Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Leaping leopards, Batman!

As you blog followers may have guessed I have been favouring Facebook over the blog lately, but felt that I must also share the following video with y'all here (I just shared it on FB).

I'm not, as a rule, given to sharing stuff other people have posted, but this movie of a leopard in South Africa (the setting is not specified, but it looks like the Sabi Sand Game Reserve to me) by Martha van Rensburg is just breathtaking.

When you watch the video, look for the leopard lying in wait on the left hand side of the road.  It is facing towards the right hand side of the road, from whence a herd of spooked impala comes charging.

Hit the old freeze-frame a few times and you'll get some spectacular shots of the leaping, somersaulting leopard.

And, just because this blog is all about me, here are some more pics from my recent six-month stint in Africa:

Not roaring, but yawning - a lioness at Sabi Sabi game lodge in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve.

Pied kingfisher, Lake Kariba.

Their kids are cute when they're little - juvenile hyena in Kruger.

Fish Eagle, near Letaba Camp, in Kruger

Cheetah with a late impala, Doispane Road, Kruger.

Lioness, Masuma Dam, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.

Also, for you non Facebookers, here's a link to the online version of a story I wrote for the 'Escape' travel magazine, which features in Sunday newspapers around Australia, about house-boating on Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Spot the beastie (other than me)

To those of you trying to win the free prize (see the post below with this pic in it), you might (or might not) have more luck finding the answer in this version of the pic.  Good luck Lori ann et al!

Hear here

Bored at work?  I mean, seriously bored?  Then listen to me, here recently on Radio Adelaide.

Look at me, sitting in a field, typing away...

Nice story from the Melbourne Herald-Sun on yours truly and the release of my latest novel, 'DARK HEART'.  And this is where I always work, sitting in the sun in a field of three-foot-high snake- infested grass in the Mukuvusi Woodlands game park in the middle of downtown Harare.

First reader to correctly identify a mammal other me in that picture will win a free copy of my fifth book, 'Ivory'.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Some African pictures to while away a few minutes

While I try and think what to write next in the new novel (number 11), I thought I 'd while away a bit of time uploading some pics from my last trip to Africa.  Here, for your edification and time-wasting pleasure are:

Kudu, Sabi Sabi, Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Baby elephant, Sabi Sabi

Wild Dog (African Painted Dog), Kruger National Park

 Leopard, Doispane Road, Kruger National Park
 Leopard, Kruger Tablets, Kruger National Park (if you know this spot, he is rubbing his head against the boulder with the Kruger Tablets bronze plaque on it - right at the spot where you're allowed to get out of your car!)
Bath time - hyena, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

Leaping lizards, Batman, it's a flying impala - Hwange National Park

Friday, November 16, 2012

Hear me roar (well, meow), about lions and other dangerous animals in Africa

I was on Radio 4BC Brisbane today (Friday, November 16) on the afternoon program with Moyd and Loretta.  Had me a great time, and some readers were kind enough to call into the program for a chat.

Sorry not everyone was able to get through, but if you'd like to listen to the interview there is a podcast here

Tomorrow (Saturday, November 17) I'm speaking at Chermside Library in Hamilton Road (Brisbane), at 1pm.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

DARK HEART, out now! Come, hear me speak!


Due out in November, 2012, but already finding its way onto book shelved, iPads and Kindles in various continents, here it is my ninth African novel, DARK HEART, set in Rwanda and South Africa.

As usual I'm hitting the road to promote the book's release in Australia and will be speaking at the following venues.  PLEASE CHECK TIMES AND DATES WITH THE ORGANISER/VENUE (gulp, as I have been known to make the odd mistake).

Friday 2nd November 2.30pm
St Ives Library
St Ives Shopping Village
166 Mona Vale Road
St Ives 
Contact:  Penny Xavier 02 94240452
Email:  Xavier@kmc.nsw.gov.au     

Monday 19th November 6.30pm
Concord Library
60 Flavelle Street
Contact:  Bonnie Servo 0414 589458 
Email:  servo@iinet.net.au 

South Australia
Thursday 8th November 7.30pm
Marion Cultural Centre
287 Diagonal Road
Oaklands Park
Contact Jenny Newman 08 82710988

Friday 16th November 6.30pm
Creme Espresso
Westfield Centre
Shop 1108
Millaroo Dr
Contact: Benette Hibbins 07 55027744 
Email: benette@lovethatbook.com.au

Saturday November 17, at 1pm.
Chermside Library, 
375 Hamilton Road, Chermside  
To book, phone: 07 3403 7200.

Tuesday 4th December 6.30pm
Waurn Ponds Library
140 Pioneer Road
Waurn Ponds
Contact:  03 52726010

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Q Blog, day 4

Click here to read the fourth instalment of my blog on Zimbabwe for my UK publisher, Quercus Books, to mark the UK release of the paperback version of AFRICAN DAWN.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Q Blog, Day 3

Here's the third episode of my blog on Zimbabwe, for Quercus Books (my UK publisher), to mark the release of the small paperback edition of 'African Dawn' in the UK market.

Day 2 of the Zimbabwe blog

Click here to read the second instalment on my recent trip to Zimbabwe on the Quercus Books (my UK publisher) blog.

Day 2 of the Zimbabwe blog

Click here to read the second instalment on my recent trip to Zimbabwe on the Quercus Books (my UK publisher) blog.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

One elephant, two elephant, three elephant...

I'm blogging again here at Africa Geographic Magazine about the Hwange Game Count, which I recently attended in Zimbabwe.  Have a look and leave a comment if you wish.

Monday, October 15, 2012

African Dawn paperback, out now in the UK!

Good news if you live in the UK, the small paperback of my last book, 'African Dawn' is now available.

To mark the release I'm guest blogging on the Quercus Books blog here.

Please feel free to leave a comment, as I like the good people at Quercus to think I have a few readers.

More news soon!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Found: one battlefield and a new book!

It’s not often I have real news here on the blog nor, for that matter, do I often post anything at all here.  But all that is about to change Legion of Fans (LOF) – starting right now.

I have a new non-fiction book out in Australia!

It’s called the Lost Battlefield of Kokoda and I co-wrote it with a top bloke and ex Australian Army Commando named Brian Freeman.  My name’s not on the book, but I did write it, honest.

The Lost Battlefield, which was released in Australia while I was in Zimbabwe a couple of weeks ago, is the story of how the people of the tiny village of Alola on the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea revealed a secret to Brian that had been protected by generation after generation for seventy years.

Brian had been escorting treks on the trail (or track as people call it these days) for many years and in that time had built up a rapport with a family in Alola.  Such was their respect for them that one day his friend Kila Eleve revealed the location of a major battlefield that had been lost in time since 1942.

Like a modern day Indiana Jones Brian and his escorts hacked their way through the jungle to come across an amazing complex of more than 300 Japanese foxholes that had been taken by the Australians in the tumultuous battle of Eora Creek.

Contemporary maps and history books since had placed most of the fighting close to the Eora Creek river crossing on the Kokoda Trail.  What Brian discovered, however, with the help of the people of Alola and team of archaeologists, was that the main battle took place high up in the hills above the river crossing, much further away than the original maps indicated.

The lost battlefield was on traditional hunting lands of the people of Alola and, as such, was inaccessible to tourists or historians until the locals took a big leap of faith and showed it to Brian.

Brian and his friend the high profile Aussie businessman David Moffat got together to set up a trust that will hopefully see the battlefield enshrined as a national monument, and allow the people of Alola to benefit from limited access to it in the future.

For the non-Aussies out there, the Kokoda campaign has momentous historical and emotional significance to many Australians.  It’s where the seemingly unstoppable Japanese military advance was finally checked, in 1942.  In fact, as we point out in the book, the battle of Eora Creek, on the site of the ‘lost battlefield’ was the first time in the war that Japanese soldiers were seen to throw down their weapons and run away.

I had a great time drinking with Brian... err, I mean researching and writing this amazing story, and I hope you like it.  If not, then direct your negative feedback to Brian, as his name’s on the cover, not mine.

In other news, the clock is ticking away... the launch of my ninth novel, ‘Dark Heart, is imminent.  Stay tuned 

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Messing about on a Zimbabwean houseboat

True to my word, Legion of Fans (LOF), I am back and blogging. If you don't mind, I'm using this blog as a "portal" (you should waggle the first and second fingers of both hands when saying that word) to link to my other blogs, at Africa Geographic and Getaway Magazines.

The latest missive from me on Africa Geographic, here is about my recent trip on board the good ship (and I do mean ship), Return to Eden.  Return to Eden is a fantastic houseboat on Lake Kariba. I had my 40th birthday on 'Return' and I'm in training for a repeat performance for my 50th.

Zimbabwe is a beautiful country and Kariba is one of its gems.  There's nothing quite so nice as puttering about on a little tender vessel along the shores of Matusadona National Park, cold Zambezi Lager in hand, watching animals.


Friday, August 17, 2012

I'm baaaaack

And as he tiptoes in, acutely aware of the echo of his own footsteps, he asks: "hello, hello, hello, is there anybody out there?"

Greetings non facebookers, assuming any of you are still here, bothering to read this blog.  I cannot believe it has been seven months since I posted anything here.  Well, actually I can believe it, because that's how long I've been working on my 10th novel, and a couple of new non fiction books.

Busy does not begin to describe how chaotic my work life has been, Legion of Fans (LOF), but I am back and humbly at your service.

In fact, I have resumed blogging with a frenzy.  I've posted a blog about Zimbabwe and beer (two of my favourite things) here on the Getaway  Magazine Blog.

Also, I have a brand new blog on the excellent Africa Geographic Magazine website and you can view my first post, in which I try to fathom my addiction to Africa here

Friday, January 27, 2012

A nice story about Africa, social media, and the speed of global communications

So, there I was, in a lovely house on a farm in Letsitele, a small South African town with a big output of citrus fruit.

Just as I was finishing my (third) sundowner and we were all preparing to go into dinner my mobile phone rang. I excused my self and answered it. "Hello, Tony speaking."

"Hello," said an African voice, "are you the owner of this phone?"

Groan. The phone company calling me to try and make me spend more money, I thought. "Of course I'm the owner of this phone. Goodb..."

"No, sorry, the owner of this phone, the one I am calling from, not your phone. Do you know him."

Now I was confused. Did I know who? This was like Abbott and Costello's who's on first. I took the phone away from my ear and looked at the number. It had a country code of +254. Something clicked. "Ah," I said, "You want to know if I know who owns the phone you are calling from?"


"What's your name, and where are you?"

"My name is Jackson," said the caller, "I am a security guard in a village market in Nairobi. A man has been having lunch here and he has left his phone. I am busy calling all the numbers in his phone to see if someone knows who he is."

"Mzungu?" (White person).

"Yes, sir."

The wheels of my mine whirred. I know of only one white man who would be in Nairobi, and who would have consumed enough Tusker beer at a long lunch to cause him to forget to pick up his phone. "I'm sure I know this man. Thank you for calling, Jackson, and for your honesty. I will get a message to this man and try and get him to call you. Please leave the phone switched on."

"It is my pleasure," he said.

We ended the call and Mrs Blog asked what all that was about. I explained to her and my South African friends, who were mightily impressed that Jackson hadn't just pocketed the phone or sold it. "So whose phone is it?" Mrs B asked.

"It has to be JR."

JR is a good friend who I met, virtually via email, when researching my first book, FAR HORIZON. Like Mike Williams, the lead character in the book, JR was an Australian Army officer serving with the UN in Mozambique, clearing land mines. While there he fell in love with Africa (and, as it turned out, one of her inhabitants). While JR's heart may be in southern Africa (and with his beloved), his ass has belonged to a series of military contracting companies who have sent him to such charming places as Afghanistan and Somalia. I knew that he often went to Nairobi on business.

Looking at the number in the 'received calls' on my phone I also knew it was him, for sure, because he had called me from Somalia only a couple of months ago, when I was on tour promoting my new book, 'AFRICAN DAWN'. I was speaking at Exclusive Books in Nelspruit, South Africa, at 6.30pm one evening and at precisely 6.37pm my phone buzzed in my pocket. Fortunately I had switched the ringer to silent.

After the talk I checked my phone and saw an SMS from JR's Kenyan phone that read: "I hope you remember to switch your phone to silent when speaking in public". That's the sort of zany funster he is.

"If he doesn't have his phone," Mrs B asked, "then how are you going to contact him?"

"Facebook." We used Mrs Blog's phone to get online and send JR a message on Facebook telling him to call his own phone and advising him it was in safe custody. I was fairly sure he would be travelling with a laptop."

He did, and he got his phone back, and Jackson supplemented his no doubt meagre pay with a nice little reward.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Game drives in kruger

Stompie the tuftless lion and some snoozy rhinos.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Save a rhino - drinks included.

I wouldn't want you to think that my life revolves around alcohol - it doesn't. It more revolves around alcohol, writing, and travelling in Africa. All seem to complement each other nicely, I find.

I don't write under the influence of alcohol, but I have been known to extract the old digit and write faster as 4pm approaches. That, here in Africa, is knock-off time for me, and commencement of the sundowner beverage service.

In fact, I usually try to finish writing well before that, but lay off the sauce until 4. Well, sometimes.

I copped a bit of stick on Facebook recently for admitting that my tipple of choice (at the time) was Castle Lite. Whichever South African oke at SA Breweries came up with that name deserves to be dipped in a fondue of boiling hippo pooh. The 'lite' in Castle Lite refers to the fact that it is 'lite' in things that make you fat, such as carbohydrates.

It is not - let me say this again - not a low-alcohol beer. Its alcohol content is four per cent, the same as the very agreeable Windhoek Lager, which in times past has been my favourite African drop. Sadly, when ill-informed people see me drinking 'Lite' beer they think I am a nancy boy.

I am not. I'm just a middle aged man with a beer belly, which is why I like low carbohydrate beer. Sometimes. I'm getting a bit over it now, however.

In fact, I am currently ploughing my way through a couple of cases (slabs) of Dois M, a champion and very full-strength macho beach beer from Mozambique. I brought it back from a recent two-week trip up the Indian Ocean coast. This is the stuff that Alex the Pirate (in IVORY) and Mike Williams (from FAR HORIZON) would chug while braaiing some prawns, shooting some bad guys, and trying to seduce some comely beach chick.

The trouble now, however, is that I'm back in the bush, in the Kruger Park, not on a Mozambican beach eating prawns and lobsters to my heart's content. (Nor shooting people or seducing beach chicks, on the odd chance that Mrs Blog reads this post). A refreshing (i.e. watery) beer in a giant man-sized 440ml can is perfect for the beach, but not so the bush.

I've switched back to my other current favourite - Miller Genuine Draft. I know, it's not very African (although this iconic American brand is now owned by the aforementioned SA Breweries). It's light (not 'Lite'), full-strength, and the contents of the 330ml bottle don't have time to get warm before you get to the end. In short, a perfect bush beer.

And it's cheap. Well, compared to Australia it's cheap.

People in South Africa, like people everywhere around the world, like to whinge about the cost of living going up. And it is. I'm not denying that, or the fact that many people are feeling the pinch. But when it comes to alcohol the good folk of the R of SA must realise that they are very lucky to have a president who not only is a good dancer and chick magnet, but who is smart enough to keep the tax on booze to virtually zero.

This may shock some of you Aussies, but let me put this in perspective for you. I bought a case of 24 cans of beer the other day and it cost me R122. At the current exchange rate, that is about AUD$15. Yes, $15.

Now, South Africans, eyes to me... a case of Aussie beer would cost the equivalent, from a bottle shop, of R320. Yes, R320.

And people ask me why I love South Africa so much?

When it comes to wine the differences are even more pronounced. You can buy a very nice, drinkable bottle of South African wine for around R30. This is less than AUD$4. If you could buy a bottle of wine for $4 in Australia, which you can't, it would make you go blind. South Africans, you may not believe me, but in Australia it is not unusual for people to pay around R80 ($10) for a GLASS of wine in a pub.

Which leads me, in a roundabout way, but inevitably, to the actual subject of this blog post. Do gooding.

One of the things I'm most proud/pleased about as a result of writing books is that I get invited to help out at fundraising for worthy charities, usually with an African bent. I have a policy of 1. only supporting functions where I know that the funds raised are going direct to the people who need them most and who can do the most with them, and 2. only speaking at functions where alcohol is involved - preferably included in the cost. I find people are much more likely to laugh at my funny stories and buy my books if they are inebriated.

So, I was more than happy to agree to my first function of 2012, a fund raising dinner being organised by the delightful Tammie Matson from Animal Works. Animal Works supports wildlife conservation programs in Africa and India and Tammie is slanting this function towards raising funds for rhino conservation in Zimbabwe.

Best of all, I don't have to do all the talking. In fact, Tammie is bringing together four authors of books about Africa at the dinner - her (she wrote the brilliant 'Dry Water' about her time as a wildlife researcher in Zimbabwe and Namibia, and I'm looking forward to reading her new book, Elephant Dance); the delightful Sally Henderson (Silent Footsteps and Ivory Moon); Peter Allison, whose popular book about his experiences as a safari guide 'Whatever you do Don't Run' would be the poorer without the scene where a mouse burrows into his bottom for warmth (as if); and me.

The Animal Works 'Imagine Africa' dinner is to be held at Ripples Restaurant, Deck C, Chowder Bay Road, Mosman (that's in Sydney, not in Africa), from 6.30pm on Wednesday, February 22. Bookings: call Ripples on 99603000 or email Tammie at tammiekmatson@gmail.com

The cost is $95 per head, but before you say 'no, that's too much, even for Zimbabwe and the rhinos', let me point out that this includes a $50 donation to the charity, and the other $45 covers dinner, a glass of bubbles on arrival, and red and white wine during the meal. Given the price of drinks in Sydney I reckon $45 for a meal and wine - hell, even the full $95 - is pretty good. Plus, you get to ask Peter about the mouse.