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18/05/2015: Travel Destinations - Gill Stewart

As my new novel The Jade Lioness is based on my favourite place to visit - Japan - I was curious about other people's, so I've asked some of my fellow authors to tell me what their favourite exotic (or not so exotic?) travel destinations are. Here is Gill Stewart to tell us about a truly outstanding one:-

For me the best destination has to be South Africa. It's where I used to live, although I haven't been back for 4 years and am missing it badly. South Africa has an amazing variety of places to visit, from the metropolitan, affluent Cape Town, to the spectacular wine routes or the arid inland Karoo. But the place to which I most want to return is the bush country of Limpopo Province. I didn't know this part of South Africa at all until my good friend moved there twenty years ago. Now I love it.

I love the clarity of the air, the way animals large and small can wander across the road, the way you live more outside than in. The peculiar vegetation, such as the massive 'upside down' baobab trees. The fact that you can stay overnight in a lodge beside a river where hippos swim - and wander out to rub themselves against the wall of your building, emitting deep (terrifying) grunts. Or you can swim below waterfalls and be delighted the water is cold because everything else is just so hot. You can sit on the terrace looking out over the bush to the mountains as the sun goes down. The pace of life is slower so you savour every moment. And yes there are lots of problems - poverty and crime being the most obvious. But it is a beautiful place, with amazing people. We're planning on returning in November and I can't wait.

There is a strange similarity between this part of South Africa in summer and Scotland (where I now live) in winter. If you go out ill-equipped you may well not survive! It is a harsh environment - here it is the cold, there the heat and lack of water. Actually, maybe what I like is extremes: another favourite destination is Iceland - land of ice and fire - but that's another story.

Thank you, Gill - I now have a great longing to visit South Africa and swim below a waterfall!

Gill's latest novel, Sunshine Through The Rain (written as Gilly Stewart) is set in Scotland, which although not quite as exotic is still one of my favourite places to visit and reading about it is almost as good.

Please come back tomorrow to hear about Alison May's adventures on the other side of the world!

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