Friday, August 31, 2007
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
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.
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
Saturday, August 18, 2007
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
Sunday, August 12, 2007
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
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
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".
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
There's no place like home, there's no place like home, there's no place like home...
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.
I've been doing a little bit more blogging on the Getaway Magazine website. Back to bed for now, though, I think.