Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Mandela's legacy: a day out in the national park

So, I'm sitting in my Land Rover, driving in the Kruger National Park on my way to Lower Sabie and in the car in front is a family - mum, dad and two kids.

On the back of the car is Blue Bulls sticker - that's the Joburg/Pretoria rugby team.  We've all stopped to look at some elephants and the kids in front are clearly having a ball.  Just another day in the park, right?

Wrong.

This is the day Nelson Mandela is being buried, and what strikes me as really significant, on this day of all days, is that the people in the car in front of me are black.

I've been visiting Kruger since 1995, the year after Nelson Mandela became South Africa's first truly democratically elected president.  One of the things that struck me on that first visit was that I saw no black African tourists in the country's national parks.

For much of the apartheid period black visitors were banned from the parks.  As things started to change they were given limited access to parks such as Kruger and although there was clearly no segregation under law in 1995, when I arrived, culturally this was simply not something African people did.

As the years went on and I continued to visit South Africa I noticed African people were coming to the parks, mostly as day visitors.  These tended to be bus loads of school kids, or sometimes a church or community group coming en masse, for an outing.  Kruger's camp grounds and chalets continued to be the preserve of white South African family visitors and growing numbers of foreign tourists.

I clearly remember the day I saw my first black African family - again, mum, dad and two kids - setting up a campsite.  It was in 2009, just after I bought my new (second hand) Land Rover Defender.  I went over the dad and said Howzit, as you do, and we chatted a while and compared vehicles (he had a lovely new Land Rover discovery).

This may not sound like a turning point in history, but for me it kind of was.  It was a little like the time in early 2010 when my white English-speaking South African friends in Durban proudly took me on a tour of the city's brand new soccer stadium that had been built for the impending football world cup.

Sport, like tourism, was very much aligned to the colour bar in South Africa in the bad old days.  Black people played soccer (football), and white people played rugby.

Yet here were my white friends telling me which world cup soccer games they had bought tickets for.  Last Sunday, there I was behind a car proudly displaying a supporters' sticker for what had, in my lifetime, once been an all-white team in a white man's game.

There was much reflection here in South Africa on Mandela and his legacy in the time between his death and burial (and way too many journalists and public speakers saying 'his long walk has come to an end').

Two things from that time, however, will stay with me: the first is an Afrikaner DJ on Pretoria's FM station breaking down in tears while reading the poem, Invictus, and the second is my wife crying as we listened to an interview with former Springboks Rugby Captain Francois Pienaar talking about the day  his team won the 1995 Rugby World Cup.  Pienaar's one regret of the moment when Nelson Mandela walked out on the field and shook hands with him was that he didn't hug Madiba - he didn't think it would be 'right'.

I am not South African, though I do love this country.  I did not witness the momentous days of Mandela's release and the rocky road to democracy, save for a some half recalled images on a television in Australia.  But I have watched the new South Africa closely over the last 18-odd years.

Things are far from perfect in this country and I could write volumes about the state of contemporary politics how the government has fared post-Mandela, but I will not.

I can, however, tell you now that it is not usual in this country that black families go game viewing in the Kruger park and camp there, nor that my Afrikaner friends' young son is a whizz at soccer, nor that the car in front of me was sporting a Blue Bulls sticker.

People, regardless of colour or creed, enjoying sport - any sport - and revelling in the majesty of their country's natural beautify should be part of a normal, everyday, ordinary country.  And now it is in South Africa.

That, to me, is a good part Mr Nelson Mandela's legacy.

How about you?  What, if anything, did he mean to you?  Do you think Francois should have hugged Madiba (I do)?


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

All at sea

And now a quick word from our sponsor... me.

In case you're wondering where I am and what I've been up to, I'm all at sea.  Literally.  Mrs Blog and I have been taking a three week cruise on board the delightful MSC Sinfonia, from Genoa, Italy, to Cape Town, South Africa.

We're currently somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic, a couple of days' sailing away from our first landfall in Africa, Walvis Bay, in Namibia.

Yes, I do get around.

Yes, you can expect to see a bit of cruise boat action in a future novel.

No, I didn't get seasick.

And, yes, I am planning on setting a future novel in Namibia  - it'll be about a middle aged author who eats and drinks too much at sea and.... well, I haven't thought much further than that.

In other news, my latest novel THE PREY seems be doing quite well in Australia, so thanks to everyone who bought a copy.  If you haven't, please do so as it makes a nice Christmas present for you and yours, and for me, as I need the money top support my cruise boat gigolo lifestyle.

And in some actual news (well, more self promotion dressed up as news), here's me talking in the Melbourne AGE and the Sydney Morning Herald about books that changed me.  Feel free to click on through and 'like'/'share'/whatever.

Happy sailing.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

On the road again, promoting THE PREY!



I'll be speaking at a number of events in Australia and South Africa to promote the release of my 10th novel, 'The Prey' .  Please come and say hi!


 Note: Please double check all times and bookings with the venue/library listed as I've been known to get these wrong in the past!




Unley, SA

Thursday, November 7, 7.30pm, literary safari with me at Unley Town Hall, Oxford Tce, Unley
Cost:  Free
Bookings:  (08) 8372 5100

Adelaide, SA

Friday, 8 November, 12.30pm, SA Writers Centre Special Event at SA Writers Centre, Level 2, 187 Rundle Street, Adeliade.
Cost:  Free
Bookings:  (08) 8223 7662
  

Victor Harbor, SA

Friday, November 8, 5.30pm, literary evening, Victor Harbor Library, 1 Bay Road, Victor Harbor
Cost: $5, includes finger food and wine
Bookings: (08) 8551 0730


St Ives, NSW

Friday, December 20, 10.30am, Pre Christmas morning tea at St Ives Library, St Ives Village Shopping Centre.
Cost: Gold coin donation

  

Thursday, August 08, 2013

How to safari...

Now that I've got a couple of books out of the way (I'm releasing three this year and working on a new on for next year), I'm back to doing a spot of blogging.

Here's my latest missive, which is currently running African Geographic's online Safari Interactive magazine here.

It's about the merits of staying in a private game lodge or private reserve and being driven around the bush by an expert guide, versus doing it yourself on a self drive safari in a national park.  There are ups and downs for both.

I've also thrown in a few pictures from a recent stay at the lovely Tanda Tula lodge in the Timbavati Private Game Reserve.  I had some truly sensational game viewing there.

Here's a taste:

Lion at Tanda Tula.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Helping adult literacy in South Africa

I'm keen to help out any initiative that gets people reading (and buying) books.  I'm so keen, I even agreed to give away a few copies of my books in support of a great adult literacy program being run by Tanda Tula safari lodge in South Africa's Timbavati Game Reserve.

My friends Don and Nina who run Tanda Tula have introduced a program to help some of their staff improve their reading and conversational skills.  Nina had a great idea that the staff, all adults, might like to read something other than textbooks.  She thought my novels, several of which are set in places the staff would know, might make interesting reading.

I agreed wholeheartedly, and just wished that when I was studying English that I could have had set texts full of gunplay, sex and wildlife (and wild people).  It was my great pleasure to help out and you can read more about Tanda Tula's adult literary program here.

Make sure you also click through to Tanda Tula's homepage and check out their tented camp in the Timbavati - it's a stunner and the game viewing there is excellent.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Join me on a floating tour to Africa



(In fact, I think it's 20 nights at sea, one night in Genoa, and three in Cape Town, but I never was very good with detail or numbers).

Full, correct, details here at the Swagmantours website.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Meet me in Harare

Sounds like a good name for a novel, no?  Ok, no.  But, anyway, I'll be in Harare, Zimbabwe, signing books at the charming Folio Bookshop, Borrowdale Village, from 9am to 1pm, June 6.

If all you non-facebook people have been wondering where I've been and what I've been up to, I can explain my absence (yet again).  I've been busy going through the edits on no fewer than three books (one novel and two non fiction books), and writing my 11th novel.

Enough excuses.  I have also got back on the blogging wagon (horse?) and you can read my latest missive for Africa Geographic magazine here, about my recent brush with two deadly snakes!

I promise (with fingers crossed behind back) to blog more.  Hope you're all well out there in blog land.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Hear me speak in South Africa

Well, I'm back in Africa - South Africa to be specific, and before I venture off into the bush I'm spending a week touring about to promote my latest book, 'DARK HEART'.  You can catch me at the following venues:
Cape Town

Monday 22nd April 2013 - 6.00pm
Talk and Book Signing
Wordsworth Willowbridge
Shop 33 Willowbridge Lifestyle Centre
Tygervalley
RSVP: willowbridge@wordsworth.co.za or 021 914 1791

Tuesday 23rd April 2013 - 10.00am
Talk and Book Signing
Exclusive Books
Somerset Mall
Shop 327, Somerset Mall
Somerset West
RSVP: somersetmall@exclusivebooks.co.za or 021 851 0250

Johannesburg

Tuesday 23rd April 2013 - 7.00pm
Jenny Crwys-Williams - book club dinner
The Local Grill
Corner 7th & 3rd Avenue
Parktown North
RSVP: Jade 076 780 6383

Wednesday 24th April - 6.00pm
Talk and Book Signing
Exclusive Books, Clearwater Mall,
Cnr Christian de Wet and Hendrik Potgieter Roads,
Roodepoort
RSVP: clearwater@exclusivebooks.co.za or 011 675 3971

Durban

Thursday 25th April 2013 - 6.00pm
Talk and Book Signing
Book Boutique
26 Rock View Road
Amamzintoti, Durban
RSVP: thebookboutique@gmail.com or 031 903 6692


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Hear me speak in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban

Well, it's that time of year again - I'm heading back to Africa.  Being an all work, no play kind of guy, I'm kicking off my trip with some touring to promote my latest book, 'DARK HEART'.  (OK, so it's not really like working, but please come and listen to my jokes, and remember to laugh).

I'll be speaking in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban - see below for dates, times and places.




Sunday, March 17, 2013

Trapping animals in Africa

But only in a nice way... with my infrared and motion-sensor activation camera trap.

Check out some pics and videos I captured during my last trip to Africa, on the Getaway Magazine Blog, here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Come hear me speak, please!


Phase two of my round Australia tour to promote my latest novel, 'DARK HEART' is about to kick off.  Please see below for dates and times, and do remember to book and/or check with the organisers and venue as I've been known to get the times wrong occasionally.



 New South Wales
   
Wednesday 20th February 7.00pm
Castle Hill Library
14 Pennant Street
Castle Hill 
Phone: 02 9761 4510

  
Wednesday 6th March 6.00pm

Rwandan Orphans Assistance Response Fundraiser
Sydney Hilton Marble Bar 
1/488 George St Sydney
For tickets, click Book here

Saturday 9th March 11.00am - 3.00pm
        Book Signing
        Sydney  Travel Show

        Fox Studios

        38 Driver Avenue

        Moore Park

        Swagman Tours Stand

Wednesday 13th March 6.00pm
Strathfield Library
65-67 Rochester Street
Homebush
Phone: 02 8762 0222
Saturday 23rd March 10.00am 

Port Macquarie Library
         1 Grant Street
         Port Macquarie
         Phone: 02 6581 8755
         Email: portlib@mnclibrary.org.au
  
Thursday 4th April 11.00am
         Top Ryde Library
         1 Pope Street
         Ryde
         Phone: 02 9952 8347
         Email: nsahni@ryde.nsw.gov.au
 
 Northern Territory
       Thursday 11th April 5.30pm
                Palmerston Library      
                The Boulevard  
                Palmerston City  
                Phone: 08 8935 9992
Friday 12th April 12.00pm 
Casuarina Library
               17 Bradshaw Terrace
               Casuarina
               Phone: 8930 0200 
  
Friday 12th April 5.30pm 
Darwin City Library
Civic Centre,Harry Chan Avenue
Dawin
Phone: 8930 0230 
Saturday 13th April 11.00am
Alice Springs Library
93 Todd Street
Alice Springs
Phone: 8950 0555
Email: lwickham@astc.nt.gov.au
Western Australia

        Thursday 28th February 7.00pm
               Fundraiser for Painted Dog Conservation

Plaza Ballroom   
1 Hyatt Hotel
Contact: John lemon
Victoria
Wednesday 20th March 7.00pm 
Fundraiser for Heal Africa
Kew Golf Club    
120 Belford Rd
Kew East
Contact: Kate Munns
For tickets click Book here

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Riding the rails

Happy New Year, Legion of Fans (LOF).  I'm kicking off 2013 with a bit of shameless self promotion in 'Escape' Magazine today (Escape is the travel supplement in various major Sunday newspapers around Australia).

Today's missive is about luxury train travel in South Africa which is something dear to my heart and, if you're read 'IVORY', you'll know a certain train is also very near and dear to Alex the pirate and his lady friend Jane.  Enough said.

The Blue Train will feature in my next novel, 'THE PREY', due for release in the UK, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand this November.

You can read my review of the country's premier trains, Rovos Rail's The Pride of Africa, and the Blue Train here.  Both offer a slightly different version of the same experience and there's not much between them, as far as I'm concerned.

Whether you choose Rovos or the Blue Train should probably just come down to time - the Pride of Africa takes two nights to journey from Pretoria to Cape Town (or vice versa), while the more modern Blue Train takes one.

To enhance your reading pleasure, here are a few snaps I took recently on The Blue Train.


My best friend on the Blue Train... they do a mean Bloody Mary

Table Mountain whizzing by, as we leave Cape Town



I see the train a comin', it's comin' round the bend...


Lounge carriage... always the best part.  And a mysterious lady in red.


Looxury, sheer looxury.