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Bedding in at base camp

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James Pearce | 07:31 UK time, Thursday, 3 June 2010

As one of the first of the BBC's World Cup sports correspondents to arrive in South Africa, I'm part of the advance party that touched down on 1 June, although anybody who follows me on Twitter will know that I only got here after a rather eventful flight - a fire broke out in one of the plane's engines while it was heading onto the runway at Heathrow.

Everybody on board was fine, but I was bombarded with messages from people asking if I thought that this was an omen for England's World Cup hopes also "going up in flames".

Well, I don't believe that England coach Fabio Capello is one who worries about omens. He prefers to concentrate on meticulous preparation - and after a couple of days in England's base city of Rustenburg, I've already seen the benefits of some of that planning.

It's easy to see why Capello was keen to stay in Rustenburg. First, of course, it's the venue for his team's first match, against the United States, so travelling is reduced.

There's also the advantage of being able to stay at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Campus, which has accomodation and training facilities on the same site.

Add in to all that the benefits of training at altitude, as well as the lack of WAG-friendly hotels and shopping nearby, and you can see why there was a compelling argument for the Football Association to choose Rustenburg.

I'm going to be following the England team in South Africa for as long as they remain in the tournament. That means that when I checked into my hotel I did so for 42 nights.

I've rarely checked into a hotel for five nights, let alone 42, so you'll understand why I have more than a passing interest in Rustenburg and its environs. It could be my home for six weeks. So far I'm happy to report that I've liked what I've seen.

I hope that the locals here, my new neighbours, won't be too offended if I say that Rustenburg isn't one of the first places to which a tourist to South Africa is likely to head.

ground595getty.jpgThe Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg hosts England's opening match against the US

The truth is that there isn't much here. The area is best known for platinum mining - 76% of the world's platinum is mined here. Interesting, yes, but not quite Table Mountain or the Kruger National Park.

But that's not to say that the area doesn't have character. It does. Some of the scenery is stunning and the welcome that I've been given could hardly have been more friendly.

All in all, it's perfect for a team trying to win the World Cup. A pleasant place to stay that doesn't have many distractions.

The distractions that do exist are not necessarily those to which the England players will be accustomed. For example, the first night at my hotel I was fast asleep when I was woken by a loud noise at 2am.

We've all read the scare stories about security in South Africa, so I quickly decided somebody was trying to break into my room.

I sat up in bed, trying to remain as calm as I could, but deep down beginning to panic a little. Then it suddenly dawned on me what was happening. Nobody was trying to break into my room. It was the monkeys that I'd seen earlier in the evening.

They were jumping over the roof and next to one of my windows. This was the best of South African wildlife making itself known, not the worst of its society.

The incident reminded me not to jump to conclusions too quickly, advice I would pass on to all those lucky enough to be coming here for the World Cup.

Travel here with an open mind. The South Africans are determined to put on a show to remember. I'm confident that they'll succeed.

Finally, while we're on the subject of advice, here's something that the hundreds of thousands of tourists heading this way would do well not to ignore. Don't travel light!

Bring your T-shirts and sun cream, but also bring a thick coat. I've never been anywhere with such contrasting temperatures.

In the daytime, the sun is so strong you'll find yourself seeking shelter. But once it starts to go down, so does the thermometer - quickly and dramatically. It seems temperatures can plummet around 20 degrees in the space of an hour. You've been warned.

Let's hope that the players have as well. If one of them catches a cold we'll no doubt be told that that's yet another bad omen!


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