It’s so hard to believe that 20 years have passed since Chrislin African Lodge was born. What a wonderful and exciting journey it has been. We have met the most extraordinary and amazing people from all over the world, many of whom have become personal friends. We have grown from sleeping 6 people in 3 of our farmhouse rooms, to sleeping up to 40 people in our African style huts.
Looking back at pictures taken over the years, we are reminded of our humble beginnings and all the blood, sweat and tears that went in to building Chrislin African Lodge up to where it is today. Chrislin evolved over time through the combined effort of our family and with the help of invaluable contributions from special friends and staff. Each hut that was built has a story and memory behind it.
How it started
In 1998, Chris and Linda Pickels decided to open a B&B by letting out two of their farmhouse rooms. (Think airBnB in the 90’s). With tourism growing in the Addo area, they easily filled the rooms.For years, Chris had wondered what to do with a pile of gum poles that he had lying in this citrus orchard previously used for a vineyard. One day, in the year 2000, he had a brain wave to build an African style mud hut from them, wondering if tourists would be willing to stay in one. Through much trial and error, hut number one was built.
Chris had experience building with a mixture of mud and cow dung from his childhood days when he used to build mud fortresses with young Xhosa children on his parents’ farm. He used the poles to build the structure and he harvested reeds from a nearby river bed which were fastened to the poles. Mud was packed in between, allowed to dry and a layer of mud and cow dung was smeared over to give a smooth finish.
Collecting the thatch for the roofs was another adventure. Chris and his sons would leave home early in the morning and drive for about 5 hours into the Transkei. They would collect as much grass as they could from different locals who had cut and bundled grass. The locals would direct them to other people who may have collected grass and eventually when their bakkie (pick-up truck) and trailer were full, they would head home after asking the locals to prepare more thatching grass for their next trip a few days later. Chris employed thatchers from Humansdorp to do the actual thatching of the roofs.
After successfully erecting one hut, Chris, with the help of his sons and a few of his farm workers, erected 3 more huts.
In 2002, David (Chris and Linda’s eldest son), met Margaret, and the 2 of them chose to reside on the farm, assisting with the running of the lodge. Chris and David then built another 4 huts.
We need a pool
In 2003 with Addo being one of the hottest places in South Africa, the need for a pool was there. Having never built a pool before, Chris and David did a great job of building the Chrislin pool, enjoyed by many guests for years to come.
Sneezewoods was born
In 2004, David and Margaret got engaged and really wanted their wedding to be on the farm. They had an idea to build their own wedding venue with a future business of hosting weddings in mind. It took 9 months to build and was barely finished in the nick of time, with David doing last minute plumbing, the day before the wedding.
On 18 December 2004, Sneezewoods wedding venue made her debut with David and Margaret’s wedding and went on to host many more beautiful weddings.
In 2006, Chris and David got itchy feet again and chose to build 4 new huts but this time they chose to make them round (rondavels). These huts became known as our Orchard huts as they are nestled in a Citrus Orchard.
In 2007, the Pickels family expanded. Ross was born and David and Margaret welcomed their first son into the world. As the business grew, the family was able to employ additional staff such as chefs and front office managers. Sadly, in 2011, the same year David and Margaret’s second son Tristan was born, Chris passed away suddenly. This was a great loss to the Chrislin family; however, his legacy continuously lives on with reminders of him everywhere.
In 2004, Chris and Linda’s youngest son, Christopher, started his own adventure company, called Crisscross Adventures, which perfectly complimented Chrislin’s business offering exciting activities for guests to enjoy. In 2009, Chris was joined by his now wife, Terri, and together they expanded Crisscross Adventures and developed it into a successful business.
In 2014, Chrislin expanded again with the addition of 6 Sunset Huts. Added to that, the entire lodge had a revamp with new flooring and roofing added to all of the huts. The pool area also had a facelift. 2016 also marked the year when Charlotte, the first Pickels girl in 63 years, was born.
In 2018, the Sneezewoods kitchen and restaurant area had a makeover. 2018 also marked the year that the farm was planted with lemons which should be in full production in about 3 years time. Chrislin is currently experiencing a busy festive season. Our staff continue to do their best to keep our guests as happy as possible. We are pleased to welcome new guests, who often turn into friends and happy to welcome back returning guests who continue to support us.
Where are they now?
The Pickels family are still very much involved in the running of the lodge. David is still in charge of maintenance and the running of the farm and while Margaret is very busy with the kids, she still oversees the staff and general management of the lodge. Linda is still very much responsible for the décor of the lodge. When she’s not on her own travels, she enjoys meeting and mingling with our guests and they appreciate the personal touch. The motherly figure that she is and always has been, make so many feel like they’re a part of the family. Linda is also enjoying being a granny and loves having her whole family on the farm.
To learn more about how Chrislin started, please read through our history.