Friday, November 29, 2013

Frames Reservoir - Port Elizabeth's oldest dam

Growing up I wanted to be an archaeologist.  Somebody like Indiana Jones who discovered lost cities, found ancient artefacts and went places that most can just dream of.  So now I work in tourism and love travelling with the explorer in me always waiting just below the surface.  Since I started Geocaching my explorer persona gets released on a regular basis.  I may not go in search of artefacts but looking for a cache feels like the same thing.  Don't think I can call the locations where most caches are hidden anywhere close to being a lost city, but every so often I find a new cache to search for which is somewhere out of the ordinary.  Somewhere that brings out said explorer.    

One such cache made an appearance the other day courtesy of Thecrow01.  The cache was hidden at Frames Reservoir, Port Elizabeth's oldest dam.  Immediately an expedition was planned, even if it was just a quick one during lunch time. 

In the early days of the settlement of Port Elizabeth the stream down what is now Donkin Street in Central, supplied the town with water.  As the town expanded, so more water was needed.  Frames Reservoir was completed in 1864 and can be found on the Shark River (further up the valley from Happy Valley) in Humewood.  It was built by Clement Wall Frames who leased the land from his cousin, C E Frames.  He formed the Shark River Water Company and they supplied the lower parts of town with water.  Unfortunately for Frames, due to pressure problems the higher lying areas lost out.  He went bankrupt as a result of the scheme and the municipality took it over.

We (us being friends and fellow cachers Seekoei and erenei and obviously myself) approached the dam on a track from the old Boet Erasmus Stadium side.  The coordinates then took us off the track and along a path through the bush.  The valley suddenly opened up and there was this stunning spot and the dam.  I wonder if the local boys every come fishing here cause there was a couple of big fish splashing around when we were walking across the dam wall.  It really was a great experience to discover the dam.  Something I've heard about but have never seen.  Another great expedition and discovery thanks to Geocaching.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Phillip's Tunnel in Hankey

Every little town has its interesting sites to visit, being it historic, natural or man-made.  Often visitors pass through without ever knowing about these places and in most cases they slowly become forgotten to all but a few.  One such site in my opinion is the Phillip's Tunnel in Hankey in the Gamtoos Valley.  There is a sign on the main drag through town but in most cases visitors are heading towards the Baviaanskloof and doesn't even notice it.  The road to the tunnel leads through the town's township, over the Gamtoos River and then past some farmlands.  The turnoff from the dirt road takes one up to the tunnel, a yawning mouth in the hillside.  Don't get me wrong, there isn't a huge amount to see.  But what is there is worth seeing, specially if you are into historic sites.

Hankey was started as a mission station on behalf of the London Missionary Society by Dr John Phillip.  The main purpose was to grow corn and mielies for the mission station at Bethelsdorp as well as to carry out evangelistic work in the valley.  Dr Philip's son, William Philip, came to the mission station in 1841 and during his time there the area experienced a serious water shortage.  The best way to get water from the Gamtoos River to the settlement's farmland was to dig a tunnel through the cliff that stood in-between the two.  A formidable task indeed but not one that put William off in any way.  In 1843 he started the project with the help of Khoi labourers and in just more than a year they completed the 228 meter tunnel.  William drowned in the river just after the official opening of the tunnel which was used for over a century.  These days the tunnel is no longer in use because of irrigation canals criss crossing the valley and but has been declared a national monument.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Biggest sundial in the Africa

The biggest sundial in Africa and the Southern Hemisphere can be found somewhere in South Africa.  "Where in South Africa?" I hear you ask. Cape Town? You're cold.  Johannesburg? Very cold. Durban? Still cold. Port Elizabeth? Getting warmer. Where then? Its located in the humble Gamtoos Valley town of Hankey.  The Hankey Sundial was completed by local farmer Mr Dirk Schellingerhout in 1989 to commemorate the town's 160th anniversary.  The dial is located at the entrance to the town and just below Vergaderingskop, the final resting place of Saartjie Baartman. The Hankey Sun Dial has a diameter of 34.6m and the gnomon is 18m high, and weighs one ton.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Framed African Sunset

For some people a sunset is a sunset is a sunset.  Just something to end the day with.  Then there are others which include photographers and travel writers (and I say writers because that goes for both print media and bloggers).  Those who grab their cameras when the sun starts to dip towards the horizon, the clouds start to colour and the most ordinary things become objects to silhouette against the changing sky.  Some photographers go on recces to find the best spot to set up their camera long before the day even thinks of ending while other do it in the spur of the moment.  But it doesn't matter which one of these you are, there is few things that get close to photographing a beautiful African sunset.  Spending the weekend at Willows Resort outside Port Elizabeth I had taken a couple of pictures of the coastline framed through the chalet's veranda window earlier in the day.  Sitting by the braai as the sun started to dip I suddenly had the perfect framed sunset.  Luckily the camera is never far away and I caught it just before the sun disappeared.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Monday, November 11, 2013

Wilgewandel - something for the whole family

In all the years working as a tourist guide I drove past Wilgewandel near the Cango Caves countless times and never stopped.  It wasn't that I didn't want to, but there was just never time on a busy itinerary.  I often just referred to it as the place with the camel rides.  That was until a visit to the Cango Caves with the family while on holiday.  Drama Princess really wanted to ride a camel and the nagging started when we passed Wilgewandel on our way to the caves already.  Leaving the caves the tone of nagging became more consistent and there was no way I could drive past without having a major meltdown on the back seat.  And   that I stopped is quite evident in the fact that Drama Princess is sitting on the first camel in the top picture. Camel ride ticked off her very young bucket list.
What I did find out from my visit was that Wilgewandel is so much more than just the camel ride place between Oudtshoorn and the Cango Caves.  They have a host activities suitable for both big and small and all at very reasonable rates.  When we arrived I was afraid what the stop may end up costing me but I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't have to sacrifice an arm and a leg for the KidZ's pleasure.  The one thing I tried myself was the little paddle boats where you use your arms and not your legs to propel yourself.  Even the Damselfly ventured onto the water for this one.

Chaos Boy wasn't interested in the camel ride and rather preferred to do the foofy slide across the dam.  I was kinda worried that he may end up in the dam but then I remembered that he is half monkey anyway.  The foofy slide is just one of many other activities that the kids can do while their parents sit down for a bite to eat or something to drink.  There are also go-carts, an obstacle course, donkey cart rides and, for the littlies, a touch farm where you can feed bunnies and other farm animals. 

After the KidZ had their fill of activities we sat down to have our fill of hamburgers on the outside veranda overlooking the dam.  I would show you what our yummy burgers looked like but I was so focused on it that I forgot to take a pic.  It was good, to say the least. Very good.  As for Wilgewandel, I now get it.  Its a great family attractions and well worth the stop if you have kids or if you don't, just stop for the burgers.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Kings Protea in Van Stadens Wildflower Reserve

The Van Stadens Wildflower Reserve west of Port Elizabeth is one of the best and easiest accessible areas around to see proteas and other species in the Cape Floral Kingdom.  Flowers like the King Protea, South Africa's national flower, and the Pin Cushion Protea is found in abundance and when in flower is a real treat to see along one of the reserve's two trails.  I try to visit the reserve at least once or twice a year, even if its just for a quick stop while driving past on the N2, and there is always something to be seen and photographed.  Even better when I found this King Protea in such a position that I could show the Van Stadens Bridge in the background. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Donkin mosaic

Route 67 around the Donkin Reserve in Port Elizabeth has brought a new angle and attraction to urban tourism in the city.  The numbers 67 relate to the 67 years that Nelson Mandela spent in public and the whole project consists of 67 art pieces.  Most of these are public art pieces centred around the Donkin Reserve in the hearty of the city and forms an important part of urban renewal in the city.  One of the art pieces is a 470 square meter mosaic next to the Donkin Pyramid which celebrates the city and province's many cumtures, heritages, diverse histories and abundant fauna and flora.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Antelope skull

A game drive through a reserve with predators are all about watching live game but more often than not one would encounter the remains of not so live game.  During our sundowner stop on a game drive at Kuzuko Lodge I found this lone skull out in the open very interesting.  Probably a kudu skull as there was a kudu horn lying close by, I can only imagine how he came about his end.  Must have been quite a sight out in the open like this.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Riding PE's miniature trains

Ketik ketik... ketik ketik... ketik ketik... The sound of the train's wheels on the tracks.  A sound which so many kids these days have never heard before.  Everybody loves to ride on a train doesn't matter if its a luxurious tourist train, a cross country train, a day trip tourist train, a commuter train or, in the case of this post, little miniature trains.  

On the first Sunday of the month Port Elizabeth parents gather their kids, pack picnic baskets and head down to Fernglen to ride the city's little trains.  The Port Elizabeth Model Locomotive Society was established in 1963 and offers young and old the opportunity to experience the golden age of train travel, even if its only a couple of loops around the park.  The route includes a dinkum tunnel and crosses over the Great Grass River Bridge before the engines steam back into the station.

There are both diesels and steam locomotives although most adults prefer to wait for the latter.  Kids really don't care much about this and will hop onto the first one available.  Rides were R6 a go the last time I was there and at that price people can afford to go again and again and again which means there is about a 10 minute wait to get on when it gets busy.  Not much so the wait is no excuse not to go.  Actually, if you even just remotely like trains this is something you just can't miss.  And believe me, once people get on those trains, everybody becomes a kid again.