Merrick’s failed to take enough malaria tabs and is jumping away from mosquitos. He says one in five has the disease.
There must be six in every cubic metre of air at the portside and he’s been twitchy his whole 48 hours here.
We’re 30 km north of the city, ploughing down furrows of thousand-ton boats, nipping in and out of shipping company offices, explaining The Thumb’s plight.
The Africa World Cup started today and S.A. is the new centre of the world.
Lucky for us.
I blag and bluster past security guards into teak-panelled offices with heavy leather swivel chairs to present The Thumb’s case for a lift south by sea.
Soon learn cargo ships don’t take passengers under normal circumstances – the last being Michael Palin 15 years ago (and he had the clout of the BBC behind him).
Then we meet Caroline, a graceful Brit who runs a shipping outfit here.
She promises to pull a few strings and invites The Thumb to a World Cup launch party tonight in local sports bar Champs.
The Thumb is certainly grateful as it retires to the car of its new friend Sam, a Ghanaian who’s taken pity and given us a lift around the docks.
We try to film a little piece to camera to explain the day’s mission when we’re interrupted by the arrival of a £100,000 Bentley Continental.
The window glides down noiselessly. A hand summons Sam.
The bead of sweat gathering at his temple suggests he is suddenly feeling the heat of the day as he leans in to speak.
His face re-emerges.
“Best not to film here,” he explains. “The nice man has asked we move along.”
Turns out the Bentley owner is a local gangster with specialties in people smuggling and drugs.
The Thumb knows there is no sense pushing its luck today. England play USA tomorrow. The clock ticks ever louder…