Friday, January 31, 2014

Mohair yarn strands

The Hinterveld Mohair Mill Tour in Uitenhage is not your normal run of the mill (excuse the pun) tour, but visitors go there expecting one thing and leaving with a whole different impression.  The factory is also heaven for photographers with so many interesting objects and angles like this one of all the colourful mohair yarn strands going into the weaving machine, turning it into exquisite blankets.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

No 7 Castle Hill historical museum

Sailing into Algoa Bay as one of the 1820 British Settlers, Reverend Francis McCleland would have been standing on deck looking out over the bay towards the beach, little knowing what awaited him in the Cape Colony and how he would influence what would become Port Elizabeth.  Rev McCleland became the colonial chaplain in Port Elizabeth and oversaw the building of St Mary’s Anglican Church (later declared a cathedral) which was completed in 1834. Only a couple of years before, in 1827, he bought a piece of land on Castle Hill for three guineas (three pounds and three shillings) and built a house for his family.  A building which is one of the oldest surviving Settler cottages in Port Elizabeth and today is a historic museum.

Visitors are met at the door by a very enthusiastic and knowledgeable Grizel Hart who is the curator of what is now the No 7 Castle Hill Museum.  No 7 opened as a historic museum in 1965 and is furnished in period to show a picture of domestic life as enjoyed by an English middle class family in
mid-19th Century Port Elizabeth.  It really is the kind of place where kids will discover things they have never seen before in their lives while older folk will be reminded of items their grandmothers still had in their houses.  While Grizel shows you around you may just spot a couple of kids with sheets of paper in their hands moving from room to room like their looking for something.  Kids visiting the museum each receive a treasure hunt sheet of paper with drawings of furniture pieces and items found throughout the house to try and track down.  It's the best way to keep the kids interested and learning.

By far my favourite room in the museum is the old downstairs kitchen.  It really feels like every time I visit there is something new (or should we say old?) to see.  So of the things I remember from my grandmother's kitchen from years ago while others most people have probably never seen.  The ingeniousness of most of the old items does baffle one though because often you wonder why we can't have tools like that now.
The museum's courtyard with it's cobblestones is another of my favourites.  The courtyard has a working water pump.  Water is gathered in the well from the roof and pumped out by hand for use.  I bet all the kids visiting the museum want to have a go at the pump and I have to say I often do as well.  Best of all (said wearing my Geocacher hat), there is a Geocache close by as well.   

Monday, January 27, 2014

Jurassic Park at Bayworld

Did I stumble on a long lost valley filled with dinosaurs?  Did somebody finally invent a time machine that allows one to go back to the time of the dinosaurs?  Did I get invited to the set of Jurassic Park 4? No, no and... no.  I visited Bayworld in Port Elizabeth.  Bayworld has an very interesting section by the Snake Park that has life size moving dinosaurs.  Every kid's dream.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Baby elephant at Addo Elephant National Park

International visitors to South Africa all has Kruger Park on their lists of places to see in the country but what many of them don't realise is that you can get just as good an experience in the Eastern Cape.  Addo Elephant National Park is probably one of the most under rated game parks in the country with perceptions changing as soon as people get there.  You may not be able to spend 4 or 5 days there like in Kruger, but the variety of animals, birds, plants and sightings are up there with the best.  On my last visit we were watching a family right next to the road and this little guy decided to move away from his mother and allow to snap his picture.   

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Penguin Awareness Day

The African Penguins aren't having it easy.  Their numbers are declining and often those fighting for their future feels like they are fighting a loosing battle.  But they aren't giving up that fight.  There are two days a year to celebrate penguins, World Penguin Day on 25 April and Penguin Awareness Day on 20 January.  Yesterday was Penguin Awareness Day and for some reason I missed it. Darn!  If you missed it as well, why not celebrate it today to make up for it.  Visit one of the penguin colonies at Boulders in Simon's Town or the one in Betty's Bay, otherwise pop into one of the various penguin rehabilitation centres around South Africa.  I live in Port Elizabeth and the South African Marine Rehabilitation and Education Centre (SAMREC) is one of my favourite attractions around.  Well worth a visit and by doing so you support penguin conservation.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Irrigating the Gamtoos Valley

How often do you wonder where exactly the water in your tap and fruit and vegetables in your kitchen comes from?  We'll, if you live in Port Elizabeth its possible to answer both these questions for yourself by visiting the Gamtoos Valley.  The Gamtoos Valley is often referred to as the food basket of the Eastern Cape as it is one of South Africa's biggest citrus and vegetable producing areas.  The farms get their irrigation water from exactly the same place we get our drinking water from, the Kouga Dam.

The dam is a double curve arch dam with an 82 m high wall and storage capacity of 128,7 million m3.  The catchment area is inside the Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area from where the Kouga River carries the water into the 34 km long dam basin.  Other than for water supply the dam was also built as a flood control mechanism to lessen the impact of a flood on the lower Gamtoos River.  Visitors can get right up to the point where I took the photos from for a view of the dam and dam wall with it becoming an even more exceptional sight when the dam overflows. 

Water is taken from the Kouga Dam to the Loerie Dam via a main canal while irrigation water for the farms in the valley is distributed by means of a series of canals and pipelines.  7400 ha of scheduled ground are irrigated with every irrigator being supplied with at least one draw-off with a self registering meter.  These are then operated by the farmers themselves according to their needs and up to a maximum limit of 8000 m3 per ha per year.
And this is where the irrigation water goes.  Citrus orchards like this and fields of potatoes and other vegetables.  The Gamtoos Valley is the ideal breakaway for city folk in the Port Elizabeth area.  The area offers beautiful scenic views, fresh air, lekker food, genuine farm stalls and real wholesome country living hospitality, with most guest houses and B&B's situated on working farms.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Port Elizabeth Whale skeleton

The Port Elizabeth Museum, which forms part of the Bayworld complex, has a very unique exhibit hanging in the Marine Hall.  It's the skeleton of the last Southern Right Whale to be harpooned in Algoa Bay.  Its the focus piece of a exhibit that covers whales and sharks along with everything associated with them.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Going nowhere slowly

Just west of Patensie, travellers through the Gamtoos Valley will find the Padlangs farm stall.  It's a favourite with both visitors and the locals and I really have to do a post on it one day, but that day is not today.  Outside the farm stall visitors would find the remnants of transport methods used in the valley in the past.  Parts of an ox wagon and an old bakkie (a Chev perhaps?)
I placed a couple of Geocaches in the valley on one of my visits and the bakkie is one of my cache locations.  Finding the cache is a good excuse to stop and stopping is a good excuse to go for a meal or something cold on a hot day at the farm stall.  Across the road from the bakkie you can see the citrus trees that the valley is so famous for and a couple of the trailers used to transport the citrus to the co-ops.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Fisherman on the Wildside

Unlike my brother who has provincial colours for fresh water fishing, I'm not a fisherman.  I don't have the patience for it.  I would much rather go for a walk with my camera and find something interesting to photograph.  Perhaps its the same thing, just different.  Its the same with Geocaching.  I can spend hours doing it while others see it as a waste of time because other than a smiley face on my geocache map and my name on the log sheet there is nothing to show for it.  Different strokes for different folks I imagine.  I did "catch" this angler on Port Elizabeth's Wildside recently.  He makes for a nice subject on what would otherwise have been a very bland photograph without him.   

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Port Elizabeth Harbour sunset

Since the Jester started with cruises of Algoa Bay in 2012 it has become one of the most popular attractions (or should I say activities?) in Port Elizabeth.  Locals, visitors and corporates alike all love cruising along the beachfront doesn't matter if its a short leisure cruise, their popular braai cruise or a charter for a party or function.  I've had the pleasure to do an late afternoon cruise and the sun started to disappear over the city as we were cruising into the Port Elizabeth harbour.  The end of another awesome day in the Bay.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Foggy hills

We are slap bang in the middle of a warm hot sweltering summer spell.  Days are hot and the crows are yawning, every bit of shade gets used by big and small and people, specially the farmers, are keeping their eyes skyward in the hope of a shower to cool things down a bit.  When the sun rises in the east and the hills are covered in early morning fog, like this Gamtoos Valley scene close to Patensie, its a sign that another scorcher is on its way. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

The biggest South African flag

Over the last few years Port Elizabeth has had a couple of new landmarks go up that has very much become part of the city's landscape.  The Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, the Boardwalk Hotel, the wind farm turbines and the great flag on the Donkin Reserve.  The great flag forms part of Route 67 and flies on top of the second tallest flag pole in Africa.  At 65 meters tall its only shorter than a pole in Angola.  The flag itself measures 10 meters by 15 meters and is nearly the size of a tennis court.  Along with the Route 67 art pieces the flag has become a landmark that not just Port Elizabethans, but all South Africans, can be proud of.