Fun on the Maitland dune

There is nothing more fun for a kid, and I say kid liberally as some of us adults are still kids at heart as well, than to go and climb the Maitland sand dune on a Sunday morning. Even better, take an old boogie board or carton box along and go and slide down the dune.

And if you don’t have one of those, just run full tilt and jump.

Grahamstown’s Bible Monument

Depicting an open bible, the monument faces the direction the Voortrekkers departed in

Grahamstown has some very well known monuments and historic buildings. The 1820 Settlers Monument on the hill, the Cathedral of St Michael and St George, the Angel Statue, Observatory Museum with it’s camera obscura and many more. One I didn’t know about was the Bible Monument on the outskirts of town and I would never have known of it if it wasn’t that I went in search of a Geocache at the site.

The story of the monument is one of Brits and Boers coming together at this spot. In April 1837, a Voortrekker party led by Jakobus Uys was encamped just outside Grahamstown on their way into the interior. At this spot they were met by a group of British settlers from the town who presented them with a Dutch bible. The monument represents an oversized open bible and is said to face in the direction which the Voortrekkers departed. The monument itself was unveiled by the State President C R Swart on 17 December 1962. The bible is now kept at the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria.

Edited – Pete Wentworth commented on Facebook – The bible is displayed in glass case in the lower floor of the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria. Also in the glass case is the local press article describing the event (I think the newspaper may have been the Graham’s Town Journal).

Plaques on the monument depicting the story

By Ralph Goldswain: ‘DID YOU KNOW that relations between the frontier Boers and the British settlers were excellent in spite of marked differences in their ways of life? The Settlers never forgot the ‘roughly kind carriers’ who had taken them to their locations. After the 1835 war, during which frontier Boers and British were particularly close, the Settlers became increasingly alarmed as they heard the word ‘trek’ on the tongues of their neighbours. They were particularly shocked and concerned to see one of Grahamstown’s most distinguished, respected and popular citizens, Pieter Retief, getting ready to lead the Boers out of Albany.

As a building contractor, Retief had played a central role in developing the settler town, and had distinguished himself as northern commandant through the difficult time of the 1835 war. So distinguished had his service been that the governor himself named the main defence point in the Winterberg ‘Post Retief.’

The Boers had too many grievances to outline here but more than enough to make them determined to leave the jurisdiction of the Cape and British governments. The Settlers were concerned because the absence of the Boers was going to create a dangerous vacuum on the frontier. Many of them, too, were going to lose close friends. Led by two prominent surgeons, the Atherstones – father and son – they tried to dissuade Retief, but could not.

On the day the Boers left the trekkers and Settlers gathered on the northern outskirts of Grahamstown to hold a farewell ceremony. Thomas Phillipps presented the Boer leader, Jacobus Uys, with a bible and W.R.Thompson made a speech. He said: ‘We regret, for many reasons, that circumstances should have risen to separate us; for ever since we, the British settlers, arrived in this colony, now a period of 17 years, the greatest cordiality has continued to be maintained by us and our nearest Dutch neighbours; and we must always acknowledge the general and unbounded hospitality with which we have been welcomed in every portion of the colony….’

And then the Settlers watched for a second time as the Dutch wagons trundled away from them, into the distance, leaving only a cloud of dust….. ‘

Unfortunately three of the bronze plaques on the monument were stolen in 2017 with the fourth one being removed for safe keeping. The plaques were replaced in 2018 with stone one and the inscriptions were lazer cut onto them.

Aloes growing around the monument

It’s easy to bypass the monument as it blends in quite nicely with the countryside, but it’s really worth a stop at this spot that is linked to both the Afrikaner (Voortrekker) and English (British settlers) heritage in South Africa.

EDITED:

I have received a number of comments that contained additional information that I would like to add to the post for reference purposes:

Marion Mangod(Bowker) commented the following – The bible monument was erected at the behest of my grandfather Dr Tom Bowker. I attended the unveiling with my parents and descendants of the Voortrekker leader and of Phillips who handed over the bible, were presented to CRSwart.

John Turner commented on Facebook – Hockly’s book “The story of the British Settlers of 1820 in South Africa” has two plates opposite p129 with reference to presenting this Bible to Jacobus Uys in 1837.
Poor copies are attached for purposes of reference.

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Rob Smith posted the following as a comment on Facebook – THE PRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL BIBLE

In April 1837 patriarch Jacobus Uys was found with his followers camped near Grahamstown making tracks out of the colony, heading north. This profoundly affected the British settlers who, knowing Uys, could not be dissuaded, thought they should mark the event in some way. They commissioned an extremely large leather bound Bible, paid for by public subscription, and, en masse, proceeded to the temporary Boer encampment to make a ceremonial presentation. The following inscription was printed inside the front cover:

‘This Sacred Volume is presented to Mr. Jacobus Uys and his departing fellow-countrymen by the inhabitants of Grahamstown and its vicinity, as a farewell token of their esteem and heartfelt regret at their departure. The anxiety they have evinced of an endeavour to obtain a Minister of Religion and their strict observance of its ordinances are evident proofs that in their wanderings in search of another land they will be guided by the precepts contained in this Sacred Volume and will steadfastly adhere to its solemn dictates—the stern decrees of the Creator of the universe, the God of all Nations and peoples.’

Prominent settlers handed over the book with a full explanation expressed by William Richie Thompson:

‘We offer this book to you as a proof of our regard and with expressions of sorrow that you are going so far from us. We regret for many reasons that circumstances should have arisen to separate us, for ever since we, the British Settlers, arrived in this Colony, now a period of seventeen years, the greatest cordiality has continued to be maintained between us and our Dutch neighbours; and we must always acknowledge the general and unbounded hospitality with which we have been welcomed in every portion of the Colony. We trust therefore that although widely separated, you will hold us in remembrance, and we wish that all will retain for each other the warmest sentiments of friendship.’

In response Uys said:

‘I thank you gentlemen, most heartily for the gift you have presented to us and still more for the very good wishes with which the present has been accompanied…’

and his formidable and popular eldest son, Pieter:

‘…begged to thank the deputation for the very kind manner in which they had expressed themselves. He felt the deep regret at parting with so many kind friends, but he hoped that as long as they all remain united in heart.’

My name is Firefly and I like long walks on the beach

Maitland Beach stretching off toward Blue Horizon Bay

One of the things I missed most under lock down is going for a walk, and with that I don’t mean taking the dogs for a walk around the block. With restrictions lifting a bit and being allowed to go for a hike again, I’m keen to get into one of the nature reserves around PE and to hit a trail. What I miss most though is a long walk on the beach, sand between my toes, the sun on my face and the wind in my hair… or rather what’s left of it.

Van Stadens bird hide

Van Stadens Wildflower Reserve’s bird hide

The 600 ha Van Stadens Wildflower Reserve is located about 35km west of Port Elizabeth. The reserve stretches from the Van Stadens mountain to the coast and its main purpose is to protect the area’s unique indigenous Fynbos vegetation. It’s always worth popping into the reserve because there’s always some type of protea in bloom. But Van Stadens isn’t just about vegetation and views of the Van Stadens gorge, it also boasts a birding list with 149 bird species and one of the best spots for twitchers to hang out and keep an eye out for our feathered friends is the reserve’s bird hide. The hide is the proud handy work of the Friends of Van Stadens, a group of volunteers who have helped out with the running of the Van Stadens Wild Flower Reserve since 2007.

I’m back… after a hiatus of 2 years

A magnificent King Protea in the Van Stadens Wildflower Reserve

It’s been two years since I’ve stopped blogging. What I initially intended to be a three week break was extended to two months and then became an indefinite postponement. My mojo was gone. In fact I didn’t even take photos anymore. My camera gathered dust and my writing skills became rusty. The last two years have been funny actually. I started losing concentration, thought I developed ADD and frankly, also lost a lot of my sense of humour. A visit to the doctor to get something for my “ADD” and I walked out of there with something for depression. Depression? Me? Really?

Then came Covid-19. I was seriously stressed in the week or so before lock down and then in the first two weeks at home. But I think between the meds kicking in and my body and mind getting the opportunity to start settling down I started thinking about my hobbies again. I started working on my landscape model which I haven’t done in probably close to 3 years and the last three weeks seriously started to think about getting back into blogging. When I initially started blogging 12 years ago I did it for the love of travel and sharing the places I went to with my friends and everybody willing to look. Somewhere I lost focus and started worrying about other bloggers too much and why I wasn’t making money or being recognised by the industry. I put too much pressure on myself on what I thought other people wanted me to post rather than what I wanted to post.

So here I am, back in action, but with a couple of changes. I have merged my two blogs, The Firefly Photo Files and Port Elizabeth Daily Photo, into one called Firefly the Travel Guy. The blog still incorporates PEDP so the content will consist of a combination of a lot of Port Elizabeth and Eastern Cape stuff with content from further afield when I get the chance to travel. I have also moved away from the Blogspot platform to WordPress. The new blog address is https://fireflythetravelguy.travel.blog and the domain names http://www.fireflyafrica.co.za and http://www.portelizabethdailyphoto.co.za will be redirected to this blog shortly.

For my first post back I have decided to post a King Protea from the Van Stadens Wildflower Reserve. Van Stadens is one of the best spots to see flowering proteas and other fynbos species close to Port Elizabeth right through the year. It offers so may hiking, mountain biking and picnic options and you can drive through a big part of the reserve if you are unable to walk. Two other trails you can see a lot of fynbos on are the Fynbos Trail at Schoenies and the Grysbok Trail on the NMU campus.

Sunrise over Algoa Bay

I’m still here.  I may not have posted anything on my blog for a month but I’m still around.  It’s scary though how busy my life has become between work, family, sport (the kids’, not my own) and everything else I’m involved in.  The two things that have suffered the most are my blog and exercising.  And to a lesser extend Geocaching.  Plus my laptop at home has packed up again.  You know how it is.  When it rains it pours.  If it would only do that literally in our catchment areas.  So I’m currently trying to wrap my head around how I can juggle it all and get blogging again.  In the meantime, I just had to stop on my way to the office this morning and grab this photograph to share.  Doesn’t matter how busy you are, you can’t help but stop to admire true natural beauty.

A walk on the beach

We haven’t taken the dogs for a walk on the beach in ages so this morning we gathered up the kids and the sausages and headed down to Pollok Beack. We weren’t the only ones who were enjoying the beautiful autumn weather we’ve been having lately. I left my camera at home wanting to spend time with the family, but ones there I kinda wish I had it. Snapped this pic with my phone but need to make a plan and spend some beach time with my camera in hand.

We picked strawberries in Hankey

I am way behind on my blogging.  Like in “get Dr Strange in here with the Time Stone and send me back 6 months so I can try to start and catch up” behind.  Life is getting in the way and life is made up of work, family, kids, sport, etc, etc, etc…  That plus having a teenager in the house that occupies my laptop all evening, which have now conked out for the third time in a year. The laptop, not the teenager.  Freekin hell, please remind me never to buy an Acer computer again.  That is if I ever have money to buy a laptop again with what Miggie’s indoor cricket is costing me.  Anyhow… We picked strawberries in Hankey, in January, which is a good 4 and a half months ago already, but I would really like to share it with you. 
Madele’ Ferreira has been growing strawberries outside Hankey in the Gamtoos Valley for over 20 years and for the last few years they have managed to produce strawberries commercially all year round.  With over 12 hectares covered in strawberries and supplying some of the biggest retail chains around, the Mooihoek strawberries have probably crossed your lips at one stage or another, but only from the shop to your table to your mouth.  Although they have had many requests from people to come and pick their own strawberries they have never been ready for the public to do so.  That was until Madele’s daughter was looking to earn some extra money during the summer holiday and it was decided to allow the public to pick for a limited time only.  The response? Overwhelming and so much more than they ever imagined.

I headed out to Hankey with the family in tow and two teenagers who weren’t very excited about the outing, mainly because they had no idea what they will get to do.  Yes, they knew we were going to pick strawberries, but I don’t think they even knew how the fruit was grown and what you actually have to do. 

On arrival we bought our punnets at R30 each and received the simple instructions.  You can pick as many as you can fit onto the punnet without leaning it against your body.  Pick away!  And pick they did.  Them and many others who arrived on just this one morning.  Apparently, the farm workers could not understand why people would want to come and pay to pick strawberries in the summer sun when you can just buy them in the shop.  Nobody told them that these days it’s all about experiences and not just looking at things anymore, but rather doing.
I sure hope they will open the field for picking at some stage again and perhaps on a more permanent basis as it will do wonders for tourism in the Gamtoos Valley.  For now, I can only stare at my pictures from the day and remember the taste of those sweet red strawberries, most not even making it home with us.