Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dias Statue in Cape Town

Bartholomew Dias was the first European to discover South Africa.  On an expedition looking for a sea way to the East he sailed around the Cape in a storm without knowing it.  On 3 February 1488 he landed in Mossel Bay which he called the Bay of Saint Blaise.  On 12 March they reached the furthest point of the expedition when he anchored at Kwaaihoek near the Bushmans River mouth.  It was here that Dias planted a stone cross (padrao) before being forced to turn around when his crew refused to go any further.  It was only on the return journey that Dias discovered the Cape of Good Hope.  Dias originally named the Cape of Good Hope the "Cape of Storms".  It was later renamed the Cape of Good Hope by King John II of Portugal because it represented the opening of a route to the east.
The discovery of the passage around the south of Africa was significant because Europeans realized for the first time that they could trade directly with India and the other parts of Asia, bypassing the overland route through the Middle East with its expensive middlemen.
Dias later joined  an expedition that reached the coast of Brazil in 1500 and from there continued eastwards to India.  The four ships hit a huge storm off the Cape of Good Hope which meant Dias perished near the same place he called the Cape of Storms.
The statue of Dias on Adderley Street in Cape Town was unveiled in 1960.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sir Lowry's Pass lookout

The first sighting of the Cape, False Bay and Table Mountain one gets approaching from the east is from the top of Sir Lowry's Pass on top of the Hottentots Holland Mountains.  The view sight is situated at the top of the pass and about 920 meters above sea level.  The view site gives a beautiful panorama from Gordon's Bay and Strand on the shore of False Bay on the left towards Somerset West and the Helderberg on the right.  In the distance Cape Town and Table Mountain is visible.   
The mountain crossing in this region was known by the indigenous Khoi people as the Gantouw or Eland's Pass and was used as a stock route.  The Dutch and British settlers at the Cape built a rough pass called the Hottentots Holland Kloof Pass following the Gantouw route.  The first recorded crossing was in 1664 and by 1821 the pass saw about 4500 ox-wagons per year crossing into the interior.  The route was unfortunately so severe that more than 20% of these were damaged.  The ruts left by these wagons being dragged over the mountains can still be seen and was declared a National Monument in 1958.
Construction on a new pass, about 2 km to the south of the Hottentots Holland Kloof, was started in 1828 by the engineer Charles Michell using convict labour.  The new pass was opened in 1830 and named after Lowry Cole, the Governor of the Cape Colony at the time.  In the 1930s the pass was widened and tarred with further improvements done in the 1950s and 1980's to get it to what it is in today.  Something a long way from the rough two track route over the mountain.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Cape Town big wheel

The Wheel of Excellence (or just Waterfront Big Wheel as most people refer to it) at the V&A Waterfront has become a favorite activity for visitors in Cape Town to do.  The surrounding view of the Waterfront and city from the top is stunning.  My last visit to Cape Town was a brief one and there wasn't time for a trip, but I did snap this pic of it on a walk through the Waterfront before heading to dinner.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Port St Johns' Second Beach

Port St Johns. Scenic. Cultural. Rustic. Authentic. Rich experiences. Unspoiled beaches, Rugged coastline. Natural beauty. The backpackers' party town of the Wild Coast.  Port St Johns at the mouth of the Mzimvubu River really is an iconic town and covers all of that and more. Looking at the picture of Second Beach you could easily mistake it for a tropical island somewhere.
One word of warning though.  If you want to swim at Second Beach, don't go too deep into the water.  The beach has recently been named one of the most dangerous beaches in the world after the eighth person in 5 years lost their life in a shark attack here.  Zambezi and Bull Sharks are found along the coast and in the Mzimvubu River and is especially active if the river has been in flood so rather stick close to shore and obey the life guards at all times..

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Spending the weekend at The Milk House in Hankey

The Gamtoos Valley west of Port Elizabeth is often just seen as the entrance to the Baviaanskloof yet its a tranquil and very scenic farming area.  I visit the valley a couple of times a year to participate in the annual Gamtoos Tourism Adventure Drive, the Citrus festival and the Patensie Boere Basaar.  This also means that I spend a lot of time in the Patensie area so when Carol Pearson of The Milk House contacted me to invite us for a Shot Left weekend in Hankey I jumped at the opportunity.  Hankey is the oldest town in the Gamtoos Valley and was established in 1826 by the London Missionary Society.  The town has one of the best 9 hole golf courses in the Eastern Cape and it's attractions include the grave of Saartjie Baartman, the Phillips Tunnel (the oldest irrigation tunnel in South Africa) and the Bergvenster (berg window). 
 The Milk House has two components to it.  Firstly there is the Farmstyle Bar and then there is the accommodation in the old farmhouse.  The Farmstyle Bar started out as a bar and restaurant that was open every day except for Mondays, but a huge demand for function venues has led to them making a decision to use the venue for functions, corporate events, private dining and social gatherings exclusively.  This hasn't stopped the regulars from still stopping by and popping in for a drink and a chat.  The Farmstyle Bar is also open to patrons staying over at the Milk House's accommodation for dinners and drinks.  We choose a cold and wet weekend to visit Hankey and spent the first evening cozy by the fireplace with a couple of drinks while the KidZ were playing games.  They don't have an elaborate menu and that is the beauty of it. Food made with care.  We all opted for the home made burgers and hand cut chips while a couple of other visitors tucked into calamari and fish.  The thick home made patty was perfectly cooked and smothered with a mushroom sauce while hand cut chips beats shop chips hands down any day.  The thing that The Milk House is best know for is their Boozy Milkshakes.  "What is a boozy milkshake?" you ask.  Well, its a milkshake with a little something added to it.  Good even on a cold evening.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the accommodation before hand but was pleasantly surprised when we arrived.  The old farmhouse has been totally renovated and fitted out with everything you need.  It's kitted out for self catering and sleeps at least 10 people with four bedrooms and three bathrooms, a kitchen, lounge and dining room.  The second evening we had a braai under the verandah and spent the evening under a blanket in the lounge with the fireplace (which had a good supply of dry wood available) going.  Chaos Boy brought his Play Station along and kept himself busy while Drama Princess was "cooking" marshmallows over the fire and nagging us because her brother didn't want to give her a turn.  The next morning the sun was out and I went for a walk around the farm, checking out the citrus orchards and the old farm buildings, contemplating climbing up the ladder of the old silo but chickening out before I did one step.  The accommodation can be booked by individuals but is ideal for families or groups of friends for a weekend's getaway or stay over before or after one of the many events that often takes place in the Gamtoos Valley. 

I have to be honest that The Milk House was the last thing I expected in Hankey and spending the weekend not only introduced me to this wonderful place but also opened my eyes to what there is to see and do around Hankey as well.

Disclosure: We stayed at The Milk House Guesthouse and had dinner in the Farmstyle Bar as guests of The Milk House Farmstyle Bar
Our travel and other expenses where for our own account.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Wild berries

Have you ever picked up how some people can go through life without noticing the little things?  Often this is the same story when you take a group of people on a hiking trail.  Some people would just do the walk to be out in the fresh air, some would enjoy beautiful views and scenic attractions and usually a small percentage would notice the details.  A succulent with a tiny little flower, a buck spoor in the soft sand, a butterfly fluttering by or wild berries on a bush like the ones in the picture.  These berries presented themselves on a walk along the Maitland Trail in Port Elizabeth.  Unfortunately I never took note of what the guide said they were.  I was too busy trying to get a good photo.

UPDATE: According to PlantZAfrica its a Tortoise Berry (Skilpadbessie) -  Nylandtia spinosa

Monday, July 14, 2014

The green green fields of the Tsitsikamma

Most people associate the scenic Tsitsikamma with indigenous forests, river gorges and a rugged coastline.  It also has the beautiful Tsitsikamma Mountains running parallel to the coast and on the eastern side big green open fields used for diary farming.  And that's just the scenery.....