What a disastrous start to the year. Almost like someone up there giving us a warning saying “just remember I’m here and things can change at the flick of a button”. Chaotic and dreadful scenes in Australia, South America, and now New Zealand. What can you do!
Now the Arabs are revolting. Could be very interesting as to how it all pans out, but also interesting to see how quick the Yanks dumped Mubarak; their greatest ally in the area. Gaddafi – well he’s lost a few marbles anyway, and so no loss there. The rest of them I suppose are warming up their Gulf streams as we speak. Probably bump into them at the Connaught for a Bloody Mary or three in London!
Sport: England didn’t want to drub the Aussies too much and so gave them a consolation prize of winning the 50 over series in cricket after their humiliating defeat in the Ashes. Now it’s all to play for in the cricket world cup although somehow it sort of pales into insignificance after the Ashes series. Before anyone says it – Ireland, we let you!! It’s to smooth you over for the Queen’s visit this year; that’s all! Rugby – 6 nations already started and looking promising. Football – still paid far too much!
Down here we’ve had our moments. In January great to welcome Jenny back. Many congratulations to Patrick and Veronica for their wedding here at Garonga. It didn’t go exactly to plan as we had a torrent of rain the day before and the river was in full torrent with all the crossing impassable; so it was plan b in Little Garonga main area which we turned into a mini chapel with candles and all. It was a great day especially as they had all family there taking out the whole camp. Then a warm welcome for the first time to Inspect us was Michael, Kevin from Ethos marketing (At last Kevin; you’ve been set free!), and last but no means least Brigitte from Dertours and Lehandra from Welcome Tours. In February we wish Mark and Alison, and Russell and Clara all the very best in their futures together and thanks for choosing Garonga for your very special day. Also great fun as family also shared the special day with them. Makes a big difference. Also a very warm welcome back to Brian and Gail who came back after a few years and stayed for 4 nights and then went back to UK; great to see you both again! Also Christine – no nasty people this time at dinner! Will always remember that last time!
South Africa was hit by floods but nothing in comparison to the others above. We had over 180mm in one night (the rain gauges overflowed and so no real accurate reading). Hence to say the drainage lines etc all became impassable torrent of water. We couldn’t reach the camp for 10 hours; It was quite amazing – never seen it as bad as that since the 2000 floods. It kept on raining. But at least the rivers subsided. As Zele kindly pointed out to me (In the way she does) that this always happens when I am away, and it just so happens that I was going away that day for a weeks leave! Guests missed their connections but we laid on transport that afternoon to get them out to Johannesburg just in case we got caught again. I must say here that some guests are not very obliging here, and when asked to pay for additional transfers refused. Not quite sure here. Travel Insurance covers this, and not much else we can do. Some people suddenly turn very strange. Please do check with your Travel Companies regarding this sort of eventuality as it is bound to occur more often now. Those who refused to pay – well, you obviously need it more than I do and… don’t come back!
As you can imagine the bush is very thick but the guys are getting there with the sightings. What has been a problem have been the 2 young male lions (brothers) and female who have been getting out of the reserve on a number of occasions due to the big bad boy of the reserve hunting them. It was great to experience Ross (the game warden) recapture these guys (3 of them) at night. (They had walked 18 kms into a completely different reserve!) I went along with him. One of them was across another side of the fence so he had to crawl underneath the electric fence and with assistance from a student drag the lion back (after it had been darted of course). The other two had already been darted by the vet and were on the back of the vehicle already. So eventually I drove back with Ross with 3 sedated lions on the back of the cruiser along a normal public road. We both chuckled at the thought of someone wanting to hitch a lift along the way, and would have said “sure, mate, jump in the back!” Ha! That didn’t happen. Anyway lions recaptured and are now POW’s in the boma! Will be trying to change them with some other males.
The ellies have been busy as ever and the bulls just knocking those trees down. Sleep outs, walks etc have still proven very popular even with the changeable weather. Just in January alone we had 317mm of rains. To date for this season 509 mm. So over the average now and they still reckon (THEY? I don’t know who) more to come. Last year in April we had over 200mm! So let’s wait and see.
As we always do in January we invited a whole load of school kids over for a day to learn about conservation and tourism. They were split into 5 groups and each group had a member of staff whether it be a waiter, chef, housekeeper, safari guide etc. 20 minutes round robin, a BBQ lunch and then a 3 hour game drive. The competition prize being awarded at the end. It was a great fun day and all the staff performed magnificently. Some real Hollywood actors amongst our lot. Must look into that!
Staff movement always around this time! Farewell to Zele who was offered a once in a lifetime opportunity in New Zealand. We wish her all the best. Then to Denille (therapist) who returned to Johannesburg, and finally to Obie (tracker) who “disappeared”. Wherever you are Obie drop us a line! So on that note welcome to Nicole who has taken over as manageress (last place she was in Islandwana in the KZN battlefields area), and to Geraldine as therapist after 2 years on the boats. Two trackers will be joining us very soon; Ruel and Patrick to join Rebel who’s feeling a bit left out!
We are now in the first week of the closedown, cleaning, dusting, sealing, varnishing, painting, repairing and so on. Reopen on the 24th March. Plenty of space available and for April as well.
Finally the winner of the photo competition for 2010 is Amanda Jennings. Four nights complimentary at the Hambleden Suite (excepting 20 Dec – 10 Jan). Available from now until end of February 12. If you don’t think you can take it let me know and I’ll sort out a very nice dinner for 2 with voucher. Many congratulations Amanda. Please RSVP before June 11 in order to qualify for the prize, otherwise I will ask the judge to reselect. Many thanks to all those who took part, and we will continue this for 2011. Keep those pictures coming. Not pleasant to finish on a sad note, but our commiserations go out to Judith and family for the tragic loss of Roger Diski. A very well-known, kind and respected figure in the tourism Industry in UK who had a passion for the future of South Africa and Africa in general.
Keep safe and well out there.
PS: That B….y webcam will be sorted soon. Sledgehammer on its way!