The road less traveled

After the South Africa game we had to focus all our energy and meticulous planning capabilities on the journey from Bloemfontein to Port Elizabeth for the next day. It looked like roughly a 9 hour drive (we’d heard everything from 5 to 12 hours from locals we had asked) and it was a 4 o’clock kick off so we’d need to be sensible today. Unfortunately an afternoon of drinking beer in the sun followed by an evening of drinking beer and Jagermeister severely curtails one’s sensible gene.

When the shrill sound of the alarm went off at 4:30am Richard and I took the only sensible decision, roll over and go back to sleep. Luckily Kieran is made of sterner stuff and replete with 3 monumental hangovers we left at about 6am.

We had maps, duplicate GPS, printed out directions and the address of the hotel in Port Elizabeth. We were set. The scenery was great. Of course when you travel over 700km you have the change to see various scenery but the scenery was great. For the first few hours we hardly saw any traffic (hence the Robert Frost reference) just eerie fog, mountain passes, tundra like landscape and monkeys by the side of the road. As we got further along though we ran into more and fans driving across the country and finally we descended from the mountains onto the coastal plain & beaches by the Indian Ocean.

We were a bit wearly having been driving since 6am but when we arrived at Port Elizabeth (about 2pm), we were confident everything was Ok. Then things started going wrong….

We followed the GPS co-ordinates to the tee quite literally, as it directed us to a golf course in town with clearly no hotels in site. No problem, there are sometimes mistakes with map data but we know the name of the hotel and the address so we’ll just look at the map. It was on Marine Drive, so shortly  we arrived at Marine Drive in Port Elizabeth.

What a lovely area and lovely town. It was a part of town called Summerstrand. Beaches, piers, boardwalks, loads of hotels, bars etc. and absolutely teeming with England fans in town for the Slovenia game. Time now 2:30m. Getting tight for a shower before the game but no big problem.

A quick aside to introduce my 2 travelling companions. Richard, def a type A character, likes everything to be planned several months in advance and is not so keen on deviations from agreed plans. Kieran and I on the other hand are more of the ‘go with the flow’ school and quite happy to make new plans as things evolve.

After fruitlessly driving up and down Marine Drive for 20 mins, Richard’s blood pressure is certainly looking elevated. Kieran and I are opting for just parking the car, go to the game first and worry about the hotel later.

In a compromise we stop at a Radisson Hotel to ask the concierge there for help. They were very helpful but had absolutely no idea where Whalesong Coastal Lodge was. No problem we’ll call Directory Enquiries and sort this out once and for all.

Got the number, called Whalesong Coastal Lodge. Transcript roughly as follows:

Me – is that Whalesong Coastal Lodge ?

Them – yes

Me – do you have a reservation for Mr Long (Richard) for today ?

Them – let me check, er yes

Me – we’re having trouble finding you, could you please confirm your address

Them – Marine Drive, Plettensburg Bay

Me – we’re at Summerstrand, is that close ?

Them – never heard of Summerstrand, where’s that ?

Me – you are in Port Elizabeth, aren’t you ?

Them – (looong pause) – no sir, we’re half way along the coast from Port Elizabeth on the way to Cape Town. 

Realisation kicks in. The hotel we have booked is 400km away ! 

Time now 3pm, one hour before kickoff. After initially collapsing on the floor laughing at Richard’s face as he realised the futility of our situation we agree to go the game first & then sort out a hotel later.

The game itself was great, England played pretty well and we qualified. We still didn’t have anywhere to stay for the night though and by the time we got back to the car park it was about 8pm. 

Walked along the beach strip, knocking on every door asking if they have a room. The only problem was it was prob the busiest night in Port Elizabeth’s history as EVERY England fan in South Africa was there. Felt like Joseph & Mary trying to find a place to stay in Bethlehem…

After an hour of absolutely no joy we went back to our new best friend, the concierge at the Radisson. He honestly called about 30 places to no avail but then we started to trawl the net wider. He eventually found a room for us in Grahamstown which looked pretty close on the map and was almost on the way back to Joburg (tomorrow’s 12 hour drive)

We set off and quickly found out that the place our concierge had found us was actually 160km (100 miles away). Can’t even remember what time we arrived. It was certainly after 10pm.

Having been on the road for about 11 hours we were shattered.

So all the congratulatory texts, emails and messages about the amazing night on the tiles we must be having in Port Elizabeth with all the joyous England fans were somewhat in vain. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow. At least England had won which just about made it worth it.

Certainly when we found out that our next opponents would be Germany, the day’s travails paled into insignificance as we licked our lips in anticipation…

 

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One Comment on “The road less traveled”


  1. Hiya – I know I’m a bit late on commenting on this one, but love your writeup! I run South Africa Travel Online, and we’re busy with a project to uncover the best blog post on each route in South Africa, and are happy to say we’ve chosen yours for one. We’ve linked to this post from our Bloemfontein to Port Elizabeth page. Glad you enjoyed our country 🙂 Rob


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