Mel Thunderbolt | New Zealand Rugby World Cup 2011
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New Zealand Rugby World Cup 2011

I am sitting near a lovely warm fire at Matt’s house in Wellington, New Zealand.  My iPhone gives the temperature outside as 6 degrees.  6 Degrees!!!  I noticed today that my brown island tan has given way to a purple-blue hue from the cold.

Matt’s house is on the mountain edge overlooking Cook Straight in Plimmerton.  His family’s beautiful wooden house has the most amazing ocean and sunset views.  New Zealand is lush green and mountainous and you are never far from the sea.  It is clean.  (Coming from Johannesburg, it is something I notice.)  The people are friendly and are as crazy about the Rugby as I am.

I left Kiribati almost two weeks ago, and spent three days in Fiji.  I was a bit shell-shocked upon arrival.  There was so much going on. There were other tourists and back packers, there were hamburgers, there were tour packages.  It felt amazing to be back in society again.  I cannot wait for Mark to see it, he will faint with excitement for all the surfing options. I had a bit of trouble when flying into New Zealand.

I had forgotten to obtain Matt’s physical address before arriving in Wellington, and Matt had flown in the day before.  All I knew was that he was collecting me from the airport.

I raised alarm bells going through the immigration, when I did not know where I was staying.  Furthermore, the previous day, Matt had almost missed his flight from Fiji and had left a few shoes, shirts, toiletries and other random things behind – which I had to carry.  So, when the officials searched my bag, they found men’s shirts and shoes.  A second alarm bell was raised.  When they looked through my passport, they noticed many entry and exit stamps through Tunisia, Philippines, Kiribati etc. and so therefore sent me to the Drug testing department.

I was given a long speech of “If you have taken or touched drugs, it will show on your possessions and the machine will sound an alarm – YOU WILL BE DETAINED”.  Now, let me make this clear.  I have not taken ANY drugs, but when someone is about 30cm away from your face, giving you that look, there is a tiny bit of unrecognizable doubt.  I felt like I was on the T.V show” Airport” as they swabbed everything in my bag, including toothbrushes and put the swabs in their magical drug-testing machine.  My heart was pounding… BEEP!

Oh, My Word…. I was just about to make a run for it when the officer gave me a big smile and said I was clear to go.  They had also gone to meet Matt on the other side to see if he was legit.

Matt and I flew up to Auckland and instead of flying back to Wellington on the Thursday, we extended our flights until the Saturday so that we could be part of the exciting Rugby World Cup Opening Festivities in the streets of Auckland.

It was absolute mayhem.  The streets were jam-packed with people dressed in their country flags, chanting their team songs, dancers, big screens, you name it.  The vibe was ecstatic.  It was an exciting chaos and I am glad that we can say we were part of it.  We literally could not move in the streets while watching the fireworks, and many people were having panic attacks and were struggling to get out of the crowds.

Sunday evening, Matt and I attended the South Africa vs. Wales rugby game in Wellington.  I proudly wore my South African flag as a cape.  There were so many supporters, and that is what I love about Rugby compared to Football.  Everyone is friendly and a playful banter is given to opposing team supporters – it is a gentleman’s game after all as opposed to football where supporters have to enter stadiums and bars at different sides to avoid the fighting.

S.A just beat Wales with the final score of 17/16, which was far too close for my liking.  I was on the edge of my seat the entire game.  Hopefully that close call will wake up the South African team so they are ready to take on Fiji on Saturday.

Lucky to find a seat

I do miss my crewmates back on Ice in Tarawa, and I am hoping to hear good news about the arrival of parts soon.  Holding thumbs for you guys (The South African version of crossing fingers).

Take care everyone, Mel

Melissa Van Der Walt