We had an early start on Tuesday. Attending our first match in Rustenburg required a morning of travel. Rustenburg is approximately two hours away from Johannesburg and, before we left, I purchased tickets on FIFA’s city-to-city fan busses. Because she’s really awesome (or maybe because she feels guilty about the whole hotel-burning-down ordeal) Jackie volunteered to take us to the bus station. Our bus was scheduled to leave just after 10:00 am; she dropped us off around 9:30 am.
If I’m being honest, I’m still not exactly sure how we managed to get on a bus and get to Rustenburg. It was that disorganized. Give your ticket to that woman over there. See that man standing by the wall? Get a wristband from him. Stand around. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait.
It was well past 11:00 when the bus finally showed up.
We joke about Africa time, but it is definitely a reality of life here. Things aren’t to the minute and people don’t live and die by the clock.
But the bus eventually showed up and we squeezed in with a bunch of passionate Mexican fans, along with the odd Uruguay fan scattered here and there.
The night before, we’d been warned about the trip to Rustenburg. Expect slow and expect long, we were told. And, by all means, when your bus stops at the gas station before you get to the stadium? Get out! Get out. Get food. Get drinks. Because it is your last chance.
At a gas station.
The problem with Rustenburg is that there are only two ways to get to town and both of them are simple two lane highways. It made for a very long trip. What takes two hours in optimal driving conditions took almost four. We arrived at 3:35 pm for the 4:00 pm match.
Mexico largely dominated the match but lost, 1-0. Mexico’s fans seemed to be the majority in the crowd and they were a little intense. After halftime, we were walking up to our seats and one Mexico fan looks at us and exclaims “you’re not Mexican!”
No kidding, bro.
After the game, we went straight back to the bus. It was a little after 6:00 pm, which was somewhat alarming because our bus driver definitely told us, upon arrival, that the bus was leaving at 7:30 pm. But Rustenburg’s stadium is in the absolute middle of nowhere. There isn’t any single place to go for a drink or shop for souvenirs or otherwise kill time. (Unless you wanted to invite yourself over to a family’s tiny tin home, I suppose. And that would be rude.)
So we sat on the bus. Waited. Waited. Waited. Waited. AGAIN. Finally, the bus was full and all of the sad Mexicans (and the occasional elated Uruguayan) were accounted for. Except two.
We would leave, the bus driver said, if the two missing passengers hadn’t returned by 8:30 pm.
They showed up. All of the Mexicans sang a song to the latecomers as they climbed onto the bus, teasing them for being late. I just wanted to cry tears of joy.
We slept, fitfully and uncomfortably, for most of the ride back. The driver didn’t have the air conditioning on, so the bus was stuffy in addition to being cramped and so, so slow. The infamous single road leading out of Rustenburg was backed up most of the way. It was not a pleasant trip.
But it got us where we needed to go. And it got us back. We arrived in Sandton just after 10:30 pm and we rushed over to Nelson Mandela Square to find a restaurant that was still serving dinner. Not surprisingly, our outlook on the day was a bit rosier after we had had a meal.
We survived the trip to Rustenburg!
And we’re going back on Saturday.