Tsitsikamma cattle roadblock

We decided to break away to the Tsitsikamma for the day and rather than just driving in and out on the N2, we took the scenic R102. The three biggest industries in the area are forestry, tourism and dairy so everywhere along the way you pass plantations, dairy farms and accommodation and activity establishments. What we didn’t expect to encounter was a roadblock made up of cattle. As we crested a little hill I realised that there was something in the road about a kilometers ahead. And not something like a car or a person, but a lot of somethings. A herd of cows being moved down the road from one farm to another with the herdsman in front leading the way.

Rather than just sitting in the car I pulled over and we all hopped out to experience something that is very unusual for city slickers like us, being surrounded by a herd of cows in transit.

Being an 18 year old teenager, Chaos Boy didn’t really show any interest, but Miggie was a lot more excited and inquisitive about the whole thing.

We barely got going when the next herd appeared in the road. This one was moving a little faster with the two guys in the lead breaking out in a jog every now and then with the cows nipping at their heals.

This is what road trips and exploring on country roads is about. Experiences that you wouldn’t get anywhere else.

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.

Image may contain: 2 people
Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

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.’

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. 

Wild Coast lighthouses – Cape Morgan Lighthouse

The Wild Coast isn’t called the Wild Coast for nothing.  It may be paradise but it can get rough out there if it wants.  So with that in mind, it’s nogal strange that there are only three lighthouses (some websites say four but I’m not sure which the 4th one is) along this whole piece of coastline, Cape Morgan in the South, M’bashe roughly in the middle and Cape Hermes at Port St Johns in the North.  Out of the three only Cape Hermes is what I would call a traditional lighthouse. One built of brick and mortar.  The other two are both lights sitting on top of lattice steel towers.  Crossing back over the Kei Pont from Trennery’s Hotel recently I decided to make a quick detour and have a look at the Cape Morgan Lighthouse.
A roughly three-kilometer drive along a narrow dirt road took me up to the 12-meter high Cape Morgan Lighthouse built in 1964.  The light is located in the Cape Morgan Nature Reserve and emits two white flashes every 10 seconds with a range of 24 sea miles.

The reserve saw Titanium mining take place here in the 1950’s and if you follow the path down to the coast from the lighthouse you will see the remains of the mine’s old seawater pump station.  The 4-day / 3-night Strandloper Trail also starts at the new Eco Centre in the reserve and covers a distance of 57 kilometers to Gonubie in East London.

Driving away I was happy to tick off another light on my list of South African lighthouses.  We seem to take them for granted seeing them along the coastline yet don’t always realise how important a role they have played over the years and still do. Flash on.

The Great Fish Point Lighthouse – finally visited

I have driven between Port Elizabeth and East London so many times over the years yet the Great Fish Point Lighthouse has always just been a dot on the coastline some distance away.  The reason? Word has always been that the track up to the lighthouse is terrible and my Polo isn’t quite high clearance nor 4×4.  A little while ago a fellow blogger posted about the lighthouse and I asked what the road was like. “Not a problem, you’ll be able to do it easily.” Suddenly it jumped up to the top of my Eastern Cape “to do” list. A road trip shortly after gave me the opportunity I needed and I took a sharp right off the R72 and what do you know… A quick smooth ride along a relatively smooth track. 
At 9 meters high the Great Fish Point Lighthouse is one of the smallest lighthouses on the South African coastline.  It didn’t need to be built very high as it stands 76 meters above sea level and looks out across a dune veld to the coastline.  It may seem that the lighthouse is actually far from the coast (800 meters from the shoreline in fact), but the light can be seen 32 nautical miles out to sea and flash on the sea side every 10 seconds.

Although the large ships sail past quite far off these days, back in the 1800’s ships had to be warned about three shallow reefs to the north-east of where the lighthouse is located.  These outcrops have taken a number of ships over the years, both before and after the erection of the lighthouse. In 1890 a Lighthouse Commission set up by the Colonial Government recommended that a lighthouse is built on this coast, but after several holdups the light was only completed in 1898, making it 120 years old this year.  Now I can say I’ve been there and done that.  Next time I want to stay over as it is one of only a few lighthouses on the South African coast that also offers accommodation.

A bath with a view in Hogsback

Most people would prefer a bath (with the drought, not something I have done in a very long time*) in the privacy of their own bathroom behind a closed door.  Most people don’t mean everybody though.  There are those who would jump at the opportunity to take a bath in what is probably the most famous open-air bath in South Africa.
I’ve only seen photos of it, but on my last visit to Hogsback I decided to swing by Away with the Fairies and see the bath for myself, hoping that it wasn’t occupied and thus off limits.  The barrier rope was down so I slipped down the path and there it was sitting on the edge.  The special part isn’t the physical bath but rather what you see when you soak in.  The valley below, ancient forests and the three Hogsback mountains on the other side.

If you want to make use of the bath it is essential to make a booking with Away with the Fairies, with preference obviously given to their guests.  30-minute slots are available from 10am until 8pm.  They light a traditional donkey nice and early to warm up the water and bathers are asked to keep it stoked so that others can also have a hot bath.  The one prerequisite is that you have to use bio-degradable soaps if you’re going to actually wash.  Most people just like soaking in the bath while soaking in the view. All pun attended.  Best of all, it is FREE.

*I do shower though, even if it’s only under slow running (more like barely dripping) shower.

Scuba diving party in Port Elizabeth

Parties are getting more and more sophisticated.  Back in our days it was kids coming over and eating cake and sweets while watching a video and playing.  These days parents are pulling out all the stops to make a child’s birthday party a memorable one and with two kids, a boy and a girl, we’ve been to everything. Movies, ice skating, trampoline park, pool parties, supertube, survival parties and more.  But Drama Princess had a first the other day.  A scuba diving party hosted at ProDive here in Port Elizabeth. 

The kids had a swim in the dive pool while waiting for everybody to arrive before the full safety briefing by one of ProDive’s qualified dive masters.

They were then given their diving gear…

… with the dive master kitting them each out individually to make sure everything is in order.

Then it was time to get in the water and the fun to start.

Miggie showing off her scuba look.

Some of the kids “got it” immediately…

… while Miggie’s mind told her she has to come up every time she wanted to breathe in.  The dive master brought her back to the shallow side and spent a few moments with her to put her mind at ease and to help her get used to breathing underwater. 
Then there was no stopping her.

I wondered beforehand if Miggie would enjoy a scuba party and if she would even go under water.  Any uncertainty was cleared up very quickly and the kids at the party absolutely loved it and would have spent all day in there if they could.  I did my diving qualification many years ago and haven’t dived for a while, but I remember the feeling and I can imagine while the kids loved it.  It’s really something different and if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary for your child’s next party, then you should really consider doing this. 

Hole in the Wall – an icon of the Eastern Cape

The Hole in the Wall near Coffee Bay on the Wild Coast truly is one of the iconic sights (and sites) of the Eastern Cape and South Africa and recognised worldwide. 
Hole-in-the-Wall was named by Captain Vidal in 1823.  Vidal was captain of the Barracouta and was sent by the British to survey the coastline between the Keiskamma River and Lourenço Marques (present-day Maputo). He took his ship as close as 800m from the coast and described the phenomenon of a natural archway which he then named the “Hole-in-the-Wall”.
The local Bomvana people refers to the formation as ‘EsiKhaleni’, the Place of the Sound or Place of Thunder.  During certain seasons and water conditions, the waves clap in such a fashion that the concussion can be heard throughout the valley.  
Local legend tells that the Mpako River once formed a landlocked lagoon as its access to the sea was blocked by a mighty cliff.  A beautiful girl lived in a village near the lagoon.  One day she was seen by one of the sea people who became overwhelmed by her beauty and tried to woo her.  The sea people were semi-deities who look like humans but have supple wrists and ankles and flipper-like hands and feet.  When the girl’s father found out he forbade her to see her lover. So at high tide one night, the sea people came to the cliff and, with the help of a huge fish, rammed a hole through the centre of the cliff. As they swam into the lagoon they shouted and sang, causing the villagers to hide in fear. In the commotion the girl and her lover were reunited and disappeared into the sea.  

The views of Coffee Bay

At the bottom of the beach in Coffee Bay is Bomvu Hill offering stunning views of both Coffee Bay to the north side and Bomvu Bay to the south. The village is located to the left just out of the picture next to the Nenga River. 
Looking at the Coffee Bay view the white building at the top of the beach is the Ocean View Hotel where I have now stayed twice already.  Comfortable accommodation, great dinner buffet, direct access to the beach and they offer tours to Hole in the Wall.  I haven’t had a chance to stay at one of the backpackers in Coffee Bay yet but would love to experience that side and vibe of it as well, but if you’re looking for hotel accommodation in Coffee Bay then Ocean View is the way to go.

Looking south Hole in the Wall is about 7 or 8 kilometres down the coast.  Coffee Shack Backpackers is located just on the other side of the rocky beach below. To the left-hand side of the hill is virtually a sheer drop down to the Indian Ocean below.  Next time I visit Coffee Bay I want to do a surf lesson. Time for me to try something new.

I finally got to visit Hole in the Wall

One of my absolute travel highlights during 2017 is the fact that I finally got to visit the Hole in the Wall near Coffee Bay on the Wild Coast.  It was somewhat of an embarrassment to be somebody promoting and marketing the Eastern Cape but having to say that I have never been there. It’s not the closest destination to where I live in Port Elizabeth though so it’s not like I could just pop up to go and see it.  About two years ago I was in Coffee Bay en route to Durban and wanted to go, but circumstances led to me not being able to.  It means that this time around there was no way I was going to miss it again. Non at all.
Coffee Bay is a good 6 1/2 hour drive from Port Elizabeth and knowing that I left PE early to give myself enough time to see one of South Africa’s iconic geological attractions.  After checking in at the hotel in Coffee Bay and declining the invitation of gin and tonics from a few travel colleagues who had arrived already, I headed the 8 km or so down the coast towards Hole in the Wall.  There are two options to view “the wall”.  One from the hill above and the second from the rocky beach.  I opted for the former first and followed the track up the hill.  What a sight! 
After taking in as much from the viewpoint as I could I headed down to the bottom.  Rather than leaving my car at the normal parking spot and allowing myself to be harassed by the “informal guides”, I wangled my way into the grounds of the Hole in the Wall Hotel and after a chat to the GM made my way out the gate and along the path to find myself face to face with this Wild Coast icon.  I literally felt like I could spend all day here and if I had brought a towel and lunch I may well have done just that.  Finally I can tick one of the big things off my South African travel bucket list.