March News

Despite being closed in March for our annual clean up and 5 year refurb, it was busy here with builders, tent repairs, interiors, tree fellers, the clean team steam cleaning, and all the game drives going in for their thorough annual check up. All of them have done an incredible job, and now the rooms are looking much better with a few subtle changes, and the main area looking great with some new furniture pieces etc. So the feel is still the same which was the whole point – NOT to change the feel and look too much. So thanks to Jonno and Keith from “Africa on Site” for the subtle changes and rebuilding here and there, and Trish and Ilona from “Lateral Designs” for their interior thinking; very happy; only the dining chairs to be changed which happens next month in May.

It was certainly “Murphy’s Law” that we had a huge storm the evening after all the new furniture was put in, and despite the blinds being down (but not hooked up!) the wind tore through the main area and left a number of pieces looking dishevelled; nothing serious though but quite heart stopping when I first arrived on the scene. One of the tent fly sheets tore off and so the tent guys had to return! And only a paltry 35 mm of rains.

So now it’s back to normality and full camps in Safari Camp and Little Garonga. A few nice touches to breakfast with fresh mint from the garden being available for those who like fresh mint tea, and also fresh ginger where you can cut some pieces and have with hot water – apparently very health and actually quite tasty.

The weather here has changed quite dramatically with fresh mornings and evenings now but hot days – a perfect combo. So do start bringing your autumnal clothing if you’re coming this way soon.

Flood Day

"Refurb - tent Deck"

Flood Day

"Refurb - Tent Bathroom"

Flood Day

"Refurb - Bed in Tent"

On the marketing front Garonga is offering a complimentary 3 night stay at the Hambleden Suite for a couple who win the “Stars Auction” in conjunction with “Help4heroes” golf day being held at Stoke Park on the 25th April 12 – go to www.heroescelebritygolf.com. Please support as much as you can!

And you thought you had got away with it – no chance! How can those idiots in government in UK put out such poor info regarding a looming petrol tankers strike panicking all to stockpile fuel; this was over a week ago now and there hasn’t even been a strike yet. God, where on earth did they get their brains from! God help us all in a crisis!

So Mitt the Mormon is the favourite to take on BO in November. I think BO will have a field day. Afghan seems to be going from bad to worse now with “an allied soldier” going nuts massacring 17 People; this is only just after the “Koran” was mistakenly burnt by the same allies! Not particularly helpful. Syria – well he’s just sticking his fingers up to all. Nothing will happen there.

In France, Sarkozy is playing the strong man ready to hit the elections running. Spain next then on the bail out list – that could be interesting. More pain for the Euro – how long can it go on? In Italy we miss the “bunga tales”. Silvio, go on TV or something and amuse us all.

Sports – England just holding on to No.1 spot but not playing well at all. Hopefully that will change as we can’t have South Africa overtaking now, can we! The Super 14 Rugby has kicked off, and so now rugby, rugby, and more rugby. Don’t forget in June England are over for 3 tests – just think; come and stay here at Garonga, watch the games at my pad on big (well biggish) screen, drink beer and more beer, have boerowors rolls with loads of onions, mustard and ketchup, get drunk, sing bawdy songs and celebrate England’s……………… win! Oh what a life, by the pool watching the four legged game walk by thinking what are those crazy people up to! God, what fun!

Flood Day

"Refurb - Main Area"

Flood Day

"Refurb - Fireplace"

Flood Day

"Refurb - Dining Area"

Flood Day

"Refurb - Nicole! Ha! No time to check the hair or anything!"

Flood Day

"Range Practice with the .500 double shortened barrel Nitro Express"

Flood Day

"Now that is going to hurt - lean in to it Lad!"

Flood Day

"The Hoods on Training!"

Flood Day

"Right - who

On the safari front it is with great pride and joy to announce that Jaff, Musa and Josia have all passed their “trails guides exams” with flying colours. This is a huge step for them in their careers, and so well done to them all. CJ – hopefully next month. Thanks indeed to Mark for the training and persevering, so now we have the majority of trails guides here on the Greater Makalali reserve; Makalali come on, catch up!

So all the staff are back now after their 3 weeks annual leave and raring to go. Uhmmmm! Bear in mind that in May we move to winter routine where Lunches are replaced by high teas, and sadly no picnic lunches until September. Game drives leave later and come back earlier morning and afternoon time; fires, white port, rose port and tawny port – what more do you need.

Happy Easter to all, and hopefully see you soon.

Keep well and all the best
Bernie

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January / February News

What a difference a day makes – do you remember that song! Absolute disaster month was January; can you believe it! Swedish Scientists now declare that bacon is very bad for you!! That’s it then for the English Breakfast; even worse that’s it for Garonga’s signature dish “The Truckers Breakfast”. Right get the Invasion force ready (will only need a Company of “Rifles”) and go and swot those ignorant Scientists who have got nothing better to do. Time to get the uniform back on again. I should think the Danes may also join in as their bacon ain’t too shabby!

What a disaster is happening in Syria; the Russians and Chinese all think it’s perfectly OK to bomb, maim women and children. Hands are tied. General Bashir, whatever he calls himself, is obviously going for broke, and he won’t be given amnesty now; so its backs to the wall and wait to see what will happen there.

Now there’s Mitt and Newt battling it out – sounds like a cartoon movie. Wait for another Bush to spring a surprise and lets get George, no forget him, Jedd Bush to run for it. Stranger things may happen. I think BO will stay in for another term as the Opposition isn’t really clued up for it. I voted for the Tea lady (Tea party), but she’s been bagged. Ha!

In OZ they seem to be having a bit of a scrap between JG and Rudd who wants his job back; she beat him hands down. Even Ricky’s been left out of the team; what is happening!

The EU still throws money at that basket case of Greece; it’s going to default so stop pouring more money into that bottomless pit. Split the EU up; the strong ones remain in Euro, the rest go back to whatever. Short term pain for long term gain on both sides. UK, remain out of it.

UK seems to be quiet at the moment preparing for the Olympics, gearing up to close roads so all the Olympic Staff can flop out of their 5 star hotels and get a luxury carriage to the games. Should have given them a bicycle.

Down here in SA that glorified rabbit faced so called Youth Leaugue Leader still seems to be rabbiting on; I thought he was suspended ANC. Give him a traditional African car Crash; shouldn’t be difficult; all you have to do is put him in a taxi!

Sports – England thrashed by Pakistan in Cricket, then thrash them back in the ODI’s. Rugby is all gearing up now; 6 nations, super 14 Rugby, and now I understand England is playing SA in Rugby in June/July; what an excuse to come and visit here! I’ve got 2 x cases of Whiskey on the result; come and help me down them in celebration of winning. I can’t drink 24 Bottles on my own; I can try…

Flood Day

"Flood Day"

OK waffle over; phew, relief I hear you say! It has been a tragic time here for many Locals in the Hoedspruit area when we had the day of the floods; 17th January. Some recorded 800mm in the night! Rivers obviously flooded, roads washed away, camps closed or flooded out, and sadly many lost homes as well. It was only due to the heroics of the Air Force and their Choppers who literally got people off their roves. Tourists and Staff alike flown out of Camps that became cut off. Hoedspruit is still without clean water, but the authorities are rationing it out and people struggle on. Our hearts go out to all those who lost their homes! We had over 220 mm as it flooded over the rain gauge, so really don’t know exactly. It was almost to the day the year before that we experienced the same thing here (not in Hoedspruit). The river was swollen and so we couldn’t get in or out for up to 10 hours. The staff did a marvellous job of looking after the Guests whilst some of us couldn’t reach the camp until the river receeded. However the river went down and we were one of the very few lucky ones who carried on operating, and so we became inundated with Guests from other Camps or who were going to other camps. Great for us but left a bitter sour taste. We did therefore meet many Guests from all corners of the Globe who would never have heard of us. We thank them for their understanding and hope they had a great time here. Also with the rains came the stink bugs – my God, did we get invaded one night. Nothing could be done about it; it happens now and again. We are in the middle of Nature here which is what it is all about. Little Garonga was full and so we couldn’t use that.

Brother Nick trying his flying skills.

"Brother Nick trying his flying skills."

Brother Nick explaining to Taro, his son, HOW to Fly - AGAIN!

"Brother Nick explaining to Taro, his son, HOW to Fly - AGAIN!"

So down here at Garonga it was great to welcome back Peter who brought a group of friends with him. Great seeing you back and hopefully see you again. Many Congratulations to Mark and Michelle for tying the knot here, and to all those celebrating their honeymoon with us! On that note a special congrats to Bongane and Odie! Odie you provide a majical air charter service – thanks! Come back on an anniversary! Preferably not your 25th, as I won’t be around; be kicking up daisies somewhere. Thank-You to Andy from Africa in Focus (Our Rep company in SA) for bringing a group of Operators down here to experience the Garonga Flavour. A warm welcome back to Christine who bought her Mum along as well. Great to see you back. Finally to Taro (nephew) who managed to persuade the last of my Brothers to come out and visit with family. So after 15 years welcome Nick!

Hysterical MUSA

"Hysterical MUSA"

Reineth. Head Chef; works incredibly hard!

"Reineth. Head Chef; works incredibly hard!"

The Bushveld is obviously lush, green and thick, but despite that the Game Viewing has been superb with a couple of very interesting moments that was talked about for a long while! Well done Musa and Ruel, you performed admirably. I bet that’s got you thinking eh! Annoying isn’t it! The coalition of Lions (up to 20) is often seen on Garonga, and it really is amazing to see 3 different sets of Cubs at differing ages, plus the mums and plus the 2 Big Males – Impressive or what. Walks, sleep outs all proving popular as ever – 18 in the 2 months.

The Chefs have done admirably as ever and standing up to the challenges of suddenly having an extra 6 Guests at the last minute on quite a regular basis. Well done Ladies, and lets see what recipe you have this time!

Thanks Charlie and Kate and mentors Musa and Patric

"Thanks Charlie and Kate and mentors Musa and Patric"

Taken by Charlie and Kate

"Taken by Charlie and Kate"

Safari have been put through their paces studying to do the Trails Guide Exams, theory and Practical; this culminates in a Shooting exercise under immense pressure. Crossing fingers and toes, I hope 3 of them will have passed these extreme tests by the time we reopen in April. One has passed already. We will see.

Well, we are now about to close for March for our 5 year refurb plan and our usual cleaning and maintenance opening on April Fools Day – good time or what; well done Bernie! It is going to look superb; no significant changes, just touches; if anybody mentions that they don’t notice anything then tell that to my bank manager, but keep your distance. Joking apart it will look great.

So on that hysterical note cheers all; have a great march and hopefully see some of you down here again soon.

It is on a final note that I thank all our very precious Guests for voting for us on Trip Advisor; you have given us all a very special award of No1 in the world as best “Overall category”. It is only thanks to you, and I promise you the Staff are thrilled by this. It is indeed a very special honour! Thanks Folks!!!!

You look after yourselves and don’t forget “Care4casualties”. Look after 2 Rifles!

All the best
Bernie

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TRIP ADVISOR AWARDS

IT IS WITH GREAT PLEASURE TO ANNOUNCE THAT GARONGA HAS AGAIN BEEN AWARDED BY TRIP ADVISOR THE FIRST IN THE OVERALL CATEGORY AWARDS WORLDWIDE. WE ARE ALL VERY HONOURED TO BE GIVEN THIS AWARD WHICH COMES FROM “YOU, THE GUESTS”. THANKS SO MUCH! IT IS THE STAFF WHO MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE AND QUITE RIGHTLY THEY  SHOULD BE VERY PROUD OF THIS AWARD.

ALL THE BEST, BERNIE

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December News

Trusting you had a grand Xmas and New Year and now back to the grindstone. In December everything closes down for 4 weeks here in SA, and so phones etc are very minimal; all seems awesomely quiet. People drive off to the Beach or the Kruger and so tale long queues at the Toll Roads – what a great start. Then there are the Road Accident results here – this festive season over 1400 killed on the roads; most of them due to those suicidal non-caring, overloaded taxis. The Cops – well, that’s a waste of time!

Talking about Cars, how very sensitive some are about mickey taking. Jeremy Clarkson in UK from the TV Car Show Top gear, stating a very amusing cliché of “They should be shot” (The Strikers in November). I mean how many times have we heard or said that – we don’t mean it! But now apologies have to be issued, and soothe those sensitive souls who actually thought they were going to be shot by Jeremy Clarkson – how absolutely pathetic. The Word Gestapo are out there – watch out! Now I see Diane Abbott (Black MP in UK – am I allowed to say “Black”?) mouthing off and then being accused of racism. Come on – we can take this. Just ignore them if you don’t like it; don’t go crying to the papers. Poor Souls!!!!!!! Jeremy Clarkson you carry on, that’s why people watch you; those that don’t like his humour; guess what, you can actually change your TV to another of the 5 or 6 channels now on. I know, technology is amazing. Press Button and wow, you have another channel!

"You can't beat it - 1 week old!"

Sarkozy – just remember Waterloo! You had to have a go didn’t you at Britain not dancing to your gallic Tune. Wait till your People decide they don’t like something and then all hell breaks loose in France – they block all the roads, and the Government backtracks. Anyway Nicolas, Old Boy, you just stick with your Euro, and stop poncing around with a scarf round your neck as if you were some French fashion icon!

Syria – well, that’s a lost case. The poisoned dwarf from next door in Iran is just propping you up, so that he doesn’t feel “lost” if you were to go. The Tyrant from N.Korea – gone, to be replaced with a younger one educated in Switzerland; that should help! Now you have an educated tyrant instead.

Amazing year though – all those Dictators gone; Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen (Soon), Libya, N.Korea; only missing Zimbabwe, but they have no oil, so they don’t count.

South Africa gave a good hiding to Sri Lanka in the cricket. Australia doing the same against India. Rugby – 6 nations to start soon; more pool braiis watching ellies! Someone has to do it.

"Me trying to be artistic!"

Now down here in Sleep Hollow of Garonga a warm welcome back to Tony and Susanne, Fabian and Laura, Paul and Jo, and Steve and Deborah! Many congratulations to William and Siobhan for tying the knot in “Whites” – a First! Keep them coming.

Unfortunately over Xmas period we did have a few downpours (good for us but not when you come to Africa for Xmas). Over 80mm during Xmas and New Year, cancelling or rather evacuating a sleep out on New years Eve. But such a great crowd in, that it was still great fun. We did the traditional Roast Turkey on Xmas Night with, of course, the Bread sauce. But only 2 takers, so I think for next year a good traditional BBQ will be better. New years Eve, a couple of diehards up to Midnight, but after that “Light Out”. After all you are up in the morning at 0500 hrs here at Garonga Boot Camp.

The Game Viewing has been incredibly good. Lions, Leopard, ellies, Rhino and the Cheetah seen on many Game drives, and of course stacks of Plains Game. Safari have been trying to find the “Poo Spitting Champion”; we may have one! But seriously the Guides have done an excellent job in very thick terrain. We had the breeding herd of Ellies (30+) in front of the camp one lunch with 1 week old calf; so vulnerable you think it’s going to get squashed as you can’t even see it in the thick grass. We did see the calf going down a gentle slope but then lost its balance and keeled over. All good things take time. I mean I still do that anyway.

The Kitchen has produced amazing dishes as ever, yet still complaints on “Too much food”. Ok, so back to Boot camp, and watery soup and a bit of cabbage! Hopefully the recipe will be more entertaining. Anyway well done to the Chefettes!

"Try it and see!"

On the Staff front we welcome Angelique as Therapist. She has settled in very well and broken records already. Never did like the Bee Gees anyway! Sung as though their trousers were too tight! Percy (from the old days) came in to help Track for a few days. He’s now joined the Communist party! But he states it’s because they need to infiltrate it and ………………! Umm, I lost it after that.

All the staff went out on a day out for their Xmas outing and had a thoroughly good time. Never asked where they went – but they were smiling when they got back!

Many thanks indeed to all the Staff for 2011. From Scullery to management they all are equally important; one breaks down and I end up washing up!

Well, as I say, back to getting as many guests out here as possible this year. It’s been a good year in the circumstances, and we look forward to welcoming you here. Don’t just look at the price, look at what you get – all meals, all drinks, safaris, laundry, bush baths, sleep outs, picnics. Honestly a really good deal. Stay 5 nights pay for 4 throughout the year; wedding and incredible honeymoon packages. Spectacular surroundings and really friendly, amusing and Obliging Staff. One big happy family. That’s my marketing speel over. On that note many thanks indeed to Ethos Marketing in UK, ETC Hella and Roland in Germany, and Andy, Lizette, and Beth from Africa In Focus in South Africa, and last but by no means least Paul and his team at Wildweb who actually send out this letter – for that I give them 100% for daring to.

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October and November News

Death of a dictator; maybe the mad colonel’s death was not particularly pleasant but, hey, these aren’t the playing fields of Eton. They have their ways, we have ours. Not too surprising therefore that the Syrian Pres. is holding on literally for dear life. Good for the Egyptians to force the army to relinquish authority, as no doubt they were up to their old tricks; let’s hope it works out there for them.

So this is how democracy works in Europe. 2 Countries don’t like the way other countries are being lead; so they tell them change your leaders or you don’t get our cash. It is quite interesting though that the Greeks don’t seem to siesta 75% of the days any more but spend most of their time out on demos or striking; pity they can’t works a much as they do on demos! Remember when the irish voted against the European thing a few years back, and then the EU told them to vote again! Keep voting people until you say “yes”.

Bunga Bunga is now off the agendas. Poor old Slivio. Then in England there’s an idiot of an MP (that is strange isn’t it!!) who decides to drop his parliamentary papers into a public waste bin. Can’t they afford shredders, or even a fireplace? Letwin you cretin, wake up and get a real job! God, where do they find them! So England was closed for the 30th November because 30% of union voters wanted to strike, and the union barons/dictators/oligarchs (whatever you want to call them) reckoned that was a huge mandate for their “day of action”. Democracy works in interesting ways.

Here in SA big mouth youth league leader, Julius Malema, is suspended, and now wants to take up cattle farming. So he has a cattle farm now, on top of his mansions, cars etc. Unfortunately he has a lot of unused oxygen, and no doubt he will keep depriving some of us of ours.

England thrashed by India in cricket; revenge is sweet no doubt for that very proud cricketing nation – India that is! The Rugby World Cup is now done and dusted. What a great result; very chuffed for the Kiwis – they have deserved it for ages. England win two football matches on the trot and so now, England are world champions.

Down here in not so sunny Garonga we have been blessed with rains. First of all though many congratulations to Martijn and Annelies for cracking the bottle, tying the knot at a splendid wedding here. Welcome back to Lizette who came up with family, also to Naas and Adre’, and Jennifer.

The veldt is looking really lush and green now after having had 236mm since the season began in October. Plenty of thunder and lightning storms which also blew our PC’s. To be honest recently we have had hardly any sun for about 2 weeks or so. But it is now back, so don’t start unpacking yet.

The game viewing has been haphazard with some really splendid moments, and some frustrating with the bush being so thick. The reserve took off 15 Ellies and relocated them in a new reserve just north of Pretoria. They are well settled in by now, and the others that remain have resumed normality as it is an extremely stressful time for them during the operation which worked very smoothly thanks to Ross (reserve warden) and his wife, Auds (research ecologist; should also be reserve psychologist!). We have purchased a rhino cow, hopefully pregnant, and the new 4 lions we swapped have all settled in well.

The kitchenettes have as ever been producing brilliant food, and picnics, sleep out menus are as popular as ever. Hopefully a brilliant recipe will be attached to this letter. The health menus are also proving very popular especially coming in to summer where hot food is not so attractive excepting the truckers breakfast of course.

On the training front a big thanks to Andrew again for 1st aid training to some general Staff members, however I do have to remind some of them that they are not quite yet “doctors”!

My nephew, Taro, has returned to mud island after 2 months gap here at Garonga. He is sadly missed by all, having had 3 surrogate Mothers here. When returning to my house for the first time after his departure there felt a huge loss, not least his very entertaining company and his culinary skills. Anyway he is now working in London temporarily until he starts his studies again.

I was away for 4 weeks, firstly to celebrate a fellow lodge owner’s 50th Birthday in UK. This was a truly memorable occasion, great fun and laughter throughout the night, not least being woken at 05:30 in the morning by fire alarms in the hotel as one of the fellow invitees (also lodge owner) got locked out of his room thinking he was going to the loo; can you picture the scene now AND it’s caught on the security CCTV!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Maybe something for YouTube Tom! It was a real Africa evening with guests from the lodges all over Africa and also from the travel trade. After that it was work at the WTM travel show; a great reunion with fellow riflemen for a fantastic lunch and so on (no, you don’t need to know!); some shooting, and then it’s all over and you return with the Lurgy! Even whiskey doesn’t get rid of it.

Just another one to throw in here. A great friend was asked to break in a horse (no this is NOT a joke), and he thought nothing of it until the horse galloped away with him riding, and suddenly decided to do an “emergency stop”! You know that Tom Cruise film “Top Gun” and the song they sang, “Great balls of Fire”; well amend that to “Great balls ON fire”. Will see you soon “…” no names no pack drill! HA!

Well this will be the last one for 2011 as the next one will only be out in January 12. How it has flown. I wish you all the very best for the festive Season. Thanks indeed for all your support especially in these very tricky times.

Let’s not forget those out there putting their lives on the line for us. H4H and “Care For Casualties”. Good luck to all In 2 Rifles, and not least their very precious families!

All the best
Bernie

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