Most visitors to South Africa this month are in the country for the World Cup, and between football (soccer) games are getting in some sightseeing.
Chad Coleman is from Portland, Maine, in the northeast corner of the United States. He works as a car painter in a body shop and took three weeks vacation to travel to South Africa with two friends.
They wanted to see sites around the entire country, but planned their trip close to the period of the World Cup because they wanted to experience at least a few days of the excitement.
They rented a small car, a GPS system to provide directions and traveled from Johannesburg, northeast to Nelspruit, over to Durban on the east coast, then southwest for stops including Port Elizabeth, George, Cape Town, and then back north to Johannesburg. Among their adventures were a safari to see the wildlife, going to the highest commercial bungee jumping spot in the world, viewing great white sharks in a protective cage and touring a winery.
Because they wanted to be as flexible as possible, Coleman said they primarily found places to stay as they went from city to city, mostly in hostels and bed-and-breakfasts.
Just before leaving the United States for South Africa, Coleman went on the Internet to see if by chance he could find any tickets for sale for the opening match between South Africa and Mexico.
He did, but they were the top-priced, Category 1 tickets, in the 10th row right behind the South African team bench. Coleman said they were $600 dollars each, but to buy them you also had to pay for three nights in a hotel in Johannesburg, which was an additional $200 per night. His friends agreed with him that they should do it.
So, was it worth it?
"Oh, of course. I mean I am from New England and I see the (Boston) Red Sox (baseball team) on a regular basis. I have paid more than that for Red Sox tickets for OK (non-playoff) games. We have actually commented on how inexpensive our opening game tickets were for what we were seeing and the excitement around it,"says Coleman.
Coleman told VOA what it was like being at the opening match. "Everybody was rooting for South Africa. Everybody wanted them to win. (It was) just amazing, louder than any sporting event in the United States I have ever been to. The vuvuzelas were amazingly loud. We had our own. The excitement when everything was going on was just crazy. You could not even explain how excited everybody was and how proud everybody felt," he says.
Chad Coleman said he and his two companions bought their own vuvuzelas, the long, noisy plastic horns that are so popular in South Africa. They purchased them from a vendor near Soccer City Stadium, paying only about $1 each. Coleman said someone showed them how to blow them because it is a bit tricky. "Everybody that first tries them looks like they are just spitting into them, because you expect it to just naturally happen. But it takes a little bit of shaping of your mouth actually to get it to make the noise and get it to work out. But once you do, it is kind of addicting," he says.
But Coleman added this precaution with vuvuzelas. "We did it through the whole game, so much so that my friend actually wore a spot out of his lip. It was bleeding and he got a scab because he used it so much. He was so excited to be using it constantly," he says.
While they may have paid only $1 for their vuvuzelas, Chad Coleman said he and his two friends noticed a huge change in other costs once they returned to Johannesburg for the start of the World Cup. "When we got here we were finding hostels from anywhere between 150 and 250 rand (approx $21 to $35) per night, changing until anything after the 12th (of June) was going to go to 650 to 750 rand (approx $93 to $107)," he says.
But Coleman added it is not just the lodging costs that are now higher. "Even the people that were running the tours for Kruger National Park (where you see wildlife) were explaining to us that their costs have to go up because the companies that rent them their Jeeps are going to charge more. The National Park is going to charge 100 rand ($14) more per person entering the Park. So everybody across the board has been charging more, even down to drinks as we came closer to the World Cup, paying from eight rand per drink (just more than $1) up until now paying 15 to 20 rand per drink (more than $2 to $3)," he says.
Chad Coleman says he and others he has talked with have commented on how much the cost to hire taxis has increased now that the World Cup is under way, with prices often triple the norm.
So he and his friends are happy they did the bulk of their touring before all the football action began. They will watch the rest of the World Cup in the comfort of their homes when they arrive back in the United States on Tuesday.