Last Saturday we went for a walk at the Van Stadens Wildflower Reserve and followed the River Walk up to the point where you walk under the Van Stadens Bridge. It truly is a sight from below, but I think I’ll keep that photo for a second post.
The bridge was completed on 12 October 1971 and stretches 198m across the gorge and is 125m at its highest point. The bridge was designed by Italian engineers and the two halves of the arch were constructed simultaneously from both sides. As one walks up next to the bridge on the northern side there is a cement block that was used as the point from where all the measurements were done.
A CCTV system was installed in 2005 with a 2,7m high steel mesh pedestrian barrier constructed on both sides of the bridge in 2013 to deter suicide jumpers. You aren’t allowed to stop on the bridge to enjoy the view, but you can view the bridge from the bottom of the Van Stadens Pass as well as from the wildflower reserve.
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
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.
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).
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.
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.
I haven’t been to the Van Stadens Wildflower Reserve for a few months so I think it’s time to swing by again to see what is in flower. This is a picture from a little while ago with Pincushions in flower.
A couple of years ago I got to walk underneath the Van Stadens Bridge for the first time while following one of the trails in the Van Stadens Wildflower Reserve in search of a Geocache. A couple of days ago I saw a friend post a similar picture and I decided to go and dig this photo out to post again. Not the usual view of the bridge, is it?
In early December a huge fire swept through the bush on the Wildside in the Schoenmakerskop area. One of the specific spots effected by the fire was the Fynbos Trail that starts next to Sappershoek in Schoenies. I am the cache owner of the PE series of Geocaches that is located along the Fynbos Trail and last Friday Chaos Boy and I headed down to do the trail and some much needed maintenance replacing the caches damaged by the fire.
The devastation of the fire is mind blowing but it is fantastic to see how green sprouts and flowers are appearing all over the burned out landscape.