Category Archives: hiking

Hey, Mr Tamarin man, play a song for me!

I don’t have a lot of luck when it comes to climbing mountains, so I was tempting fate when I decided to spend one of my final days on the Drunk and Jobless World Tour of Africa hiking up Mt Tamarin. The monolith looms large over the southeast coast of Mauritius, and I set out to conquer it under brilliant blue skies, hoping the bad weather would hold off long enough for me to make it to the top. I’m happy to say that I made it all the way, and it was fucking amazing.

Climing up Mt Tamarin isn’t easy or completely legal, so I was grateful for the advice I found right here. The track runs through private land, meaning there are a few obstacles in between an adventurous climber and the summit.  I had to start by clambering up to the top of a massive retaining wall surrounding a water reservoir, before sliding underneath a barbed wire fence. The track then weaved through dense forest, and up harsh, rocky terrain. It’s not a walk for the feint of heart, but anyone willing to brave the dangerous conditions is in for a helluva time.

The track is very bloody steep and I had trouble scraping up the side of the mountain, and the journey was made harder by the sweltering conditions. I finally burst out of the jungle and found myself high abve Tamarin, looking down at the shining bay and gloomy salt mines. I kept working my way up whilst gazing in awe at the outrageous mountains that reached for the skies on all sides of me. The views just kept getting better and better, and I couldn’t wait to reach the summit.

The track isn’t long, just a few kilometres, but provides a great workout because of how tough it is. There are no steps or railings, just a track that a goat would struggle to make it up. I slid down the hill a few times and cut myself up a bit, but chicks dig bruises, so I was cool with it.

The approach to the top is as steep as the price of a beer in a Sydney pub, but there are a series of ropes to cling to in order to make the ascent possible. After struggling to the very top, I just stood there and looked out at one of the best views I’ve ever seen (well, outside my bedroom). Bustling villages, golden beaches and endless reefs opened up beneath me as I gawped in wonder, struggling to process the beauty of what I was seeing.

Mauritius is such an incredible country, with so much natural splendour, but the majority of people who come here see little more than their resort’s deck chairs and all-you-can-eat buffet. By pointing yourself towards something that looks interesting – like that big damn hill I kept seeing at the end of Flic-en-Flack beach – it’s possible to discover some absolutely life-changing spots.

Unfortunately, a bit of a wind popped up and blew away all of my clothes, but I didn’t let that ruin my afternoon and still managed to take a series of photographs of myself. Actually, that’s a lie – Mark, a deeply religious friend of mine who is at constant odds with himself due to his rampant homosexuality, offered to give me $10 if I’d take some rudie nudie photos of myself. I’m not complaining; it’s the best money I’ve made in months.

The climb to the top of Mt Tamarin certainly isn’t for everyone – it’s tough, kinda dangerous and probably illegal – but it’s also just about the best thing I’ve done in my time in Mauritius. It’s not a tourist attraction, it’s a spot for the adventurous to test themselves and explore a place that not a lot of people have ever been to. I highly recommend it but, ah, if the cops catch you, don’t mention my name, alright?

Black River Gorge-ous!

Whenever I climb a mountain, it rains. When I climbed Mount Field, it stormed. When I climbed Ulsanbawi, it poured. When I climbed Le Pouce, it pissed down. So when I decided to hike to the top of Black River Gorges National Park, in the south of Mauritius, I was ready for things to get a bit wet – and that’s exactly what happened. Honestly, I could end droughts by travelling the world and walking up hills.

I got dropped off at the Grand Bassin Hindu Temple just as the storm clouds were rolling in, and I was shocked to find a gaggle of hideous mutants hanging around. There was a bizarre monkey-man, a sexy mermaid, and even a terrifying elephant-headed creature. I felt like I was in an episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and half expected Bebop and Rocksteady to turn up and start punching my head in. It’s a nice, peaceful place, and I really got to soak in the atmosphere as I huddled under cover from the rain for 45 minutes.

Just up the road are a couple of 30m-tall statues of Shiva and his missus. They’re quite spectacular, and can be seen towering over the landscape for miles around. The Grand Bassin is a place of pilgrimage for the 600,000 Hindus in Mauritius, and these two statues are the most sacred things in the whole country. I was mightily impressed, but Mrs Shiva was definitely looking a little bit frustrated – most likely because her hubby is wrapped up in scaffolding at the moment, so they can’t root.

The Petrin entrance to Black River Gorges is a short 5km hike from the Shiva statues, and I covered it in record time due to the squall picking up around me. Once through the gates, I followed the well-maintained path up through dense foliage towards the top of the mountain. It’s around six kilometres to the Macchabee View Point, in the centre of the park, and the walk passes epic waterfalls and jaw-dropping canyons. Even with the poor weather, the park was a sight to behold.

Here’s a tip for you; if you’re lazy and don’t want to hike straight up a very steep mountain, enter from Petrin and head west towards Black River. It’s a much easier walk to Macchabee than going in the other direction – the poor bastards I saw coming from the Black River entrance looked like they’d been through 10 rounds with Aussie boxing hero Jeff Horn. The trip down that path was hard enough, and there were plenty of times when I almost tripped over and busted my arse on the sharp and slippery rocks that litter that ground.

The weather was getting worse the longer I hung around the park, so I was forced to hotfoot it out of there so I could find some shelter. I scooted off to the main road and leapt onto a bus bound for Flic en Flac, then held on tight as the driver did his best to crash the fucking thing into any pedestrians, dogs or cars he could find. The mad bastard did actually sideswipe some bludger’s car, but kept right on going. Mauritius might be a relaxed place, but the bus drivers are absolute nutters.

Thankfully, by the time I got back to the beach the clouds had cleared and I was able to pick up a few icy cold cans of Phoenix to sip while enjoying another life-affirming sunset. The weather around here might be as temperamental as a teenager, but when it’s nice it’s very bloody nice indeed. Don’t worry, I’ll have a beer or three for you!

Le Pouce… It’s French for ‘Le Pouce’

After making the most of a case of mistaken identity, I was looking forward to a night of rampaging rumpy-pumpy that would put Soviet war crimes to shame, but it wasn’t to be. It turns out Pierre has an 11-inch donger, so the lass I was with realised I’d pulled the old switch-a-roo as soon as I dropped my shorts and started gyrating in an erotic fashion. After getting kicked out of her hotel room, I realised that I’d pissed off a lot of people during my short time in Grand Baie, so I thought it would be best to get out of town and hide out in the mountains.

The biggest hill in the north of Mauritius is called Le Pouce – literally, The Thumb – and sits on the outskirts of the capital of Port Louis. I jumped on a bus and headed down there, and found a bustling city far removed from the postcard-perfect beaches that surround it. Port Louis is a bit like your sister – it smells like an open sewer, won’t win any beauty contests, and has 149,194 people in it. There are pretty parts, such as the recently-renovated waterfront and some areas full of colonial buildings and delightful trees, but it’s not an overly inspirational place.

It doesn’t take long to walk from one side of the city to the other (although dodging motorbikes and stray dogs makes for an exciting stroll) and I soon found myself surrounded by rainforest as I climbed up towards Le Pouce. The summit is 812m above sea level, and the walk is fairly steep in parts. It’s a pleasant stroll, but there’s no opportunities to look back over the city, so there’s no great payoff unless you make it to the top. And I, well, didn’t.

Basically, I ran out of time, it started raining, I needed to do a wee, my pants fell off, I thought I saw a dinosaur and got scared… which meant I didn’t make it all the way to the top. Tip for anyone wanting to head up from Port Louis – it takes more than the two hours some dickheads on the internet will tell you. It’s at least three up and two down. The view from 500m, where Le Pouce spurs off, isn’t brilliant, and offers only glimpes of the rest of the island. The fact the weather was rubbish didn’t help, either. Thankfully, a dude I met at last year’s International Travel Blog Awards, Austin Cheeseman, has been to the top, and was kind enough to share his photos and memories of Le Pouce. Take it away, Austin…

Hi team, Austin here *fist bump*. I climbed to the top of Le Pouce three years ago with my then-girlfriend Celia and 15 of our closest friends and family members – big crew, I know, right! The view from the top was spec-tac-u-lar, and when we got there I was so tired I dropped to one knee and proposed to Celia. Like, OMG, I know, right! The best thing is, she said YES *fist bump*!

I was SO HAPPY, but later that day, after returning from Le Pouce (did I mention how gorgeous the view was?) Celia took me to the side and told me she wasn’t ready for marriage and only said yes to save me the embarrassment 😥 I was CRUSHED 😥 😥 😥 Unable to deal with the heartbreak, I drank my sorrows away in a horrible bar and ended up having unprotected sex with a transgender prostitute *fist bump*. I felt horrible the next day as I walked back to the hotel room I was sharing with Celia, largely because my anus felt like a semi trailer had driven into it, been loaded up with coal, and then reversed back out, several hundred times. OMG, ouch!

When I walked into the room, Celia raced up and kissed me passionately *fist bump*, then told me that she loved me and wanted to spend her life with me *double fist bump* and that she did want to marry me *triple fist bump, even though I don’t know how that would work. Perhaps the third fist is the cock?*. We made passionate love (it was good to take a break from being on the receiving end) and I was SO SO SO HAPPY to have our relationship back on track. Yay, go us!

I’d like to say that we lived happily ever after, but it was not to be. It turns out the transgender prostitute had given me a nasty dose of chlamidia, syphilis, gonnorea and genital herpes , which I had then passed on to Celia. My now-former fiance threw me out of the house and burned all my possessions, leaving me no option but to live under a bridge and perform oral sex on homeless men and high court judges for 50c a go 😥 😥 😥 I was proud of my work, and often assured I was very good at it, but with the price of things these days I needed to devour half-a-dozen meaty schlongs just to afford a can of Coke, so the financial aspect just didn’t add up and I was forced to find alternative work as a high school teacher and attend therapy sessions five times a week.

After finally dealing with the trauma I had recently started a healthy and loving relationship with a wonderful lady *fist bump*, but your request for me to relive those horrible events has seen me revert to my old ways. As I write this, I’m downing a bottle of methylated spirits while a team of Thai ladyboys do their best to rearrange my anus into something that closely resembles a spilled bucket of Lego. Fuck you, fuck your blog, and fuck Le Pouce. Yes, the view is de-light-ful, but it’s just not worth the hassle.

Zomba!

I have a history of hooking up with attractive European sheilas whilst travelling and then disrupting my plans in order to look at their pretty hair and kiss their pretty faces, so it should come as no surprise that it’s happened again. I had the option to spend a few more days by the water, or follow an Austrian chick into the middle of nowhere before heading off to Tanzania. And that’s how I ended up in Zomba for a couple of days.

Zomba? Where the fuck is Zomba? It’s a crumbling village in southern Malawi that’s barely on the maps and a long way from anything resembling a tourist trail. There’s a couple of nice hills nearby to walk up and that’s pretty much it, so Zomba won’t be replacing Paris and San Francisco on lists of the world’s greatest cities anytime soon.

With Amilcar along for the ride, we were able to keep the Kool Kayak Krew (KKK for short, although we might wanna rethink the acronym) together for the 200km bus trip. Now, you might think that Malawi has a world class public transport system, but you’re wrong, because it’s rubbish. The journey was a six-hour nightmare of overcrowding, breakdowns, chickens, crying babies, street food and third world shenanigans.

The next day, with the Ggermans and Austrians off making the world a better place, me and Amilcar decided to check out the delights of Zomba. Alright, so there’s a bank, a supermarket that sells food even a goat wouldn’t eat, and a bus stop. I dunno, there might be a 300m-tall statue of a robot that shoots laser beams out of its eyes, but I didn’t spot it. The town is bustling but feels safe, and provided a good look at genuine African life.

Bus stops are usually a good place to find drug-addicted prostitutes, but rarely a decent spot to get a quality feed, but Zomba is an exception to that rule. We bought chicken, chips and rice from a tiny restaurant hidden in the smog, and the food was tops. We even met some blackfella who decided he was coming back to Australia with me, and made sure I had his phone number, email address, home address, university address, parents’ names and date of birth written down before I left. I’m surprised he didn’t offer me he dick size and the age of his pet goldfish.

The closest thing to a tourist attraction in Zomba is the Zomba Plateau that stands proudly above it, so me and Amilcar found something that almost looked like a track and headed straight up. It was very bloody steep, but by the time we got near the top the view was phenomenal. Zomba’s landscape reminds me of southern China; surprisingly green, with mountains that reach for the sky. Before long the heavens opened up and I welcomed the first rain since I left Australia more than six weeks ago.

And that was pretty much it for Zomba. Well, you know, as far as the sightseeing goes. Now it’s time to say buenos dias to Malawi and head to the tropical delights of Tanzania. I wonder if there are any European chicks up there looking for a handsome Aussie to keep ’em company for a few days…

The Marvelous Mountain Man of Malawi


With the stunning-to-look-at-yet-infested-with-parasites Lake Malawi threatening to kill me, today I decide to head for higher ground where I might be a bit safer. There are some awesome mountains around Cape Maclear, so I put on my walkin’ boots and went for a strut. Little did I know that I would’ve had less trouble drinking utant snails straight out of the river.

The main hiking track starts just out of town, next to the graves of the long-dead missionaries who founded the village. Thankfully, they didn’t come back from the dead and tear out my throat. It quickly climbs up the side of one of the monoliths and just keeps on ascending, proving to be a tough hike that offers enough peeks back over the bay to make every step worthwhile.

It takes about 90 minutes to reach the main lookout, and the view over the town is monumental. I could see far out into the massive body of water that is Lake Malawi, all the way to the imposing cliffs on the far side. The vista is bodacious (what? It’s still a word!) but I wasn’t really able to enjoy it because of the massive swarm of flies that decided to assault me. And I thought the hawkers on the beach were annoying!

If you decide to take this walk, be smart and turn around once you hit the lookout. The path to that point is easy to follow and makes for a top day out. Don’t be an absolute fuckin’ gronk like me and scramble further up the mountain in a pointless attempt to find the summit. There’s no real track, only a series of ambiguous symbols spray painted here and there on rocks and trees, and it wasn’t long before I was exploring uncharted territory crawling up boulders to get to the top. I made it and for some reason my clothes fell off!

Not for the first time, the point where I took off my shorts was where the fun stopped. I did my best to retrace my steps to the lookout, but I soon got turned around and ended up in the middle of the rugged bush with no idea where the path was. With the sun setting I knew I couldn’t mess around, so I faced the village far below and bush bashed down the mountain, knowing that I had to get out of there one way or another. It was a bloody steep trip and I slid down half the way, cutting myself on rocks and slamming into trees. I was starting to think about my options if I had to spend the night out there in the wild, when I heard the sweet sound of a woman singing.

I crashed through the thorny thicket towards the sound, praying it wasn’t my imagination. Eventually I stumbled into a clearing where a woman was collecting sticks, and she just looked at me like I was some sort of monster. I was sweaty and bleeding and close to tears, so maybe that’s exactly what I looked like. I did my best to communicate my desire to return to civilisation, and after a while she pointed towards the beautiful, wonderful, glorious path. I was so stoked to see it that I wouldn’t have been happier if it was lined with naked women and free beer.

Alright, that’s a lie. Once back at the beach I cracked open a brew and sat back to watch another mesmerising Malawian sunset. The going down of the sun was a terrifying prospect when I was lost on the mountain, but something soul-enriching whilst relaxing with a cold one in my hand (but enough about my penis!).

Yep, that’s a big tree alright

Zimbabwe isn’t only famous for the legendary Victoria Falls, it’s also  well know for the widespread slaughter of innocent white people a couple of other things, one big and one small. With today being my final full day in this unusual country, I decided to have a good crack at both.

The South Africans are immensely proud of their Big Pineapple, claiming that it’s the only Big Thing in Africa, but the Zimbos have something to say about that. Victoria Falls is home to the Big Tree, a 1500-year-old monster that is actually pretty large. Alright, it’s not awe-inspiringly massive, and being an actual tree rules it out of being a proper Big Thing, but it’s there, and that’s cool.

The slightly smaller thing Zimbabwe is known for is Robert Mugabe’s penis their delicious pork pies. These things are available everywhere for about 50c each and are able to be munched hot or cold, so I’ve stocked up on them for whenever hunger calls. They come in flavours such as peri peri chicken and beef, but I can’t tell the difference between them so I reckon it’s a load of shit that there’s more than one type. I’ve lost nearly a quarter of my body weight since February, but if I lived in Zimbabwe I’d put it all back on and more (and then get murdered, most likely).

It’s Sunday, and Sunday is for drinking and picking up German backpackers by the pool, but I found time to strut along the Zambezi River. Sure, there are signs warning about crocodiles, and falling into the deceptively calm water would mean a lethal plunge off the top of Vic Falls, but I like to live on the edge.

I also met some new hawkers; Hulk Hogan, Beautiful, Cloud, Professor Yes, Angel, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lion, Mike Tyson, Bridge, Goldman, Power Ranger, T-Shirt, Captain America, Vigilante, Smile, Heaven, Biscuit, David Beckham, McDonald’s, Hello, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Donald Trump all wanted to sell me worthless shit I don’t want or need. Don’t worry, fellas, I’m sure someone is desperate for a carved wooden hippo.

Well, that’s it for Zim. Tomorrow I’m heading over to Livingstone for a quick stopover before heading out to the truly wild and remote lands of Malawi. But first I’ve gotta smash this beer, smash this pork pie, and then hopefully smash that German chick over there in the bikini. Her backyard might get blitzed if you know what I mean.

The Great Victoria Falls (mas)Debate: Zim or Zam, yo?

Zimbabweans hate Zambians, and Zambians hate Zimbabweans, and it’s all because both countries claim to provide the best view of Victoria Falls. Having explored the Zam side yesterday, and visited the Zim side today, I can say that the best plan of attack is to see both sides in order to get the whole picture and experience as much of these incredible waterfalls as possible. But if you’re only in town for one day, I’d suggest heading to the Zambian side, because it offers more variety and a lot more monkeys. It’s a controversial opinion and I’ll probably be run out of Zimbabwe by Robert Mugabe for saying it, but there it is. Shit, if I keep up the helpful advice, Drunk and Jobless will start looking like a proper travel blog or something.

The big plus for the Zim side is that it offers a spectacular walkway that winds its way in front of the Falls for a kilometre or so, which gives a greater appreciation for the size of the thing than the Zam side. It’s a wet and wild trip, with the spray from the Falls cascading down in a torrential downpour reminiscent of a summer day in Melbourne. Don’t saunter through there with your winning Lotto ticket poking out of your back pocket is what I’m saying.

The Zim side has fewer walking trails, and doesn’t offer a way to walk to the bottom of the Falls. I was hoping to find a spot that allowed me to look up, rather than across, at the behemoth, because I think that would be even more incredible than what I experienced. In saying that, the views I had today were absolutely spectacular, filled with rainbows, and there’s truly no bad way to see this amazing place.

Of course, if you’re rich as fuck, there are helicopter and microlight flights over the Falls, which would be awesome. But if I had $US150 to burn on 12 minutes of excitement, it would involve a 19-year-old Russian who can put her ankles behind her head, and not some middle-aged helicopter pilot with half his lunch spilled down the front of his shirt.

Speaking of shirts, it’s funny how many of the older folk around here (and most of the tourists around Vic Falls kissed their peak mating days goodbye back when the Newtown Jets were still world beaters) get around in safari outfits. Khaki cargo pants, khaki shirts with heaps of pockets, and even those funny little khaki safari hats. I’d hate to break it to them that dressing like a character from Carry On Up The Jungle doesn’t make their 12-day package tour anymore wild.

Oh, and I met some more hilariously-named street vendors! Today I encountered Prince, Honest, Sunshine, Bart Simpson, Mr Excellent, Batman, Super Nintendo, Rainbow, Clint Eastwood, Emperor, Magic, Dude, Handsome Boy, Champagne, Happiness, The Rock, Supreme, Zimbabwe Warrior and Gary. That last bloke sure got shortchanged in the name game. They all wanted to sell me Zimbabwe bank notes (I got one with a Zoo mag years ago – and it’s the only decent thing that shithouse rag offered the whole time it existed), carved animals (the only sort of carved animal I’m interested in is a steak) or ‘the good stuff’ (drugs, apparently. Although if it’s as disappointing as when I offer girls ‘the good stuff’, I’m glad I passed).

Monkeys? Check. Crocodiles? Check. Hot foreign backpackers who laugh at my jokes and not at my penis? Erm…

Every day in Swaziland is a cracker, and you just need to look at the locals to see that. They dance and sing from sunrise to sunset, and have smiles the size of split watermelons. I had a beaut time today, too, with another exhilarating hike through the wilds of Mlilwane.

I was wokwn up early by a pack of monkeys outside my room, and ran outside to chase them through the fields. From there I bumped into a herd of zebras, before coming across a swamp full of crocodiles. The cheeky pricks kept trying to swallow cocks eat birds, but the feathered champions were too quick for them. Score one for the good guys!

Yesterday’s mountaintop heroics had me coming back for more, and this time I made it to the summit of Nyagato Peak, which offers an unrivalled outlook at the Swazi scenery. I even managed to keep my clothes on, largely because there was a creepy tribe of blackfellas banging drums not far below me, and they’d be licking their lips and preparing to toss me in a pot if they saw what I keep in my shorts.

After walking further than Olympic hero Jare Tallent I finally made it back to my hostel and rehydrated with a dozen cans of Hansa beer. There’s not a lot going on in the dark, dingy corner of Mlilwane that I’ve called home for the past few days, so I climbed into the Hyandai and cruised through the wilderness towards the main camp. It’s about 5km away and would be, I was sure, crawling with well-travelled spunks looking for a root after a long day of sizing up zebras. I was badly mistaken.

The camp’s bar was deserted, so I ordered a beer, and then another, and drank them on my lonesome while weird deer things mucked around beside me. I had the wobble boots on by the time I made it back to the car, tried to start it with a plastic spoon, and did my best to guide it down the dark, narrow track towards the other wnd of the park. I’m telling you now, it’s not easy to drive, drink a beer, dodge wildlife and sing along to Freebird at the same time.

I’d almost made it back, relieved that I didn’t have an endangered animal spiralling around my back wheel, when I turned a corner to see a massive buffalo standing there, his eyes wild and his balls shimmering in the moonlight. I slammed on the breaks, he stared at me for a while, the trudged off into the spinifex, his massive beanbags slapping from side to side. I’d never felt so close to nature – or so close to going to jail for drink driving my way up an oversized cow’s arse.

The Kingdom in the Sky

The day starts early in Semonkong, with doneys and goats and sheep and people bubbling out into what passes for streets as soon as the sun peeks over the mountains. I was up at sparrow’s to catch the sunrise, then made the most of my early start by heading out into the wilderness to explore the fascinating country of Lesotho. The main attraction around here is the Maletsunyane Falls, so with a spring in my step I headed out in that vague direction, dodging animals as I went.

The villages in Lesotho are truly fascinating, incredibly poor, and from a different world. They have no electricity, running water, or roads, and are little more than a random sprinkling of huts amongst the hills. I didn’t see too many kids running around with the fancy new Nintendo Switch in their hands, that’s for sure. Everyone’s very pleasant here, and people waved and did their best to say hello as I went past. The walking is tough at such an altitude, though, and I was huffing and puffing like a donut-muncher before long.

I eventually made it to the Falls, and they proved to be as spectacular as I’d hoped. The viewing area (an open cliff, really – there are no fences or signs to be found) is a long way from the waterfall, but the size of the big, wet thing is still immensely impressive. It’s not a wide, open waterfall like Niagra or the aftermath of a huge night on the VBs, but the height of it is frightening. I’ve seen a lot of awesome natural spectacles, and Maletsunyane Falls is up with the best of ’em.

With all day to walk, I crossed wide, open plains and climbed rocky outcrops. I jumped rivers and pushed through thick thatches of grass that sound like rain falling whenever the wind blows. This land is almost untouched by modern society, and that’s part of the beauty. I’ve never been anywhere so remote.

I was strutting along, minding my own business and looking cool, when a couple of young lasses came running over and struck up a convo. They didn’t speak much English, and surprisingly enough I’m not fluent in Lesothonese, so we didn’t delve into an in-depth discussion of Russian politics or anything like that, instead sticking with basic pleasantries.
“I like your face,” one of them struggled to say.
“I like your muscles,” the other almost said. Things went on like this for a while, and I was feeling on top of the world (and being in Lesotho, I guess I was) until the conversation took a disturbing turn.

“I like your penis,” yelled one of the girls, and a balaclava-clad dude on a horse turned around to give me a filthy look. I hoped it was a mistake, but then her mate threw her arms in the air and yelled, “I like your penis, too!”
Now the bar at my lodge tossed me out at 8pm last night, so I was pretty sure I didn’t get smashed and start chucking it around at the locals, but the situation still worried me. If the locals thought I’d been porking their sheilas they might come after me with spears or, even worse, make me marry the girls. I don’t thrive in the cold, so I was reasonably concerned.

I could see a few horsemen sharpening sticks and glaring at me, so I waited until the girls were distracted by something shiny and dived into a bush. I thought it was the perfect place to hide until I realised it was a rare Condom Tree. In a country where half the people are rancid with AIDS, I was a little concerned that I’d end my trip to Africa looking like Tom Hanks in Philadelphia, but I tested the tree’s fruit and it tasted fine. Thumbs up!

I ended the day by almost agreeing to write the autobiography of some nutter named Rudy who I met in the bar. Richard Branson will be signing my cheques personally, apparently. It’s a great story that ended with me falling into a drain, but I think Rudy deserves his own entry!

Hog Wild! Hogsback is the best place you’ve never heard of!

I’ve been told that Hogsback draws people to it, that the mountain has a soul and personality of its own, and that certainly seems to be the case. A South African girl I met told me to come to this tiny village in the Eastern Cape hills, and I’m so glad I followed her advice. This place is as unique as its name suggests, incredibly strange, and spectacularly beautiful. It’s odd in the best way possible.

Hogsback is well off the tourist trail and is home to a weird assortment of artists, hippies and burnouts. A lot of people who live here never intended to stay, and can’t really explain why they can’t leave. It doesn’t feel or look like the rest of South Africa, or anywhere else in the world. People here believe in fairies and drink hallucinogenic cactuses. Cows wander the streets. Homemade statues decorate the town. Restaurants and bars are hidden away between the trees.

There are some incredible walking trails around here, winding through the surreal landscape and racing past delightful waterfalls. The trees are full of monkeys, everything is green and lush, and there’s a special peacefulness that is impossible to resist. I’ve spent the past few days exploring this wonderful place, and there are still so many trails to scramble along and mountains to climb.

Of course, a man can’t exist on hiking alone, so it’s a good thing that Hogsback provides some of the finest drinking I’ve ever encountered. My hostel is home to a really great bar with cheap beer, awesome company,  and seemingly endless free gin shots. I’ve been drunk or hungover since I got here, which has made my journeys into the bush even stranger.

Hogsback is also one of those places where lots of 19-year-old sheilas come to ‘find themselves’, meaning females massively outnumber males here. The first night I shared my dorm with seven pretty, blonde American teenagers exploring the big, wide world for the first time. And so, after drinking heavily at the bar for six hours, I did what any redblooded male would – I went in there, tripped over a hair straightener, banged my head on the floor, failed spectacularly to climb into my bunk, fell out of bed, then passed out in the corner. It’s safe to say that’s not the sort of spiritual awakening those girls came to Hogsback for.