path was very steep and strenuous. We read going in to the hike that it takes between 1 and a half to three hours for most hikers, but Dave and I made it to the top in just one hour. I think if we were in top shape we could have shaved off another ten minutes, but I was struggling a bit towards the top due to the peanut butter milkshake and foot long roast beef and gravy sandwich that I had just put down before the hike. For those of you who know Dave well, you're aware that he can eat 40 wings at Chicken Bonz and still play a 90 minute soccer game, so the meal didn't slow him down a bit. Before reaching the top we fortunately ran into Ashley and Jesse, who had decided to take the cable car up and hike down. We were lucky to see them because they allowed us to borrow Ash's camera. The summit was a beautiful and relieving sight! The view from the top was so much greater than what can be portrayed in a photograph, 360 degrees of beauty. Dave and I enjoyed the wonderful weather and got some nice photos before heading down the cable car so that we could meet up with Jamaica back in town. Table Mountain was a perfect capper to our vacation.
Tonight we are all packing and doing last minute house cleaning. I can't express how great my trip has been. There are a lot of places I want to travel to still in my life, so I'm not sure if it's in the cards to return, but I'd be so happy if I was able to. This trip has influenced me to make the decision to travel to the next World Cup in Brazil! Hopefully my mother and Rachel will come as well. I spoke with one man on a bus who had been to every World Cup since 1974. After talking to him I hope that I will be able to see the world in a similar manner. The World Cup is such a great way to see a country in addition to watching an incredible soccer tournament. I've had a great time, but can't wait to get back to see my family and Rachel. I planned my trip for just the right amount of time because I got to do everything that I had hoped to (besides seeing Soccer City Stadium in Joburg). I'm excited now to head home tomorrow afternoon and be picked up by Rachel in. SOOOOOO excited to see Rachel! Hope everyone has enjoyed my blog, but if not I don't really care because at least I'll get to look back on it someday :). PEACE.
This morning we rose early to catch the bus once again to Simon's Town. All five of us met with the kayak tour guide, Derek near the dock. Our group got a private guided tour, as nobody else had signed up for the trip. Being the fifth wheel, I got my own single kayak while the two couples both rode double-seat kayaks. It was a beautiful day, probably getting up to 75 degrees during our trip. I really enjoyed kayaking for my first time, and hope to do it more in the future. We kayaked along the rocky coastline of Simon's Town toward Boulder Beach. Along the way we were extremely fortunate to see a Southern Right whale probably 300 meters away. The whale was very impressive as it surfaced maybe 10 times before moving out of range. The tour guide challenged us to not say "awesome" until the trip was finished, but I failed just minutes in. It's difficult to not say the words "awesome", "incredible", "amazing", etc. when you are kayaking in crystal clear False Bay under the warm sun amongst great friends, whales, and penguins. The surrounding scenery was breathtaking as well. All of the impressive mountains around False Bay from Simon's Town to Cape Town were visible today. The water was so clear as we kayaked along the coastline and through the kelp at some points. After watching the penguins at Boulder Beach we parked the kayaks up on a beach and enjoyed picking up seashells for a while. Eventually we made our way back to the starting point, the trip in total lasting about two and a half hours. Derek was a very entertaining tour guide which added to the enjoyment of our trip. Kayaking is definitely something I could really enjoy in the future, although I can't imagine many trips equaling the joy of this one.
We ate lunch in Simon's Town and wasted some time at a very interesting South African Naval Museum. Then, later in the afternoon, the five of us took a boat tour out to Seal Island where Dave and I had done shark cage diving yesterday. We were hoping to see whales, dolphins, or sharks, but had to settle for seeing the 40,000 seals on the island, more penguins, and lots of seabirds. I was disappointed not to see whales or dolphins (as they often do on this particular trip), but still very much enjoyed riding on the 14 seat motorized raft called the Rubber Ducky.
Today was another exhausting day full of great new experiences, and I'm expecting more of the same tomorrow. Tomorrow we are catching the 4:30am train in to Cape Town where we have a car rented to take to the safari, Fairy Glen. I'm extremely excited and looking forward to sharing that experience as soon as I can!
Once again I have put off posting a new blog for far too long. Since the end of the tournament we have mostly spent a lot of time shopping and hanging out in Cape Town. Amongst the shopping we also made it to the Two Oceans Aquarium; making Africa the third continent on which I've been to an aquarium. Two Oceans was quite nice, but I still rate it under our beautiful aquarium at Newport, Oregon.
Yesterday was especially fun, as we were able to meet up with Sean and his family in Cape Town after their tour of Robben Island. While we were there we also booked our tour of the prison for this Tuesday, the day before my return to the States. It was great to see Sean and his family and hear about their great experience attending the final. I am so happy that I was able to see five games, but I regret not being able to at least see the massive stadium, Soccer City in Johannesburg. We had lunch with Sean and the gang, did some shopping, and then parted ways. It was a short get together, but it was really neat to see them in Cape Town! We attempted to call it an early night to prepare for today, so Dave, Jamaica, and I headed back to Fish Hoek at a reasonable hour.
I didn't get nearly as much sleep as I would have hoped last night. It is difficult to rest, however, knowing that you are going to be in the water with great white sharks in just hours. Dave and I were the only two who braved the shark cage diving trip that began at 7:00am in Simon's Town. It was an absolutely incredible experience, and one that I won't allow myself to forget. Skipper Rob took us out on his boat with six others to the famous Seal Island in False Bay. The boat ride out to the island took about 25 minutes. The morning skies were absolutely stunning; a perfect start for what would be a perfect day.
We didn't waste too much time seeking out the great whites. The island is covered with around 40,000 seals, packed from flipper to flipper. The idea was to follow small groups of seals away from the island, and eventually pick up on individual seals that had broken off from their groups (those are the ones that the sharks go after). We did not have much luck, only seeing the tail of one right near our boat as I quickly turned my head towards the commotion. Next, we threw out an imitation seal on a rope that trailed about 25 yards behind the boat. We were instructed to watch the seal closely, as a shark could breach at any second. Just shortly after putting out the fake seal, a shark erupted out of the water (yes completely airborn) attacking the seal, flipped around in the air, and splashed back down into the water! I could not believe the immense power of the animal to completely launch itself out of the water. I've seen pictures of great whites completely out of water, but I guess I just expected it to bite the seal. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen! We were able to witness the sight two more times, the second one being quite a large shark. Dave got all three breaches on video clips!
Next up was cage-diving. I didn't feel really nervous about being in the water with the sharks, surprisingly. The crew on the boat attempted to coax sharks around the boat by chumming the water, using bait, and throwing out another type of fake seal. A few different sharks came over to the boat and checked it out, occasionally making a play at the seal. The size of the sharks swimming around the boat was unbelievable. Most of the sharks were around 12 feet long! Dave and I entered the cage together after brief instructions. My greatest fear was the cold water. The wet suits helped, but when I jumped in I was breathing very hard, likely due to a combination of the temperature and the intensity of the situation. This made it a bit difficult to find my breath using the scuba tank, as I had never used one before. Eventually I was able to calm myself down enough and trust the equipment; it is such a strange feeling having the power to breath under water! After a few minutes my body acclimated to the cold water and I become comfortable. Dave and I looked around as best we could for sharks, but they weren't having much luck luring them towards the boat. After about 10 minutes under water I felt a tap on my shoulder from Dave. I turned around and swimming past us was a massive one! It was just feet from the cage, and it came around again for a second pass. The shark wanted little to do with the us, but I was satisfied with our one great look up close and personal. When we got out of the cage, the people on the boat informed us that the shark that came up to us was about four and a half meters long, about 15 feet!! It was likely the biggest one that we saw all day! I expected to flip out when I saw the shark that close under water, but I was just excited in a very calm manor. I dried off and warmed up, but Dave got another opportunity to go again. I could have gone, but was already warm and satisfied with our first run. Right off the bat, Dave got a great look at a shark that took the bait right in front of him, then turned and smacked the cage with its tail. I had an awesome view of it from the boat, but Dave was so fortunate to be in the cage at that moment. I missed a good chance, but I was happy for Dave and still very excited about what I had gotten to see.
Throughout the day we probably saw 15 or more great whites! We were told at the end of the tour that we were extremely fortunate to see so many, especially the breaches at the beginning. Apparently, sometimes they are not able to see any sharks; it just depends on the day. I felt so fortunate that we had such an incredible day. We were out on the boat for over five hours and had one of my most memorable experiences ever. Dave got a few great video clips, but we also exchanged emails with another guy on the boat who is going to send us a few pictures from the trip.
Tomorrow is another action packed day. The five of us are all doing a kayak trip early in the morning that takes us over to Boulder Beach, where the penguins are located. Later in the day we are taking a boat tour out to Seal Island, where Dave and I spent the day today. All five of us are taking that tour and hoping to see sharks, whales, dolphins, and definitely more seals! I hope we have the same success tomorrow that we had today. I should be posting again really soon because the day after tomorrow is our Safari, then the next is our Robben Island tour! I'll try to post after each experience so everyone gets the detailed version.
Well the tournament is over and Spain wins! What an incredible journey it was, and I am quite satisfied with the outcome. I picked Spain to win it all in my bracket that I filled out in May. The third place match was brilliant and the final was intense. My enjoyment in watching the tournament was as high as I could have hoped from the beginning. During the final matches I thought the style of play from all the teams was very entertaining and fast paced. It was nice to see that teams didn't sit back and defend as did previous winners Italy. The final four teams, especially, all played beautiful football with differing tactics. I loved seeing so many different and effective ways of playing the game tactically, in contrast to watching most club football where a similar style prevails within each league. Not sure if any of my followers actually think about this stuff, but it's what's on my mind right now so that's what you get! I LOVE talking about the tactics involved, but I'll spare you all.
Only slightly dampening the greatness of the tournament, there were some things that repeatedly happened during the games that continue to piss me off. It's the stupid things players do that non-soccer players are quickest to criticize (and rightly so). I am so tired of seeing complaining, faking injuries, and especially diving! None of this needs to be part of the game. The worst is when any one of these things results in something positive for their team, for example being awarded a pk for a dive. Two changes need to happen for Brazil in my opinion. The first is goal line technology; Frank Lampard's goal is evidence of that. The second change would be some sort of punishment for diving or faking injuries (like grabbing your face when someone elbows you in the chest) that is applied after the game is reviewed by FIFA. I don't know if there is a better way than a fine for the players, a suspension might be too harsh. I don't know, hopefully people agree with this.
Anyway I'm thinking about all the wrong things now, ranting instead of rejoicing! It was a super experience and the tournament was amazing. South Africa was an incredible host and really proved to the world that they can put on such an epic event. The 64 games occurred without even a stumble in the event's organization. The soccer part of my trip is all over. Only 10 days now to do everything else before I'm back in the air heading to Portland. On the "to do" list still is Cape Point, kayaking, Table Mountain, shopping, Safari, and shark cage diving (if I'm brave enough). Hope we can fit it all in, at least I'll be tired for the plane.
I am reporting a bit late on the outcome of the semifinals, but this is by no means due to any displeasure with the outcomes. Both games turned out as well as I could have possibly hoped for. However, the games were the only bit of enjoyment I have had in quite a number of days as I have battled the flu. I decided it was better to not concern any mothers out there about my lack of good health while I was out of commission. The good news is there is no more need for anyone to worry because this morning I feel nearly 100 percent. The unfortunate part is that we still have a lot of things that we want to do in our remaining days here, so we are going to be hard pressed to fit it all in. With only two days left in the tournament, Dave and I will be less distracted and I'm sure Jamaica won't have any problems helping us with all the shopping we still need to do. She has mad shopping skills to say the least!
This evening is the 3rd/4th place match between the two teams that were unsuccessful in their semifinal matches. Uruguay who failed to get passed the Netherlands in an exciting 2 to 3 defeat will test their skill against Germany, who failed to score against Spain in their 1 to 0 semifinal loss. It is always difficult to predict what might happen in this sort of match, as it seems the teams often lack motivation without the big prize to play for. Germany is the better team, but Uruguay might be more motivated to win since third place would mean a great accomplishment to their country. Miroslav Klose, the veteran striker for Germany, will have the most personal aspirations going in to the match. The two goals that we watched Klose score against Argentina took him past the great Pele for total lifetime World Cup goals and is now just one behind the leader, Ronaldo (The Brazilian one, not Christiano Ronaldo). Klose was one of three German players rumored to have the flu, in addition to a back injury suffered in the game against Spain. Reports say that he likely won't play, but I think there is little that could keep him from a chance of putting his name in the history books for good. This will definitely be his last World Cup, so tonight is his last chance.
I recently thought of something quite amazing about the games I have been to here at the Cup. I have been to just five games out of the total 64 matches, but if Germany wins tonight I will have seen the 3rd place team, runner up, and World Cup champions all play at least one match! I think that's pretty damn awesome! I may not have gotten tickets to the finals, but I got to see both the finalists play. As far as the finals go, I hope that Spain continue their impressive performance over Germany. I rooted for the Netherlands in both of their games I attended, but Spain is my second favorite team in the tournament (behind the USA obviously). I know that not everyone who reads by blog is the biggest soccer fan, and prefer hearing more about the other stuff we do, but I encourage everyone to at least watch the final. This is extremely exciting for me!!
On another note, I have finally proven to the world that I CAN grow a beard, and a rather disgusting and patchy one at that. I was hoping to hold out on shaving it until I got back, but don't get your hopes up because it's getting rather painful for me to look at in the mirror.
Friday and Saturday were by far the most exhausting days of my trip, but also the very best. The overnight bus rides were even longer than I expected. Dave and I left Thursday evening and 12 hours later arrived early Friday morning in Port Elizabeth. I had very little success sleeping on the cramped bus, which made for quite an uncomfortable trip for someone as tall as myself. Shortly after arriving in Port Elizabeth and eating breakfast, Dave and I caught a cab to Sea View Game Park. As we entered the game park, outside the car window we saw springbok and neyla (both horned dearlike animals), giraffes, and zebras as we made our way toward the restaurant and main area of the park. The animals were so close to our vehicle, and didn't seem to even care that we were there; I suppose they are used to seeing cars and people. When we arrived at the headquarters of the park I met some of the people that Dave and Jamaica worked with while they were volunteering. I had no idea that I was in store for some VIP experiences thanks to Dave's reputation! We started by touring around the nearby reserve area that holds young animals including baby lions (12 weeks), Siberian tigers (7 -8 months), a caracole (also known as an African Lynx), meerkats, a leopard, a crocodile and five male lions that were just over a year old.
Before doing "handlings" with some of the animals we went to meet the adult lions and tigers in another part of the park. We didn't see the male Siberian tiger, but the female was very large and beautiful. The male Siberian tigers are the largest cats in the world. The lions weren't very close to the fence, but even from a distance their size and power was obvious. After visiting the adults for a while we headed back up the hill to the younger animals. Our first handling was with the tigers, meaning that I was able to go into their cage and pet them! The tigers, Shu Shu and Faye, were a little excited at first so occasionally we were instructed to slap them on the head and push them off if they tried to claw or nibble at us. They were just playful though, they weren't actually trying to hurt anybody. The park got pretty busy for a while, so Dave helped out while I watched him do more handlings with the customers. Eventually, however the park got quieter as we got a little nearer to game time. Dave and I went in with the African Lynx, Kenny, and although he didn't really pay any attention to me being there as he paced back and forth, I was able to pet him a little while he ignored me. Dave had mentioned going into this experience that some of the animals are racist, which I found unusual. The African Lynx, who had completely ignored us, found time to stop and hiss fiercely as one of the black workers walked by the cage. Apparently it is more difficult for Dave and the other workers to do handlings with black and especially Indian customers; they have to be more careful because they don't really want to tell them that the animals are racist! After chilling with Kenny for a while, we went in with the meerkats, Fat Momma and Sid. It took some time to coax them out of their underground manor, but eventually they poked their heads out of a hole. Dave had me sit down, and immediately Fat Momma came over and sat down in my lap. Besides wanting to eat my fingers, Fat Momma was very cuddly and cute. When Dave's friend, Delano, was done helping customers with handlings he took us in with the male lions. Considering they were just over one year old, they were massive. At first I would approach the animals very timidly, but eventually I became more comfortable with them. It was quite an experience to be so close to something that could eat me if it decided to! Even the lions would try half-heartedly to give you a nice scratch or nibble, but you could distract them with a wave of your hand usually and push their massive heads away. Cliff was my favorite of the lions; he was so calm and had beautiful white hair. We spent a solid 20 minutes with the lions, and I was sad to say goodbye when we finally had to leave. It was definitely one of the greatest experiences I've ever had! To finish off the day, we had some time to play with the baby lions before the cab picked us up. They were so cute, although it was a hot day so they were less playful than usual. I can't wait to show everyone the pictures from Sea View. It was such an amazing start to what continued to be a great day!
The cab picked us up and drove us close to the stadium. Although the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth is significantly smaller than the one in Cape Town, the architecture is absolutely stunning. Dave and I were both supporting the Netherlands against Brazil. There was decent support for both teams, but Brazil was definitely the more represented judging by the amount of yellow and green in the crowd. It was one of the best games of the World Cup so far and I felt so lucky to be seeing such talented teams. Brazil scored first and looked very strong at the end of the first half. During the second half, however, Netherlands really began to dominate the game. After an own goal from a Brazilian player, the momentum switched dramatically. The Netherlands grabbed another goal shortly after, and from there on out it never looked like Brazil were threatening to score a second.
I wish that I could put into words how amazing Friday was. Between the animal park and the game it was one of the greatest days ever. The bus ride back seemed to go by a little quicker since I was able to get about eight hours of sleep. For Dave it went even quicker since he slept from the moment we got on the bus until I woke him up at the station at Cape Town, a solid 12 hours.
Saturday was another great day. Dave and I met the others at Cape Town station to head to the game between Germany and Argentina. I was the lone German supporter in the group, as most of them were pretty certain that Argentina was the best team in the cup. I knew better. The Germans looked absolutely dominant throughout the game. They played the highest quality soccer that I've ever seen in my life. It was an absolute pleasure to watch how well they possessed the ball and moved off of the ball. They are definitely the most sound tactical and technical team in the tournament. I would love to see Spain beat them in the semis after their close win over Paraguay Saturday night, but the Germans definitely look better thus far. The Germans managed to net four goals against Argentina as they put up a shutout against the team who had scored the most goals in the tournament to this point. I think it is worth mentioning that I witnessed 18 goals at the five games I attended in South Africa, an average of over three per game.
The semifinals are now set, with Uruguay and Netherlands playing in Cape Town, and Spain and Germany playing in Durban. Only four games left counting the 3rd/4th place match. Plenty of excitement left, although we do not have any tickets for the final games. There are two days off before the semis start, so today we will hang out in Fish Hoek as Dave and I recover from our big weekend. Today is the fourth of July so we're going to have a barbeque. Dave and Jamaica's friend Tamz, from Australia, is also going to stay with us for a few days, so Dave and I are roomies until she leaves. I'm really looking forward to the barbeque today, as it will be a little celebration to remind us of home.