Encounter the Eastern Cape Travel Mailer – April 2023


Welcome to the April 2023 issue of Firefly the Travel Guy’s Encounter the Eastern Cape Travel Mailer. This month we look at the following:

  • Discover the Colchester sand dunes, part of the Alexandria Dune Field

  • Cross the old Gamtoos River Bridge

  • Visit the Quin Sculpture Garden in Alexandria

  • Have you ever heard of the “Stoel Monument” in Middelburg?

  • Venture onto the Van Stadens Railway Bridge

If there is something that you would like to see featured in our monthly travel mailer or have any suggestions, please drop us a mail at jonker@fireflyafrica.co.za

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Colchester sand dunes, part of the Alexandria dune field

Colchester sand dunes, part of the Alexandria Dune Field

The massive Colchester sand dunes west of the Sundays River mouth are part of the Alexandria dune field. The Alexandria dune field is considered to be the best example in South Africa of bare a coastal dune field, often referred to as a dune sea. It is the largest and least degraded coastal dune field in the southern hemisphere. It offers a unique and extraordinary wilderness resource which only a few other landscapes in South Africa provide while it also imparts an unique experience of solitude, infinity and spatial freedom.

The Alexandria dune field has a surface area of about 15 800ha, stretching over 60km in length, with a width of up to 5km in places. The higest dune in the system is 140m high. The dune system is extremely dynamic with sand being continually blown in, building up and traversing inland. Some 375 000 cubic tons of sand is deposited into the dune fields each year.

Sand sledding on the Colchester sand dunes with Addo Cruises and Sand Sledding

The dunes at Colchester are best experienced with Addo Cruises and Sand Sledding. The experience starts with a cruise down the river from Cannonville on the Sundays River Ferry. After reaching the sand dunes its time to stretch your legs and climb to the top of the dunes for a magnificent view of the river below, the surrounding dunes and Algoa Bay in the distance. This is followed by sand sledding on Captain Les’ custom designed and hand made sand sleds. The visit to the dunes are closed off with the opportunity to sled down the “Mineshaft” and into the (more like on to) the river before cruising back to the jetty.

Book your cruise and sand sledding experience

The old Gamtoos River Bridge

The old Gamtoos River Bridge

When the first Dutch trekboers got to the Gamtoos River in the latter part of the 1700’s, they had to move some ways upstream to find a suitable spot to cross the river. In the mid 1800s a pontoon was used roughly where the Gamtoos Ferry Hotel is today. Crossing a broad tidal river in such a primitive way meant that carts and wagons were often delayed on either side of the river for several days owing to the inability to cross.

There was a call for a bridge to be erected and the present bridge on the old road was decided on. The bridge was completed and opened on the 3rd December 1895 at a cost of £20,000. The bridge is a single lane road and still open to traffic.

More information about the old Gamtoos Bridge

Quin Sculpture Garden in Alexandria

Art in the Quin Sculpture Garden in Alexandria

Most people whizz through the town of Alexandria on Route 72 en route to the Sunshine Coast, but if you slow down and turn off, the Culture Vulture in you may just have an enjoyable “meal”.

Twenty-five years ago saw the opening of the Quin Sculpture Garden and Gallery to the public and since then this mecca of art has become a major attraction for art loving people from all over the country and world. Maureen Quin has been an artist and sculptor for 65 years and the garden and gallery consist of a collection of more than 100 sculptures, paintings and sketches. It represent a lifetime of work extending from Quin’s student days in London, to her latest sculptures.

In her garden wildlife studies, portrait busts and figure studies are beautifully displayed at water features and amongst shrubs and trees. In the well-appointed gallery, her collection of sculptures include the thought provoking “Hunt Series” displayed in a specially designed gallery, the “Ballet Series” and the “Interaction Series” of sculptures, while in adjoining gallery her pencil and charcoal sketches are on view.

Visitors can also enjoy as many cups of tea/coffee/lemon syrup as they like under the Jacaranda tree.

Learn more about Maureen Quin and the Quin Sculpture Garden

Middelburg Stoel Monument

Middelburg Stoel Monument

On 4 September 1901, during the South African War, Commandant JC Lötter and his right-hand man, Lieutenant Pieter Wolfaardt along with most of the members of their commando were captured south of Graaff-Reinet.

One of the top commandants in the Cape, Lötter was known for his daring “hit and run” tactics. Earlier in the war, after the British had introduced their shocking scorched earth and concentration camp policies, Lötter and the commandos had been allowed to retaliate. Having burnt houses belonging to loyalists, executed spies and whipped those he considered traitors, Lötter stood accused of “murder, marauding and disgraceful conduct of a cruel nature” and was charged with human rights violations and war crimes.

The two men received the death sentence in Middelburg on 11 October and the following day Lötter was taken to a spot next to the Richmond Road where he was tied to a chair and shot. He was buried there and this is where the Stoel Monument (Chair Monument) still stands. Three days later Wolfaardt was taken to the same place, where he shared Lötter’s fate. The two were buried in the same grave. Six years later, the remains of both men were dug up, placed in one coffin, and reburied in the Middelburg cemetery.

Read more about the Stoel Monument

The Van Stadens Railway Bridge

The Van Stadens railway bridge is the second highest railway bridge in South Africa and the highest narrow-gauge bridge in the world. Construction on the bridge was completed in 1905 and the bridge is 156m long, 77m high and contains 1 112 cubic meters of concrete and 574 tons of steel.

This narrow-gauge line from Port Elizabeth was authorised in 1899 and construction commenced in 1902, reaching the town of Avontuur in the Langkloof late in 1906. The line was built to connect the scenic Langkloof with its fruit-growing industry to the port of Port Elizabeth. The official opening of the line was in 1907, with a mainline track length of 284km from Port Elizabeth to Avontuur. The 30km branch line from Gamtoos Junction to Patensie was completed in 1914 to serve this citrus-producing area. The line has not been used since the Apple Express stopped running along here in 2010.

Unfortunately the bridge has seen better days. You can still walk and mountain bike across the bridge and a lot of people making use of the trails in the area do. It’s a scary experience though so don’t look down.

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