You pause for breath, exhausted, then continue climbing. You know Shan said that this was the fastest way-but you wish she'd thought to mention that it's also the steepest.
Eventually, you arrive on a rocky plateau and sink down, determined not to move another step.
A low growl issuing from between two large rocks helps to change your mind, and you scramble to your feet.
A caracal steps out from the niche and you back away slowly.
"Don't worry about him; he won't hurt you."
You jump and turn around, coming face to face with Shan. She stretches out a hand and the caracal rubs his cheek against it.
"This is Morak," she tells you. "He's quite young and likes to jump out like that. It's just his way of having fun. He doesn't mean anything by it. C'mon," she adds. "I wasn't going to go any further than that rock over there, and that only because there's a fruit bush close by and I'm hungry, but I'll take you down to the sea where you can get a ride to the island."
Intent on following Shan, you almost trip over a large tiger lying sprawled in the sun.
"Oh yes, that's Sunspot," Shan says, catching your arm. "He's usually okay with people; provided they don't kick his ribs in," she adds, a little more sarcastically than you feel is strictly necessary.
"Any more large cats hanging around?" you ask, trying to match her sarcasm for sarcasm.
"Funny you should mention that," Shan says, turning you around by the shoulders.
A very surprised looking snow leopard stares at you.
"That's Tali," Shan says. "He's usually sneaking up on something or other...he's just looking like that because he hasn't quite figured out how you managed to catch him out."
"Where does he come from?" you ask. Out of the three cats you've seen, Tali seems to be the most amiable.
"From Tara's Wildlife Centre," Shan answers. "They all do. Come on, it's not far now."
You follow Shan down onto the beach.