Sunday, September 20, 2009

This is Africa calling...

I could tell you that it’s hard work escorting a tour around Africa, and that staying in the lap of luxury is not all it’s cracked up to be… but I’d be lying.

Greetings, at long last, Legion of Fans (LOF) from the stark but beautiful Karoo, in South Africa.

I’m on The Pride of Africa, Rovos Rail’s luxurious olden-days train, somewhere between Pretoria and Cape Town.

We are Day 10, or something like that, into the inaugural “Silent Predator Safari” in which yours truly and the indefatigable Mr H from the Africa Safari Co are leading eight hardy readers on a grueling 13-day tour of the best South Africa has to offer.

I know some of you wanted to join us, but were unable to do so because of financial and other issues. All I can say to you is: sell a child, a car or some superfluous organs because if we’re doing this again next year (and I certainly hope we are) then you would be mad not to join us.

We kicked off with five nights in the Kruger National Park – three nights in the national parks rest camps at Skukuza and Satara, followed by two nights in Tinga Private Game Lodge.

Attentive members of the legion will recognise all these places from my books, and the idea is that on the tour we visit places where my fictitious characters are shot, stabbed, lost, kidnapped, or (ahem) intimate etc.

We had some truly sensational game viewing in Kruger. By the second day the group had seen all of Africa’s Big 5 – lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino. In fact, on the second day we saw all five in one drive, and then four out of five on the afternoon leg… but who’s counting.

Tinga (which features in SILENT PREDATOR) had a lot to live up to in the animal stakes, but head guide Mr Q did not disappoint us.

On a guided walk along the banks of the Sabie River we saw something that neither he nor I had ever seen – a big crocodile killing another croc. Right before our eyes. Sabie means fear in English and the river lived up to its name as this was one scary sight.

From Kruger we jet-setted back to Johannesburg and thence on to Pretoria where we picked up our five-star choo choo. I love The Pride of Africa. The gentle rocking of the carriages… the lovingly restored coachwork… the all-inclusive bar… I could go on, but I fear the lunch gong is about to sound and I really must squeeze in a bloody Mary first.