Greetings from Port Elizabeth!
By plane, train and automobile, I’ve made it to South Africa’s “Windy City”.
Whenever I go away with Wales, I seem to encounter one of those, whether it’s Wellington in New Zealand, Perth in Australia or Chicago in the USA.
I can confirm, having taken a morning constitutional along the beach-front opposite my hotel, that Port Elizabeth lives up to its name!
This is my ninth time covering a Wales rugby tour and my third trip to South Africa with them, but it’s my first visit to the Eastern Cape.
The seaport of Port Elizabeth stretches for some 16 kilometres along Algoa Bay, with the city having a population of around 312,000, making it the country’s fifth biggest.
It’s the home of the Eastern Province Kings, who provide the opposition for Wales in tonight’s tour opener at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Overlooking the North End Lake, at the heart of the city, the 48,000-capacity arena was one of three coastal stadiums built for the 2010 football World Cup.
Having hosted the event four years ago, there’s huge disappointment over here that Bafana Bafana – as the South African football team are known – have failed to make this summer’s tournament in Brazil.
But it does mean that rugby – and the visit of Wales – is taking centre stage in the media.
In fact, tonight’s match features prominently on the front page of the local daily Afrikaans-language newspaper Die Burger.
As someone has pointed out to me on Twitter, even the newspapers have aggressive sounding names over here! But the title actually translates as The Citizen.
Either way, the arrival in town of Wales – or Wallis to be precise – is big news.
Under a front page headline which translates as “Kings want to make their name against Wales this evening” there’s a picture of No 8 Dan Baker arriving at the airport.
And the game is also the main story on the back page, with further articles inside focussing on Saturday’s first Test in Durban.
This is a country that loves its rugby.
The main contingent of travelling support will doubtless arrive in time for the Test series opener up the coast in Durban this weekend, but I can confirm there are some Welsh fans in town for tonight’s game.
There were three of them on the same plane as me from Heathrow to Johannesburg.
Arriving at O. R. Tambo International Airport after an 11 hour flight and with a lengthy wait for the connection to Port Elizabeth lying ahead, their eyes lit up with delight when they discovered the airport bar was open.
So in they went for their first pint of the day. I looked at my watch. It was 7.15am British time. Welsh boys on tour, you’ve got to love them!
Heading for South Africa has meant I’ve been able to leave Welsh rugby politics behind me for a little while – or at least so I thought.
On the short journey from Port Elizabeth Airport into town, I found myself travelling down Moffett Expressway!
And when I got into my hotel and switched on my phone, I was besieged with a volley of text messages informing me that Mr Moffett had declared he would be heading home to New Zealand before Sunday’s EGM.
Then I receive further information that we could finally be on the brink of a peace deal between the WRU and the regions.
I turn my back on Welsh rugby for two minutes and look what happens!
Small world time.
I travel all the way down to the tip of South Africa and I find myself staying in a hotel with strong Welsh connections.
Apparently, Kelway is an old Welsh name that has been passed down from generation to generation, to all the children in the Tanner family, who own the Kelway Hotel.
Looking out from my hotel balcony, the view isn’t too typically Welsh however, with palm trees and the waves crashing in from the Indian Ocean.
Even though it’s winter over here, it’s like a pleasant summer’s day back home. The sun is out and there were even a few intrepid surfers out in the water this morning.
All a bit different from the view from my bedroom window back home. Not too many palm trees in Llandaff North!
As ever, my Twitter feed has been in overdrive since arriving, with people seeking my opinions on the Welsh tour and other issues!
There have also been a few requests.
Cory Allen’s mum has been in touch to ask me to give her boy a big hug from her!
I’m not sure how that would go down with Cory or the other lads, so I will probably settle for a firm handshake.
As well as the Windy City, Port Elizabeth is also known as the Friendly City and my initial findings are that it lives up to that title as well.
People couldn’t have been any more welcoming in fact. I even got a slice or birthday cake from the adjoining table at dinner last night. Happy birthday Matthew!
And, for now, that’s all from your African correspondent. It’s fingers crossed now for tonight’s game.
EXCLUSIVE in the app today: The key things Wales must do to beat the Springboks