An Empty Coast

An Empty Coast
My latest novel

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Home

Mrs Blog and I arrive back home in Australia on Christmas Day. It's nice, of course, to be home, and to catch up with family and friends.

But...

We're already missing Africa. The first thing we did, after visiting our families, was to hit a camping store in Sydney and buy a new tent - a future replacement for the circus tent (so named because it has a big top and, according to Mrs B, a clown inhabits it).

Anyway, there may or may not be much blogging from now on. Australia means home, but it also means work - the day job, that is. We'll see how it goes.

In the meantime, we made a good new friend in Hannelie, from Perth, who's been posting on this blog, and has agreed to help me with my appalling Afrikaans spelling.

So, until the near future, happy New Year.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Ninja mice

If the vervet monkey is the pirate of African game parks - swinging in to pounce on his prey and rape, steal, pillage and plunder under the noses of his victims, then the African field mouse is the ninja.
 
Operating at night, in silence, they make their entry to unsuspecting caravans, tents and - in our case - Land Rovers.
 
There are precautions the wary safarist can take against monkeys and baboons - keep your food locked up in vehicles or boxes, leave nothing in a tent that might tempt a pirate, and even placing rubber snakes sometimes acts as a deterrant.
 
A Land Rover, however, is porous, as far as rodent security goes.  The floors, doors and internal roof of Tonka are bare metal - there are no carpets, soundproofing or space age insulating materials.  Where something pokes through from below - such as gear sticks (Tonka has four, if you count the high and low range levers, the overdrive and maingearbox) and the hand brake, there are holes in the floor.  Though we keep the windows and doors closed when we're away from the building, we have to open them to get stuff out - of course. It is at night, when Mrs B or my back is turned, or before the lumps of wood and rags are plugged in the more obvious holes in the bodywork, that the ninja strike.
 
We left Tonka in the care of doctor Roland the Land Rover surgeon during our recent visit to England and it was here, we suspect, that he was violated.  
 
While there was no food left in the truck there were, however, three long-forgotten tetra packs of long life milk, sitting up high in one of Tonka's internal shelves.  Big mistake.
 
We arrived from the airport, loaded our bags, said good bye to the good doctor for another year and set off back to the Kruger National Park.  When we arrived I noticed a strange smell and then saw that Mrs B's bag was covered in sticky white fluid.  Naturally, my first thought was of Monkey bodily fluids, but the pirates were nowhere in sight.
 
No, nothing humanoid or primate about this stain - it was UHT milk or, to be more accurate (there had been a heatwave while were away)... UHT cream cheese.
 
Mrs B began gagging.
 
I pulled out the three containers of coagulated steri milk and hurled them away from the truck.  I, too began gagging.  Each carton had been punctured by tiny teeth.  One, I noticed, had a mouse-sized hole chewed through the top.  Perhaps the tiny ninja had bathed in there - no doubt thinking long life milk was good for his silky little coat, or perhaps cute little complexion.  Little b*stard.
 
I have a new enemy.
 
War is declared...
 
The Kruger park is looking very fine at the moment, under sunny clear skies and the Shingwedzi Camp swimming pool beckons, as does Mr Castle (lager).
 
Good sightings yesterday of little baby lions, obscenely bloated sleeping male lions, rhino and elephant.  Despite the monkeys and the mice, neither Mrs B nor I want to go home.
 
No more blogging from this weekend as we are returning to Zimbabwe, land of no fuel, no food, no mobile phone service, no interent connection, no democracy.
 

Monday, December 11, 2006

A virtual safari...

Here are a few more reasons why we spend as much of our time in Africa as we can...






Land Rover gallery




As dedicated readers may recall, we've had a few little mechanical challenges with Tonka, the mighty Series III short wheelbase Land Rover. These have included: leaky fuel tank, broken gear lever (or is that stick?); and ongoing problems with banjo bolts (please don't ask) and the gear box, as a whole.

Being back in the land of Land Rover (the UK) has been nice, though. Amazingly, we picked up a copy of a land rover magazine (Land Rover Owner International) and were astonished (I believe Mrs B squealed) to see a picture of Tonka in it. The magazine's editor had been in the Kruger National Park on a junket and happened to see our distinctive (aka battered and dirty) baby parked up by the fence at Punda Maria camp. He snapped a pic for the pages of his mag dedicated to unusual sightings of land rovers around the world (no snide remarks, please - it is an excellent magazine).

Here are a couple of our pictures of Tonka, his improvised African gear lever (refer to earlier posts about shifting spanners and multi grips) and me attempting to repair the leaky fuel tank on a roadside in Mozambique.

Pictures - at last... perhaps


Testing, testing... with thanks to Bec and all her legion of fans - and to those of your unsolicited commentators... here is a pic of one of the pirates. This is Broken-Hand, one of the ring leaders. Awww... isn't he cute? (little b@stard).

Here's a couple of very nice (if we do say so ourselves) pics of leopards. The one of the leopard in the tree with the poor little baby impala was taken by Mrs B, and is all the more impressive given that she (and I) were hammered at the time, having enjoyed a four-hour lunch with our friends from Capte Town, who were visiting Kruger and invited us to have a meal with them at the luxury private game lode - Tinga Narina - of which they are part owners. I will be giving lots of shameless plugs in the future to Tinga, as it's going to feature in Book 5.

Monkey break

Mrs Blog and I have had a week's break from the monkeys (aka the pirates of Pretoriuskop), as well the sunshine and warmth of Africa. We've been in England.

We decided to break the Africa trip with a week in the UK to get some research done for book five. A good mate of mine is a police protection officer (don't call him a bodyguard or he might shoot you) and, as the lead character of book five happens to be an English protection officer, a trip to interview him (aka spend five nights on the booze) was always on the cards.

Of course, coming to England in December I knew it would be cold. I'm not that stupid, but why is it that I am always completely unprepared for just how miserable it will be over here in t'old country. Landing at Heathrow at five in the morning the captain told the flight "It's quite warm on the ground at Heathrow- 15 degrees centigrade". I strained to hear the faint chuckle, or note of sarcasm, but there was neither. He was serious - going on to add, however; "it may feel a bit cooler, though, thanks to the 40 knot wind - that's 43 miles per hour".

OMG (oh, my God), as the youth of today might say.

It was cold and it just got colder and colder. However, it was a profitable week and I got to meet a bunch of very nice people from Pan Macmillan UK, who will be publishing African Sky next week. Of course, I said nothing about cricket.

As I am in the British Airways lounge right now I will attempt to post some long over due pictures. Here goes.

(Please note, legion of fans, the above mention was not a shameless plug. I am very, very dissatisfied with British Airways right now. They have decided to allow all seats to be available for early reservation online - even the highly prized emergency exit row seats. This would be OK if we knew we could get online and try and book them in advance, but we were told in Joburg that the policy was to hold back exit row seats so that check-in staff could asses whether the passenger was fit and well enough to operate the exits in an emergency or - in my case - allocate them to exceptionally tall people. One thing my online bio does not mention is that I am abnormally tall - 6'6" or pretty close to 2 metres.

Very tall.

Very cranky.

I hope I get deep vein thrombosis as a result of being cramped in my cattle class seat, and cause lots of headaches for the BA PR people. You deserve it).

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Yo ho ho and bottle of jam

Another day, another daring raid on an unsuspecting campsite by the Pirate of Pretoriuskop (aka out resident band of limbless, moral-less, tail-less scavenging vervet monkies.
 
Ouma (grandma) and her brood set up camp next door in a caravan and camping trailer.  Ouma laid out her kitchen (for some indescribable reason - perhaps dementia) in the annex of her caravan, instead of inside the trailer home itself.
 
Perhaps she assumed that by putting all her condiemnts in tiny, palm-sized tupper ware containers the contents would have been safe...
 
They swung from the trees, they crawled throught the undergrowth.  Withing seconds the booty was disappearing.  From the branches above came the sound of the patented tupperware burp (or was the monkeys) as kids came off.
 
What couldn't be eaten - the flour and the bisto instant gravy mix, for example - was scattered over the annex and Ouma's grandchildren's tents.  Scorched earth, pirate style.
 
Mrs Blog and I raced over to try and save some stuff, but, of course, we were too late.
 
No-Tail, one of the ringleaders, along with Blue Balls and the Priate King, One-arm-One-leg, had grabbed a jar of Ouma's home-made jam.  The jar, however, was too big and heavy for him to carry in one grubby, sticky paw, so he was using two hands.  This nesessitated him walking upright, like a tiny humanoid, on the his read legs.  I chased him and he made it a few steps of the tree, precariously balancing on his spindly legs and carrying the jam.
 
Was I witnessing evolution?  From primate to humanoid thief?  Darwinianism with a twist... survival of the naughtiest?
 
No-tail dropped the jam and climbed away, disappointment twistiing his twisted little black face.
 
When it was over, all that was left was a fine mist of flour and gravy powder... and a small brown turd, already covered with flies, sitting on the pressed tablecloth, next to Ouma's microwave.