October 2013

Welcome to the October 2013 edition of the much sought-after Rissington Rag
News and Irreverence from the Proprietor of the South Africa's most lekker Lowveld lodge ...

when you have finished reading the Rag
if you REALLY don't want to receive it ever again

Rissington is still expecting to record its best year ever
and it is looking better than it has ever looked.
Here's the news ...

A Day in the Life of an Hotelier

After last month's menu discussions, I thought it might alarm and amuse you to hear about some of the trickier situations we have recently faced and which have tested our customary diplomacy. Here are a couple of examples ...
  • A guest last night actually had the gall to ask us to collect his Debonair's takeaway pizza from his room and heat it up for him as it had become cold on the way back from town. And, yes, of course we agreed to do so. And delivered it back. Free of charge. With the clever little red dot on the box showing it was hot enough to eat in case he asked us for his money back.
  • We offered a couple of regulars a free lunch during their stay - out of sheer goodwill - and they took it. Two Roast Beef, Sun-dried Tomato and Rocket Salads and a couple of puddings. Cost R130. The next day they ordered two picnics to the value of R140 and asked if they could swap and take that as the free lunch instead of the previous day's meal, thus saving themselves R10! It was a gift! What a cheek!
  • Who swiped the plastic Addis water bottle from the Baobab room's bar fridge for heaven's sake? They cost less than R50. If you can afford to go on holiday, you can afford to buy your own water bottle, can't you?
  • And to the person who nicked my complete collection of old Zimbabwean banknotes from the loo (but left the frame), you are as worthless as they are. Should you find a $100 trillion note on your kid's bedroom wall, explain that it's not worth the paper it is printed on as shown in this page from The Zimbabwean newspaper. And ask where it came from!
End of rant.

Reasons to be Positive about South Africa

There's so much bad news and cynicism around and yes, South Africa obviously still faces some very serious issues. HIV/AIDS comes to mind. Prevalence in the province of Mpumalanga stands at 23%, apparently, but the major positive change is the increasingly successful de-stigmatisation of the disease. We have come a long way from the days of our fruitcake former president who denied the link between HIV and AIDS and his equally bonkers late health minister who claimed that AIDS was particularly prevalent in Africa because the down-trodden masses couldn't afford televisions and turned instead to rampant sex with multiple partners. The same woman advocated a diet of garlic, olive oil and lemon juice to cure the disease. Barking, both of them.
Meanwhile, whereas only a few years ago we were losing several members of staff every year, most of them dying as a result of HIV/AIDS-related illness, no-one on the team has died for two years and a couple of staff members have visibly bounced back from death's door as a result of prescribed anti-retrovirals. It is very exciting. Education is working, at least in that field, even if much of it comes from us, the employers, and not from the government.
Rissington has always been an optimistic organisation when it comes to the future of South Africa and we post frequent good news in our guest information and on the loo walls. For a batch of recently-updated uplifting facts and dozens of other positive aspects of South Africa - and there are lots of them - visit my website HERE
It will make you feel better.

What makes South Africa different?

Apart from the obvious, of course, which is that we are the only country in the world that has a president who has no formal education, has had 6 wives, one of whom killed herself rather than live with him, and for whom, when you type in his name on Google, the first suggestion to come up is Jacob Zuma shower.
Well, apart from that, I think it comes down to our hospitable people and to an unusual subtlety and gentleness in our approach to looking after guests. We talk about Guests. Not Clients. Everyone who visits Rissington is our Guest. It's an interesting distinction, isn't it? In South Africa we don't have Tourists (or Grockles, as they say in the West Country). We have Overseas Visitors. And some Adventurers and Explorers.
We are in the Hospitality Industry. Not the Tourism Industry. And there lies the difference. It strikes me as uniquely South African. Am I wrong?

Rissington Wildlife

The birds are flooding back, just as the tourists are - sorry, the visitors - to avoid the increasingly chilly northern hemisphere winters, which, bizarrely, are apparently caused by global warming. Here's a pair of black-collared barbets in the bonny bean tree by the Rissington pool, as taken by our very own Kevin from Barberton:
We have a pair of magnificent fish eagles which swoop and call above Rissington almost every day. Our crocodile seems to have disappeared, hopefully not onto the same neighbour's dinner plate as three of our hippos, but we have had some lovely mongoose sightings, including a white-tailed mongoose, we have seen a honey badger and whilst we knew we had a number of common (grey) duiker, JJ cleverly snapped this much rarer red duiker in the donga between my house and the rooms the other morning.
And the government has removed, free-of-charge, all the lantana and other invasive plant species from the Rissington property, so our undergrowth is recovering fast. There. More South African good news.

Lowveld Loving

It is a mystery to me how many people from Johannesburg and Pretoria arrive in our region, known as the Lowveld, especially in the winter, and announce that they haven't been here since a school trip in the 1970s. Where have you been going for your holidays in the meantime? Do you go to the Hartebeespoort Dam every weekend? How could you? Or are you joining the caravanner gangs in Warmbaths aka Bela-Bela? Or the coffee and cake brigade in the Magaliesberg?
Well, I have to tell you that the Lowveld is much more exciting. We have - obviously - the world's third largest canyon, the MacMac Falls, Pilgrim's Rest and so on. All the stuff you know about. But we also have the magnificent 165-hectare Lowveld National Botanical Gardens with its giant collection of cycads. We have the Samora Machel monument near Komatipoort - probably the coolest monument I have ever seen. The Sabie River Valley apparently has more than 800 species of butterfly and, bird-wise, the elusive Narina Trogon is easily visible from the superb Skyway Trail.
We also have a string of amazing, galleries, potteries, craft shops and furniture makers. So forget about visiting every 20 years. Come every year. Several times. And to keep up with the news, download the FREE Lowveld Living App onto your tablet or phone to see what you are missing. Available from the App Store. It's our local lifestyle magazine and it is brimming with temptations. I even used to write for them, but they fired me, years ago, for being politically incorrect. Ag well. Nothing wrong with that.
Oh, and we have this thing called the Kruger National Park, home to 336 tree species, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 different bird species and 147 mammals. You should try it. It's very popular and it's only a ten minute drive from Rissington. You too could take pictures like this one, taken near Biyamiti:
Like all such shots, it looks as if she is roaring but she is actually just having a bit of a yawn. A bit like a weekend anywhere other than in Lowveld, I guess.

The Where in the World Competition

The answer to the July Where in the World competition: Charlie and my late Land Rover, Larry, are standing on Chapman's Peak Drive, looking out to sea beyond Hout Bay's Sentinel. The winners of a three-night stay for two, bed and breakfast are John and Marie Roux, who coincidentally also sent some very fine pics in response to our appeal for photos of Rissington. Come and stay, any time you like.
Here's this month's picture:
It's tricky (but a wonderful picture) so I will accept a very broad answer. Even a country, if you can't get any closer than that. Get your answer to info@rissington.co.za before the end of October to go into the hat for the prize. A three-night stay for two at Rissington on a bed and breakfast basis is again up for grabs.

A new website on the way for Christmas

We have now decided to redesign our website completely and employed the services of the Lowveld's favourite photography and website creation team, Chris and Derek from Artography and Webthings, to take some new fresh photos and to redesign our look. Their challenge is to show off Rissington at its best, to use photographs to demonstrate fine hospitality (tricky one) and to emphasise our open space and fabulous views. We have been told hundreds of times that our website undersells us and we are going to put that right.
A couple of Chris's and Derek's photos feature in this newsletter including this interior shot. (NB new bedside reading lights, for those who have been requesting them. We have put them into all our rooms.)
They also took the pool shot at the top and the dusk shot at the bottom. The new website will be launched before Christmas but to see more of their pics, in the meantime, visit our Facebook page by clicking on the logo below. And LIKE us please. We have some good controversial stuff on the page from time to time, including my latest run-in with a former guest on TripAdvisor (I don't think I have ever been hated so much by somebody who had never met me!) and my article in the Sunday Times (RSA) on the subject of that website, published yesterday, which is taking the tourism industry by storm. Take a look HERE - and see how Rissington's loyal supporters react with outrage. Share please. And we'd like to go over 500 LIKES. I am told it is important.
And, as always, you can still download Do Not Take This Road to El-Karama (by Chris Harvie) onto your iPad or Kindle. Buy it on Kalahari here or on Amazon here.

On Yer Bike: Staff Travels ...!

Hlengiwe and Sammie just came back from Swaziland, where they narrowly avoided being roped into the Reed Dance and married off to His Majesty King Mswati III. What a loss that would have been. They loved their stays at Foresters Arms and Mlilwane and paid a legitimate R60 speeding fine right at the border. Beware!
I went to Rocktail Bay and Tembe Elephant Park. The latter is a really great find. A good quality community project with great accommodation and some huge, huge tuskers and more nyala than I have ever seen anywhere. For more information on my other discoveries, look at my website www.christopherharvie.com and read the pieces as I get around to writing about my experiences. In the meantime, here's some advice from a loo in Mozambique's Niassa National Park.
Is it is a pun to say The Mind Boggles?

Come and stay ...

We are keeping our rates down, as usual, with our cheapest rooms staying unchanged once again at only R500 per person per night and our menu and drinks prices also unchanged. And remember that we offer a corporate rate for people staying on business and generous discounts and upgrades to returning guests. Even if they haven't been to the Lowveld for ages. And Rissington has plenty of those. Can you believe we are 18 years old this month?
As one regular guest said the other day: "Rissington is like a leather glove; it just fits perfectly."
I liked that.
Come and see us. It'd be madness not to ...
Chris the TripAdvisor Warrior, Hlengiwe the Explorer who recently conquered Swaziland, Swirly Shirley, Kevin from Barberton, Skinny Sheila, Sipho who is still married nearly a year on, Kanan the Zambian who announced himself on his new Twitter account as a Barrister but has now corrected it to Barista, Sammie from Rick Stein’s and Will the Gapper, Thandi, Cindy whose ever-increasing wealth means she nicks my parking place, Dudu, Yvonne, Emelda (our new chef), Betty, Thuli, Gladys, Sanny, Zenzile, Sisters Ntombifuthi (Foots) and Nokuthula (Noggs), Joseph, Cassim, Aubrey, Sbusiso, Patrick and Rasta. And of course JJ who won Cricketer of the Season this term. I am more excited about that than I am about any other of his school achievements. And Bull, the dog, who is not good at cricket, but passable at Frisbee-dodging.