Trekking, trucking fans make it to Cup the hard way

Fri Jun 11, 2010 8:09am EDT
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By Ed Cropley

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - For most soccer fans, the journey to the World Cup will be no more eventful than a taxi to the airport and a touch of turbulence on the long-haul flight to South Africa.

For an adventurous few, however, it will be the ultimate road-trip -- an epic ride from Africa's top to toe, with big game, stunning scenery and a glimpse into the soul of a continent along the way.

"Africa is like beauty and the beast," Dutch fan Maurits Rodermond, part of a 22-vehicle convoy that left Amsterdam 10 weeks ago, told Reuters by telephone from the South Africa-Botswana border near the final leg of the odyssey.

"It's unbelievably beautiful but it also has a dangerous side. It makes you realize -- you live more in Africa."

The harsh realities of the poorest continent hit hard in Malawi, the eighth African country on Rodermond's "Oranje Trophy" tour itinerary, when a 60-year-old member of their 100-strong group drowned while swimming in a lake.

The tragedy was the worst but not the only setback as shattering roads, especially between Ethiopia and Kenya, took their toll on everything from brand new Toyota Land Cruisers to a 1975 Volkswagen Beetle.

"All of our vehicles broke down but they all made it in one piece in the end," he said.

MAGIC THUMB   Continued...