Joburg Expat: November 2016

November 22, 2016

Exclusive: Interview with Tony Park, Africa's "New Wilbur Smith"

Tony Park, Author
Learn more at www.tonypark.net
As you well know, all things expat are my passion, especially when pertaining to South Africa. Books and writing are my other passion. When these two worlds overlap, I'm in heaven.

So perhaps you can imagine my excitement when Tony Park - who has been hailed as Africa's next Wilbur Smith - agreed to give an interview and have it published right here on Joburg Expat!

Tony Park is an Australian author who writes novels set in southern Africa, with a focus on South Africa. His books are sold around the world with two, Ivory and The Delta, so far available in the U.S.  (However, I've been able to buy three others, African Dawn, African Sky, and The Hunter via Amazon 3rd party sellers.) He recently launched his 13th novel, Red Earth, which is set in KwaZulu Natal. He is an expat of sorts, spending six months of every year in Africa where he has a house near the Kruger Park, and the remainder of the year in Sydney.

I hope you'll pour yourself a cup of coffee or Rooibos tea, sit back, and enjoy reading what Tony has to say about the inspiration for his novels, how he likes to spend a Saturday afternoon, his favorite "This is Africa" moment, and why "now now" gets him into fights with his editor. And oh, I'll be raffling away a copy of The Delta among those of you who leave comments and questions for Tony, so don't be shy! I promise you The Delta makes for great beach reading with the school holidays looming.



Joburg Expat: How (and when) did you come to South Africa for the first time, and what made you fall in love with it?

Tony Park: My wife Nicola, the planner in our relationship, decided in 1995 that we would go for a once-in-a-lifetime safari to South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Botswana. That one-off trip proved to be anything but.  Within the first few days of arriving in South Africa we were bitten by something, drank something, or breathed something in - but the continent hooked us. I guess it was a combination of the amazing wildlife, incredible scenery and the fascinating stories that everyone seemed to have that made us book our second trip to Africa before that first one was over. With the exception of 2002, when I was called on to serve with the Australian Army in Afghanistan (I’m an army reservist), we’ve been back to Africa every year since.

JE: Ha! If it weren't for our spouses, we writers would never go to the places we need to see so we can write about them! Were you a writer before coming to SA or did SA inspire your writing career?

TP: Ever since I was a little kid the one thing in life I always wanted to do was write a novel. Around the time of my first or second trip to Africa I left my full time job in public relations to try and write a novel. I wrote a turkey of a book set in the Australian outback and fortunately that manuscript never saw the light of day. It was dreadful. It was on our third trip to Africa, a four-month self drive safari, that I sat down to try and write a book again, and it was then and there that I found my inspiration, my ‘muse’, Africa.

JE: You are killing me! As a fellow author, but one who had no aspirations to write books when I was a little kid, I somehow always feel envious when others say that. though I'm a bit mollified about the "dreadful manuscript":-) What do you love most about Africa?

Every Day is a New Adventure



Tony with a hand reared young black rhino at a rhino breeding facility in Zimbabwe that gave
him the inspiration for hisbook African Dawn, about rhino poaching.

TP: The unpredictability.  Good, bad or otherwise, every day is a new adventure.  That goes for game drives in the bush - you never know, literally, what’s lurking just around the corner - and for life in general.  Countries that were doing quite well when we first visited in 1995  - Zimbabwe is a case in point - are a basket case now, but on the upside, places that were war zones or devastated by tragedy 21 years ago are thriving, go-ahead places today.  I’m a positive person and I see no end of evidence of the indomitable human spirit on my travels in Africa.

JE: Are your characters inspired by real people you know?

TP: No, the characters per se in my books are not inspired by real people but some of the things my fictional characters go through are based on real events and real stories told to me by people I’ve met.

JE: Many of your characters are the adventurer types who don't always play by the rules and know how to wield an automatic weapon - where have you learned so much about guns and explosives?

TP: I served with the Australian Army in Afghanistan in 2002 as a public affairs officer. I was called up from the army reserve to full time service - what the American Armed Forces calls active duty. My 34-odd years in the army, part time, have exposed me to some interesting stuff. I’m not a man of action myself, but to paraphrase one of the characters from Stephen E. Ambrose’s ‘Band of Brothers’, I had the privilege of serving in the company of some real life heroes. I learned a lot from the people I served with.

JE: This is a more geeky question I hope my readers will excuse, but I'm always curious about other writers' source of inspiration. Where do your best ideas come from, and how do you go about putting them into your books - i.e. is it a very methodical approach with an overview first, then chapter by chapter fleshing out of the storyline, or do you just get struck by an idea and write down that scene and build the rest around it later?

TP: My ideas come from newspaper articles I’ve read in South Africa, from conversations I’ve had with people around the braai, or, in the case of my latest book, Red Earth, from one of my readers. I have a friend and reader named Andre Botha who is the head of the Birds of Prey conservation program for South Africa’s Endangered Wildlife Trust.  He suggested I write a novel that touched on the plight of Africa’s critically endangered vultures.  (Vultures are killed for use in traditional medicine, thanks to a mistaken belief that they bring good luck, and poisoned by poachers because vultures act as an early warning system for national parks rangers who are drawn to freshly killed rhinos and elephants by the vultures.)

JE: That's fascinating! Who would have thought vultures are endangered? So how does a book come to life from a suggestion like that?

TP: Once I have a basic premise, such as ‘guy in the bush researching vultures,’ I then sit down, open my laptop and start writing a new book. I do not have a plot or overview first - I’ve found from experience I can’t work that way - so I simply make up the story and the characters as I go along. I have no idea what’s going to happen tomorrow when writing a new book any more than I know how the story will end. Not everyone writes this way, but it’s what works for me.

JE: Thank God! I was secretly hoping you'd say this, versus telling me about binders full of character studies. What do you do to get new material for your books?


The Best Way for Me to Research and Write My Books is On Location


Tony "on location" in Zimbabwe. God, I'm jealous!

TP: I’ve found that the best way for me to research and write my books is to do it ‘on location’.  As I’m not from here, I have no residual knowledge of the countries I write about, and rather than Googling information I find it’s much more fun (and a great excuse to travel) to spend time in the places I’m writing about and draw inspiration from the people, landscapes and wildlife.

JE: Where is the next place you'd like to visit?

TP: My wife and I just did a seven week road trip from South Africa to Tanzania and back in our Land Rover. We did 11,000 km on atrocious roads so at the moment I’m not planning on going anywhere for a while! Seriously, we were very impressed with Zambia, a country that was well and truly on the skids when we first visited in 1998, but today, after a few years of stable government and an influx of displaced farmers from Zimbabwe, is looking fantastic. I have a hankering to visit the Liuwa Plains in Zambia, the site of the second biggest animal migration in Africa.

JE: Aha! So might we see Dusty Plains next in the bookstores? Coming up with book titles is agony to me, especially short ones like yours. Speaking of agony, do you ever get writer's block?

TP: I find that it’s almost impossible to get writer’s block in Africa. If I ever get stuck for something to write I just look around me, pick up a newspaper or turn on the radio, and I’ll get a dozen or more bizarre ideas for plot twists!

JE: That's for sure. Africa was a blogger's dream. Shifting gears a little bit: What do you like to do on a rainy Saturday?

TP: I love to read.  I spend so much time in between writing with re-reading and editing my manuscripts that I don’t get as much time as I’d like to read other authors’ work. I grab any chance I can get.

JE: You're sometimes called "the next Wilbur Smith" - have you read his books and what would you say to that?

TP: I’m happy to be compared to a man who is incredibly successful with a following around the world. I’m a fan of Wilbur’s earlier, stand-alone books, which tended to be snapshots of Africa at the time he was writing them. I think if people like his stuff from the 70s and 80s they might find something of interest in my books. I didn’t actually start reading his books until after I was published and travelling more in Africa. I like to say that the two major differences between me and Wilbur are about 35 books (though I’m catching up), and $35 million.

JE: Ha! One book at a time, right? What's your favorite novel set in Africa? Favorite author?

TP: Hold my Hand I’m Dying, by the late, truly great, John Gordon-Davis. It’s set in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) during the bush war.  I love that book and loved all his novels.

JE: Whatever one can say about Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, it has given the world some of the best literature! Changing track a little bit again... Rumor has it you live in one of those "wildlife estates" near Kruger Park; what can you tell us about that? Is it as awesome as it sounds?


We Have a Resident Leopard Who Sneaks Around Our House


Tony Park on the banks of the Sabie River on the border of Kruger, near his house

TP: Yes, I do. And yes it is as awesome as it sounds. My wife and I bought a house in a small game reserve that joins on to the Kruger Park. We have sundowners every day on the Sabie River, looking into Kruger, and we regularly see all the Big Five and much more. We have a resident leopard who sneaks around our house - I’ve caught her on my infrared camera trap again, but when the bushbuck bark and the baboons yell out their signature ‘WA-HOO’ alarm call, you know the neighbourhood cat’s out there somewhere.

JE: Are there many other expats in your area?

TP: Most of the owners on our estate are South Africans, but we do have a small, active community of expats. We have other friends from Australia and there are also people from Holland, Austria, and the Czech Republic. Nicola and I were recently featured on the U.S. reality TV show, Househunters International Off the Grid, talking about how we found our house in South Africa, so we’re bracing for some new neighbours from around the world!



JE: Everyone moving to Africa has their "This is Africa" moment, as in "I can't believe this is happening but it IS kind of quaint." What was yours about?

TP: I think that when we were buying our house in Africa our best TIA moment was when we first saw a copy of the title deeds to our house. As well as the person we were buying the property from there was another name on the deed, as a joint owner, and we had never heard of this problem. The advocate (lawyer) handling the sale said, “don’t worry about that, it’s just a mistake. It happens all the time. It will be fixed.” We had a minor melt down, but it turns out he was right!

JE: Sounds just like the meltdown my husband had when handing over a few hundred thousand rand and not receiving a title deed for the car. Could you see yourself moving back to Australia full-time? What would be the biggest culture shock when moving back?

TP: I think we’ve got a good balance, living half the year in Africa and half the year in Australia. Not only are we on different continents, making the most of what both have to offer, our lifestyles are very different. In Australia we are very much ‘city people’, living in an apartment in Sydney, a beautiful harbour city with beaches, restaurants and bars close by, while in South Africa we are ‘bush’ people, enjoying the peace and solitude of the natural environment. The biggest culture shock I find when I return to Australia, is that drivers actually stop for you when you cross the road at a pedestrian crossing!

JE: What's your favorite South African food?

TP: Biltong. I’m an addict and can’t get enough of it.

JE: That reminds me I have yet to use my biltong maker I purchased and hauled back from my last South Africa trip! One last question: How would you explain to an outsider what, exactly, "just now" means?

TP: Ha ha. Just now means sometime between half an hour and six weeks. I also like ‘now now’, although whenever I have a character say that in one of my novels my editor wants to chop off the second ‘now’! I have to explain to her that it’s an essential term that should be introduced to the rest of the world.

JE: Very essential! And this concludes my interview. Thank you so much for your time, Tony, and best of luck on your quest to catch up with Wilbur Smith - I'm rooting for you!


To learn more about Tony Park, visit his author website or his Facebook Page. And now now, make sure you leave a question or comment in order to be eligible for our drawing of The Delta!

November 14, 2016

Whales, Khoi-San, and Chardonnay: Getaway to South Africa’s Wild Coast (Part Two)

Part One of the story of our Wild Coast Meander brought us all the way to Wavecrest Beach on the evening of our second leg, with my husband staring at the boulder in his hand and cursing our friend Mike with a string of expletives I won’t repeat here. Because no doubt it had been he who had planted the rock in Noisette’ backpack while we all took short naps during our lunch break.

I can only imagine the glee he must have felt when he shouldered his daypack and loudly announced to no one in particular: “Funny how these feel heavier than before lunch!” We should have known then that he was up to no good.

Noisette, not to be outdone, spent a considerable amount of energy on cooking up schemes to get back at his tormentor. The next morning Mike came to find his shoes tied to a fencepost with remarkable patience, and he would finish the day soaked to the bone after a river crossing where Noisette scouted out the surroundings, stripped to his boxers for a swim, and pounced on Mike’s canoe once it was safely in the middle of the stream.


Serenity: Sunset at Wavecrest Beach Hotel and Spa

Perhaps I remember Wavecrest Hotel and Spa as the nicest of our hike simply because it was such a welcome sight after a brutal day of battling the elements. Perhaps any old hut would have done. But to me, its unique location with the ocean on the right, rolling green hills on the left, the river flanked by mangrove swamps before us, and the vast expanse of the beach beyond, left nothing to be desired from life.

A quick note about the Wild Coast Meander hotels:


Kob Inn, located approximately three hours Northeast of East London, is where you begin your hike. Offers many activities like tennis, mountain biking, horse riding, boating.

Mazeppa Bay Hotel is tucked among lush tropical plants in a gorgeous setting. Amenities include swimming pool, tennis court, trampoline, beach volleyball, and a private island with suspension bridge. 

Wavecrest Beach Hotel and Spa sits on the banks of an inlet with a mangrove-lined  lagoon on one side and an expanse of beach and rolling dunes on the other. Best features: outdoor jacuzzi, cappuccino maker, and full spa offering massages.

Trennery’s Hotel has an African ambiance. Rooms are white-washed, thatch-roofed chalets tucked under indigenous trees, and dinner is served off the braai.

Morgan Bay is a good spot to add another day when traveling with family, as it features large 3-room suites sleeping six, and a number of activities, but it is less secluded than the other hotels.

The Wild Coast Meander can be booked through Helen Ross at Wild Coast Holiday Reservations:

P O Box 8017 Nahoon
East London
Tel  043 7436181
Fax 043 7436188
meross@iafrica.com
www.wildcoastholidays.co.za
If our plans had allowed for it, I would have liked nothing more than to stretch out on a chair in front of our thatch-covered cottage and stare into the paradise spread out at my feet. And oh, I might be a bit biased by virtue of the full-fledged cappuccino machine on the premises.

Beaches, beautiful as they are, can become a bit dull after days on end walking along them and taking a gazillion pictures from every possible angle. So it was a welcome change of scenery when the next day our guide, Alex, took us inland for a shortcut through dense tropical forest. He pointed out birds and animal tracks, gave us a lecture about a tree whose fruit, I seem to remember, the locals called White Woman’s Titty (but I can’t be sure), and stopped to dig under a bush to reveal a “miden,”a substantial mound of seashells discarded by the Khoi-San Bushmen who roamed this land in ancient times. One time he relegated us to a stanza of the “Tongue Clicking Song,” a must when traveling in Xhosa territory.

But by far the best application of Alex's knowledge and craftiness was on display when he purchased a bucket of oysters from a local fisherman for a pittance. I'm no big fan of oysters, but Noisette claims they were the best oysters he has ever had.

The Wild Coast is not so much wild because of its untamed wilderness, but rather because it has never been developed. What was formerly the nominally independent Republic of the Transkei, one of the “bantustans” or homelands established by the South African apartheid regime to foster their policy of “separate development,” is now part of the Eastern Cape, a rural and impoverished area of the country.

Much of the farmland along the Wild Coast is held as communal property by the Xhosa tribe and can only be leased but not purchased by private citizens, which is why commercial development is practically nonexistent. The notable exceptions are the very hotels we rested in along the way, spaced so far apart that you won’t encounter a soul when hiking from one to the other.

The only signs of human habitation were occasional rondavels on distant hillsides – what a spectacular view these modest dwellings came with! – and the sad remains of a ship one wrecked on this coast. If you live in those parts, you earn your keep by herding cows, acting as guides or selling beaded jewelry to groups like ours,  or working as a ferryman operating ancient canoes across the many rivers and collecting ZAR 2  (15 cents) as their fare.

This is Gladys, who was selling beaded necklaces and other trinkets at Kob Inn. I purchased
a Christmas ornament and some ankle bracelets for our girls from her.

The last two days of our hike are a bit of a blur to me. More pastures, more cows, more picturesque beaches with breakers pounding onto the rocks and miles and miles of sand under a warm but never too hot sun.

Trennery’s Hotel, the second to last of the hotels, was beautiful in its own way, an oasis of green lawn surrounded by African bush with yet another gorgeous view. Morgan Bay feels more like a true resort with all the amenities it offers and definitely marks the end of the hike in that it brings you back to civilization and hence bigger vacation-going crowds. For some reason I remember the bars at those last two stops most fondly, but this could be due to the fact that over almost a week of hiking together, our group had grown very close and the jokes and insults were flying – preferably over more than one bottle of Chardonnay.

Our porters on the 2nd day. Porters changed daily, hiking back to their starting points after delivering
our bags and collecting their payment. On long stretches they changed over midway.

The typical vast expanses of beach during the Wild Coast Meander

Yet another beach

This beach was the home stretch coming towards Morgan Bay

Our suite at Morgan Bay: You can glimpse the edge o the bed in the next room, and another
one beyond that one. We could have moved in with our entire family for a week.

The view backward to where we came from as seen from our room at Morgan Bay Hotel

By the way, when we added and divided our entire group’s bill for drinks, boat rides, and – yes! – massages at the end of the week, it came to under $100 per person. Travel in South Africa, once you’ve paid for the flight to get there, is laughably affordable.

One of the biggest pleasures of our hike was the gratuitous whale watching from almost every vantage point. Whenever you managed to take your eyes off the molehills or boulders in front of you and turn them to the horizon, you’d glimpse a big splash of a fluke or spray of mist shooting up into the air. Our South African friends who remembered vacationing there as children were certain there had been no whales in those days. Even though whaling was banned by South Africa as far back as 1935, it has taken this long for Southern right whales and humpbacks to make these waters their breeding grounds again.

When the end of our Meander approached after a rather modest 56 kilometers, we all agreed that we’d happily continue to walk all the way around the Cape of Good Hope to the windswept Skeleton Coast of Namibia, especially if we’d continue to be wined and dined like royalty and trailing our entourage of porters.

I’m definitely a convert to the slackpacking cause. We will just pay better attention to stray boulders in our packs the next time.

***

And now, the moment my husband had so meticulously planned to avenge the indignity of the boulder in his backpack:



Here you can see Mike hijacking the Xhosa tongue clicking song to show off his African dance moves:

video

November 7, 2016

Sun, Wind, and Cows on Beaches: An Unforgettable Hike along South Africa’s Wild Coast (Part One)

When we – reluctantly – left Johannesburg in early 2013, I knew we had made the most of our three years in Africa. We had seen the continent up and down from Cairo to the Cape of Good Hope and East to West from Pemba Beach in Mozambique to Swakopmund in Namibia. We had been to its highest peak in Tanzania and into the deepest sea when diving in Zanzibar. It’s hard to imagine that we could have squeezed even one more week of exploration into our busy lives.

And yet I always regretted never having seen the Wild Coast, that fabled place that conjured images of Where The Wild Things Are in my mind’s eye. I still keep a copy of the children’s classic by Maurice Sendak on my bookshelf, dog-eared and well-worn. I suppose I must have always had a yearning for adventures to parts unknown, even if scary things might lurk around the corner.

Imagine my delight this past July when out of the blue we received a phone call from our South African friends. Two spots had opened up in their group going on the Wild Coast Meander a mere three weeks later, and would we be interested in joining?

Not typically ones to make quick plans, we dropped everything and booked our flights via Atlanta to Johannesburg. Our kids were old enough to stay on their own for 10 days, we reasoned, and so we brushed away any feelings of guilt or worry. The Wild Coast was calling!

I’ve always said that nowhere but Africa are you so pampered when embarking into the wilderness, and this is very true for the Wild Coast too. The name might make you think of deserted landscapes and rugged terrain to be conquered by sheer power of will, but in reality porters would be carrying our bags and we would walk along mostly flat stretches of beach ending at a nice hotel – and inevitably its bar – every afternoon. Our South African friends called it “slackpacking,” a term we immediately embraced as the ideal junction between adventure and luxury.

The vessel for our sunset cruise at Kob Inn, making or a beautiful photo prop.
Hiking along the Wild Coast with a group of friends is great fun! Photo: Jacky D.


The Wild Coast Meander is a leisurely hike following a 56 km stretch of coastline along the Indian Ocean roughly halfway between Durban and Port Elizabeth. Depending on just how slack your pace, this takes from four to six days of walking. Our group – four couples and two teenagers – started out at Kob Inn, a friendly if a bit dated family hotel we reached by shuttle from East London after we’d caught the early flight from Joburg.

At the time of booking, it seemed like a good idea to spend an extra night there to relax, giving us a chance to ride – or rather mostly push, in my case – mountain bikes along the beach, trot horses through the pounding surf, and take a sundowner river cruise in a rickety motor boat supplied by the hotel. Later, however, we discovered that the hotels got progressively nicer as well was more secluded along the way, and wished we had planned a day of rest at one of them instead.

One of the big questions we pondered quite thoroughly:  Why did we come across so many cows standing on the beach? No one seemed to know the answer, but we were grateful to the cows, because they made great photo props.

Perhaps they do it simply because they can. I mean, who doesn’t want to stand on a beautiful beach without another soul invading your space?

One of many cow sightings on the Wild Coast Meander


It was when we had to cover a whopping 22 km the next day that the Wild Coast lived up to its name.

A quick note about the Wild Coast Meander hotels:


Kob Inn, located approximately three hours Northeast of East London, is where you begin your hike. Offers many activities like tennis, mountain biking, horse riding, boating.

Mazeppa Bay Hotel is tucked among lush tropical plants in a gorgeous setting. Amenities include swimming pool, tennis court, trampoline, beach volleyball, and a private island with suspension bridge. 

Wavecrest Beach Hotel and Spa sits on the banks of an inlet with a mangrove-lined  lagoon on one side and an expanse of beach and rolling dunes on the other. Best features: outdoor jacuzzi, cappuccino maker, and full spa offering massages.

Trennery’s Hotel has an African ambiance. Rooms are white-washed, thatch-roofed chalets tucked under indigenous trees, and dinner is served off the braai.

Morgan Bay is a good spot to add another day when traveling with family, as it features large 3-room suites sleeping six, and a number of activities, but it is less secluded than the other hotels.

The Wild Coast Meander can be booked through Helen Ross at Wild Coast Holiday Reservations:

P O Box 8017 Nahoon
East London
Tel  043 7436181
Fax 043 7436188
meross@iafrica.com
www.wildcoastholidays.co.za

We woke to a blustering wind that we were to wrestle against for eight long hours without reprieve. We doggedly put one foot in front of the other, hoods tightly cinched around our faces and legs stinging from the whipped-up sand. Silently we trudged on, sometimes in pairs, sometimes single file, conversation impossible in the howling gale.

Take Mazeppa Bay Hotel, for instance, where we arrived on our second day after a short two hour walk over sun-drenched pastures and across the most stunning beach I’d ever seen. We climbed a long staircase through lush tropical vegetation, past a secluded infinity pool and a rather ancient tennis court, and found ourselves looking at a charming collection of cottages, each with its own small garden perfectly suited for an afternoon nap.

My favorite feature was the ginger house cat that insisted on squeezing between my Kindle and me when I stretched out on the lawn in front of our room. 

Sufficiently rested and supplied with a sundowner from the bar, that evening we backtracked our way down to the beach and at its far end crossed over to a rocky island by way of a suspension bridge that would have been well placed in an Indiana Jones movie.

I held my breath as I gingerly placed my feet on the swinging planks and had to close my eyes when I came to the inevitable part – why do all suspension bridges have this part, right in the middle? – where a cable had snapped and the railing was interrupted. But once safely across, it was an awesome feeling to plop down on some scattered boulders, point our toes to the East, and ponder the big questions in life while the surf pounded onto the rocks below.

When it was time for our lunch break we threw down our daypacks, opened up our paper bags – lovingly packed every morning by that hotel’s staff – and each found a sunny spot behind one of the many rocks to eat our sandwich in peace and with a good helping of the relentlessly whipped-up sand.

But any self-pity we might have indulged in had to be swallowed when glancing at the backs of our porters carrying our heavy packs into the same unrelenting wind. What in my imagination had been a troop of strapping young men in reality was a gaggle of frail looking elderly women wearing colorful wraps and flip-flops.

The suspension bridge at Mazeppa Bay Hotel

Beach between Mazeppa Bay and Wavecrest. You can see the ripples in the sand from the wind.

Can you think of a better spot for a lunch break? Photo: Andy V.

Yours truly on the right with a less than enthusiastic expression. I was grouchy because of the
endless wind and the sand between my teeth. Photo: Andy V.

What renders the Wild Coast particularly beautiful is the succession of river mouths separating one beach from the next, some mere trickles of water, and some fast-flowing streams. Several times that day we had to take off our shoes, roll up our pant legs, and wade through the crystal clear water.

The best river crossing awaited us at the next destination, Wavecrest Beach Hotel and Spa, where hotel staff manned canoes to transport first our bags and then us across the wide river whose banks it was built on. But we scarcely took in the gorgeous surroundings. With single-minded fervor we dragged ourselves to the large pool deck, stripped our feet off their boots and lowered them into the delicious hot water of the Jacuzzi, not willing to move again for a good long time, except when it was announced that in addition to the beer and wine we’d been guzzling there were massages to be had.

One of many river crossings on foot.

The view from Wavecrest Beach

Wavecrest Beach Hotel and Spa - a welcome sight after 22 km of hiking against gale winds


Later in our room we were silently rifling through our backpacks to get them ready for the next morning when Noisette yelled as if bitten by a tarantula. “What the f--- is that?” he said, and pulled out a large rock he’d discovered at the bottom of his pack. “What the hell is this doing in my bag?” And then with dawning recognition: “This time I’m going to kill him!”

To be continued... Stay tuned for Part Two!