The writers hotel career objective from an early age was to build and operate his own chain of hotels. This was possible with the right experience and credentials which he acquired over a period of 15 years.
After considering all the options, securing financial support and investigating numerous localities, a building site for the writers first hotel at Sycamore (district Waterval Boven) was chosen. The site was in an area well known for its natural beauty and the prospect of establishing a successful accommodation establishment looked promising. A new highway (N4) and tunnel were being constructed and traffic from the reef as well as to and from Mozambique (Lourenco Marques) enhanced the business prospects considerably.
The writer and his wife accompanied by their architect went to Sardinia - Italy to study the build style that was deemed appropriate for the project. They then relocated to Sycamore at the beginning of 1972 and took occupation of “The Aloes Guest Farm” (opposite the hotel) which was in existence on the site at the time. This was very advantageous as approvals and a partial liquor licence were in place and immediate accommodation for construction staff was available.
Building plans were then drawn up and site clearing began with a bulldozer and 20 labourers. The remoteness of the site created many logistical problems with the absence of electricity, department stores as well as qualified personnel. Examples of these difficulties were:
Millions of bricks needed for building had to be made on site. A brick making operation was created with cement obtained at the price of R0.72c per bag railed to Sycamore weekly. Flooring tiles were cut out by crews working on sites in Waterval Boven and Machadodorp. Roofing poles were cut from trees on various properties in the Elands Valley which necessitated the establishment of a timber treatment facility on site as well.
Wild animals were present at the time, the largest of which was a hippopotamus that made its home in the hole that had been dug for the hotel swimming pool. Professional decorators were contracted to design interiors, Hard and soft furnishing was specifically designed and manufactured as well. A reliable and potable water supply had to be established which necessitated the digging (by hand) of a well 7 meters deep.
A sewage disposal system in the form of a very large french drain was constructed for effluent disposal opposite the hotel grounds and far enough away to avoid unwelcome odours. Electricity was introduced to the valley by Malaga with the installation of a line from Ngodwana.
During the course of construction and after commitments had been made for the purchase of catering and other equipment, financial difficulties were encountered. Alternative finance to complete the project had to be found when the principal financier experienced a major downturn in his other businesses. Mozambique also became independent and potential visitor traffic to and from that country ceased overnight. Fuel rationing in South Africa was also introduced impacting negatively on potential visitor stay overs.
Malaga was completed in 13 months after all facilities, landscaping and hospitality aspects were put in place. Intensive staff training had been successfully undertaken and no hitches or operational problems were encountered.
Roeland van Woerkom - Responsible for design, construction and management 1972-1982