Friday, April 29, 2011

Fairy Garden

About halfway between the towns of Sedgefield and Wilderness on the Garden Route is a spot called Timbervillage.  Having never stopped there before, I decided to pull over and check it out.  It consists of a number of shops and eateries housed in timber buildings similar to those the woodcutters and gold miners in the area used to live in.  One of the shops is a fairy shop selling little fairies and other mythical creatures while they also maintain a fairy garden next door.  Here are a couple of photos from the fairy garden.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Purple jellyfish

Drama Princess has developed a fascination for jellyfish washed up on the beach.  She was even more intrigued when we found this peculiar purple one on the beach in Mossel Bay.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Santos Pavilion

I often wonder how many people realise the significance of the Santos Pavilion on Santos Beach when they see it on their way through Mossel Bay.  This beautiful Pavilion is one of only two beach pavilions still in use dating back to Colonial times.  The other one is the famous Royal Pavilion in Brighton.  The Pavilion was built in 1916 after a local architect of the town travelled to Brighton to get ideas.  It was a very popular spot during the 1920's and 1930's as a social meeting place for the townsfolk who regularly gathered there to listen to the Band and to exchange news and gossip. 

In l925 the then Prince of Wales even stopped by the Pavilion during his visit to South Africa.  Unfortunately a fire destroyed the roof and woodwork of the building in 1979 and the remains was nearly demolished.  The building was later taken over by a private company who restored it and today there is a restaurant operating from it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mossel Bay War Memorial

Just about every town seem to have a war memorial of some kind (I don't mean anything bad with that, I'm just saying) and Mossel Bay is no different.  This Mossel Bay War Memorial stands at the Point below the Cape St Blaze Lighthouse on the rock formation known as Frog Rock and was unveiled on 28 September 1928.  It was designed by W.J. Delbridge of the Royal Institute of British Architects (ARIBA) in the style of the art deco period and was probably modeled on the Cenotaph in London.

The cenotaph commemorate combatants from Mossel Bay who fell in the First and Second World Wars as well as in the Korean War, and in the South African Border War with Angola.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Dana Bay

The area of Dana Bay is a suburb of Mossel Bay and is located 10 kilometers or so west of town.  In addition to being a residential area, the whole of Dana Bay is a conservancy, home to fine examples of coastal and limestone varieties of fynbos where bush buck, steenbok, mongooses and over 85 bird species roam freely.  Dana Bay boasts miles and miles of sandy beaches where visitors will also find the protected black oyster catchers.  On my visit I really enjoyed sitting on the beach at low tide watching the oyster catchers taking mussels off the rocks and opening them up with their strong beaks.  The Damselfly actually commented how she has to pay a fortune for a meal like that while they seem to get them off the rocks with very little effort. 

Dana Bay has two main beaches which was quite clearly named using as little imagination as possible.  First Beach and Second Beach.  First Beach, seemingly very popular with fishermen, is closest to Mossel Bay and stretches from the end of the rocky coast line westwards.  To me Second beach is the "romantic beach" where you can take a long quiet walk with your loved one and see very few people the further you move away from the residential area.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Mossel Bay Shell Museum

The Mossel Bay Shell Museum forms part of the Dias Museum Complex and is housed in the old Shirley Building built in 1902.  Some people may think that it could be a bit of a boring spot, but museum houses a fantastic collection of shells from all over the world along with shell related artifacts and things like whale bones.  The kids probably enjoyed this more than some of the other places have have taken them to in the past.

The museum also contains a number of aquariums with different fish and marine life in them.  Here the Damselfly and Chaos Boy has a look at an octopus in one of the tanks while the tank with Nemo the Clown Fish was also a hit.
Drama Princess had more interest in the interactive tank at the counter though.  A staff member of the museum is always on hand to point out all the interesting bits and pieces in the tank and kids are encouraged to touch and feel.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dias Museum Complex

The first European to set foot in what in now South Africa was Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias.  He inadvertently rounded the Cape in a storm and the first went ashore in present day Mossel Bay in 1488.  Due to this Mossel Bay has a close association with Dias and this is where visitors will find the Diaz Museum Complex.  The complex is made up of different components, one of them a statue of Dias himself looking out to sea.

One of the best known attractions in Mossel Bay also makes part of the Dias Museum Complex and this is the Post Office Tree.  In 1500 on a return voyage from the East, Pedro de Ataide left an important letter in a boot hanging from a tree, probably the old Milkwood Tree on the site.  The letter was found in 1501 by another ship heading to India  and so the first "post office" in South Africa started.  Sailors usually heading East started leaving letters to loved ones in the tree for ships going home to take along. 

Walking from the tree down towards the sea the fresh water fountain Aguanda de Sao Bras (Watering Point of St Blaze) can be seen.  The fountain was first documented in 1512 and was where the ships took on fresh water.  It is said that the fountain has never been dry and still runs today.  These days fresh water doesn't get sourced there anymore, but I did notice that the pond is now home to a couple of ducks.

The biggest attraction at the complex is the life sized replica of Dias' caravel.  The replica was built and sailed from Portugal to Mossel Bay in 1988 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Dias.  Visitors to the museum can actually get onto the boat to have a closer look.  The building it is housed in was originally built in 1901 as a grain mill and was also later used as a saw mill. 

Other than the replica of Dias' boat, the museum also houses a very good collection of paintings, artifacts and information about early explorers.  The one room contains a exhibit with life sized figures representing the Portuguese and indigenous Khoisan people meeting and interacting on the beach.  This was quite a hit with the kids as it included the sounds of the Khoisan people's bells and music along with the trumpets of the Portuguese.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Jazzburys Restaurant - Mossel Bay

I haven't really mastered the art of food photography, but there is nothing wrong with some food porn every now and then.

I struck it lucky on our recent visit to Mossel Bay by being invited to bring the family for a meal at the excellent Jazzbury Restaurant.  Its not the usual family burger joint like Spur or Wimpy where we would normally end up with the kids (for both practical and affordable purposes), so this meant giving the Rugrats a good talking to about what we expect of them before getting there.  When we arrived, a little earlier than when this pic was taken, there were a couple of people out on the veranda having a glass of wine which would have been ideal had we been on our own, but having the kids with we decided not to waist too much time and headed straight in. 

The dining area isn't overly decorated and that's the way I like it.  Elegant, yet simple.  The service was brisk and friendly and when I took a walk around one of the waiters were just too happy to have a chat with me before rushing off to wait on his tables again.

Jazzburys doesn't have a kiddies menu, but without us even having to ask the waitress immediately started making suggestion on what we could order for the kids.  After much debate we decided to get them a shared portion of... wait for it... Ostrich Wings.  Yes you heard right and if I had known what it tasted like before I ordered I would have had it too.  Imagine something that looks like chicken wings but with bigger bones and  soft and delicious red meat.  A winner if I have ever seen one.
The Damselfly was craving seafood. and not being in the mood for "boring fish" as she put it, decided on the Mussels in (I think) white wine sauce.  She counted and there were 24 mussels and she was well and truly happy with the meal.  If she could she probably would have ordered another portion just because it was so yummy.

I decided on the Lamb Shank which is the chef's speciality dish.  The meat was falling off the bone and it was served with mash and a variety of vegetables.  After the main meal we had Sago Pudding for desert before the kids got too restless and we decided to call it a night.  If anybody is ever in Mossel Bay and looking for a nice restaurant to treat a loved one, this is the place.  A special thanks to Riaan who organised the meal for us.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

3D Township scene cards

The best place in Mossel Bay to find and buy local art is at the Craft Art Workshop close to the Diaz Museum Complex.  The centre is more than just a "curio shop" and over the last few years many young emerging artists have been trained by the established artists exhibiting here and now also exhibit their own products and handy work.  Visitors can browse through the display area as well as visit the workshops to see how the art is produced.

One of the artists that has been at the Craft Art Workshop from the start is Hein Marais.  Although Hein's main products are rock art images and paper-mĂȘchĂ©, he has trained about 20 artists in different art methods.  One of his students were the late Matthews Malambile who made the Craft Art Workshop famous for his beautiful 3D township scenes.
Even though Matthews isn't with them anymore, Hein along with Matthews' wife and a number of apprentices are allowing his legacy to live on by still producing the cards.  In addition to the 3D cards the township scenes are also available on gift bags or as framed art.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Harry Giddey Park

In the heart of downtown Mossel Bay exploring visitors will find Harry Giddey Park.  The park was first laid out as a Victorian Park in the grand English manner in 1887 and was extensively upgraded in the 1940's by Harry Giddey after whom the park was renamed.

Except for the main park, there is also an section with aviaries full of birds as well as a touch farm (where strangely people aren't allowed to touch or feed the animals?????) with miniature horses, goats, chickens, tortoises and other farm animals.

Some of the aviaries have the most colourful birds in them and the Rugrats specially like this specific one.
Taking a walk through the park we exited through the southern entrance on our way back to the car.  This entrance has a set of historic gates that were erected in 1903 to commemorate the diamond jubilee of the reign of Queen Victoria.  I have passed these gates so many times on my way through Mossel Bay over the years and didn't know what they were till this specific visit.  There is always something new to learn.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Waiting for a bite

Fishermen on the beach at Dana Bay outside Mossel Bay during the late afternoon

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Any holiday maker visiting the town of Mossel Bay on the Garden Route and not going for a trip on the Romanza doesn't know what they are missing.  The Romanza is run by the Klapwijk family and has been part of Mossel Bay holiday scene for over 25 years.  She's a 16 Meter, 25 ton Hartley Design Ketch and does mostly trips out to Seal Island as well as Whale Watching trips with Sunset cruises thrown in for good measure.

Getting onto the boat was a bit of a challenge for us as Drama Princess had never been on a boat and was doing everything in her power not to embark.  After lots of persuading we got her life jacket on and took her on board and not 5 minutes later she wanted to know when we were going on it again as she loved it.  For the cruise all the kids on board was given life jackets while there are enough on hand for everybody in case its necessary. 

It was a stunning morning with barely a whisper of wind which meant the sea was flat and the cruise as smooth as you can imagine.  The Romanza sails parallel to the coast and views from the boat include the whole curving coast line from the lighthouse at the Point to Santo Beach and Diaz Strand all the way past Hartenbos towards the Outeniqua Mountains in the background.  After a smooth 20 minute we reached our turning point at Seal Island.

Seal Island is home to about 4000 Cape Fur Seals and they were literally all over the show either frolicking in the water or sunning themselves on the island.  Their feeding grounds aren't in the bay and they have to swim out to the open sea to find food.  We could probably have sat there for ages watching the seals play, but there is a cruise every hour so we had to head back to the Mossel Bay Harbour.

Sailing back gives one time to reflect on the beauty of the bay and its inhabitants.  I just want to give a special thanks to Louma at Mossel Bay Tourism and Charmaine at Romanza who made the trip on the Romanza possible for us.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

St Blaze Cave

The coastline to the west of Cape St Blaze in Mossel Bay is made up of impressive cliffs looming about thundering surf and over time the elements has formed a series of caverns along this coast.  The early Khoi people took up residence in some of these caves and lived off the land and the ocean, surviving mostly on the abundant shellfish.

The biggest and most prominent of about 15 caves in the Cape St Blaze area is the St Blaze Cave just below the Cape St Blaze Lighthouse.  In the past the cave was also referred to as Bat Cave as thousands of bats used to live in at.  Looking about on my visit I think all the human activity has chased off the bats to another cave in the area.  The cave is 12 meters deep, 22 meters at its mouth with a roof 10 meters high and and is a popular public view and whale watching point in the town.

In 1999 the caves in the area were selected for excavation as part of The Mossel Bay Archeology Project. The excavations were especially successful in St Blaze Cave and Cave PP13B. They revealed evidence that early man lived along the Southern Cape coast 164,000 years ago and made use of marine resources for food. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cape St Blaze Lighthouse

Although Mossel Bay has beautiful white beaches, the coastline from its western point onwards is a rugged and dangerous one.  A lighthouse was erected on top of Cape St Blaze in 1864 and until recently was one of only two lighthouses on the South African coastline manned 24 hours a day.

Until the late 1970s a clockwork system was used to turn the lens of the light.  This required a light keeper to climb up the tower and wind it up every three hours!  Today all the navigational aids and joining plant are fully automated, but a senior light keeper and two light keepers are still employed.  A constant radio watch is kept and the regular meteorological duties are also undertaken.

 The view from the Cape St Blaze Lighthouse across the bay and down to the Point is spectacular.  My panorama picture of the bay didn't come out very well, so I'm just posting a pic of the Point.

Info credit -

Monday, April 11, 2011

Paul Sauer (Storms River) Bridge

Driving westwards from Port Elizabeth onto the world famous and beautiful Garden Route, most people fly along the N2 highway for the first 160 kilometers and make their first stop at the Petroport in the Tsitsikamma.  From here on the Garden Route offers many towns, attractions, view sites, art shops and so much more for visitors.  The Petroport is located next to the Paul Sauer Bridge and in addition to filling up cars and tummies and emptying out bladders, visitors take a walk to the lookout platform or onto the walkway next to the bridge.

The arch bridge, also known as the Storms River Bridge, was completed in 1958 and forms a major link in the National Route N2 between George and Port Elizabeth. The bridge is one of four great arch bridges crossing the deep gorges of the Tsitsikamma and is about 120 meters high.

Taking a walk across the bridge you get a good idea of the deep and narrow gorges that rip open this part of the Garden Route and you get new respect for the early travelers trying to find a way to get to the other side.  Before the bridge was built travellers had to take the Storms River Pass which was built along the old elephant trails.  The old dirt road pass is now closed to traffic and only accessible on foot and mountain bikes.

Friday, April 8, 2011

SS Mendi Memorial

 Mendi Memorial in New Brighton

There is a monument in the New Brighton township of Port Elizabeth to those who died on the SS Mendi in the First World War.  Blacks were not allowed to represent South Africa during the war as soldiers and those black people who did volunteer were sent to Europe as Labour Corps to do work like digging trenches.  The SS Mendi sailed from Cape Town transporting 823 members of the 5th Battalion, South African Native Labour Corps to France.  From Cape Town she went via Lagos to Plymouth before crossing the English Channel for Le Havre.  On 21 February 1917 at 5am in thick fog she was struck and cut almost in half by the SS Darro, an empty meat ship that was bound for Argentina.

 Inscription on the Mendi Memorial at New Brighton

616 South Africans (607 of them black troops) plus 30 British crew members died in the disaster.  The men of the South African Labour Corps came from a wide range of social backgrounds and different groups within South Africa, but the majority were from the rural areas of the Pondo Kingdom in the Eastern Cape.  Some men were killed outright in the collision while others were trapped below decks.  Many however gathered on the listing deck of the Mendi, but unfortunately very few of them could swim.

One of the most shocking parts of the incident is that the crew of the Darro made no attempt to rescue survivors and kept on sailing on.

The names of the men who died on the SS Mendi are inscribed on the Wall of Names at Freedom Park in Pretoria 

Oral history records that the men met their fate with great dignity. Their chaplain, Reverend Isaac Dyobha, is reported to have calmed the panicked men by raising his arms aloft and crying out in a loud voice:

"Be quiet and calm, my countrymen. What is happening now is what you came to are going to die, but that is what you came to do. Brothers, we are drilling the death drill. I, a Xhosa, say you are my brothers...Swazis, Pondos, let us die like brothers. We are the sons of Africa. Raise your war-cries, brothers, for though they made us leave our assegais in the kraal, our voices are left with our bodies."

They were stomping the "death drill" as the ship went under.