South Africa Tour 2015/16
Back to South Africa
The highlight of the winter approaches and our Editor has misguidedly let me loose on a ‘preview’ of the upcoming South African cricket tour.
In the company of Lofty for the whole tour (followed by a call to the Samaritans, probably!) and numerous other Addis Army pals, I will be attending all the Test matches plus the warm-up game in Pietermaritzburg and a couple of the one-dayers.
South Africa is an experience. I would not go so far as to say it is the best tour of the bunch, but it would definitely feature in my top three away countries to visit.
My last trip there in 2009, when I was accompanied for most of the time by the admirable Tremers, has left some indelible memories.
Our first port of call in November was Durban, ostensibly to take in some one day cricket – however rather unluckily for us, it rained solidly for about two weeks.
However staying with Tremers’friends Dave and Penny as we were and enjoying great hospitality, no great negative impact on the trip.
Our first weeks were spent driving around researching the local pubs and bars and the first positive aspect I can guarantee this time is that unlike the UAE, in 2015/16, South Africa will be rather cheap.
On our last visit, there were 13 rand to the pound and at the moment the magic number is nearer to 20.
Suffice it to say that even disregarding the exchange rate, eating out and drinking is ridiculously cheap almost everywhere.
From Durban we ventured onto the road in our trusty hire car down the ‘Wild’ East Coast and after various misadventures we ended up in East London, where England were playing a four-day warm up game against a South African XI.
Only about six England fans were present here including Bury Phil, Will, and ourselves.
Outnumbered by the England players!
Despite its complete lack of warm, overpriced beer, inept International Rugby Union teams, and rip-off cricket grounds where England seem incapable of recording a win, incredibly East London is an even more depressing place than its British namesake – which presumably this African city was named after.
We had been amply warned.
Even ‘Lonely Planet’ gave this place a big thumbs down:
“A strange, inescapable malaise hangs over the town.”
and, even more alarmingly, “The eastern end of Eastern beach and the area around Nahoon River mouth are not considered safe to walk on. Take care on the Esplanade and get a taxi home from anywhere in East London after dark. Watch out for pickpockets if you end up in the area around Buffalo St and the minibus taxi ranks.”
Sounds to me that you were likely to get mugged either way you tried to get home.
Tremers compounded my misery in East London.
Attracted no doubt by the £10 per night price tag, he booked us into the Sugar Shack Backpackers, smack bang on Eastern Beach, where our accommodation consisted of a wooden Wendy house with two bunk beds inside, perched precariously upon a sand dune.
The steps up to the Wendy house were difficult to negotiate especially after twenty pints of cider and on at least one occasion Tremers had to provide assistance.
Our Wendy house was already inhabited by ‘squatters’ – bed bugs and lethal insects of every variety were waiting to pounce every night when I tried to get my head down, and I accrued so many bites that by the end of the week I felt and looked as though I had vacationed in an anthill.
On meeting Ashley Giles at the cricket ground he took one look at my collection of bites and pronounced:
“Insect bites? – looks more like f*cking leprosy to me!”
We managed to leave East London with our wallets intact, although the local prostitutes tried very hard to relieve us (in more ways than one) each morning as we walked through the park to the cricket ground.
I can see why Doctor Livingstone chose to live in a nondescript mud hut in the middle of the jungle, which would have been infinitely preferable to this place.
Thankfully, England fans will not be on the menu at Buffalo Park on this tour!
A mind-blowing drive north via Kimberley and Bloemfontein followed on our way to the First Test at Centurion, which was notable for six main reasons:
1. Graham Onions batting out for the draw to save the match for England.
2. The debut of the “Swann will tear you apart” song – the proud creation of the writer whilst under the influence of Castle Lager via his fond memories of the Stretford End.
3. Free beer for the first time ever at a cricket match, courtesy of Makhaya Ntini, celebrating his 100th Test. A couple of pints here with PC Tintin!
4. Being bitten by a poisonous spider whilst out for the count on the grass bank.
5. The subsequent visit to a non-NHS hospital and the eye-watering bill for services rendered.
6. The driving antics of our good pal Wycombe, which are too incredulously funny to be featured here – I haven’t been allowed enough words to do the subject justice.
7. On the road again after Centurion and this time to the spectacular Blyde River Canyon, also taking in the Boer War battlegrounds of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift via a day-long guided tour. All three activities highly recommended.
Back to dangerous old Durban next for the Boxing Day Test. This is possibly the only city that I have visited several times which has become progressively more edgy with each passing year.
Here we were treated to that rare event, an superb England away win, although this was preceded by some very poor crowd behaviour within the stadium including a dastardly drunken Boer assault on the Barmy Army’s then mascot, a certain Mr Savile.
The said Mr Savile was subsequently also mugged outside his hotel as I understand it, which may give the reader some insight as to why we will not be staying in Durban, but nearby Umhlanga in 2015.
We celebrated England’s victory at the Banana Backpackers bar in Central Durban, which was staffed during the afternoon by the female workers from ‘Red Sonja’s’ Massage Parlour and Escort Agency next door. Must be a long day, but I suppose the girls might get a chance to lie down at night.
On to Cape Town and Camps Bay in particular for one of the best New Years parties in history, where about ten Addis Army members enjoyed a three course meal with countless bottles of beer and wine for about thirty quid each.
The Test match was remembered for Graham Onions saving our bacon once again and batting out the last few overs to earn England the draw.
We had rented a villa in Camps Bay for the duration unaware that the next door property was occupied by a Cape Town gangsta, who threatened me with all sorts of harm when I complained about the noise level emanating from his outdoor speaker stack which was inconsiderately placed adjacent to my room. Luckily for me, Mrs Blade to the rescue, and she duly sent gangsta boy packing.
In truth the fourth and final Test was an anticlimax with England being heavily beaten, although the journey from Cape Town in the south to Johannesburg in the north provided many more opportunities for misadventure, usually involving Wycombe.
Care is required in Johannesburg.
The impression I gained was that most people live behind fences or have other security arrangements, although Soweto now appears to be quite a tame tourist hot spot these days and we enjoyed our escorted visit there.
Sandton district is probably one of the safest areas and it is here that we will be staying in 2016.
A couple of tips to finish with.
If you are going to Cape Town for the first time, you will undoubtedly wish to visit the summit of Table Mountain. Make sure you book tickets for the cable car on line beforehand, as this will save at least 50% queuing time – which is normally considerable.
If you are hiring a car, make sure you take care when using your credit card to pay, as my card details were used spuriously later that week to try to buy mobile phones in Harare, Zimbabwe! I can only assume that the details were picked up by some Herbert listening to our negotiations in the Budget Car Hire Office in Capetown. Sorry about the bad plug, Budget.
When driving, whilst roads are mainly good, do not stop to assist anyone you do not know.
Sounds callous, but self-preservation is the byword here.
If after reading the nonsense above your appetite has been whetted, further more detailed stories and scandals from this tour are accessible in the Addis Army publication “England’s Secret Army.” This, unsurprisingly, is not stocked by any good book shops, but is still available on Amazon for £9-99!
At the time of writing the following Addis Army members are confirmed for at least part of the tour, in addition to myself and Lofty;
Freddie, Tremers, Mr & Mrs Blade and Thomas Blade, Higgy, Wormsley James, Five-0, Greavsie, Wycombe, Sober Nick, Robbo, Nigel and Helen, Redcar Derek, Posh Margaret, Bob, and no doubt most of their Howzat gang. I’m sure there will in due course be many more so if I have omitted your name, apologies and please drop us line to advise.
Great memories then of our last trip to South Africa in 2009 which are already raising my excitement levels about the forthcoming trip, so if you are still undecided about whether to go, please take the plunge and rush off to get it booked!