Oasis in Maun

Maun the gateway to the Okavango Delta is a very basic town with  a couple of stylish gift shops and cafes. Pretty much everything there revolves around the tourism industry.  I always like to see what a city/town has to offer when I am passing through so on my week long Safari to Botswana I booked a night at Royal Tree Lodge.

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After arriving from Johannesburg at Maun International Airport we easily cleared immigration and were collected from the airport by the driver from Royal Tree Lodge in their very comfortable safari vehicle. The half hour journey  to the Lodge along a 15 km dirt road was bumpy yet extremely interesting. We drove past numerous stalls, donkeys, goats and horses lining the roadside. On arrival into the game reserve surrounding the Lodge we saw giraffes and later on a walking trail during the afternoon plenty of eland and impala.

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The grounds were really beautiful with a number of scenic water holes. We were actually the only guests staying the night and were allocated tents 1 and 2 both of which were fabulously appointed and extremely comfortable. We enjoyed a relaxing lunch on the teak deck overlooking the swimming pool before embarking on one of the walking trails. Our relaxing half hour walk turned into 2 hours plus as due to the lack of any paper map and a few missing signs we took a wrong turn and became hopelessly lost. Not a good situation to be in with a young  child and no water. Lesson learnt – always carry water. Trying to remain calm, after analysing our situation we decided it was best to retrace our steps. Foot sore and tired we arrived back in time for afternoon tea collapsing under the shade of the lead wood tree where we devoured scones with copious amounts of jam and cream. No one had even noticed we had been gone longer than expected …

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That evening we enjoyed a delicious dinner outside under the large leadwood  tree where a family  of spotted genets supervised our meal. I am sure they were ever hopeful for some meat to just drop off the plate.

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Despite our misadventure on the walk we absolutely loved staying at this delightful Lodge which has just 8 tents and would thoroughly recommend breaking up a Botswana Safari with a night in residence.

 

Shooting Butterflies

When I was nearing the end of Tina Marie Clark’s latest novel, I found myself racing home from school drop off to plonk myself on the couch where I literally did not move until I found out if the main characters were going to meet their demise or live to see another day.

Shooting Butterflies had me engrossed in the story and character development from the  first chapter where Kirk Potgieter or Buffel as he later becomes known is as a child, privy to a horrific act of witchcraft involving human sacrifice which you just know is going to affect him badly for the rest of his life.

 Each chapter thereafter sets a cracking pace as we are transported across 52 years from Southern Rhodesia in 1946 to Mozambique 22 years later, then to Zimbabwe, Zululand,  and Cape Town.

Buffel becomes a soldier during the Rhodesian Bush War joining an elite unit where there are no laws and where he is able to hide the fact he has become a psychopath with one goal. One of his fellow comrades Shilo , goes to work for Buffel after the war ends to try where he can to keep him in line . Shilo betrays Buffel’s trust in order to save the life of Tara Wright when she is just a young girl and as a result has to flee Zimbabwe. A grief-stricken Tara  moves from Zimbabwe to South Africa where she falls in love with Wayne Botha – a love that endures for many years even  after they are forcibly  separated by events beyond their control.

Shilo  Khumalo, Wayne Botha, Tara and Josha Wright all find their destiny is dependant on  preventing  Buffel realising his dream of the angel  in the cocoon which would set his friend Impendla’s soul free.

Throughout the book we learn much about African superstitions and the power  deeply seated spiritual beliefs can have on one’s mind.

I don’t want to say to reveal to much else of the plot but if you love African fiction or simply a suspenseful novel then make some time in your schedule to read Shooting Butterflies.

Tina Marie Clark very kindly granted me an interview as part of my author snapshot series so please enjoy getting to know a little more about one of my  favourite authors. Also for those of you who make a comment on my blog or on www.facebook.com/Love4africa Tina has very kindly offered me a signed copy of her book to give away. Will draw the winner on March 1st.

My Brother But One

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Tina first let me congratulate you on writing two really amazing books. I loved your first My Brother But One and enjoyed Shooting Butterflies just as much, if not more. I am sure a lot of work goes into researching your books and your attention to detail and vivid descriptions of the african bush has definitely paid off.                  

Thank you so much Cheryl for having me on your blog, its great to join you!

Q1: Tina, having been born in Zimbabwe where Muti and Sangomas are part of life for many tribes you obviously had some local knowledge of the role traditional medicines play in the lives of many people. How daunting was it to delve into those spiritual rituals involving children and did it affect you personally?                

For the everyday rural black person, the role of the sangoma is different from province to province. Where ‘white medicine’ isn’t readily available, many black people will still seek the help of their sangomas. Actually it’s quite sad that many of the medicine women and men in Africa, who are great herbalists, get lumped into the sangoma or witch doctor category. Yes, there are those who supposedly contact the ancestors and the spirits, the real ‘witches’ who should have that title, but then there are those who simply do their best to heal too. The healers.

I have seen first hand what belief in the sangoma and their muti can do, even to an educated man. In our factory in South Africa I saw an ulcer in a man’s leg, that he believed was from a sangoma’s curse. No amount of medicine and dressing healed that sore, until he went to the sangoma, paid his dues and sorted out the problem with them… and then suddenly within week, the ulcer began to clear. Mind tricks or real, it was his body, his mind and his belief. Who am I to judge…

The muti trade of human bodies parts in Africa is real, and it is scary. I spent hours reading articles and papers on this subject. I often felt sick at what was written and would leave my office and give my teenage sons hugs, just because they were safe and unaffected by the brutality of this world I chose to research…Many of the true African spiritual rituals have never been documented and remain a mystery to everyone, passed from one sangoma to the next by word of mouth.

Luckily, I have never actually experienced the wrath of a sangoma or been privy to their ‘real’ work in the bundu. The spark for the children being sacrificed in a tree was a tiny newspaper article I found on the internet one day and although I tried to reference it again, it had been taken down. And so began the cogs in this author’s mind…

Personally, I was brought up with Christian beliefs, attended boarding schools where church on Sundays was compulsory, and my mum was even a missionary not too many years ago. Although I research and write about the beliefs of other African religions, as an adult I now believe that someone should be judged on being a good person, not on who or what god one worships.

Q2: Your characterisations are excellent and this is why when reading both books I was on tenterhooks the whole way through. Because you had set the scene so well in chapter one of Shooting Butterflies, describing the scene which damages Buffel’s mind for life I understood why he was so inherently damaged. Does it take you a long time to develop such characters or are they simply in your head waiting to be put into print?

Sometimes my characters are just in my head waiting for me to tell their story, other times, I do spend quite a lot of time developing them. Buffel was a complex character and luckily for me one of my best friends, Dr Sue Eaglesham, is a Psychologist. As I wanted to twist and turn him and make him into a monster and still have the readers retain empathy for him, she double checked on his journey constantly and ensured that he followed the same psychotic traits the whole way through. We spent many hours talking about my fictional characters and I could never afford to pay for her professional time for all the voices in my head……Oh and having teenage sons helped too, you would be amazed at the horrendous stuff my very sane and bright #2 comes up with when we are driving on the school run.

Q3: Loved reading about Terry the lion in Fort Droppies. Thought you worked his story into the plot really seamlessly and what is a book on Africa without its wildlife. Do you get to travel back to Africa often? If so, could you share one of your favourite spots to relax and admire the wildlife?

So glad you liked Terry, I kind of fell for the beautiful cat too! Generally every three or four years we try travel back to South Africa. I was last in both Zimbabwe and South Africa in 2010/11, and am planning another trip back soon. In truth, its not often enough for me but there are so many places in the world on my bucket list to see that I can’t always just go there…

A spot that means a lot to me personally would be in Ndumo Game Reserve. There is a road that leads to the Maputu River where you can stand in South Africa and look across the river into Mozambique…this is the quiet place where my sister Beverley rests among the elephants she loved so much.

My other favourite place would be Crystal Waters Farm in Underberg, there is a mountain there that my husband proposed to me on… but the view from the top of the craggy Drakensberg sticking out towards the sky on one side, and looking out over the calm valley below on the other never fails to amaze me.

Animal wise… I have two favourite places. The Okavango Delta is simply awesome, and Hwange National Park, but then I’m rather biased to this park – lucky that my families lodges are in the concession right out side, so Ivory and Khulu lodges are idea for great company, magical food and awesome game viewing, and a quick hop into the actual park too.

Q4: People that write about Africa are passionate about its land, people and wildlife. I think that those of us who share this passion must support each other in getting the word out that spending time in Africa nurtures our souls. Of course in Australia we can go bushwalking and re connect with the earth, but to me the roar of a lion as the sun sets or cry of the fish eagle are magical. There is nothing else quite like it. What are your thoughts on this?

Can I borrow Juluka’s words here? Lyrics in December African Rain go:

“…Taking us away

I never knew whom I could love more – you or the land

Till I stood lost upon that shore – naked and alone…”

For many this is true, once African soil touches your heart it belongs to that continent forever.

I never left Zimbabwe or South Africa because of violence or great personal injury/loss, so for me my heart will always remain in Africa, even if I chose to live in another country. Economically, I know that the injection of money into these countries when one does visit benefits the communities at ground level, not only the ‘fat cats’, and by continuing to visit you can support many families at the same time while getting your ‘African fix.’

I believe that returning to spend time in Africa is a very personal choice, it might nurture my soul and yours, but I have friends who have left because of chronic circumstances and I don’t believe that them, returning will ever heal their tortured souls. For those in Australia, Taronga Western Plains Zoo or Monarto Zoo, will be the closest they will ever come to once again experiencing peace under the blanket of stars listening to the sounds we all love, and my heart breaks for them being in total exile from their homes.

Q5: Lastly, Tina your next book is titled Tears Of The Cheetah according to your website. What country is it set and do you have an approximate release date?

Tears Of The Cheetah is mainly set in South Africa, in KwaZulu Natal, but it ventures into other provinces and Mozambique. This book is due for publication in December 2015… so only a few months to wait. It has already been handed in and is in edit mode.

Again, thank you so much for having me, so glad that you love my books so far, and I can only hope that you continue to love the stories that I write.

Yours in writing,

T.M. Clark
www.tmclark.com.au
www.cyaconference.com

T.M.Clark – Author of Contemporary Africa Suspense/Adventures.
My Brother-But-One – Nominated Queensland Literary People Choice Award 2014
Shooting Butterflies – Nominated ARRA Favourite Romantic Suspense 2014
Tears Of The Cheetah – December 2015

Wisdom Begins With Wonder

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Planning a trip to Kenya’s arid north was difficult because there was such a plethora of choice available . Scrolling thru google and trip advisor so many of the camps/lodges had impeccable pedigrees. i.e.Joys Camp in Shaba, site of the late Joy Adamson’s tented home; Elsas Kopjie where the legendary George Adamson raised his orphaned lions; Elephant Watch camp owned and run by the Douglas – Hamiltons  who have done so much to combat elephant poaching and raise awareness of  the plight of these African icons; but one property leapt out at me due to both its marketing, fabulous reviews, location overlooking the Mathews Ranges and its position on a private conservancy .                           

Saruni Samburu – is an  architectural masterpiece  where 6 huge villas are set into the cliff face overlooking Kenya’s northern frontier. Surrounded by 240,000 acres of private wildlife conservancy and only  7 km’s from Samburu National Reserve we enjoyed an experience rich in culture, wildlife and comfort.

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Our  arrival at Kalama airstrip by “tiny” Cessna  was a relief due to drama in the sky with my son  not coping with the bumpy thermals. Our guide Chris  immediately took us into the shade and found a pair of small antelope called dik -diks whose antics were immediately fascinating and a good distraction while my son quickly recovered.

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The days at Saruni were simply magical. We were spoilt beyond comprehension by Saruni’s staff, the facilities were above expectation, our minds  were opened as  to the Samburu culture and our hearts captured by the wildlife . The drought meant conditions in the Conservancy were not conducive to an abundance of wildlife so we drove to the Ewaso Nyiro river daily which was ok as the land rovers were very comfortable.  A great guide in the bush can make even the most frustrating game drive a success and  Chris shared his  extensive knowledge of the animals and Samburu people freely. Whilst in Samburu we were rewarded with elephants so close we could have touched them, the Samburu special 5 in all their glory, lionesses hunting along the river and a female leopard lugging her kill towards the thickets and her cubs. The baboons made it a mission to entertain us each day whilst the birds were everywhere culminating in a martial eagle devouring a scrub hare right in front of us. Chris Letur was an amazing guide, cleverly obtaining the best position because he “read” the animals behaviour correctly every single sighting. We made up a slogan for Chris-  Letur’s Safari, Wisdom begins with Wonder

One of the lionesses frequenting the Ewaso Ngiro River on the hunt - late afternoon
One of the lionesses frequenting the Ewaso Ngiro River on the hunt – late afternoon
Female leopard having just killed a gerenuk drags it far into the bush towards her cubs
Female leopard having just killed a gerenuk drags it far into the bush towards her cubs
I love this shot so much I made it the cover of my photo book showcasing recent trip to Kenya
I love this shot so much I made it the cover of my photo book showcasing recent trip to Kenya
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Martial Eagle – guarding its kill – majestic looking bird
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One of Samburu’s special 5 is Grevy’s Zebra which is endangered www.grevyszebratrust.org

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It was obvious during our stay that Saruni’s owner Riccardo Orizio has  embraced the local community and cares for the land and it’s people. Whilst out in the conservancy goat herders  would approach the vehicle asking for water which Chris gave to them and which was consumed in seconds.It was fascinating seeing these nomadic children looking after vast herds of goats and the odd camel.

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Kid struggling to stand after just being born
Kid struggling to stand after just being born – our hearts were in our mouths  – would it make it

Back at Saruni we stayed in Villa 2 which was extremely large for 4 people .The time spent in the villa was relaxing and we enjoyed looking down on the waterhole and it’s resident troop of baboons. I am not exaggerating when I say it was a trek to get from one end of the villa to the next. Made use of both showers (outdoor and indoor) and as a complimentary massage is included for 2 people my son has now been introduced to this luxury – I guess there will be no going back from that! Two pools at the Lodge both with views and great to cool off in.  I would keep in mind when booking that the walk to Villas 4-6 would be tough if you don’t cope well with the heat and are unfit.

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Food was delicious and of Italian influence- varied, fresh, heaps of it. Two out of three days we took breakfast with us to Samburu and it was fantastic eating pancakes and sausages by the river with elephants looking on. Service from the Samburu staff was fantastic and we lapped up the visual feast of the men in their traditional colours and jewellery. Chris also was dressed in resplendent blue one day, red the next and was adorned with lovely cultural items.

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Village visit was well worth the USD 20 fee paid to the headman. Most people stay for 30 minutes, we stayed over an hour and learnt so many interesting facts about village life. My son met a boy of similar age who had just been circumcised 2 days past and was going thru the rituals associated with this tradition to become a warrior- 9 year old very happy we live in Australia! Thoroughly enjoyed the dancing and demonstrations of different skills all expanded on by Chris . Purchased some jewellery not because we felt obligated but because it was really beautiful and reasonably  priced – you do need to bargain though although the villagers loved my son as he would say “Daddy don’t be so harsh , just pay what they want!”IMG_2453 IMG_2492 Riccardo Orizio has had a vision, collaborated on a project with experts in the field plus the local Samburu people, built a wonderful lodge in a pristine wilderness area, then employed and trained incredible staff. Do yourself a favour and embrace the experience Saruni has to offer, you will come away enlightened.

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A handshake between two cultures to cement respect, knowledge gained and thanks

DSC07242 To book Saruni Samburu contact their head office in Nairobi  –  we dealt with Fatima and Thomas who were extremely helpful.

 

Reach Out and Embrace Africa