The Van Stadens Bridges

The Van Stadens River is about 35km west of Port Elizabeth and you can either go over or through it to get to the other side.

The river and original pass was named after one of the area’s pioneer farmers, Marthinus van Staden, who was the first person to plot a basic route through the Van Stadens River Gorge in the 1850’s.  In 1867 Thomas Bain was brought in by the Cape Government to rebuild the pass so that ox wagon traffic could safely travel through the pass.  In 1868, barely a year later, a massive flood washed away major sections of the pass and bridge, which resulted in a complete rebuild.  Over the next eighty years the pass saw regular improvements and widening and it was finally tarred between 1950 and 1953.  In 1971 the N2 bridge over the gorge was opened.  It took 4 years to complete (1967 – 1971) and is the 1st of 5 large concrete bridges along the N2.  The bridge is an arch bridge design with a height of 140 m and a span of 198.1 m.  The concrete remains of the original drift over the river can still be seen among the rocks and boulders.

Taking the old road through the pass may take a bit longer than flying along the N2, but its really worth the extra time, especially if you stop at the bottom by the old bridge.

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.

Van Stadens Wildflower Reserve bridge view

When you’re walking along the trails in the Van Stadens Wildflower Reserve you get to see glimpses and different angles of the Van Stadens Bridge all the time.  The bridge, over which the N2 highway crosses, was opened on 11 November 1971.  The bridge used to be a notorious suicide spot until barriers were set up all along the side of the bridge a couple of years ago. 

Searching for the oldest Geocache in Port Elizabeth

I’ve been Geocaching for four years and have found just short of 2000 caches, yet, and I should probably be ashamed to say it, I have never gone to look for the oldest cache in Port Elizabeth.  The cache, located in the Van Stadens Wildflower Reserve, is called Van Stadens Flower Power and was originally placed on 18 May 2003.  Having cached in the reserve a couple of times before I just can’t believe that I have never taken this specific trail to go and tick it off my To Do list.  A couple of weeks ago I bundled the family into the car and off we went for a quick outing to the flower reserve to find this cache.  While I went climbing to get to ground zero Drama Princess was playing around with my camera and snapped this intrepid explorer in search of treasure.