Sunday, October 12, 2008

Alive and well and grateful to be in the R of SA

Greetings, Legion of Fans (LOF) from Letaba Camp in the Kruger National Park, where I am exceptionally pleased to say (big head that I am) that the camp shop is (finally) stocking my books! Well, they're stocking SILENT PREDATOR at least, which makes sense because as you should very well know much of the action is set in Kruger.

Not much to report, I'm afraid, since I left you in the midst of some important research and beer drinking in the Okavango Delta. That's because there is not much to see beween Moremi and Kruger - just MMBA - miles and miles of bloody Africa. Botswana, with its stable government, urbane and progressive president, strong currency, and enviable health system, also boasts the longest and most boring drives in Africa.

The verdict is in on the Okavango, by the way. It definitely is worth a visit. On our last night living the life of spartan baked-bean-eating researchers we went for a drive along the Gomoti River floodplain and I don't think I've ever seen so many animals of so many dfferent types in the same place at the same time. Hard to find the words for just how beautiful it was, so you'll just have to go there and have a look. If you're not a qualified wildlife researcher groupie like myself, then check out Moremi Tented Camp which has a safari operation in the same concession, on the edge of the actual Moremi Game Reserve.

It was with a heavy heart that we returned to Maun, Donkey and Goat Pooh capital of the world, but we beat it out of there pretty fast, staying at the divinely clean and funky Planet Baobab at Gweta, en route to Francistown and the Republic of South Africa.

Planet Baobab, with its immaculate campsites and bar chandeliers made of empty beer bottles, is owned by a Mr Ralph Boussfeld, scion of one of the great safari families of Botswana. He had his own wildlife show on cable for a while called 'Uncharted Africa'. Ralph is a good looking devil (if you're into blokes) and each of the episodes of Uncharted Africa somehow managed to feature a shot of him nude (from behind), usually diving into some crocodile and hippo infested river or waterhole.

Mrs Blog was a big fan of Ralph Boussfeld, for reasons that escape me. (However, on thinking about this I remembered a scene from "The Saint" starring Mr Val Kilmer. Long term readers may recall that I suspect Mrs B has a bit of a thing for Val and there is a scene in the Saint where he is impersonating a world-weary long-haired South African traveller who owns a game farm in Africa. I remember thinking at the time that Val looked like he was doing - or attempting - a Ralph Boussfeld impersonation. Soon after that scene, where he meets the delectable Elizabeth Shue - hubba hubba - I believe he also bares his buttocks).

So, imagine if you will, Mrs B's excitement when she rushed back to the campsite saying: "I've just seen Ralph Boussfeld, I've just seen Ralph Boussfeld, I've just scene Ralph Boussfeld."

"Are you sure?"

"Well he had the phone in his hand and he was saying, 'hello, it's Ralph Boussfeld here'."

"Was he nude?" I asked.

"No, but I hung around for a while in case he decided to strip off and dive in the swimming pool."

Sadly, Ralph remained clad I didn't get to see him or (even more sadder) his wife, who is reportedly an ex super model.

From Planet Baobad, at Gweta, to the brder of Botswana and South Africa in the Mashatu Game Reserve there were no more naked men or supermodels, though still plenty more donkeys and goats.

Stayed in a beautiful campside called Molema, on the edge of the Mashatu Reserve, on the banks of the Limpopo River. It was well kept and on the drive out to the border we saw Eland (something you don't see everyday) and two porcupines - something we've only seen three times in 13 years.

The next morning we reported at the tiny border crossing of Pont Drift, where one crosses the international boundary by driving through the dry sandy bed of the Limpopo.

Hmmm how to put this next instalment... if at all.

The South African Department of Home Affairs now has files opened on Mrs B and me, so I have to be very careful in how I put this (lest their crack unit of internet surfers is monitoring me).

The lady from home affairs at Pont Drift was very....... efficient. So efficient was she that she decided to give me a seven-day visa in my passport because I had been so very polite and acquiescent when she informed me that under no circumstances was she going to grant my wish for a 30-day visa.

Mrs Blog was also very... understanding... but fortunately the large crowd of police who had gathered outside the immigration office to witness our... polite... discourses with said official, eventually decided not to arrest us and lay charges.

Dr Tammie Mastson, who I will mention again in future posts as she is an all round good chick, is an Australian who worked as a wildlife researcher for a number of years in Zimbabwe and Namibia. She wrote an excellent book called 'Dry Water, Diving Headfirst into Africa' which I commend to you all, even though it is not published by my very good friends at Macmillan (though she is writing another book, this time for Macmillan). In Dry Water Tammie says you know you are having an 'adventure' when you have stopped having fun.

Pont Drift was an adventure. My own definition of an adventure is 'last year's nightmare'. Roll on next year, I say.

To cut a long story short (and maintain my tenusous hold on my South African visa) I can report, hand on heart, that the Department of Home Affairs staff at the regional office at Musina, 100km from Pont Drift, where we had to go to apply for visa extensions, could not have been more helpful, friendly, compassionate, honest and obliging if they tried.

So here we are. Street legal in the Kruger Park, Tonka chugging along in fine (if somewhat smokey) mettle, and swimming pool and an esky full of cold beers waiting.


tonypark said...

Or is that fine fettle?

Anonymous said...

think fine mettle is fine mental state, fine fettle is physical state. Tonka would more probably be fine metal state though?

Java said...

Your adventures just keeps getting better!!

Anonymous said...

Molema is beside the Northern Tuli Game Reserve (or Tuli Reserve) of which Mashatu is a small part

tonypark said...

Right you are, Anonymous, you stickler for accuracy, you! (You don't work for Home Affairs at Pontdrift, I hope... gulp).

Crookedpaw said...

The beauty of being a writer is that you can write about your experiences with officious inferiors with authority, then at the front of the book put these words:

This work is fictional. any resemblence to persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

That aside, I want to see photos of the swimming pool full of cold beers.

Live long and prosper,