TRAVEL DIARY – DAY 4 & 5 FROM COLEFORD LODGE, UNDERBERG TO ST BERNARDS PEAK MOUNTAIN LODGE, ELANGA SOUTHERN DRAKENSBERG
September 14, 2020
TRAVEL DIARY – DAY 6 & 7 FROM ST BERNARDS PEAK MOUNTAIN LODGE, ELANGA SOUTHERN DRAKENSBERG TO RESTHAVEN GUEST HOUSE, MATATIELE
September 14, 2020
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THE STRUGGLE IS REAL – JOURNEY NOTES DAY 4

Coleford Lodge, Underberg – They were preparing for their big income during March and April 2020 – then Covid hit.  Not different to any other tourism establishment, they had to cancel all bookings and pay back all deposits.  They have had no income up till now (September 2020).  The owners initially employed 4 people from the local rural community.  One of their start staff, Nonthokoza, was trained by the owners over the last 6 years.  They recall that when she started, she could hardly speak English, but now has a grade 11 qualification and is about to do Grade 12. 

Nonthokoza was also taught to cook by the owners.  Today, she is the one that would make a lovely breakfast spread for all the overseas visitors.  Due to Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown regulation, the owners had to let all their employees go.  All that is left, is a gentleman who takes care of their grounds and maintenance.  They cannot pay him, but he stays on the premises free of charge and does some cleaning and maintenance in exchange for food. 

Nonthokosa only comes in when there are 1 or 2 guests.  She helps with the cleaning where necessary and give visitors some care and attention.  Their arrangement is payment on a daily rate as the owners cannot afford a monthly salary.  Esmarie and Fanie Sadie originally lived in Durban but moved to the Lodge when the lockdown was announced. 

They have now decided to stay at the Lodge permanently, changing their approach to serve local tourists who are now their only source of income.  They remain positive and optimistic about the near future.  Looking forward to people having to work together.  “We don’t know how we will survive yet, but there is always an answer.  We’ve been through a lot of bad times in our life, and we are not scared to go forward. 

We are actually looking forward to people having to work together.  Don’t know what that would look like, but it’s gonna be good – I know that” Fanie Sadie said. “God has a plan for everything, and we just need to keep the faith” Esmarie added. 

Are we still convinced that The Phat GM Rides was a good idea?  After visiting the properties that we have visited so far and listening to the stories of the property owners – each different but the same – the situation is amplified.  People are struggling to make ends meet, and many were not able to survive.   We are convinced that this is what we needed to do.  The realities of suffering and worry is real.  “Any business that is forced to survive with only 16% of its occupancy – it is impossible, and we can only hope that the restrictions will soon be lifted”.  LEON RENNISON – THE PHAT GM RIDES