December 2016

Welcome
to the

December 2016
Rissington Christmas Rag 

Off-Beat News and Views
Rissington Inn, Hazyview, South Africa

A Day in the Life of an Hotelier

It was Bill Bryson who wrote: "I felt lucky to spend every day in a place that other people saved up to visit only occasionally." He was talking about living in Bournemouth, England, in his book The Road to Little Dribbling. I believe it to be even more firmly true of living in the Lowveld, and in Hazyview in particular.
No disrespect to Bournemouth, but I know which I prefer. And the average age of the residents of Hazyview is about 70 years lower, to boot.
Even in paradise, though, the clouds can gather. For example, this morning was a beautiful sunny morning and I was full of cheerful greetings at breakfast until one guest riposte came back: "I heff a huge problem - I need to update my iCloud immediately!" As I say, not a cloud in the sky. Just iClouds.
It is funny too, how people sometimes talk about the Rissington team as if we were not there. I don't know how many times I have walked past a table, only to be pointed at with a conspiratorial "Das ist der Boss" or "Dit is de eigenaar" or "That must be the owner". Ask us - and we will talk to you! There's no need to speculate privately about who we are! We actually want to get to know you. There is one such person whom I will forgive though - and I will fill you in on that particular Guest Quote at the end of the Rag...
I sometimes wonder (in rare, uncharacteristic, dark moments) whether we are approaching the last days of old-style hospitality. Will we soon not meet our guests at all? Will they check in online and go straight to their rooms, following an online map and without visiting reception? Will they then watch an online information briefing? Order meals in their rooms by email? Pay online and leave without saying goodbye? Or even hello?
Rissington is an 'Inn', which has always seemed to me to imply a more hospitable establishment than a 'guest house' (which sounds as if it is run by a lonely, intrusive Eastern European widow with bad breath) or a faceless hotel with no smiles. And I like the idea of being an innkeeper, even if (topical Christmas quip) sometimes there is no room at the Inn. (Keep trying to get in, though - it is worth it for genuine hospitality - unless you are living under a cloud, especially an iCloud, in which case, stay at home).
And remember we speak a number of languages at Rissington so be careful what you say. French, German, Dutch, some Italian and Spanish are all spoken here ... You will probably be alright gossiping in Russian though. I am fairly sure I am the only one with any Russian at all and it is limited to being able to count to five, making a proposal of marriage and saying "Rev Green killed Miss Scarlett in the drawing room with a spanner".
According to Google Translate :  means "Are you the owner?" but then knowing Google, it could actually mean "in the conservatory with a lead pipe".

The End of England?!

You would have thought, since the last Rag went out, that politics might have taken a turn for the better, but matters really don't seem to have improved at all. Not only do we now have that old BBC treasure of a children's programme, Trumpton, on full-time, but Jacob Zuma, unbelievably, remains at the helm in South Africa, albeit arguably not really in control. He is still at the top of a short list of people, including some second world war leaders and a couple of recent UK Prime Ministers, who, when I see them speak, truly make the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
It must tell us something when our hackles actually rise. It is instinctive, like premonitions of danger and the ability to tell the time without using a watch. Our instincts have been dulled over the centuries, but the hair on the back of the neck is still a powerful indicator that something is wrong.
And talking of Brexit, which we also were in the last Rag, this was the rather alarming genuine conversation that I had in the bank in Hazyview, the other day, when I tried to send some money overseas.
Me: Hello. How are you?
Teller: I am fine and you.
Me: Fine and you. Fine. Fine. (These things can go on for a while). I would like to send some money to England.
Teller: England has been abolished. I had this problem last week and it no longer exists.
Me: Oh. That's a blow. I know things are a bit confusing but I didn't know it had actually been abolished. In fact, I am fairly sure I saw England on the News last night.
Teller: No, it is not possible. It does not exist. Can we put France? (This was her best suggestion, looking at the dropdown options - we had gone through Britain, Great Britain, UK.)
Me: Er, no. Not France. I don't want my money to go to someone in France.
Teller (suddenly enlightened): Wait - is UK the same as United Kingdom? We can send it to United Kingdom.
What a relief. We agreed to that. Goodness knows what will happen if and when Scotland secedes. Will England be reinvented or born again? Or will we have the DKFIE, the Disunited Kingdom Formerly in Europe?
But whatever and wherever your politics, I strongly recommend keeping up to speed with ours through the Daily Maverick. There can be no country in a more fascinating situation than South Africa and this is good, outspoken comment at its best, slowly but surely getting to the truth of just how entrenched our corruption is.
Have a look, by clicking on the logo below, and maybe sign up for their daily emails.
And the mystery remains: Just how long can Zuma hang in there for? Here's a depressing thought:

Ancient Hazyview History revisited

An eagle-eyed reader very helpfully pointed out that the dapper gentleman (right) shown in the last Rag was actually Colonel James Stevenson-Hamilton, not Harry Wolhuter. Mea culpa. There are some fairly alarming pictures around of the Lowveld's founding fathers, the two look similar and were both spectacularly moustachioed.
Stevenson-Hamilton's nickname was Skukuza, meaning "the one who sweeps clean" and his assistant delighted in the name of Doispane, which was reputed to have derived from Dustbin. He gave his name to the Doispane Road which leads to Skukuza from Rissington's closest Kruger entry gate, Phabeni Gate, ten minutes from here.
Stevenson-Hamilton, unlike Wolhuter, did not kill a lion with a knife (nor did he dispatch a leopard with a screwdriver, in the manner of a legendary Sabi-Sand worker who was attacked on the back of a pick-up about 15 years ago) but he was the first warden of the Sabi Nature Reserve and was integral in its development into the Kruger National Park as we know it today.
So here they are, correctly labelled.
Harry WolhuterJames Stevenson-HamiltonThe lion
Peas in a pod. And below is Wolhuter, a little older, post lion. Good glasses. I have mentioned before that he lived in the house next to Rissington.

Harry Wolhuter (again)

Are you really who you say you are?

The latest fad, in a dishonest world, appears to be the assuming of false titles for possible personal gain. Again we are in the realms of the 'Dropdown List' of options. No longer simply Mr or Mrs or Miss (or Ms, if you must), we are now given a choice of Lord, Lady, Baron, Baroness, Sir, Revd, Canon, Sister, Rabbi, Prof, Viscount, Dr, Capt and so it goes on, although I have yet to come across a Chief or King option, which would be most suitable in a country that has 10 kings and more than 5,300 chiefs, as is the case in South Africa. For the record, the former are paid a salary of just over R1 million each per year, by central government, and the latter R79,384 each per year - and that is before their allowances from provincial government, which in the case of the Zulu King amounts to over R60 million per year, putting him on nearly 1,700 times the recently proposed official minimum wage.
So do people actually give themselves false titles in hotels to try to get better service and upgrades? Well yes, I am afraid they do. We recently had a Lord and Lady of the Manor - a title which you can buy for a nominal fee on the Internet - masquerading as real nobles. Want to try it? Visit www.lordtitles.co.uk to buy your 'Lord and Lady Couple Pack', which includes five square feet (just under half a square metre, so just big enough to stand on if you keep your feet together and wear small shoes) of 'dedicated estate land' with a view of Coniston Water in the Lake District. There's even a photo on the website of the singer Lorde being presented (ironically?) with a Ladyship Pack, making her Lady Lorde. Isn't that taking this new Transgender thing somewhat to extremes? Please note that the website makes it clear that you must order before 21st December 2016 if you want your title by Christmas.
Here's a thought from Anatole France, the 19th century author and man of letters: "There are very honest people who do not think that they have had a bargain unless they have cheated a merchant."
I speak as someone who would rather overpay than haggle, but a hotel generally has a published tariff. That tariff applies to everyone and the facilities are the same for everyone, no matter what their rank or title. Unless they are regulars, in which case we will spoil them rotten!

The "Where in the World" Competition

This was a tricky one, I must admit, and nobody even came close to getting it right. The photo shows the mind-blowing view to the north from the hiking trail above Ntshondwe Camp at Ithala Game Reserve in Northern KwaZulu-Natal. Sadly, you were all so far out that, for the first time in the history of the Rag, I am not awarding the prize!
But ... it is Christmas, so here are this month's pictures. As usual there are six photos making up the Christmas Competition, with the bigger-than-usual prize of three nights, dinner, bed and breakfast, for up to four people in a hillside suite at Rissington - with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, sitting room with television, outside shower, air-conditioning, a wonderful newly-refurbished private swimming pool with huge views and so on and so on...
Where were these six pictures taken? Entries to info@rissington.co.za by 15th January 2017 to go into the hat for the prize draw.

Rain and Breeding in the Lowveld

The drought seems to be breaking, if not broken, with some good falls of rain and a slight recovery in the veld, although the dams remain very low indeed. We have had some spectacular flying ant breakouts, but the other insects that we love so much seem to be keeping a low profile. We have had very small numbers of those fabulous 'sausage flies' that crash around bumping into everything and the mosquitoes are very few indeed, which of course means it is perfectly safe to come here. Rissington is in a very low-risk area and it always amazes me that the idea of a mosquito might actually deter anyone from coming here. After all, we live here all year round, we breed here and we braai here. What is the big deal?!
And as for the animals, well, more rain is needed. And thanks to all our guests who have been so understanding of the need for rain. I know it has spoiled your view but the environment does come first - and even better, very few people have made the 'Curtains Closed' joke about God's Window. Thank you.

On Yer Bike : Our Travels

Travels have been few and far between in the past three months, apart from keeping a (literally) weather eye on the Kruger National Park to see how the drought is affecting the wildlife.
The first two weeks of December see us repeating our no-social-media, no-gaming, no-television holiday experiment, this time to the Eastern Cape. Oh, and there is the small matter of a fantastic three-night stay at the inimitable Londolozi Private Game Reserve in the Sabi-Sand.
Back to road trips, though, and it is always an absolute joy to travel around our country. South Africa's roads are generally in magnificent condition and although the driving can often be interesting, it is generally quite good. I have written some handy tips for drivers on my blog on the Portfolio website if you want some (occasionally irreverent) ideas. You can read it HERE. It includes the useful tip that we don't actually have driverless cars in this country, so the car you are looking at does have a driver, but he might well be lying down while he steers his vehicle.
And in addition to our excellent roads we also have very cheap tolls, compared with, say, the Panama Canal, where the average toll is $54 000. I will never complain about paying R50 again.

Anti-Social Media

In this wired-up, jumped-up, ridiculous world, where people's mobile phones actually whistle to them and they respond, spare a thought for the old payphone. How sad they look, standing alone on roadsides, unloved, untended, unused.
The new terminology can however come up with some quite intriguing names for itself and some quite dull ones. Did you know, for example, that ROM is short for Read-Only Memory and RAM is Random Access Memory. I bet they wished they had thought of something slightly funkier than that. Like the CD-burning programme which is called Nero, because it is 'burning ROM' - geddit?
Isn't it quaint that rebooting a computer actually comes from the expression 'to pull someone up by their boot-straps'. And how lovely was it of the geeks to breathe new life into the #HASHTAG key and the @ which no-one knew what do with? Except the guy with the blackboard in the market with a sign that says PATATOE'S @ 50p. He can't spell or punctuate, but he can use an @. And now we all can. The Netherlanders call it an apenstaartje. Monkeytail! How cute is that?!
Back to basics, though. My writing website www.chrisharvie.com has been completely reinvented and updated, including a newly-researched and updated version of the popular REASONS TO BE POSITIVE ABOUT SOUTH AFRICA.
As always, you can download Do Not Take This Road to El-Karama (by me) onto your iPad or Kindle from Takealot (the former Kalahari) HERE or Amazon HERE.
When you next dig out your tablet, I would urge you to join the Inn crowd and follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter ...
 
We are also revamping the Rissington website : www.rissington.co.za. By mid-January, there will be more interactive photography, a great range of new pics, showing off all our upgrades and even some 360 degree tours of the rooms and the main house. Tour operators and website operators please note: you can update your photos any time by lifting them from the gallery on www.rissington.co.za/Brochure. We urge you to do that. There is nothing worse than having stale and out-of-date images lurking on the Internet.

Gap Year Students

Just a reminder that we have stepped up our gap year programme for pre- or post-university students. From now on, we shall be looking at taking on two or even three youngsters at a time, to supplement our superb permanent front-of-house team and to spread the benefits amongst keen participants. Anyone may apply but we expect that all successful applicants will be 18-25, at least half-intelligent, interesting, energetic non-smokers, preferably with a driver's licence. Males and females welcome, but not couples. Aim to stay three months. No hopeless cases please. No beards, no tattoos, no lying around in bed all day. Email info@rissington.co.za.

Guest Quote of the Month

Before I take you to the Quote, here is my fascinating fact for December :
Rissington is higher than the highest point in The Netherlands.
Rissington lies at 530m above sea level. The Vaalserberg, where Holland meets Germany and Belgium, is 322.7m above sea level. So Hollanders, please be prepared for altitude sickness, especially when visiting the Blyde River Canyon, as Graskop is a dizzying 1400m above sea level, 55 metres higher than Ben Nevis in Scotland (the highest point in what is currently known as the United Kingdom).
So to the quote. Canadians for a change. I had been tipped off that they wanted me to say hello to them and I could see them pointing at me and wondering when their moment would come (although goodness knows why anyone thinks it is exciting to meet me).
So I introduced myself to them. They were fun. They loved Rissington (well only a really sad person wouldn't) and we chatted for a while before I was called away to help some other guests with directions and ... as I walked away, I heard the one lady say to her friend ...
"He is so much younger than I was expecting!"
Thank you Ma'am. You made my day.
So. Yes, I am the owner - and yes, I may even be younger than you expected! I started Rissington when I was 30 years old; the sketch above - by a member of staff - was done for the invitation to Rissington's 10th birthday, and this year we celebrate Rissington's 21st birthday on New Year's Eve. Anybody want to join us? The rooms are full, but there is space for a few locals and non-residents in the restaurant for our 21st Birthday Quirky Quiz and Pub Night on 31st December - Now with Real Bingo.
New Year's Eve just as we have always done it, but with a Birthday Twist. Join us. Email info@rissington.co.za.
So it is Christmas ... in Africa - and there's a blog on the Portfolio page about how South Africa celebrates Christmas too. Have a wonderful time and come and see us next year. It would be madness not to - and a very Merry Christmas and Happy 2017 to one and all.
Chris the Younger, GM Hlengiwe (and, nope, still no driver's licence, but she promises ... ), Ever-cheerful Shirley (who is now Assistant Manager), Nonhlanhla (FOH Manager), Sibusiso the Body-builder, Genius Euginia (who is currently away on a breeding programme), Stan The Man, Sydney Australia, Gappers Sami and Hugh II, Sipho the Driver, Head Chef Thandi, Cindy, The Great Gertie, Emelda, Zenzile, Betty, 10-Ton Thuli, Lily, Sanny, Sisters Ntombifuthi (Foots) and Nokuthula (Noggs), Patience, Yvonne, Able Aubrey, Sbusiso the Womaniser and Guy The Guy. And of course JJ, who enters his last year at Prep School next year and won this year's Eco-Adventure Trophy. Plus German(ish) Shepherd Bull, who, to his relief, can no longer hear the thunderstorms, and wagging-tailed Rusty, the wagtail chaser.

September 2016

Welcome
to the

September 2016
Rissington Rag 

Off-Beat News and Views

Please do NOT report this email as junk. Thousands of people really love it. Instead, to unsubscribe, click the link at the bottom of the page, when you have finished reading the Rag, if you DEFINITELY don't want ever to receive it again. And if you really are too hopeless to manage that, send an email to info@rissington.co.za and we will do it for you!

A Day in the Life of an Hotelier

It is not often that I am faced with a question that I simply don't know how to answer but it happened the other day. An American.
"If we are obliged to wear suntan lotion and insect repellent at the same time, which should we apply first?"
In my attempts to remain the Master of Civility and Compromise, I told him that it was a very good question, but that I did not think the order mattered as long as both were rigorously applied. Maybe, I suggested, the suntan lotion should be applied to the areas exposed to the sun, such as the face, arms and legs, while the insect repellent could be inserted into areas not normally affected by sun, such as behind the ears, up the sleeves and inside the socks (especially if worn with sandals).
 
Look what the Colonel is up to now! Finally: KFC flavoured suntan lotion
Of course, should the sun unexpectedly emerge whilst insect repellent was being applied, then all application should cease immediately to allow for suntan lotion to be smothered liberally on any uncovered skin. Likewise, in case of a sudden surprise attack by an unanticipated squadron of mosquitoes or (worse) hornets, all suntan-lotion-smearing should instantly be replaced by insect-onslaught-parrying with a liberal squirt of Doom Insect Killer - and should that fail, DEET should be launched immediately in the direction of the assailants.
He thanked me profusely for my conclusive and well thought-out advice.
We aim to please, but ... wait until you see, at the bottom of the letter, what the Indians are asking for now. (No. Don't jump straight there. Read the bits in-between.)

Revolting Politics

Has South Africa gone full circle? We watched in fascination as, following the ANC's recent defeat in Johannesburg, a certain Vasco da Gama was elected speaker of the Johannesburg Council. Truly. Has his ship finally come in?
 
Would the real Vasco da Gama please step forward?
And what next? Cecil Rhodes to take up the role of Public Protector? Shaka for Minister of Further Education? Winnie Mandela in charge of Child Welfare? Jacob Zuma for another term as President?! Heaven help us!
Like much of the world, South Africa has been going through some fairly torrid political times recently. I call it The Politics of Spongebob - a no-progress, all-bluffing, blame-culture perpetrated by idiots led by idiots. As with the children's cartoon show Spongebob Squarepants, we, the onlookers, can easily see just how daft these buffoons are, bumbling around and thinking they are getting away with their nonsense. Sadly, the politicians themselves, are however the only ones foolish enough to be taken in by their own blarney. The Rainbow Nation's own Spongebob is pictured (twice).
I speak apolitically, but I do believe that the outcome of the recent local elections could not have been better. Some harsh lessons have been learned and everybody is now on their best behaviour. No-one is really in power and everyone is being held accountable. Long may it last. Nkosi sikilel' iAfrica. And we should start with an urgent change of President. There. I said it.

Ancient Hazyview History

So let's get away from the present and indulge in some nostalgia, the refuge of the politically unsure.
A friend is currently researching the history of Hazyview. It is not a long history as the town was only officially promulgated in 1959 but the region has been home, over the years, to a range of colourful characters including the drunk who founded the settlement in 1900, a former member of Steinaecker's Horse named Perry, and his better-known friend, the renowned hunter and conservationist Harry Wolhuter who reputedly killed a lion with a pocket knife. (I think the lion may actually have been scared to death by his moustache).
Anyone with any interesting snippets of Hazyview history would be welcome to send them to me. I was delighted to stumble across the map below - the full-size framed version may be seen at the Sabi River Sun (formerly Bungalows) - which clearly shows Rissington to have been the main farmhouse on the farm De Rust in the early days of the pioneers in the valley.
 
The left-hand map shows a recognisable Rissington (top right) and, next to it, Wolhuter's house, which also still stands. If you blow up the map on the right, you can see Rissington right at the top and the banners below it to the right mark PALM BEACH, then CAVES, and finally PARADISE ISLAND along the banks of our Langspruit stream. It sounds more like Mauritius than Hazyview!
The bottom banner reads THERE'S GOLD IN THEM THAR HILLS. If only ...
We have been lucky enough to meet four of the previous owners of the farm on which we founded Rissington Inn and they were all able to tell us some good stories about the house. One even showed me where his concrete outside bath had stood, under the sycamore trees in the garden. You can still see the spot today, although our outside showers are (a little) more private ...

TripAdvisor Comes of Age - The Final Rant

After years of tormented comment on TripAdvisor, it finally seems to have settled in, with the discerning user able to tell when the hotel is at fault, or when the reviewer is quite simply a moron. It has long been said that intelligent people can read between the lines, and I suppose that is the case, although the debate will continue, especially amongst lower-rated establishments, and the permitted anonymity of reviewers remains a disgrace. We are pleased, at least, still to be Number One, in our category, in Hazyview.
Booking.com is another story. The average user of this booking engine is often too rushed, too daft and/or too lazy to send an email or, heaven forbid, pick up the phone. As a result, he or she ends up booking on-line the first cheap option and then complains when this is precisely what he or she gets.
It is a loathsome system, which appears to actively encourage negative criticisms of tourism establishments, but it currently brings us more than 20% of our business and accounts to a large extent for the growth we have experienced over the past 2 years (see the latest chart below). How I wish we could actually fill the empty rooms with regulars and with people who have sought us out because we offered what they wanted, not because we were the first to pop up on their screens!
Anyway, we shall continue to respond (as calmly as possible) to reviews on both sites - until all users learn to play fair and not to use the sites to acquire favours or to wreak revenge. Only from inside this industry can one tell (in my case, after 35 years of it) how much less civil and more unkind some guests can be, nowadays, to staff, and it often entails threatening them with bad reviews. We used to live for the joy of happy guests and the cheerful, grateful letters in the post. Now we often find ourselves on the back foot, in fear of instant public humiliation by bullying cyber-gangsters and these threats inevitably sometimes rub off on the atmosphere within tourism as a whole. Sadly, in the mind of some website users, it is not all about good hospitality any more. It is also about giving bang for your buck or there'll be hell to pay. And staff morale is the first aspect to suffer.
I don't often agree with The Guardian but this is a thought-provoker, even if it contains one too many conspiracy theories. Read it here
And in case you missed it when I put it in last time, far more interesting is Why Luxury is Dead
Anyway, let's leave it there. In the meantime, who could disagree with PT Barnum when he says: "Politeness and civility are the best capital ever invested in business"?
After all, as he didn't say (but almost everyone else evidently did) - Life is a Circus ...
Did you ever come across a more over-used expression? I am particularly excited about the "Exciting New Sermon Series". And what on earth is a "Blog Hop Challenge"?

The Best Weather in the World

More annoying than "Life is a Circus" is the expression "Can't Complain". It is like you want to complain, but no matter how hard you try, you can't find anything to complain about. And the one thing we definitely cannot complain about here is the weather. South Africa is in the Top 10 with the eighth best weather in the world and most of our biggest markets fall in the Bottom 10. Small wonder that they are our biggest markets.
However, the drought continues here and they say that a rainy cycle is due. Can't complain.

The "Where in the World" Competition

 
This was a tricky one and the winner was Ursula Saner-Davare who (among many others) correctly identified (because she was there a couple of weeks before I was) that the photo showed the Paraa Ferry across the Nile in Uganda's Murchison Falls National Park and that the prehistoric-looking bird is a Shoebill, formerly known as a Shoebill Stork. The additional birds, later on in the letter, were, in order: Abdim's Stork, Black-headed Gonolek, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Red-cheeked Cordon-Bleu.
To win two nights for two at Rissington this time around, where was this photograph taken?
Entries to info@rissington.co.za by 15th October 2016 to go into the hat for the prize draw.

Upgrades and Oddballs

There are two kinds of upgrade. Moving up a class ... and improving facilities. Rissington always upgrades guests where possible to the best room available on the day of arrival, and obviously we tend to favour returning guests.
The improvements to Rissington are also all but complete. Thank goodness. It has been a monumental task, but the results are very rewarding. Please come and have a look for yourself. Sooner or later, there will also be some new pictures on the website. We are waiting for the rain before we take them!
And I haven't had a go at Oddballs for a while. As the world gets madder, we are. as always, keeping up with the fads, the latest really big deal being Vegan food. While I can imagine life without meat, I am afraid life without eggs and cheese would be totally beyond me but we have nevertheless sent two of our top chefs on a vegan cooking course, so that we are able to accommodate canaries, squirrels and any other seed and nut-eaters who come to stay.
And this is what a vegan can look like (although in my experience, not all of them do):

On Yer Bike : Our Travels

It always amazes me that KZN (KwaZulu-Natal) is often said to be so much the poorer relation when it comes to both domestic and international tourism. There is just so much going on. Every year we head to Ballito for a beach holiday in January but, for something different, this year in the mid-year school holidays, we headed in the same direction but for cycling and game-viewing. Do it. The KZN Ezemvelo Parks are beautiful and offer wonderful game-viewing, if only because often they are mountainous or on lakes, so you can see for miles. We had wonderful elephant and lion sightings in Hluhluwe-Mfolozi, dozens of rhinos in Ithala and we located Samango monkeys at Cape Vidal in iSimangaliso (formerly Lake St Lucia), where we also cycled amongst the wildebeest and zebra.
Sadly, the parks are all shockingly badly-run from a hospitality perspective with some of the most ill-informed and unenergetic staff and the worst restaurants I have come across in a long time, made worse by some appalling management decisions. In iSimangaliso, for example, all the dirt roads were closed at the same time and apparently have been so since last November, leaving just the one (tar) road open! - but we didn't let that spoil our stay and it was a magnificent break. I strongly recommend a couple of weeks in KZN. We stayed at the inimitable Wendy's Guest House in Mtubatuba and used it as a base for all our travels - see the website HERE - which could not have been better. Friendly service, great food and lots of helpful advice (as a counterpoint to the Parks staff, who often couldn't give us any information at all).
Finally, we ended up at Fugitives' Drift, an alma mater of mine, and still one of the finest hospitality experiences in the world (and even more so, now that Nicky Rattray is 'doing up' the accommodation).
For those who have been following it (and who are impressed by the above photograph of me taking part, which I use in every Rag), the tenth and final RattRace Mountain Bike Challenge took place at Fugitives' Drift in July with a good get-together of friends of David Rattray's and a spectacular fund-raising effort for the David Rattray Foundation, which has now been renamed Khula. You can read about it HERE.
The work of the foundation will obviously continue. So far, over R13 million has been injected into a dozen schools in the Rorke's Drift area. An astonishing achievement - and simply life-changing for thousands of children.

Time for some Exercise

We have spent much of the last six months undertaking all the activities in the Hazyview area for ourselves and in addition to the adrenalin-inducing thrills and spills on which we regularly send our guests (the Skyways canopy trail, the rafting, canyoning and tubing, the horse- and elephant-interactions and the wildlife rehabilitation centres around Hoedspruit), we continue to unearth a great range of walks and trails around Hazyview, Graskop and Sabie, all offering different levels of challenge and each with its own unique character.
The Matumi Trail, for example, is said to offer the widest range of butterfly species anywhere on the continent (or is it in the country? Or the world?). It literally seems sometimes to snow butterflies. And the very rare (and utterly beautiful) Narina Trogon can be often seen along the clear-running streams of the Mac-Mac River, which the trail follows. Cycling and quad-biking options are also available here.
The Belvedere Day Hike takes one right down to the Dientjie Falls in the base of the Canyon - a tough but thrilling walk - while the Jock of the Bushveld Trail goes right past Sir Percy Fitzpatrick's aptly-named Panorama Camp and the Graskop Day Walk leads past Forest Falls, the only waterfall in the Province to be wider than it is tall. Don't you just love a statistic?
Finally, every Monday morning, there is a guided 3-hour birding walk along the Sabie River in Hazyview where 50 species are regularly clocked up, currently including (and believe me, this is exciting, even if it doesn't sound it to you) the Little Jacana.

A Post-Brexit Concession

If you Brexit, you pays for it, as the old adage has it. Not one person claimed the free prize for being British in July. Is anybody reading this? Or am I wasting my time?! So in another concession to the British with their weakened pound, we have decided not to raise the drinks prices at Rissington. All heart. I know. And everybody benefits (except me) so thank a Brit when you see how ludicrously low our wine prices are - and yes, we won another Gold in the Diners Club Wine Awards this year. Very satisfying.
And, even with the weaker pound, South Africa is still undoubtedly the best value destination in the world ... and you can be reassured that, until he is gone, every time our President opens his daft mouth, the pound will slowly, slowly strengthen against the rand, as will all the other currencies. So book now for next year, while you can still get in.

Anti-Social Media

I have not mentioned the annoyingness of cellphones in this newsletter - but to show that I practise what I preach, during my three-week holiday with three 11-year olds, we did not go onto social media or play electronic games at all. Not even once. And nor did we watch television. And we didn't miss any of them for a moment. It did however draw my attention to the fact that we were still using my cellphone (the only one we had with us in case Rissington had an emergency) but only as a camera. Here's a picture to prove it:
Again, when you next dig out your tablet, I would urge you to join the Inn crowd and follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter ...
 
As always, you can download Do Not Take This Road to El-Karama (by me) onto your iPad or Kindle from Takealot (the former Kalahari) HERE or Amazon HERE.
If you haven't done so already, you can also look at Rissington's website on www.rissington.co.za. And - tour operators and website operators please note - if you need new pictures for any purpose, you can lift them from the gallery on www.rissington.co.za/Brochure.

Gapper Appeal

We are stepping up our gap year programme for pre- or post-university students. From now on we shall be looking at taking on two or even three gappers at a time, to supplement our superb permanent front-of-house team and to spread the benefits amongst keen participants. And the benefits are legion with frequent visits to the game reserves and wildlife interaction centres, plus hikes and adrenalin thrown in.
Anyone may apply but we expect that all successful applicants will be 18-25, at least half-intelligent, interesting, energetic non-smokers, preferably with a driver's licence. Males and females welcome, but not couples. Aim to stay a minimum of three months. No hopeless cases please - if you don't know what do next, we don't know what you should do either - but keen, presentable, enthusiastic souls are most welcome. Email info@rissington.co.za.

Guest Quote of the Month

OK, so it is back to the Indians. A guest feedback form:
Honestly. He obviously found this one in Indonesia and expects one everywhere he goes now:
 
Come and see us, it would be madness not to - but please pick up some cash at an ATM on the way here, as this is one request we shall not be acceding to ...
Chris the Curry-maker, Hlengiwe (and, nope, still no driver's licence), Ever-cheerful Shirley, Nonhlanhla the Herpetologist, Sibusiso the Body-builder, Genius Euginia, Gappers Phoebe, Claire and Finlay, Melba (aka Anagrammatic Mabel, Toast, Peach and Nellie), Sipho the Driver, Thandi the Vegan-friendly Head Chef, Cindy, The Great Seed-Chef Gertie, Emelda, Zenzile, Betty, 10-Ton Thuli, Gladys, Sanny, Sisters Ntombifuthi (Foots) and Nokuthula (Noggs), Patience, Yvonne, Able Aubrey, Sbusiso the Womaniser, Guy the guy and Mbuso, the Weekend Man. And of course JJ, who bowled a triple-wicket maiden last week in a school cricket match - oh yes, and turned 12. Plus German(ish) Shepherd Bull, who is increasingly deaf and going slowly blind but plugging away, and Rusty with the cute smile.