Gnomesville PE

Norm Hudlin on Kragga Kamma Road was created to offer mountain bikers a variety of easy routes in a safe environment. Quickly it also became a popular spot for a jog or a walk and lately it is the hub for families enjoying the painted rocks phenomena. Norm Hudlin is now also home to Gnomesville PE, which was a long time dream of local resident Graham Chrich, or plainoldgraham as his Geocaching friend know him. Graham got to visit a gnomesville village in Western Australia in the Furgeson Valley where there now nearly 10 000 gnomes and just knew that he wanted to starts something similar in Port Elizabeth for the delight of both locals and visitors. .

The community of silent dwarves in Australia actually began as a whimsical protest some 20 years ago. As the Gnomesville website explains, a small bit of land in Ferguson Valley was annexed by the local government to create a roundabout. Despite an outcry from the nearby residents, the roundabout was installed, and tensions simmered. Then at some point, a gnome appeared. At first there as just one in a tree hollow, but after a few months, there were around 20. The collection continued to grow as visitors and locals alike came and dropped off their own little statues. In the decades since their first appearance the army of gnomes had exploded into the thousands. For a time, theft and vandalism stunted the growth of the little population, but today the site is fairly well respected and continues to grow as people bring their own gnomes to add to the community and estimates are that there are around 10 000 of them now.

Graham got permission from the owners of Norm Hudlin to set aside a small section for Gnomeville PE and with the help of some of his Geocaching friends he started to set up his dream. Gnomesville PE was launched on 21 February 2021 and the first gnomes have taken occupation of the land. Unlike painted rocks the gnomes may not be taken away, but everybody is invited to add gnomes to the community. Get yourself a painted gnome or paint it yourself, ad your own special touch to it and even place your name on him or her somewhere. And most importantly, come and visit them often.

It was awesome to see Graham when we popped in the weekend after the launch and he was really very excited about what it could look like someday.

Gnomesville PE really is for both big and small to enjoy.

Addo warning signs

It is totally against the rules to get out of your vehicle anywhere in the Addo Elephant National Park except for one or two spots. One of those is Domkrag Dam where a new sign has been erected to warn visitors that it is a Big 5 reserve and wild animals do roam freely. Miggie wasn’t really too shocked although she tried her best to look it.

The sign on top of Zuurkop has been there for probably 20 years and I used to stop here often back when I used to be a tourist guide. I’ve even seen a lion sitting right next to the sign, but this time round… Ha! I laughed in the face of danger.

Crossing the Great Kei River by Pont

Crossing the Great Kei River by pont into what used to be the old Transkei has always been on my South African bucket list. That was until I got to do it about 6 years or so ago.  Since then I’ve had the opportunity to do it a couple of times and I always look forward to it.  It’s nothing fancy or out of this world, but it is special because there are so few ponts left in South Africa. In fact, the only other two in South Africa that I know of is the one at Malgas over the Breede River in the Western Cape and the one at Sendelingsdrift crossing the Orange River into Namibia.

The Pont began operation as a vehicle transport in it’s current form in 1990 and has become a vital lifeline for the communities living in the Centane area. Before the Pont, it was either a dice with death in a rowing boat or a 154km round trip via Butterworth, just to get a few hundred meters to the other side. In fact, travelers getting to the crossing point too late on their way to their holiday destination often have to do the detour to get to their hotel for the evening.

The Pont is in operation seven days a week, 365 days a year. They only close when the river is in flood or the tide too low. There is usually only one Pont in operation at a time, but during holidays there would be two, or sometimes three, in action. Each Pont can carry two vehicles at a time and the first crossing of the day is made at 7am, when people from the Transkei side make their way across to work in Kei Mouth.

Update: I asked the members of the Wild Coast Holiday Association if they had any information on the ferry’s history and I received the following:

Sonny Taylor used to row people across the river before the pont, as we know it today, existed.

Russell Kruger from East London – “My dad used to run the ferry until 1977 or there abouts . There was no pont in those days and the crossing was first with a rowing boat then he got two boats with Seagull motors.”

Richard Warren-Smith from Morgan Bay – “I remember before the red ferry got a motor and the guys rowed across with a full ferry of Black Label quarts. Back when we were at the little school above the municipality. Between 72 and 80.”

Andrew Baisley (one of the original partners in the first pont) – “I moved to Kei Mouth permanently in 1981 and at that stage the only way across the Kei was by rowboat. After a few years, the business community came together and purchased this red boat to replace the rowboat.”

Graham Roebert, Andrew Baisley and Peter Myburg went into partnership and launched the first pont in March 1990. The pont from 1990 is no longer in service today. It has been replaced by newer models over the years, the most recent one having been launched in Dec 2020. There are currently 3 ponts.

Julie-Anne Gower of Kei Mouth – “We use to drive down the beach from Trennerys/Seagulls with the Hulley’s landie, and off road to the top of the hill. Park at the top of the hill and then wade through the muddy salt flats to the boat. We would then walk through to the Kei Beach hotel and the shop to pick up the paper and get the Matric results for the kids that were staying at the hotels over the holidays. Then reverse the process going home. When my hubbie and I were dating in around 93/94 we went over on the ferry, and it was just a rough 4×4 track – that has now become the tar road. It was a bundu bash of note

Protea raindrops in Van Stadens

On Sunday we decided to swing by the Van Stadens Wildflower Reserve west of Port Elizabeth. The reserve really is one of my favorite nature reserves around the city, but it’s also home to a huge amount of Geocaches, some that was still awaiting me to turn them into smileys on my map. There was a drizzle falling all morning so jumping in and out of the car at every cache meant that I was soaked after a while. It was well worth it though as I didn’t only get to find a couple of caches, but to also how beautiful the raindrops looked on the spiderwebs and proteas in bloom

Traditional Roly-Poly at DikkopVlakte (recipe)

A couple of months ago I spent a night at one of my favourite Karoo farm stay spots, DikkopVlakte Gasteplaas between Grahamstown and Bedford. Although they offer self-catering accommodation in the 6 bedroom main house, we were there for a meeting the next day and the owners Tommy and Carine van Kerken joined us for a braai that evening. For dessert Carine “threw” together a traditional Roly-Poly baked pudding. She didn’t have a specific recipe on paper but made it from memory, so I went digging around the interwebs and found one to share with you today.

INGREDIENTS

2 cups flour (500 ml)

3 teaspoons baking powder (15 ml)

1 teaspoon salt

12 cup butter (125 g)

2 eggs, beaten

milk, a few tablespoons, see instructions

1 teaspoon vanilla

apricot jam

SAUCE

12 cups boiling water (375 ml)

1 cup sugar (250 ml)

2 tablespoons butter (30 ml)

1 teaspoon vanilla

DIRECTIONS

  • Preheat oven to 350 deg F/180 deg Celsius.
  • Grease a suitable oven dish, like a rectangular Pyrex dish.
  • Mix the flour, baking powder and salt, and rub in the butter.
  • Add the beaten eggs, and then just enough milk, tablespoon by tablespoon, to make a fairly firm dough.
  • Roll the dough out quite thinly — on a surface sprinkled with flour — and form a rectangle, by cutting off bits and adding it on again.
  • Spread the dough with apricot jam.
  • From one of the LONG sides, roll it up like a swiss roll.
  • Cut this roll into 1-inch slices, using a serrated knife such as a bread knife. The jam WILL ooze out.
  • Pack the slices, cut sides up, closely together, in the greased dish. Scoop the jam which oozed out on the surface you used, and just plonk back on to these rolls.
  • In a pot, mix the boiling water (from your kettle), sugar, butter, and vanilla and stir until sugar dissolves.
  • With a tablespoon, ladle evenly over the slices of pudding, but beware: you will have more sauce than the baking dish can take. Usually, you’ll be left with about 3/4 cup. KEEP IT.
  • Bake for about 40 – 45 minutes.
  • When the sizzling pudding comes out of the oven, carefully pour the extra sauce over the centre slices: I find that, when baking, the sauce tends to pool on the sides.
  • Now the hot pudding will absorb much of the leftover sauce in seconds. Use as much or as little as you like.
  • Serve hot, with custard, ice cream or whipped cream.

This pudding will definitely have you come back for seconds and perhaps even thirds if there are any left over at that stage. And if you ever spend a few days at DikkopVlakte, I’m sure you’ll be able to bribe Carine into making you a batch.

Walking up Lady’s Slipper

In a way, walking up Lady’s Slipper has become for Port Elizabeth like walking up Lion’s Head in Cape Town. At one stage only a few people did it, but lately it has become a very popular outing. Not very far distance wise, but a tough cookie as far as terrain. It has been on my “To Do” list for so long and the other day I decided to tackle it with the family in tow.

As the trail and mountain peak falls within private property under control of the Mountain Club of South Africa, you can’t accent without a permit. We left our car at the parking area at Falcon Rock Adventure Centre and this is also where you get your permit. The trail is open Tuesdays to Sundays (and public holidays) from 8am to 4pm with the latest ascent permitted at 13h30. Its best to walk early though before it gets hot or the wind comes up. Oh yes, and if you think you may need a rest stop in the next three hours, then do it here cause there are no facilities on the mountain.

The first section of the walk is fairly easy through the gum trees but once you hit the fynbos it starts to get steeper. About a third of the way up, we came to an open rock platform from where there are great views. This is also the ideal spot to take a breather.

When we got going again the gradient eased for a short while and then the big climb began in earnest as we make our way up a rugged section to the base of the rock cliffs. At this stage the kids went up ahead as the Damselfly and I just weren’t fast enough for their taste. Up to now it felt like we were walking away from the summit, but now we were heading eastward (towards Port Elizabeth) and the summit was waiting for us.

At this stage you can see the Telkom tower and all the radio masts to the left on the other summit. That wasn’t the summit we were heading to though. That one you reach walking up the access road from the back of the mountain and a mission for another day.

Although the path to the top is easy to follow and well maintained, it’s often just a rough track with lot’s of loose stones and quite steep in places, i.e. not something you’re just going to do in slops and with no water. In actual fact, you need to be at least walking fit, otherwise you’re going to really struggle to the top.

Reaching the top takes about an hour to hour and a half over a distance of about 2.5km. It may not be that far, but the climb starts at 265m above sea-level at the parking area and gains 338m to the 603m high peak. That’s an elevation gain of 1 meter every 5 meters, but hey, if the Damselfly and I can do it then so can you.

The view from the top is magnificent. To the west you can see Jeffreys Bay, the Kouga Mountains and all the way to Cape St Francis,

to the south the N2 is visible below, you can see the wind farm at Blue Horizon Bay and Van Stadens Mouth is that bit of white water in the valley, …

and to the east you can see Port Elizabeth on the horizon.

Turning around looking north you get glimpses of Uitenhage with the Groot Winterhoek mountain range dominating the skyline to the north with the Cockscomb at its western end.

What goes up must come down and when you go down you have to take it easy not to slip. There is also a second route (the red route) up (and down) which is much steeper, so if you’re a leisure walker like us, then it would be best to keep to the easier (green) route. But before heading down I just had to have this photo taken. Very nearly took the quick way down thanks to the wind that day.

I can definitely recommend the walk and even more so the view. Really worth the outing up.

More information on the hike up Lady’s Slipper can be found on the Falcon Rock Adventure Centre website

DIRECTIONS FROM PORT ELIZABETH

Driving on the N2 towards Humansdorp, take exit 713, R102 (R334) Uitenhage/Van Stadens Pass. Turn right and continue towards Uitenhage, 200m after crossing the railway line turn left onto a dirt road. Look out for the signs to Falcon Rock (1.2km).

Maitland River mouth

The view of Maitland River mouth as you come down the road from Beachview side

The Maitland River west of Port Elizabeth really isn’t much to write home about. It originates somewhere between the N2 and the sea so isn’t very long. Probably not even close to 20km in length. It flows down through Sleepy Hollow farm and then the Maitland Nature Reserve before the last little bit past the famous Maitland sand dune to the sea.

The small lagoon and river mouth as seen from the Maitland dune

The river and nature reserve was named after General Sir Peregrine Maitland, GCB (6 July 1777 – 30 May 1854). He was a British soldier and colonial administrator as well as a first-class cricketer from 1798 to 1808. Sir Peregrine became Governor of the Cape Colony in 1844, but was removed during the Xhosa War that started in 1846.

The view from Dam se kop

Today’s post isn’t one of a well known or even public spot, but I do want to show you the expanse of the Karoo in the Jansenville / Darlington Dam district. A couple months ago we spent a weekend with our church cell group on the farm Wortekuil of Willie de Wet. Willie farms with goats and sheep, but also offers a bit of hunting on the farm On the Sunday morning we all piled onto his bakkie and off road buggy and off we went to Dam se Kop.

Dam se Kop is the highest part of the farm and named so because you can catch a glimpse of the Darlington Dam. The walk up to the top wasn’t anywhere as bad as I thought, but perhaps the fact that it was a cool morning and slightly overcast helped a bit. Wouldn’t want to do it when the temperature pushes the late 30C’s.

Once at the top this was the view. You can see for miles and miles across a typical Karoo landscape, flat, dry and hauntingly beautiful.