Karula National Park
Like other places we stayed on our coach trip, the lodgings in Karula
National Park consisted of a series of comfortable wooden buildings
in a rustic setting. There was a beautiful lake nearby, with a grassy
mound next to it where our two cooks were roasting a whole pig over
a fire. The word quickly went round the huts that we were wanted on the
mound because the cooks were going to put on a show. The show consisted of
flambéing the pig in vodka and carving it quickly into portions
with piratical strokes of their carving knives. It turned out the pig
hadn't been cooked over the fire, which would have taken a good
few hours. It was actually smoked and was just being warmed through.
It tasted delicious, in any case.
At Karula I had my first sauna. This was a Russian-style
sauna, a hut next to the lake with a smoky stove in it. A great blast of heat came
out of the door, but the manager explained that it wasn't hot enough yet.
I was determined to have one, having missed out on the one at
Leigo Farm. Jo Dresner, who had tried saunas before,
wanted one too, and Creina also agreed reluctantly to try it. When we
got back to the hut later, Jo told the manager it wasn't hot enough, so he
sealed it up by putting the removable window back in. He also put some birch twigs
(in fact they were small branches, still with the leaves on) in a bowl of
water to soak. Eventually we went in, and the heat took my breath away.
Creina went in and shot straight out again. Jo sat on the upper bench, and
I sat on the lower one (cooler). Jo threw water on the coals, which has
the paradoxical effect of making the room hotter. I ran my finger through
my hair, and it felt red hot. I was sure it would catch fire at any moment.
It hurt to breathe. I tried hitting myself with a birch twig, which was surprisingly
not painful, and didn't have any effect whatsoever. Jo said you need to stay in the sauna until the sweat is
pouring freely from your body; oddly, it wasn't, but I was sure that was
simply because it was evaporating as soon as it reached the surface. I
had to leave before I exploded. So after only five minutes, I got out and jumped into the
lake. The water was clear and pleasantly warm, even after the effect of the sauna wore
Later, as the sun was begining to go down, Creina and I were walking by the side
of the lake. Creina wanted to go in, and we
couldn't be bothered to go back for swimming costumes so we stripped to our
underwear and went in. The water was a bit cooler by now, but still
pleasant, and it was a wonderful feeling swimming in the late evening light.
It was about half past ten. Later I had to endure the taunts of the company round the fire
as I went in search of a towel and tried to slink past them in my
Next morning, before the coach set off, we visited the nearby village of