ARM­CHAIR TRAV­ELLER

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

Ben Kings­ley stars in a thriller set on the renowned train that con­nects Bei­jing and Moscow. Not quite of the Her­cule Poirot crime-clas­sic genre, but there’s sus­pense aplenty. Wed­nes­day, 9.30pm, Movie Ex­tra.

The Brit comic ac­tor and his chef mate want to open a pub. Be pre­pared for brew­ers be­hav­ing badly. Thurs­day, 7.30pm, BBC Knowl­edge. Su­san Kuro­sawa

WHAT IN THE WORLD

huge bodies and ooz­ing pink se­cre­tions that acted like sun­cream.

But above all, by their sheer size and num­bers, it was the ele­phants that dom­i­nated this king­dom.

On our way back to the lodge Al­bert sug­gested we cast our lines into the Zam­bezi at a cou­ple of his favourite spots for tiger­fish. Africa’s tiger­fish are fierce fresh­wa­ter car­ni­vores and game fish­er­men from all around the world come to catch them. They’re known for putting up a fight, al­though I was told they are bony and don’t make good eat­ing. I grew up fish­ing in north Queens­land but I was no fish­er­man and nei­ther was Andy. It had been a long time since I had cast a line in the wa­ter. What the heck, I thought. We cast our lines be­hind the boat near the long reeds, reel­ing in slowly as he in­structed us.

‘‘ If you get a bite, reel in fast,’’ Al­bert said. ‘‘ Then he will fight you.’’ The mid­day sun burned fiercely down on us, its rays re­flect­ing off the wa­ter. The tigers weren’t bit­ing.

‘‘ I’ve had enough,’’ I an­nounced, im­pa­tient as al­ways. ‘‘ Just a lit­tle longer,’’ Al­bert in­sisted. ‘‘ I’ve got one more spot to try.’’

We were al­most back at the lodge. I could hear the rapids that rushed past our chalet. With the en­gine off, Al­bert let us drift, steer­ing the boat care­fully to stay in the deep part of the river. We were drift­ing fast, the boat bob­bing up and down over the rapids as the chan­nel nar­rowed and the reeds closed in around us.

Sud­denly we bobbed past a fam­ily of hip­pos rest­ing on a sand­bank in a break in the reeds, just me­tres away. Too close. I held my breath, know­ing that hip­pos could charge our small boat quickly and with lit­tle provo­ca­tion. They glanced up with piggy eyes as our boat floated past them. Three slow sec­onds ticked by and we were out of their sight. Splash. In a de­layed re­sponse about five sec­onds later they all bomb­shelled into the river, led by a spooked baby.

Watch­ing the river with ex­pert eyes, Al­bert said, ‘‘ Just one more here.’’

He took my rod and cast spec­tac­u­larly out near the reeds where the rapids started. As the bait hit the wa­ter, the reel whirred into life.

‘‘ It’s a tiger,’’ he ex­claimed, then passed the rod to me. ‘‘ Here, take it.’’

‘‘ Me? No, you,’’ I protested. But he wouldn’t take no for an an­swer. I held on to the rod, held it high and reeled in like a mad­woman. The fish dragged on the line, pulling it up river. Ev­ery time the fish slowed, I reeled fast. When it was close to the boat it leapt out of the wa­ter, a flash of sil­ver and red. ‘‘ It’s big,’’ Andy said, reel­ing his line in so he would be free to help me. The fish pulled away again, de­ter­mined to put up a good fight. But by now, so was I.

I reeled and reeled and reeled, arch­ing my back to hold on to the rod, ig­nor­ing the sweat and sun­cream pour­ing into my eyes.

The sil­very form of the tiger was right be­side the boat. Al­fred leaned over the side with a hand net and scooped up the fight­ing fish. He deftly pulled the hook out of its mouth and held the fish up with both hands. It was beau­ti­ful. Black ze­bra stripes flanked glis­ten­ing sil­ver metal­lic skin along its length. The broad, strong tail flashed a mag­nif­i­cent burn­ing red. ‘‘ You want photo?’’ Al­bert asked. ‘‘ Quick. Get cam­era.’’

He was about to hand the heavy, slip­pery 5kg fish to me, but I in­sisted that he hold it. Andy snapped a pic­ture of our team ef­fort, with me stand­ing be­side a grin­ning Al­bert hold­ing a 5kg tiger­fish, be­fore Al­bert let it go back into the river. This is an edited ex­tract from by Tam­mie Mat­son (Pan Macmil­lan Aus­tralia, $34.99). Su­san Kuro­sawa’s col­umn is on hol­i­day.

DEALS OF THE WEEK

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