Thursday, July 31, 2014

Hankey's berg window at Vensterhoek

Every time I visit the Gamtoos Valley and drive through Hankey, I look up the cliffs on the western side of the town at the Bergvenster (Berg Window) thinking that I must really make a plan to climb up there one day.  That opportunity came when we spent a Shot Left weekend in Hankey staying at the The Milk House.  I told the Damselfly that I'm heading up there come hell or high water.  She asked why and the answer was twofold.  Firstly because I've never been up there and secondly because there was a Geocache I wanted to find.

The Bergvenster is a natural arch that has been created by weathering of the Enon Conglomerate in the area.  Problem is that there isn't quite a highway or even a proper set of steps going up there.  We parked at the Phillips Tunnel and headed up the path nearby that leads to the top.  The path is rough to say the least and washed away in some areas which meant somewhere along the way we ventured off it without even realizing.  Our chosen "path" did take us to the top though and we only had to backtrack a short distance along the ridge to get to the window.  The return trip was a little more successful in following the path although it did take a lot more hopping and sliding that our original one had us do.

Huffing and puffing to the top of anything always makes you hope it would be worth it and this surely was. WOW, what a view!  The second photo in the post is looking through the window towards Patensie in a westerly direction while the second one has the family looking east towards Hankey.


This last photo is a panorama from inside the window towards Patensie with the Gamtoos River in the foreground, citrus orchards in the middle and the Cockscomb Mountains way off in the distance.  Would I go up there again?  Perhaps not soon as you need an hour or two for the return trip, but I would highly recommend somebody making the trek up there to enjoy the view if they are able to.  

Monday, July 28, 2014

The East London Multicultural Man

 The East London beachfront has a very interesting looking statue which had me scratching my head when I saw it for the first time.  Multicultural Man is a bronze sculpture created by Italian artist Francesco Perilli.  It depicts a faceless man in the middle of the earth who is trying to unite two meridians, while the other meridians are lifted by doves, the universal symbols of peace. The bronze man himself is three meters high and has been designed to represent no particular cultural, ethnic or religious background.  There are five Multicultural Man bronze sculptures located on five different continents of the world.
 
These locations include:
  • Toronto, Canada
  • Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina
  • Changchun, China
  • The City of Whittlesea, Melbourne Australia
  • and obviously East London, South Africa

Sunday, July 27, 2014

R72 sunset

I had to make the 600 kilometer return trip from Port Elizabeth to East London twice this past week.  Luckily for me I enjoy road trips for various reasons and other than my back complaining I really didn't mind going.  Returning from the second trip it started to get late and the sun started to set as I was about 30 minutes east of Port Alfred on the R72.  A quick sunset photo with my phone and I was on the move again to get home before it got too late. 
 

Friday, July 25, 2014

The road through the Transkei

When people talk about the Eastern Cape, Wild Coast and Transkei then the road are always one of the first things mentioned. "The road is bad." "The road is full of potholes."  "The road this", "the road that" and "the road whatever".  I've never been further than just past East London and got to fly to Durban every time I had to go to Indaba.  The only time I drove to KwaZulu Natal I went via the Eastern Free State to avoid "this terrible road".  That was until May this year when I had to drive to Durban for the annual Tourism Indaba and decided to have a look at what the Transkei really looks like. 

What an absolute surprise.  The N2 main road through the Transkei isn't anything like what everybody have always said it was.  Makes me wonder how many of those people have been on it lately.  Yes the taxi's often drive just like they want, but they do it everywhere else as well.  Animals stray onto the road , its the Transkei after all.  But if you don't drive like an idiot then you can easily avoid them.  Umthata gets hectic with its speed bumps and peak hour traffic on a Friday afternoon.  Sit back and enjoy the song playing on the radio.  You can speed along shortly again.  The dirt roads and some secondary tar roads are in a bad condition, but the main road through the Transkei is anything but bad.  Big sections of the road have been fixed or totally overhauled with road works still taking place further north, but otherwise the road is in an excellent condition and well worth driving with its typical Transkei landscapes and scenes.  So next time you have to go from KZN towards the Port Elizabeth and Garden Route area (or vica versa), give the N2 through the Transkei a chance.  You won't be sorry. 

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.