An Empty Coast

An Empty Coast
My latest novel

Friday, August 31, 2007

Ambition

August 31: Somewhere in the skies over Africa, en route from Harare, Zimbabwe, to London Heathrow...
 
It's taken a long time, but after 43 years on this earth I have ambition.  Monetary ambition, that is.
 
I've fulfilled my life's ambition four times already - that is, to write a book.  Book number five is in production and the beginnings of six are here on the laptop, but now I have a new goal in life.
 
I won't say that money doesn't matter to Mrs Blog and I, but I will state categorically that we are not materialistic people.  We save - and then spend - to maintain our lifestyle, namely to live four or five months of the year in Africa and the rest in Australia; but we are not focussed on 'things'.  We live in a two-bedroom flat rather than a house; our first TV set lasted us 17 years without replacement; we recently bought our first new couch in 19 years; our DVD player is second hand; and our vehicle is a 22-year-old diesel Land Rover.
 
I don't want a big house - it would be too hard to secure when we're away, and would only get robbed; I don't want a new 4x4 because it would only get nicked from its home in Zimbabwe; I don't want a plasma screen TV, because I don't have room for one; and nor do I have space for a three-piece suite.
 
No, Legion of Fans, what I aspire to is business class.
 
I am writing this from an exceedingly comfortable fully-flat bed in Club World (that's British Airways for business class) on board a Boeing 777 somewhere over Africa).  I have finished my very agreeable brunch (entree smoked salmon; main course hearty English cooked breakfast with real scrambled eggs - not powdered as I'm sure it is in economy) and, as the sun somewhere in the world is above the yard arm, I am drinking a premium international lager beer. 
 
It's the little things that count, though. My table is wide enough to accommodate both laptop and beer and my legs are at their full extent.  There is no overweight man or stinky backpacker trying to claim the armrests on either side of me - I have two of my very own.  I also got to eat my delicious meal with metal cutlery (memo to BA - don't think terrorists don't fly business.  In my books they do).
 
I'm flying Club World courtesy of my very good friends at a certain international fuel company.  I'm off to Libya to write a story for their company magazine and they have a very sensible policy that anyone (even contractors) flying more than five hours for duty must travel in Business Class.  This is a very good company to contract for, LOF.
 
Mrs B and I have flown in the upper classes a very few times over the years - courtesy of some airline friends of friends who scammed us upgrades, and the odd trip on points.  I was also flown to the war, in Afghanistan, business class courtesy of my very good friends the Australian Taxpayers (though I can't say I enjoyed that flight as much as this one).
 
I feel a little sad that the small but perfectly formed Mrs Blog isn't with me.  She's spending a fun-filled week in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, with friends, while I go out to bring home the bacon (which may, given the current shortages of food in Zim be exactly what I do bring back from the UK!).
 
I wish she was here with me as she, too, is a big fan of business class.  And I miss her.
 
All I truly desire in life now is to make enough money so that Mrs B and I never have to fly in World Traveller (ie economy) ever again.  It's not too much to ask, is it?  I mean, I don't need to be the second richest person in the UK (and I couldn't anyway, as I'm not interested in kids' books); I don't need board games and movies made of my books (I take that back, a movie would be nice); but I do need leg room and half decent food.
 
So please, go out there and buy a book.  Oh, and tell about 180,000 of your friends to, as well.  

Is it safe?

It's a question I'm often asked.  Is it safe to travel in Zimbabwe? 
 
It is.  It's just terribly sad.
 
If you want to watch a country dying - not imploding in civil war, but slowly withering on the vine - come take a look.
 
I'm sitting in Harare Internaitonal Airport now and the power has just gone out - it's pre-dawn dark outside.  Imagine, an entire airport without electricity.  Fortunately it's one of the quietest airports in the world - not many aircraft come here as there is no aviation fuel here, so you have to bring your own.
 
I started a generator the other day, for the first time since I was a young soldier.  Generators used to terrify me when I was 18.  I was always worried about flicking the wrong switch, or letting it run out of fuel, or not being able to work the pull-start thingy.  Most of our friends in Zimbabwe have generators now.  We stayed alone on a farm the other day and when the lights went out, as they do every single day, you have to start the generator.  Africa has a way of bringing out the practical in you.
 
Outside, somewhere on the tarmac, I can here a jet arriving.  I hope the guy marshalling the aircraft in to its airbridge has some batteries for his torch.
 
The food situation - much reported around the world - is pretty dire, though in one respect it's the same as it has been for the last few years.  Supermarket shelves look barren, but if you have money you can get pretty much anything - just be prepared to pay for it.  Especially if it's been imported.
 
Weirdly, local products can be incredibly cheap if you have foreign currency to change on the parralel (black) market. For example, a small jar of imported South African peanut butter will cost you US$3 and a packet of SA butter US$10, but a bottle of very drinkable (trust me, I know) local wine costs about US$0.80.  The moral here, of course, is drink alcohol rather than eat.
 
So scarce are tourists, that local guesthouses and hotels seem to have given up even asking if guests are foreigners (if you admit this, you get hit with a ridiculously high tariff, payable in US dollars only) for fear of scaring them off.  Paying the Zimbabwean rate, Mrs Blog and I stayed in a very nice self-contained chalet overlooking a lovely waterhole on a small private game reserve for about AUD$10 the other night.  Like I said, weird.
 
Police and the army are very evident on Harare's streets, though as usual when a policeman finds out we're from abroad he/she is usally polite and curious about what they need to do in order to immigrate to Australia.  We were stopped by a young soldier in camouflage yesterday, though, armed with an ageing SKS rifle and fixed bayonet who asked what we were carrying under the bulky brown tarp on Tonka the Lander Rover's roof rack.
 
"Javelin fire-and-forget anti-tank missile and a few kilos of Semtex," I said.
 
Only joking.  I actually told him it was our fold-up mattress and bedding, which was the truth.
 
"Have a safe journey," he said.  
 
The electricity's just come back on at the airport.  Though for how long is anyone's guess.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The land of the long white sheep

Those of you, Legion of Fans, who are not related to me may not know my family secret.  I am a multi national.  As well as an Australian passport I have a British one (courtesy of my Welsh father), and...  a New Zealand passport, courtesy of my (Australian) mother and father meeting on the ski slopes of Mt Ruapehu many years ago.
 
I'll admit, LOF, growing up in Australia - as a naturalised Australian I hasten to add - there was a tendency for me to deny my origins, lest I become the butt of various unsavoury jokes and barefaced insults.
 
However, that all changed a few years ago when I found out that New Zealanders did not need a visa to enter Zimbabwe.  In fact, a New Zealand passport, to which I was entitled, was actually cheaper than the cost of a visa for my Aussie or Brit passports.  So, I embraced my kiwi-ness wholeheartedly and applied online for my third travel document. 
 
These days, however, New Zealanders have to pay for a visa into Zim, but I'm still proud to say I'm the owner of three passports.  You can never have too many, I say (particularly as I have been known to lose the odd one over the years).
 
What I did not expect, however, as Mrs Blog and I entered Zimbabwe from South Africa this week at the Beitbridge border post, was for the much vaunted Zimbabwean inspector of customs to say, on checking my passport: "Ah, the land of the many sheep hahahahahahahahahahahahaha."

Dear Joshua,

This is a reply to your comment by Joshua, aged five, on an earlier post... 
 
What a clever boy you are.  I do hope you don't turn into an internet addict like your mother, though.
 
In answer to your questions (which I am recalling from memory as I can't get into the blog right now)...
 
Monkeys will eat just about anything, though they are very partial to marshmallows and bananas, as you rightly point out.  What they don't like eating, they will open and throw around all over the place.  I met some people with a caravan who said some monkeys had broken in and found a carton of eggs.  Apparently they didn't eat the eggs, but did have a damn fine time chucking the entire dozen at each other and redecorating the inside of the caravan in the process.
 
Baboons - sort of like the big, ugly, hairy cousin of the monkey - like anything that comes wrapped in an esky or garbage bin.  Baboons are also keen on the odd chunk of elephant pooh, which they will spend hours pulling apart and nibbling on (in search of seeds and seed pods, I believe, but no less gross because of this).  I'm sure that if times were tight Baboons would also eat their own pooh.
 
As to lions - be carefull there, young Joshua.  As an African man once said to me; "Why do you go to the bush so often?  Don't you know there are lions there?  They don't bite people - they eat them."  A subtle difference for a five-year-old, I'm sure, but you get the message.  Don't get out of the car, except in camps and demarcated picnic sites.
 
As to the outdoor bathtubs - you don't have to have an outdoor bath, but when you're 18 mummy might let you read "Safari" ($32.95 RRP in all good bookstores) and you might change your perspective on al fresco bathing. 
 
Finally, thanks for the blog comment.  Your mum told me you liked the Zorro movie, and any fan of Catherine Zeta Jones is a friend of mine. 
 

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Heading north

Last night we smelled a herd of elephants before we saw or heard them.  Proof our senses are getting back into bush-mode.
 
Elephants smell like a load of damp dirty washing that's been left too long in the laundry prior to washing.  A mouldy, mildewy, amonia tpe smell. 
 
The herd arrived at the waterhole, which is about 25 metres from where I'm sitting, just on the other side of the uncharacteristically (for Kruger) low perimeter fence around Punda Maria Camp, in the north of the park.  They were joined later by a buffalo.
 
We've also seen lion from the camp in the past, which is quite exciting and, given the height of the fence, a bit scary (don't panic, any of you who are coming to South Africa to see us, Punda Maria is a very old camp, and quite unlike the ones where you'll be staying.  They all have sturdy, high elephant-and-lion-proof fences).
 
Punda Maria, as Mrs Blog and I like to say, is the most 'Zimbabwean' of Kruger's camps.  It's the last in the north before you get to the border and, befitting its position, things are a little more rustic, a little run down and a little edgier here.  It's a nice transition into the wildness and mayhem beyond the northern border.
 
Not that we hope it will be too wild in Zim.  Just depressing more like it.  We heard a Zimbabwean guy in the camp restaurant this morning saying to someone else "think of everything you've heard about the country on television and in the newspapers and double it.  That's how bad it is".
 
After seeing our friends in Harare we're off on a five-day houseboat cruise on Kake Kariba, as soon as I get back from my side trip to Libya.  Blogging will be a bit of a rarity in the next few weeks, Legion of Fans, so all four of you can get back to work and/or family right now and stop wasting time here!
 

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Busy, busy

Ploughing through the edits on Book 5 today, as I need to get the manuscript back to my editor, S (who, I was pleasantly surprised to learn, is a closet Elvis movie fan).  We had a long and deep discussion about the merits of G.I. Blues over Blue Hawaii at my farewell lunch.
 
The attractive, intelligent C, my publisher, who is approaching the very prime of womanhood, is also waiting for the book, so I can't spend too much time blogging.
 
In fact, I've just blogged at www.getawaytoafrica.com about today's animal sighting of note, so I should not spend anymore time here at all.
 
Thanks to you all for your comments and yes, the roof tent is very comfy thank you.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Penthouse living


And now, for some luxury of a different kind, this is where Mrs Blog and I sleep when we're not staying in luxury safari tents.

This is our very own homemade roof-top tent - actually made by Mrs B on her sewing machine in the loungeroom of our two-bedroom flat back home.

This is the dry season configuration, using only a shadecloth A-frame tent to keep the bugs and bird pooh away. When it rains the whoe structure is covered with an enormous waterproof tarp.

It's cool, lightweight and very practical. Nothing like sleeping on the roof of your Land Rover under the stars. These pics were taken in the newish Tsendze 'rustic' camp in the Kruger National Park. Rustic means that it doesn't have electricity or a bottle shop.

And here's a nice shot of Tonka, the unstoppable Series III Short Wheelbase Land Rover, looking very rakish with his shiny new wheel rims.





Sunday, August 19, 2007

A little bit of looxury...


Luxury is a relative thing, I suppose.

Today is Mrs Blog and my 18th wedding anniversary and we have (that is she has, as she makes all the bookings) splashed out on a Luxury Safari Tent in Tamboti Camp in the Kruger National Park.

It really is quite luxurious - for a tent. It has a double bed, a fridge, a kitchenette out on the veranda (which in itself is quite luxurious), and an en-suite. This, Legion of Fans, is some tent.

OK, it's still self-catering and does smell a bit of old cigarette smoke and the hall light doesn't work (can you believe it!), but after sleeping on a roof rack for a week, this is, well, luxury.

I should add that our home-made roof rack tent is, in fact, extrememly comfortable and, in its own way, luxurious compared to the tiny little dome tent we used to sleep in. It's also a lot safer when there are lions patrolling the camp site at night, as has happened to us in the past.

But back to Tamboti... As I sit here on the deck, under the shade of my tent awning, connecting to you live via a 3G internet connection (there are a number of ritzy private game reserves across the river from us, so I guess I have them to thank for the high speed connection), looking out over the Timbavati River, I can tell you that a little bit of luxury goes a long way.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Blood, sweat and cheetahs

I'd forgotten how painfull camping can be. Five days into the and trip I have:

- sliced open knee on broken braai (barbie to the Aussies among you)

- sliced open forehead on roof rack bracket

- nearly sprained finger when head flew off hammer

- bumped head repeatedly on interior Land Rover fixtures

- caused general aches and pains to most of my body with resumption of fitness program after three weeks of farewell drinks and lunches.

The sweat referred to in the title of this post came the day before yesterday when I did something I thought I wouldn't have to do in a very long time - crawled under the Land Rover to fret over the gear box.

We'd gone out on an early morning game drive and become quite alarmed at a loud clunking noise from below. Mrs Blog and I are very attuned to every shake, rattle and roll in Tonka's creaky old body, and this was a new clunk. Definitely.

Returning to base camp I slid underneath in the dirt. After bumping my head twice and receiving a drop of (admittedly very clean) gear oil in the eye, I noticed the high-low range selector was only half engaged.

In a normal world me, a city-boy white-collar PR consultant, wouldn't even know what a high-low range selector was, let alone where to find it, but this is life and death stuff (well, sort of) in Africa.

With Mrs B jiggling selector leves we finally got the thing fully engaged, then disengaged. I'm assuming the problem was due to the gear box's new-ness. Everything seems a bit stiff, so why not the selector?

The alternative is that we (or someone else) has buggered the four/two-wheel drive selector and that next time we find ourselves drowning in mud or buried in sand we won't be able to extricate ourselves. We toyed with the idea of testing him out on a 4WD track, or returning to the Land Rover doctor for a full examination, but at the end of the day neither Mrs B nor I are emotionally equipped to deal with the thought that the world's most expensive gear box may be anything other than 100 per cent.

Ignorance, as they say, is bliss.

And now, finally, the cheetahs (if the pic loads).

We went out for a drive this morning from Pretoriuskop to Skukuza. Tonka was ticker-tickering away like a Singer sewing machine and despite the park's busyness, we found ourselves pottering along alone on a dirt road near the southern border.

There, perched on a granite rock, within sight of a busy main road and settlements outside the park, were a mummy cheetah and her fairly mature cub.

Man and nature going about their business just a couple of kilometres apart.

Fantastic. Worth all the cuts, bumps, bruises, scratches and gearboxes in Africa.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Testing, testing, this is Africa calling...

It's official - I have the shiniest gearbox in all of Africa.
 
Mrs Blog and I collected Tonka, the trusty Series III Land Rover from Dr Eric the mechanic the day before yesterday in suburban White River (Witrivier to you, Hann).  Tonka was looking cleaner than ever, and very rakish with his new blindingly white wheel rims, new springs, new 'Safari' (whatever that means) shock absorbers, and spare wheel carrier.
 
Most important of all, Dr Eric had fitted the new gear box.  "It's the wrong colour," he said. 
 
"What?"
 
"It should be gold with what you've spent on it."
 
Nice one, Dr Eric. After meeting the doctor's neighbours, Harry and Michelle, a lovely couple (thanks for the red, I owe you a book, Harry), we adjourned to the surgery's back yard in suburban White River (Witrivier to Hann).  Over a beer to celebrate Tonka's recovery, the doctor's uncle (let's call him Leon, not his real name), mentioned that he was keen to do a road trip north into the heart of Africa.  He'd already spent two years in the Congo some years ago, he said.
 
"Were you working?" I asked.
 
"Yes."
 
Nosey former journalist that I am, I said "Doing what?"  Uncle L was a jovial man with a kindly demeanour.  Perfect uncle material, if ever there was.
 
"I was a mercenary."
 
Proof, Legion of Fans, if it were ever needed, that that I will never run out of ideas or characters for books set in Africa. 

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Leaving on a jet plane

All our bags are packed (well they're not, actually, and I'm already in trouble for blogging instead of packing); we're ready to go...

OK, not quite ready to go, but you get the picture. Mrs B and I leave for Africa tomorrow. I'm excited about starting work on Book 6, and alternately longing and dreading taking Tonka the Land Rover for a test drive (following his major surgey, including gearbox transplant).

Last night was Bec's (she of the blog comments) surprise 40th birthday. From what I recall, I had a great time and hope she did, too. She's a good friend, as is her husband, the Professor.

Blogging from Africa will depend on our internet connection. If I'm not here, I'll be on my other blog at http://www.getawaytoafrica.com

Become famous (sort of) and save a rhino!

I was contacted recently (I was going to say recently contacted, but Michelle Parker's mother has been picking me up on my split infinitives) by the co-ordinator of the SAVE Foundation here in New South Wales. SAVE has a long and excellent track record of raising money to help save Africa's rhinos.

Their current project involves transferring rhinos from the Kruger National Park (where, pleasingly, there are thousands) to Botawana, where there are, to put it frankly, bugger all.

The rhino is one of my favourite animals. In the case of the White Rhino they look all fierce and heavily armed and armoured but (when at ease) are actually about as aggro as a large dairy cow.

You'll notice in my incredibly disorganised links on the left (Hann has chipped me for not having them better ordered) there is now one for the SAVE foundation.

SAVE's local bloke asked me if I'd be available to speak at a fundraiser in Sydney later this year. I would have loved to, but I'll be in Africa. What I have offered, though, is the opportunity for a character name in Book 5 (as yet untitled) to be auctioned off.

I've done this before. Two of the characters (not counting my heroine, Michelle Parker) in my latest book 'Safari' are named after people whose relatives donated money to a child care centre and pre-school.

So, if you live in Sydney and want your name in one of my books (OK, you'll not actually be famous, but the grand children will love it), keep an eye out for upcoming SAVE fundraisers.

Oh, and unlike Michelle Parker (see earlier posts), this character won't be indulging in anything, ahem, untoward on antique dressing tables. 'Nuff said.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Attention googlers

My friend Bec showed me how to install a 'site meter' on the blog recently. If you look carefully and scroll down you can see its little icon on the left.

It really is rather cool. As well as telling me how many thousands of fans are logging on each day (don't worry all four of you, that was a joke, Legion of Fans... we are still an exclusive club), it also tells me where you are all from.

Given that there are NOT thousands of you, it may interest you to know, Muriel, Are, Hann (who probably knows more about site meters than I could learn in a lifetime), C, Mrs B, Richard Gere, Black Mustarfa, Meggie (another experienced blogger), Ali G et al that I have the power to know when you were on, how long you were on for, and how many pages you were viewing.

I also know some of your employers...

Don't worry, I'm not taking notes, although all you Telstra people had better get back to work and cowboy up, y'hear! 'Nuff said. The new Sherrif would not be impressed.

Anyway, more interesting than all of that (apart from being able to track Are's recent trip to Norway day by day - mate, we don't get too many Norwegians visiting, OK?) is the people who have stumbled upon this humble blog by googling.

Site Meter tells me, believe it or not, what you have typed into your search fields. So, to answer a few questions:

1. "super glue repair plastic radiator" of Western Samoa (I kid you not)... some advice. Super glue is overrated. Find some corn meal (mealie meal in Africa - I'm sure you have some kind of ground up grain in Western Samoa) and slowly trickle it into the hot radiator water. The grain expands and fills gaps. Mustard powder also works, if you have that in Samoa.

2. "pouncing lioness" of the US of A - stop googling, start saving and book yourself a self-drive Safari in the Kruger National Park, South Africa.

3. "land rover stuck hand brake" - my brother (or sister) I am aware of the problem. If it's not a buggered spring and/or foreign object, you might have to take the drum off if it's seized (says he, really having no idea what he is talking about).

4. "land rover francistown" - seriously, dude, email me via my website at http://www.tonypark.net/ and I will put you on to the BEST Land Rover mechanic in Botswana - a lovely guy called Solomon who did a house call on a Saturday night in a camp ground in Francistown to keep Tonka on the road. This man is an artist.

I eagerly await seeing a report from the first person to google "tony park nude".

Michelle Parker and George Clooney seen at book launch

Here she is, Legion of Fans, the real Michelle Parker who took the brave step of requesting that her name be used not as a minor character, but as the leading lady in my new book, Safari.

Brave, because I warned her in advance what usually happens to leading ladies in my books. And happen it does, to heroic wildlife researcher MP – in a variety of locations, from Zimbabwe to the Democratic Republic of Congo (raise your minds from the gutter, Legion of Fans – I’m talking about being shot at, of course!).

Michelle, clearly not as inebriated as me, is pictured here at the launch party, held in the sumptuous Hippo Lounge of the Madison Hotel in shabbily chic Surry Hills recently.

Budding professional photographer Andre Moonen did a pretty damn good job snapping a few of the glitterati who attended.

Having learned from previous launches, Mrs B and I decided to go short on the food this year (we over catered last year) and long on the booze (in recognition of all of the lushes – ourselves included – who complained that the free drinks ran out far too early).

My very good friends at The Classic Safari Company once again stepped up to the plate, providing an elephantine safari travel bag as a lucky door prize.

One of my military comrades, let’s call him His Excellency Lieutenant Colonel Leonardo (named after the lion, not the actor), picked up the prize. LTCOL Leo, a shy retiring type, is a veteran of many foreign wars and had occasion to visit several Southern African nations in the past. In fact, I think he is still wanted in some of them.

The evening was a veritable Organisation of African Unity, Legion of Fans, although unlike the OAU we existed in harmony and solved Zimbabwe’s woes over several beers. There were South Africans, Zimbabweans, a Kenyan, and representatives of most of the former colonial powers.

There was a star-studded line up of top international authors, including chick-lit queen Di Blacklock, and shoot-em-up, action-adventure king David A. Rollins. My good mate Peter Watt sent his apologies as he is currently on the hustings promoting his new book, The Stone Dragon.

Jane, 22.9, (she's on the right in the picture, looking very bookish in her new glasses) was ably assisted by fellow saleslady Carla, and the pair of them not only met, but exceeded the demanding sales targets I set them. So keen was Jane that she tried badgering my extremely attractive, brainy, single publisher, C, into buying a book. C pointed out that she could pick up a freebie fairly easily.

Now, in the tradition of the gossip page, je pose les questions… (Bec, please correct French)

Why, Legion of Fans, such indignation from which attractive, stylish, well-read, single publisher when it was pointed out to her that to get a ticket in the lucky door prize one had to actually BUY a book?

Which 36-year-old was making moves on which 40-year-old?

Who looked the most like George Clooney at the party?

What was in the beer that made me feel so ill the next day?

Which 22.9-year-old spent most of her time trying to take a new Facebook picture for which PR honcho?

Who was the Sydney Morning Herald journalist who was unable to make the party because he/she was curled up in bed with a naked photographer?

How much champagne had a certain vanilla cigar-smoking PR flak had prior to arriving at the launch?

Who wants to be a bad girl – a very bad girl – in the next book?

How gorgeous did Mrs B look in her new party frock and boots? (Hann, just for you... that's her below in the red and black dress, while I do my best to look shy and retiring).

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The end justifies the means


Invasion of the girlies

Help, Legion of Fans! I fell asleep and have awoken a long way from Africa, on the set of Legally Blonde.

Jane, 22 (almost 23) has come for dinner and turned Safari HQ into a Lifestyle Channel audition.

First there was the impromptu chocolate cookie and ice cream sandwich (see pic), a tasty last minute substitute for the caramel something-or-other dessert after she burnt the caramel... (for Bec and the other cooking Nazis, Mrs B did a very agreeable beef and Guinness pie for main course).

Delicious as it was, it was only an entree to the main course... a manicure for Mrs Blog.

As I sit here, downloading pictures I am assailed with calls of "Red or pink?"

Red, of course!

There's no place like home, there's no place like home, there's no place like home...

A new way to waste time at work

Actually, it's an old way to waste time at work, taught to me by Bec, a frequent visitor to this blog, good friend and arch skiver.

For those of us stuck half a world away from Africa (or for you Africans inhabiting the urban or suburban jungle), there is the virtual safari.

There are a number of webcams covering waterholes in private game reserves and national parks in South Africa. These broadcast images - usually updated every 40 seconds - 24 hours a day.

It's not as exciting as the real thing, but you're also less likely to get mauled by a lion, stressed over the odd grinding noise in your Land Rover's gearbox, or bored witless by a safari guide's lame jokes.

There's a whole website devoted to this voyeuristic animal version of Big Brother, called Africam but I've just found its login procedures to be extremely tiresome and inefficient.

You can also check out cameras covering water holes at Orpen and Satara camps in the Kruger National Park, without having to think of yet another login name and password.

Permission to waste time. Carry on.

Saturday morning...

...after the Thursday night launch of the new book, 'Safari' ($32.95 RRP in all good bookstores). Finally able to string a few words together. But that's all. More details when the photos arrive.

I've been doing a little bit more blogging on the Getaway Magazine website. Back to bed for now, though, I think.