The Van Stadens Bridge

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.

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.

Laurie’s Bay

On Saturday morning we joined a couple of friends for a walk from Kini Bay to Laurie’s Bay. It’s not a long walk, but definitely not easy if you are barefoot or in slops. The beach along the way may be beautiful, but the beach isn’t quite soft sand but rather mostly fine broken shells. It’s still worth it though. At the end of the beach you get to a collection of cottages right on the coastline and on the other side the best spot to go for a swim. Let’s get back to the cottages though. They are located on Laurie’s Bay, on private land and without any services. So what is the story behind the cottages and where does the name come from.

A couple years ago I read the comments on a Fb post about Laurie’s Bay and Nicky Lovemore Anema said that a piece of the land was given to Dr Douglas Laurie by her great grandparents, Harold and Esme Lovemore. Harold and Esme’s son, Colin, developed a very sore and swollen knee when he was about 4 years old and after many doctor’s visits, it was decided that he had to go to Johannesburg to have the leg amputated. By some miracle, Dr Laurie heard about this and asked if he could examine the leg. He examined both knees and the results showed a foreign object under the sore kneecap. After operating he found a mimosa thorn under the kneecap! Colin’s parents were naturally very relieved and very grateful. They invited Dr Laurie to choose a site on the coast where he could build himself a holiday home. Dr Laurie and the Lovemore’s became close friends and he delivered several of the present generation Lovemore’s. This is where Dr Laurie retired, and the bay was named after him – Laurie’s Bay. Colin Lovemore passed away in Feb 1991.

I’m not sure how old Colin was when he passed away, but I guess this all happened in the early 1900’s so that would be when the first cottages at Laurie’s Bay was built.

Dusk over Kings Beach

The Port Elizabeth beachfront faces east which means the sun comes up over Algoa Bay and the sea. I don’t think a lot of people realise that the beachfront is also a great place to watch the sun set as it sets over the city centre. The KidZ wanted to go down to the beachfront to watch the sunset the other day and we were just to late to see it disappear. Still beautiful.

Shark Rock Pier selfie frame

Towards the end of 2020 the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality’s tourism department set up two selfie frames, one at Shark Rock Pier and the other at the Donkin Reserve. A walk and ice cream on the beachfront led us to the pier and Miggie could not wait to get onto the frame to have her picture taken. I’m sure the selfie frame is going to help make this Port Elizabeth landmark even more of an iconic site.

The top of Pollok Beach

The top of Pollok Beach, spelled without a “c”, with the lollipop beacon in the background.

Pollok Beach was named after the Hotel Pollok that used to stand where the present Summer Seas complex is today.

As development slowly started to happen in Summerstrand in the 1920s, Mr. J. Graham Wilson took advantage of a stipulation that this specific site could be developed as a hotel and constructed Hotel Pollok. Being Glaswegian, Wilson spelt the word Pollok without a “c” which was the custom in Glasgow, his home town. This hotel was officially opened for business on the 28th October 1926. The hotel’s name was later changed to the Summerstrand Hotel.

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).

The Lady’s Slipper

For years I would drive along the N2 past Lady’s Slipper mountain looking at it and wondering where the actual slipper was. At one stage I thought it may be the peak standing out over the mountain, but I just could not see it. That was until I heard that the slipper isn’t visible from the N2 at 90 degrees side on, but rather that you have to be on the old road between the Falcon Rock turnoff and the Old Cape Road / Rocklands Road split.

So today I want to show those who still haven’t been able to find or see it where Lady’s Slipper’s slipper actually is. So basically it’s a upside down high heel shoe.