Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Hogsback Labyrinth flowers

While the KidZ were negotiating the Labyrinth at The Edge in Hogsback in the rain, I was photographing flowers

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Hogsback - a fairy wonderland of forests and waterfalls

Hogsback must be one of the most beautiful areas in the Eastern Cape and one of my favorite destinations in the province yet it's been a good decade and a half since I've last been there.  Every year the Damselfly and I threaten to go for a weekend but every time we end up going somewhere else.  Not that difficult with all the travel options the Eastern Cape has to offer.  But this time the decision would be carried through though.  It was time to show the KidZ what Hogsback looked like.

Arriving in Hogsback late on the Friday afternoon there were clouds over all the mountain tops but otherwise the weather was cool and nice.  Saturday morning I woke up to the sound of rain and opened the curtains to a sheet of white.  Not snow, if only, but rather a thick fog hanging on and around everything. We weren't going to allow a sheet of white and a constant drizzle to put us off  though so after breakfast it was exploring time with the Arboretum being first on the itinerary. 

The Arboretum is a garden, or rather more a park, of trees from all over the world, each marked showing their botanical and common names.  Probably one of the biggest, literally and figuratively, features of the garden is several Californian Redwood trees of well over 100 years old.  We parked at the Village Green and took a nice easy stroll through the garden but I kept on falling behind as I was taking way too many photos of drops on flowers, ferns and spider webs.  

Following the right paths and signs brought us to the first of our waterfalls for the weekend.  39 Steps is probably the easiest waterfall to get to in Hogsback and cascades down a series of steps at the top of the garden.  The area hasn't had the most rain lately so the waterfall isn't anywhere as spectacular as usual, but still beautiful.

The next stop wasn't one of Hogsback's conventional attractions but rather one we wanted to show the KidZ.  The village library.  Hogsback's library is housed in a rondavel on Redcoat Lane and must be one of the smallest libraries in the country.  

I'm sure my bookworm son would easily rather have stayed here than venture around to waterfalls in the rain, but all we allowed him was a quick look around.  According to the librarian the building was originally used as a butchery but I think the location and setting lends itself a lot more to a library than butchery. 

With the raining weather we could easily have opted to rather work our way around the village with all its artist studios and galleries but how can one visit Hogsback and not visit the Madonna and Child Waterfall in the forest.  With a warning of a steep and slippery path from the lady in the tourism info office, we took the drive down Wolfridge Road and parked at the start of the trail.  From here we followed Hogsback's famous piggy trail markers down into the forest and even though it was wet and slippery, nobody landed on their b-hinds.

Madonna and Child may be one of many waterfalls in Hogsback, but it's definitely the most iconic of the lot.  A beautiful setting right in the forest, the water falls down the sheer cliffs into the pool below before rushing off into the forest again.   Looking around one can easily see why it is claimed that part of JRR Tolkien's inspiration to write The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings came from Hogsback.  It feels like there could easily be fairies hiding under the ferns, a hobbit waiting to jump out from behind a rock or a dragon somewhere down the gorge. While the KidZ explored a bit I went in search of the Geocache hidden at the falls, but then it was time to head back to the trees as the rain started coming down again. 

We did have a chance to mount the camera on a rock and grab a family picture before making our way back up the path to the car.

Although I really wanted us to at least visit the Kettlespout Waterfall as well, the weather had the final say on the day and we decided to throw in the towel as far as waterfalls go.  The Kidz got excited because they though it meant we would head back to our self-catering unit with its fireplace and Dstv. Wrooongggg...  Our next stop was St Patrick's on the Hill church with its beautiful colourful gardens.  

Although the church is Anglican, services are shared by the Presbyterians, Methodists and N.G. Kerk every Sunday morning at 10am.  It's also a very popular wedding venue and can one ask for a more beautiful place to get married in than Hogsback.  The one thing that I found very interesting is that the church is open 24 hours a day and everybody is welcome to come and spend some time here in prayer or meditation. 

Talking of meditation.  Our last stop for the day was at the Labyrinth at The Edge.  Unfortunately we could not see the actual edge nor the stunning view from here but the KidZ did take on the labyrinth. What is the difference between a maze and a labyrinth.  Although the two terms are basically synonymous, there is a difference.  In this case a maze refers to a complex branching multicursal puzzle with choices of path and direction, while a unicursal labyrinth has only a single path to the center. A labyrinth in this sense has an unambiguous route to the center and back and is not difficult to navigate.  So with this mouth full I watched the KidZ try and cover the distance to the middle as quickly as possible although generally a labyrinth is supposed to be covered slowly and in a state of meditation, prayer or deep thought. 

We returned to our abode, dried off, warmed up and took it easy for the rest of the afternoon in the hope of perhaps getting in some more walking and waterfalls the next morning.  The last picture in the post... was taken that next morning.  Needless to say, we stayed in and got up later before the drive back home to Port Elizabeth.  It does mean though that we seriously want to get back to Hogsback for the chance to explore a bit more in drier conditions.  Doesn't mean though that we didn't have a great time cause who can't when they get to visit a fairy wonderland of forests and waterfalls, even if it rains all weekend.

Disclosure - The weekend spent in Hogsback was a family weekend done so at our own cost.  Our accommodation at the Arminel Hotel was covered by a voucher I won in a lucky draw at a tourism trade workshop but otherwise nobody invited us nor influenced where we went of what went into this post. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Forest, ferns, lilies and fog

I don't know why but when I think of Hogsback I either think of streams and waterfalls or forests, ferns, lilies and fog.  I think I nailed the latter in this picture. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The hog will lead the way

One of the most famous trail markers in South Africa must be the hogs marking all the hiking trails around the village of Hogsback in the Eastern Cape.  We slipped and slid around some of the trails in Hogsback over a wet weekend recently but as we say in Afrikaans, "Mooi bly maar mooi" meaning "beautiful will always be beautiful".  I'll post a full blog post as well as a couple of individual photos about our visit soon, just watch this space.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Sunset from Signal Hill

They say that you can't really say you've visited Cape Town if you haven't been up Table Mountain. We've done Table Mountain before and with a family of four it's a bit of an expensive exercise so on our whistle stop visit to the Mother City for the Cape Town Mega event we decided on the next best option.  Signal Hill.  Even better, Signal Hill at sunset.

The one thing we didn't quite think of was that it was a Saturday afternoon and the weather was great so just about half of Cape Town had the same thing in mind.  Traffic up was hectic and parking is limited.  Add to that a coach parked in the middle of the turning point at the top and cars squeezing into every available spot so the clever option was to park on the far side and cut across the top of Signal Hill on foot.  Something which turned out to be a wise move as leaving later on was much quicker from that side. 

The material covered take off area used by the paragliding outfit based up on Signal Hill makes for the ideal viewing site and as the sun started heading towards the horizon over the Atlantic Ocean, people took their places. 

There you have it, a beautiful Cape Town sunset over the sea.  Not many clouds, or more accurately just about nothing at all, meant no beautiful colours and painted skies, but still stunning never the less.  

The options to watch the sun setting over the Atlantic in Cape Town is many but I prefer Signal Hill because of all the added views of Table Mountain and the surrounding city.  But lesson learned.  Don't go on the weekend in peak season.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Bethulie Concentration Camp cemetery - a sad part of our history

Bethulie in the southern Free State is one of those places not many people pass through as it's not really on any of the main thoroughfares going south (or north, depending how you look at it).  On my last trip up to Johannesburg I deviated off the normal route to see what this town on the banks of the Orange River is all about.  One of the things I found out was that Bethulie was the site of one of the most notorious concentration camps of the Anglo Boer War of 1899 to 1902.  I was shocked by the size of the Concentration Camp Cemetery Memorial and even more so when I saw all the names on the remembrance wall.

It turns out that even the English called the Bethulie camp "the hell camp" because of the shocking conditions Boer men, women and children were being held in.  The ravages of disease, starvation and extreme temperatures, enhanced by the bad administration of the camp, meant that the camp saw a death toll of 1 737 prisoners among its population of about 5 000 over the 13 months it existed between April 1901 and the end of the war in May 1902.  At one stage about 30 people a day was buried in the camp.  Truly shocking and it literally had me speechless as I stood reading the info around the memorial.  

The original camp and cemetery was located much closer to the river back in the days but all the graves were relocated to this position when the Gariep Dam (called the Hendrik Verwoerd Dam back then) was constructed in the 1960's.

At the top end of the cemetery is an enclosed area containing all the original hand-carved sandstone headstones which were removed from the old cemetery.  They've all been set into three walls and having a closer look at the information on them you suddenly realise how many children were among those who had dies in the camp.  Unfortunately the gate was locked tight so I couldn't get a closer look at all of them,

I drove away deeply touched.  The Anglo Boer War was such a significant event in the history of South Africa and yet so many of us never get to visit sites like this because it's often off the beaten track.  So next time you're on the main drag down to the beach fro your summer holidays, why not set a day aside and take some of the back roads.  You will come away the better for it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

All the views from Signal Hill

Signal Hill in Cape Town isn't just a great spot to view the sunset from, but it's also has some awesome views which is ideal if you don't have the time or budget to go up Table Mountain.

Green Point with the Cape Town Stadium and Table Bay with Robben Island in the distance on the left

Cape Town Harbour with the V&A Waterfront as well as the City Bowl

Table Mountain, Lion's Head and the Twelve Apostles

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Still my Table Mountain

Table Mountain
My Table Mountain
Just because I love that flat mountain so much
Would love to still spend some time exploring her on foot one day and not just look up at her
One day

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Who was Louw Wepener and why does he have a monument in the Free State?

How are you going to explore, discover new places and see interesting things if you don't road trip and venture off the beaten track?  A little detour past Bethulie in the southern Free State while heading north had me cross the second longest bridge in South Africa, take a walk through the Bethulie Concentration Camp Cemetery and learn who Louw Wepener was.  To be honest, I probably would have totally missed the Louw Wepener Monument a few hundred meters off the road if there wasn't a Geocache located there.

So who was Louw Wepener and why does he have a monument?  Lourens Jacobus (Louw) Wepener was bron in Graaff-Reinet in 1812 and was a war hero.  As a Cape burgher, while farming in Somerset East and then Aliwal North, Wepener distinguished himself through his military ability and fearlessness during the frontier wars of 1835, 1846 and 1851.  In 1862 he moved to the farm Constantia outside Bethulie and threw his lot in with the Orange Free State.  On the outbreak of the Second Basuto War in 1865 he became commandant - in - chief of the southern commandos.  As the Boers advanced they were eventually encamped at the foot of Thaba Bosigo, Moshesh’s stronghold.

Wepener and 400 volunteers decided to take the mountain by storm with Wepener, in the lead, dying a hero’s death at about sunset near the summit of the mountain.  Legend has it that his heroism made such an impression on the Basutos that they roasted and ate his heart, believing that by doing so they would acquire some of his bravery.

Louw Wepener's bones were later buried on his farm outside Bethulie on the site where the monument stands today.  The town of Wepener near the Lesotho border was also named after him.  I hopped onto the wall next to his bust after retrieving the Geocache and had a quick chat with Oom Louw while signing the logsheet.  He truly was a heroic man if you read his whole history and that of the attack on Thaba Bosigo.  The other thing that got my attention is the fact that this monument is located on a farm, in the middle of nowhere, but with close ties to Wepener plus the monument is a simple stone structure with a bust.  Perhaps a lesson to those wanting to put up monuments for struggle heroes.  Monuments don't have to be anything more than this, located in a place with no links to the person or cost millions of rands.  Just saying. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Reading the travel book one page at a time - Tree lined lane

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page - St Augustine

Very true words indeed.  But I also believe that while travelling you need to go off the beaten track every now and then as well otherwise you will just keep seeing what everybody else sees.  There really isn't anything wrong with that, it's just nice to see a little more sometimes as well.  And often it's something simple, like driving along this tree lined dirt road surrounded by citrus orchards between Addo and Kirkwood. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The (second) longest bridge in South Africa

My normal route through the Karoo Heartland of the Eastern Cape when heading up north is over Cradock and Steynsburg towards Venterstad and then a short left to the Gariep Dam before hitting the N1 for Bloemfontein.  Before my last trip to Johannesburg I had a closer look at the Geocaching map to see if there are any possible alternative routes that will take me to cache locations I haven't been to.  A couple of green dots around the town of Bethulie in the southern Free State caught my eye.  It wouldn't necessarily mean more distance, just a right at Venterstad and a loop via Bethulie towards the N1.  The one thing that really caught my attention though was that one of the caches was called The Longest one in SA. Longest what?  It turns out that the (now second) longest bridge in South Africa spans the the Orange River, connecting the Eastern Cape and Free State, just outside the town. 

The arched D.H. Steyn Bridge (also called the Hennie Steyn Bridge) is 1,152 km long and 51,5 meter high above the river below.  The bridge was built in the 1970's and was named after the then   chairperson of the Orange River Development Project Advisory Council.

Another unique aspect of it is that the bridge isn't just a road bridge but also acts as railway bridge with the railway line running parallel to the road.  Approaching it from the Eastern Cape side is probably best with a great view of the bridge, but I have to be honest, standing on the bridge itself it doesn't look very spectacular. The view to both side are beautiful though (in a Karoo way) and just the fact that I can say I have visited the (second) longest bridge in South Africa made the detour worth while.   Just a pity that more people don't venture off the beaten track to come and discover places like this.  

Oh yes, and I did find the Geocache in case you were wondering.

UPDATE: Thanks to Grant Stater for the information in the comments.  The longest bridge in South Africa is now along the John Ross Parkway along the N2 near Rochards Bay in KZN.  A 1.2km long bridge spanning the Enseleni floodplain and Nsezi River was completed in December 2009 at a cost of R270-million and is now the longest bridge in the country.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Cape Town's Noon Gun. An almighty BOOM!

It's a beautiful late morning in the Cape Town City Bowl.  Not much of a breeze blowing and Table Mountain, without a table cloth draped over it, rises up behind the city in all her glory.  Peaceful.  Visitors and locals alike are going about their daily routine, heading between meetings, window shopping, grabbing a quick coffee, sightseeing... Suddenly, BOOM! Pigeons fly up from the pavement, a couple of American tourists duck for cover, a Joburg businessman jerks his head up, a travel blogger from PE nearly drops her camera and a small group of Germans recompose themselves when they realised that nobody else reacted to the sound.  A local sipping his cappuccino at a table on the pavement outside one of the many coffee shops just shake his head and smile.  The Noon Gun gets them every time.

Although I get to visit Cape Town two or three times a year and enjoys going up to Signal Hill for sunset, I haven't been to see the Noon Gun in probably close to a decade and a half.  A visit to the Noon Gun during a quick trip to the Geocaching MEGA in the Mother City meant I didn't just get to go and see the gun fire again, but also show it to my family who made the trip down with me.  

The Noon Gun (which are actually two cannons, the second just in case the first one fails) are situated on the side of Signal Hill overlooking the City Bowl and Sea Point.  About 15 minutes before it is time to fire, a red flag is raised and a member of the SA Navy steps up to prepare the guns for the daily shot.  Everybody stood a bit closer and a quick history lesson followed.

The Noon Gun has been fired since February 1806 and the two original guns are still in use today.  The guns were cast in England in 1794 and brought to the Cape a year later while under British occupation, apparently making the two guns the oldest guns in daily use in the world.  The reasoning behind firing a shot at noon every day (except for Sundays and Public Holidays) was, according to local tradition, to allow ships in port to check the accuracy of their marine chronometers.  Even though a Time Ball was taken into use in 1818, the gun continued to fire daily till this day and many Cape Townian still set their watches to it.  In 1864 they started to trigger the gun remotely from the master clock of the oldest timekeeper in the country, the South African Astronomical Observatory, thanks to the advent of the galvanic telegraph.

Both 18-pounder smoothbore muzzleloaders are loaded daily (six days a week as mentioned previously) with 1,5 kg of gunpowder each.  If the remote trigger on the first gun fails for some reason, then the Cannoneer on duty will quickly change over and fire the second gun manually.  You don't get to see somebody load a cannon with a rammer every day, but you do at the Noon Gun when a rammer gets used to tamp the charge into the muzzle.

With noon approaching and everything in place for the gun to be fired, we were all asked to stand away a short distance.  If you are afraid you'll get too much of a fright because of the sound, then standing behind the guns are best, but for the best view then a side position is the place to be.  Cameras and phones got lined up and suddenly it was time.  The countdown started at 10... 9... 8... 7... a quick check if the camera was focused properly... 6... 5... the lady next to me giggled nervously... 4... 3... it was time... 2... 1... BOOOOOM! Smoke everywhere. Exclamations all over.  Wow, that was slightly louder than most expected.  Quick check to see what my photo looks like and disappointment.  A total blur.  The shock of the BOOM messed with my focus.

A couple of my Geocaching friends did get video clips of the gun going off though and I'm nicking Penny's one to share with you.

Getting to the Noon Gun is quite easy actually.  Just follow the "Noon Gun" signs from the corner of Buitengracht and Bloem Streets up through the Bo-Kaap along Military Road.  Just take it easy going up though as the road is steep and winding and there's always just that one guy who will come flying down from the other direction.

The best part of visiting the Noon Gun?  It is totally FREE!!!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Fields of flowers in the Karoo

 It's dry in the Karoo.  The word Karoo doesn't mean "Place of Thirst" for nothing.  But the smallest amount of rain in the last winter of early spring means that there will be flowers.  And flowers there were when I drove through the Karoo Heartland late in September.  On the road north of Steynsburg I had to double take when I suddenly saw fields of yellow flowers and just could not help but to pull over and take out my camera. 

Yet another example that you don't really have to go to the West Coast to see flowers in spring.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A window on Table Mountain

Two weeks ago we had a whistle stop visit to Cape Town to attend the Geocaching MEGA that takes place somewhere in South Africa only every two years.  We literally drove the 800 km down to Cape Town on the Friday afternoon, attended the MEGA on the Saturday and returned on the Sunday.  One of the events during the day took place on Signal Hill and I just could not pass the opportunity to snap a pic of Drama Princess in the picture frame up there with Table Mountain in the background.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Things to do in Port Elizabeth this summer - Grab a backpack and take a hike

There is an Afrikaans folk song that goes, Dis heerlike Lente, die Winter's verby... (It's time for Spring now that Winter has passed - doesn't quite roll off the tongue the same in English though) which means Summer is fast approaching.  Longer days, better weather and spending more time outdoors over weekends.  Plus the holiday season is coming up quicker than my sausage dogs when I open the fridge.  With an eye on said better weather and upcoming holiday season, I was invited to participate in the "Things to do in Port Elizabeth this Summer" Blogathon.  There really is a lot to do in and around Port Elizabeth - Port Elizabeth Daily Photo is evidence of that - and rather than writing a blog post featuring all the usual suspects of Addo Elephant National Park, Route 67 and the Donkin Reserve, SAMREC, Kragga Kamma Game Park, The Boardwalk, Bayworld, restaurants in Richmond Hill, history, township tours and more, I decided to focus on my nine favorite nature trails (in no real particular order) around the Bay.  Yes you read correct, 9 trails, because I like to walk.  The ideal outdoor activity for the upcoming summer. And it's normally free or just about.

Before I start though, remember to always take out what you take in, only leave footprints behind, don't forget a hat and sunscreen, make sure somebody knows where you are walking (in case you get lost and don't return when you were supposed to) and always keep in mind that it is safer and recommended to walk in groups. So here we go. 

1 - The Humpback Dolphin Trail - Beachfront Boardwalk

Port Elizabeth must have one of the best city beach fronts in South Africa.  It is clean, beautiful, not over developed and a pleasure to explore on foot.  The walkway along the beachfront stretches all the way from the Kings Beach parking area to the lollipop beacon taking in sites like McArthur Pool, Bayworld, Humewood Beach with the old slipway, Shark Rock Pier, The Boardwalk and all the surf sites.  It's nothing strange to take an early morning stroll or jog along the beachfront and see a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins swim by.  Port Elizabeth and Algoa Bay is the Bottlenose Dolphin Capital of the World after all.  Beyond the beacon the boardwalk leaves the main beachfront behind and follows the coastline towards Cape Recife.  Very few people actually know that this section is called the Humpback Dolphin Trail and gives you some of the best uninterrupted views of Algoa Bay the city has to offer.  

Good for a nice easy early morning walk or jog or late afternoon with a ice cream in hand     

2 - Sacramento Trail

If Port Elizabeth's hiking trails had to choose a head boy then the Sacramento Trail would probably have been it.  The popular kid, a good all rounder, sporty, slightly academic and not bad looking to boot.  The Sacramento Trail is an 8 km return hike from Schoenmakerskop to Sardinia Bay and back.  Probably PE's favorite trail, the Sacramento offers some of the best coastal views around and is also a photographer and any nature lover's dream.  Rugged coastline, sandy beaches, hidden coves, fynbos, wetlands, flowers and as an added extra, Khoi middens hidden among the dunes.  And have I mentioned the awesome views? 

One of the great things about the Sacramento Trail, named after a Portuguese ship that sank here in 1647, is that even though it is an out and back trail, you can walk out along the coast and back along the top of the vegetated dunes (adding to those great views) on the bridle paths.  Spot is also welcome to tag along as long as you keep him on his leash.

The best time to do the trail is early morning followed by breakfast at the Sacramento Restaurant. The start of the trail is also a great spot to enjoy sunset from. 

Sacramento Trail map 

3 - Coastal Fynbos Trail

Very few people realise that Schoenmakerskop is also home to a second great trail.  The Coastal Fynbos Trail starts to the east of the village at Sappershoek and is located on the land side of Marine Drive.  Because of the bad soil quality, slightly lower rainfall, underlying rock and salty winds the vegetation along most of the trail consist of... you guessed it, fynbos.  Fynbos, also known as the Cape Floral Kingdom, consist of over 9 000 species of plants and the Coastal Fynbos Trail is particular attractive in spring when a lot of these are flowering.  The full circular trail covers about 7 km although there is an shorter 4 km option available if you're still only a "middle distance" walker.

Not quite the Sacramento Trail but a very good alternative if you have done the former before and looking for something different in the area  

Coastal Fynbos Trail map

4 - Cape Recife Nature Reserve - Roseate Tern Trail

The 9 km Roseate Tern Trail through the Cape Recife Nature Reserve is probably the most diverse of all the trails around Port Elizabeth.  It offers a mix of coastline where you can see see the remains of shipwrecks on the reefs, reclamation ponds full of water birds, vegetated sand dunes giving some shelter from the sun, the remains of a World War II observation station and barracks, the historic Cape Recife Lighthouse (built in 1851), various marine birds along the coast, an unofficial nudist beach and SAMREC.  The South African Marine Rehabilitation and Education Centre plays an integral part in the conservation effort to save the endangered African Penguin and is the ideal spot to start and end your walk at.  The centre also has a coffee shop where you can refill your tank before heading off to your next activity for the day but hopefully not before taking a tour to learn more about our tuxedo'd feathered friends. 

Make sure you don't forget your binocs and bird book in the car as the variety of birds along this trail is amazing.

Roseate Tern Trail map

5 - NMMU Nature Reserve - Grysbok Trail

I'm sure that as soon as this post hits the interwebs and goes viral you will start to see some comments between all the positive ones on Facebook going something like, "... blah blah unsafe...", "...waffle waffle dangerous fishcake...", "...troll troll take your life into your hands...", "...muffle puffle I live behind bars and have no life and how dare you go out and enjoy yours...".  For all those doom prophets and anybody else looking for a totally safe and secure environment to go and walk in, I have the perfect option for you.  The 830 ha NMMU Nature Reserve is fully enclosed with only access from on campus.  The Grysbok Trail offers two easy flat loops of about 2,5 km and 3,5 km or a combination of the two through coastal thicket and fynbos with the opportunity to see some game along the way.

Try out the GPS treasure hunt game of Geocaching.  The trail has about 35 caches hidden along the way.  Or just keep an eye out for some donkeys in pajamas. 

6 - Baakens Valley - Lower Guinea Fowl Trail

The Baakens Valley isn't just an excellent hiking area, it has also become very popular with trail runners and mountain bikers.  The Baakens Valley truly is Port Elizabeth's natural urban gem and really deserves more people venturing onto the Lower Guinea Fowl Trail, one of the best trails around.  Although you are at times barely a hundred meters from the nearest house it feels like you are miles away in the middle of nature with the river on one side, wind in your face, wild flowers in bloom all around, guinea fowl calling in the bush nearby and the rush of city life slowly flowing out of you. The one thing that really counts against it is that it is a 7,5 km one way trail between the 3rd Avenue Dip in Glen Hurd and Settlers Park, so make sure your transport is sorted and waiting for you when you finish walking.

There are a number of entrance / exit points along the way with shorter loops one can take around Walmer, Dodds Farm and Wellington Park if you just want to go for a quick stroll.

7 - The Island Nature Reserve - Bushbuck Trail

Hiking along the Bushbuck Trail one would be excused if you suddenly started thinking that you are on the Garden Route somewhere.  The vegetation on the western side of Port Elizabeth is very different from the south and east and consist of Alexandria coastal forest boasting indigenous tree species like Outeniqua Yellowwood, White and Hard Pear and White Milkwood.  It really is the ideal place if you need to plug your soul into the forest socket every now and then for a recharge. You also don't need to be a hard core hiker to venture onto the Bushbuck Trail with five distance options catering for everybody from the family strollers (900 m), gentle walkers (5 km), long distance guys (7,5 km) and the ultra day hikers (a full 16 km combining all the trails).  If you phone in advance and ask very nicely, one of the ECPTA rangers may just be able to accompany you on your hike as well. 

The Island has some really neat and well maintained picnic and braai spots where the non-hikers in the group can hang around while you are out enjoying nature.

8 - Van Stadens Wildflower Reserve

The Van Stadens Wildflower Reserve truly is a hikers paradise.  The 500 h reserve can be found about 35 km west of Port Elizabeth and probably is the best place around to go and see Proteas in the wild.  The nice bit about it is that there are different flowers blooming just about all through the year so there is always something to see.  Van Stadens also caters for one and all when it comes to the variety of trails with easy short walks through the fynbos, past the dams or to the Arboretum and bird hide on the plateau or longer walks along the Forest and River trails that lead down into the gorge.  Some of the trails and picnic spots also have great views of the magnificent Van Stadens arch bridge. 

If you don't enjoy walking don't stay away.  Most of the plateau area of the reserve is accessible by car so just pack a picnic basket and go throw open a blanket at one of the view points or picnic areas.

9 - Sleepy Hollow

When I first heard the name Sleepy Hollow, images of the Headless Horseman waiting for me down a dusky forest path immediately jumped to mind.  I've been several times over the last few years and have yet to see any ghostly horses or pumpkins being flung my way.  Sleepy Hollow, located a few kilometers off the Blue Horizon Bay road in the Maitland River valley, is magical though and the only trail out of my list that is on private land.  The trails are fairly short but it's quite easy to get yourself lost (not literally but rather figuratively) exploring the old abandoned mine tunnels, swimming in river pools, rock hopping up to the waterfall, watching the Knysna Loeries and foofie sliding into the Sleepy Hollow swemgat surrounded by cliffs and forest.

Take a tent or hire one of their caravans and spend the weekend at the campsite

That, I know, was a mouthful and like any good infomercial I can say, "But it's not all..."  There are a number of other nature trails I haven't even mentioned.  The Maitland Nature Reserve Trail, Aloe Trail, Flamingo Trail, Lady Slipper, Groendal, Van der Kemps Kloof and others.  Add to that the heritage trails of Route 67, the Donkin Heritage Trail and the South End Heritage Trail and there is no reason for you not to want to strap on your boots, grab a backpack, fill your water bottle and pack a few sarmies.  What are you still waiting for?  

Disclosure - This blog post is part of the #SharetheBay Port Elizzabeth #Blogathon 2016 campaign in collaboration with Cheap FlightsNelson Mandela Bay Tourism and Travel Concept Solution.  I keep full editorial control over the post because nobody's going to tell me what I like and not.

Below are the posts of the other eight bloggers that took part in the #Blogathon