The unluckiest man in the world ?

Some people show true dedication & fight adversity to get to and stay at the World Cup. A quick mention therefore to Richard, a good friend and one of our travelling party.

Richard lives in LA and flew here via London so that’s a good 2 day journey each way anyway. He was excited though both by the prospect of the football but also a safari to Kruger Park that he had arranged with Kieran and family (the rest of our party).

Now Richard is the true embodiment of Inspector Gadget. If there’s a toy or piece of hardware out there, he has to have it and has to have the best one. He’s one of the 12 remaining people on the planet who bought a DAT player when that was the next big thing in Hi-Fi. He also, truth be told, is a bit of a control freak and has to have GPS directions working just to go down to breakfast.

So kitted out with the latest, greatest technology Richard arrived in South Africa. The first problem encountered was he lost his personally engraved, present from his wife i-Pod. I suppose in all fairness it would be more accurate to say that Kieran and I lost it for him because we left it in the rental car that we returned to Hertz at Joburg airport.

We were actually upgrading our car having only being able to get a Chevy Aveo to start with. A Chevy Aveo may be Ok for pottering round town in but we were driving stretches of up to 1,100km at a time. The Aveo is basically a mechanised lawnmower with a plastic chassis over the top of it to disguise it as a car. Once / if you get above 40mph it starts whining like those damn vuvuzelas. Most of the highways in South Africa are single carriageway so you are forever overtaking. The strategy in the Aveo for overtaking was to get to the top of the hill & just when you started on the downhill stretch, all lean forward at exactly the same moment. This was our turbo.

Anyway, enough about driving. Richard still had the rest of his gadgets intact including his trusty Blackberry which is surgically attached to his arm. Even I don’t care for his habit of doing GPS  AND texting AND driving simultaneously, one handed at 160kmh (100mph). Technology of course is not infallible as his GPS had directed us faultlessly to the wrong place in Port Elizabeth due to incorrect map data.

Esther 2.8…and so it came to pass that Richard’s Blackberry did bear false witness and did stop working. This was a hammer blow for poor Richard. No GPS, no texts, no email (although of course he still had his top of the range laptop to use when we could eventually find any wi-fi).

His mood darkened but he still had his top of the range camera to fall back on with a seperate add on jumbo lens that probably cost more than I’ve ever spent on cameras in my entire life. Now I know what you’re thinking, surely his camera couldn’t get lost or broken as well. Surely no-one is that unlucky.

In fact the camera is in perfect shape as far as I know. The problem is to use a camera you need eyes and Richard had started to develop an eye infection. We all sympathetically told him to take 2 aspirin, drink a bottle of red wine and it’d be fine but it got steadily worse. Not only was the eye getting worse but he was getting an aversion to light, both sunlight and artificial light.

We went to see Brazil vs Chile at Ellis Park. Great game, great occasion but poor old Richard was in torture from the floodlights and assorted flashbulbs. He still took hundreds of photos but he was in a bad shape by now and the bus was coming to pick him for Kruger at 5:30 the next morning. My God, he’d even bought a special shirt to go on safari with, I didn’t know such a thing existed. Have never seen one of those down at Marks & Spencers.

Anyway, the alarm went at 4:30am and Richard had to decide whether he was up to an 8 hour drive on the bus to Kruger for a 3 day safari. There was the not insignificant detail that he’d already paid for the safari and this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. He took the sensible option though and we drove to the nearby 24 hour clinic.

They quickly diagnosed viral conjunctivitis, put some gooey anti-septic cream on the eye and told him to wear an eye patch for at least 24 hours. Now the bus to Kruger had left hours ago so the options were as follows:

a) don’t go to Kruger and stay in Joburg. This would offer the salivating prospect of attending Paraguay vs Japan but Richard had emotionally and financially invested quite a lot to get to Kruger

b) drive the rental car to Kruger to catch up the bus. This would normally be the obvious solution but he didn’t know the roads at all, of course had no GPS or even phone anymore, it would dark before he could get there even if he didn’t get lost and best of all he only had one eye working !

c) the perfect compromise – take a taxi. The Guest House had recommended a local operator called Swift Shuttles or something like that. They were willing to take Richard 8 hours there and the driver to return 8 hours back again. I won’t divulge the cost but suffice to say that if you’re saving for a deposit on a 4 bedroomed house, this would have paid for it several times over

When I said goodbye to Richard (I’m not going to Kruger) he said he was planning to try and sleep on the shuttle up there so his body could recover. I suspect though that he was probably rummaging through his assorted toys trying to build a Morse Code transmitter so that he could stay connected to the outside world.

Photo of Richard attached above with a rather fetching use of the airline eyepatch / mask thingy. Richard found this was the only way he could stay comfortable due to his light sensitivity issues but of course the downside in that strategy was that he kept on falling over everything.

Happy safari Richard, hope you get to see……something.

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