The tragedy of Mkhambathi (Wild Coast).

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Harold
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Sat Sep 22, 2012 2:22 pm

This is a sad tale of incompetence and maladministration.

The Main Lodge (S31.312793, E29.966112).
According to ‘The East Cape Parks’ web page
http://www.ecparks.co.za/parks-reserves ... index.html
An upmarket, stone building with 5 double en-suite bedrooms, accommodating 10 persons. Guests can relax around their own pool and braai area, whilst enjoying the stunning views of the beach.
They advertise the Main Lodge, but do not take bookings for it, they will only accept bookings for the Riverside Lodge and the Rondavels at GweGwe.

The Main lodge is no longer used as there is no water or electric power. The swimming bath is half empty and awash with leaves and dead frogs. We were amazed to find the lodge unlocked and entered to find that it was being maintained. All the furnishing was still there, the beds were made and from our cursory inspection all seemed OK, except no power, no water . There was a major leak in the passage and a 25 litre drum placed there to catch the drips was almost full.

There was a visitors book on a coffee table and the last entry made was on 6/12/2010.
An entry made on 1/12/2010 had a list of faults: no water, kettle did not work, poor maintenance, staff did not care about visitors. State of the roads within the nature reserve very poor.
Prior to this the Lodge was well frequented and judging by the comments made it was exceptional.

To get to the main Lodge we had to drive past the old reception building, (still shown on their web page), which is now derelict with most of the surrounding buildings having no roof, windows or doors, looking like the aftermath of a furious battle. Some of the buildings in the vicinity don’t look as bad but urgently need attention.

There is a cottage close to the beach, previously known as the ‘Point Beach Cottage’, (S31.31528, E29.96563) – this must have been a wonderful place, but now but now derelict. The building appears sound – the question to be asked is “Why did it get this way.”

When I asked the question at reception as to why the Lodge and other are in such poor condition I got a vague answer that there was a developer who was going to get it all done, but he pulled out. Makes me wonder what the true story is. There is a board erected that gives the details. Is there anyone who could enlighten us?

The only two places for accommodation are ‘Riverside Lodge’ and at ‘GweGwe Rondavels’, both of which are reasonably close to each other but out of sight from each other.
The ’Riverside Lodge’, they say, can accommodate up to 20 people. We took a stroll to the lodge and were not impressed it was nothing to look at and closed in by the coastal bush.
There was no view. It is on the river (small stream), but you can’t even see the stream properly.

‘GweGwe Rondavels’ (S31.28877, E30.01226) are the best. There are 6 rondavels, the 7th is a communal room with a table and chairs. The rondavels (for two) provide bedding, towels and pillows. Each has a two plate gas stove and a deep freeze. There is no crockery, cutlery, pots or pans. Also suggest you take your own drinking water.
Hot water by means of a gas geyser. But beware; I know that rondavel 3 & 4 had no cold water tap in the shower. So to prevent third degree burns you need to take a bucket with you to wash out of.
Wonder who the expert was that designed the plumbing with only hot water – only the Eastern Cape Parks Department could do something like that! I could not find out if the remaining rondavels had the same one tap system as they were locked.
In the time we were there we saw no service staff or anybody else and the rondavel was not swept clean which they are supposed to do. Nearby are staff quarters and there must have been someone there as each day there was different washing on the line.

Management definitely lacking. Empty gas bottles were scattered around and not neatly packed.
The towel rail in our rondavel was coming loose; bet you it will not be fixed!

THE ROADS. As I mentioned earlier that there was a comment in the Lodge visitors book about the poor road conditions. Well I reckon between 2010 and Sept 2012 little was done.
Then a month ago they got hit with mega rain - now the conditions are frightful and we are only at start of the rainy season. They say, “You need a vehicle with a good clearance.” Must be the same guy that organised the plumbing. What they mean is you need a good 4x4 with good clearance. The distance from the reception to the GweGwe rondavels is about 9,5km it took me 30 minutes, but then I’m a cautious kind of guy that feels for my old Hilux; I guess a Range Rover, or similar, could probably have done it in less time. The road is so bad that most of the time it is better to drive off-road in the veld.

They are busy ‘fixing’ the roads. Whether with own resources or outside contractors I do not know. Suffice is to say that, in my limited knowledge of road construction, they are making a huge mistake. Instead of moving the roads to the higher ridges that have better drainage, they are grading out the washed roads thereby creating a channel some 300mm deep down the slope. Where they are going to get material for the fill is questionable. Besides, being the start of the rainy season these man made channels will soon be dongas.

In conclusion:
I would like to know the reasons for the degradation of Mkhambathi’s infrastructure. The East Cape Parks should be made to account for what has happened, or will this just be another example of wasted resources of what should be a prime South African Heritage site.

Mkhambathi is a beautiful park no cell communication and no people. Other than another couple who left the next day we saw no one, local or otherwise. The fishing should be excellent as most of the area is a marine reserve and fishing is only permitted in a few designated areas. I did not fish as we had gale force winds for the three days we were there. We did a few long walks and saw a herd of about 25 eland, a lone hartebees far away and one jackal.

Would I go again? Maybe!!
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gwegwe rondavels.jpg
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mkhambathi falls.jpg
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Last edited by Harold on Sun Sep 23, 2012 7:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Sat Sep 22, 2012 2:47 pm

Thanks Harold.

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Sat Sep 22, 2012 10:40 pm

Harold Im appalled to hear of the state of Mkambathi as I was involved in the upgrading of the electrical and coldroom and freezer-room facilities in about 2001.The EU had pumped millions into the tourism industry of Transkei and Mkambathi game reserve fell into the targetted scheme of things. I spent time there installing new machinery to the coldroom and freezer-room and the electrical around the hq and the adjacent accomadation was rewired and in the instances of of remote cttages,solar eletrical was installed.I was sure that with the foreign financial input in to this very poor and backward part of South Africa,the locals would be the first to benefit.Millions were spent there including the Escom supply from Flagstaff to the Mkambathi Reserve.I have not been back there for about ten years and have no contact with the region since my contract there. I had hoped that the money was well spend and that the locals were reaping the benefits.I actually feel so negative as I cannot explain in words how the Pondoland section of the Transkei is poor and under serviced.
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Sat Sep 22, 2012 11:08 pm

So so sad... makes one think how long before the rest look like that... :thumbdown:
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Sun Sep 23, 2012 6:45 am

That is so sad.

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Sun Sep 23, 2012 6:46 am

Makes one angry and sad at the same time. I month back I was at Dwesa and it was in good condition. But one could also see that small things was being neglected. Lets hope it does not run the same fate. :thumbdown:
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Sun Sep 23, 2012 8:21 am

Die 2de foto is die Msikaba rivier wat in die see invloei met die Msikaba kamp plek aan die oorkant.Ek het al n hele paar keer by Msikaba gaan vakansie hou en dan met laag water oor die Msikaba rivier gestap na die Mkambati wild kamp.Dit is baie hartseer om die agteruitgang te bespeur.

Ek hoop iemand doen iets daadwerklik om die kamp te red vir die nageslag.
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Sun Sep 23, 2012 8:55 am

Sadly this is the way of Africa ..... the whole continent is littered with similar examples. The locals do not have the technical nor management skills themselves to maintain such units and for them it's all about instant gratification .... they just don't see the long term picture. Add official corruption to the mix and the result is that there are little or no funds allocated to upkeep ... those that are, are rarely applied for the intended purpose.

Yes it's sad, but in some respects it has a small silver lining ...... with bad access roads and a poorly maintained infrastructure, there are less visitors ..... and without the rank and file flooding the area the ecology remains raw if not pristine, and that's what the Wild Coast has always been about .... the raw wild beauty. One just has to be prepared to 'rough it'.

:think:
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Sun Sep 23, 2012 5:08 pm

Andy I agree 100 with you and can you believe the anc goverment want to but a coastal soad linking East London with Durban across this pristine part of our land.Sadly they will go ahead regardless as certain cadres will benefit
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Sun Sep 23, 2012 5:45 pm

In reply to comment:
[quote]with bad access roads and a poorly maintained infrastructure, there are less visitors ..... and without the rank and file flooding the area the ecology remains raw if not pristine, and that's what the Wild Coast has always been about .... the raw wild beauty. One just has to be prepared to 'rough it'.[/quote]

If the park only attracts a few visitors Mkhambathi could not survive. The Transkei is a poor area with a high population density; everywhere you look there are huts and homes, you cannot drive anywhere without seen them. The park needs money to survive and protect itself against this population onslaught. Without visitors it would financially strangle itself.
It has to have good quality lodges, cottages and hopefully adequate camping. It needs to be an asset to the community else they will take it over.
The Riverside lodge and 6 Rondaves at GweGwe will not keep Mkhambathi alive.

‘Quo Vadis’ Mkhambathi?
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Sun Sep 23, 2012 7:36 pm

Sad Sad :shh:
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Sun Sep 23, 2012 10:53 pm

Harold, I believe it's inevitable .... just a matter of time, .... unless the department comes to the party with a solid commitment and a new plan that involves substantial local employment and upliftment, and I am not convinced that they can pull it off. (Calll me a pessimist. :D: )

Tony, the coastal road has been a hot topic of debate for decades now. I think it will still happen at some point in the future, but it'll be one of the most expensive roads ever to be built in SA with all those rivers and gorges to cross. :think:
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Life is like a jar of Jalapeño peppers ... what you do today, might burn your ass tomorrow.
Don't take life too seriously ..... no-one gets out alive.
It's not about waiting for storms to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain.
And be yourself ..... everyone else is taken!

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