Encounter the Eastern Cape Travel Mailer – April 2024


Easter has come and gone and now we’re in South Africa’s international trade show season with WTM Africa and Indaba coming up. Wish I had the budget to attend. Anyhow, then we’re heading towards winter. Can you believe how time is flying?  

Welcome to the April 2024 issue of Firefly the Travel Guy’s Encounter the Eastern Cape Travel Mailer. I hope you learn at least one new thing about the province this month.

This month we look at the following:

  • Discover the historic cricket field in the frontier village of Salem

  • Experience sand sledding down the Colchester dunes

  • Learn about John Kepe, the Bandit of the Boschberg

  • Stumble upon Storms River’s wheelbarrow succulent garden

  • Do you know the history of Jeffreys Bay?

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

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The historic Salem cricket ground in Frontier Country

Aerial photo of Salem Cricket Ground by Ron Mackenzie

The village of Salem is located about 20km South of Grahamstown and was founded as a settlement of the party of 1820 settlers under Hezekiah Sephton. The name is of Biblical origin (Gen. 14:18) and means “peace”; the local application refers to an incident in which Richard Gush succeeded in securing peace with marauding Xhosas by means of a sermon, and gifts of tobacco and pocket knives.

The village’s two churches, the first completed by members of the 1820 settlers’ Sephton Party in 1832, stand elevated above the genteel grass of … a cricket oval.

The Salem Cricket Ground claim to be the oldest ground and club in South Africa which still calls its original ground its home. The first match on this ground was played between colonial settlers in 1844, most probably on a Sunday after the church service.

Salem church

A road ran through the ground until 1960, when, according to the minutes of a club meeting, permission to fill it in and move it was finally granted. It took six years to get permission to do so after a fielder “running to stop the ball, was hit by a cyclist travelling with head down at full speed”.  The road was just there, probably because the settlers wanted to play in front of the church because it played such a big role in their lives that they didn’t care if the road was there or not … Cricket and the church have always been connected.

Sand sledding on the Colchester dunes

Sand sledding with Addo Cruises and Sand Sledding in Colchester / Sundays River Mouth

The Colchester dunes are located along the Sundays River just east of Port Elizabeth. Part of the Alexandria dune field, these dunes aren’t normal beach dunes. They are huge. One of the best ways to experience this stunning place is to cruise down the Sundays River with Addo Cruises and Sand Sledding. But cruising and climbing only allows you to see the dunes for yourself. Why not get the heart pumping a bit and experience them as well on a sand sled? Sand sledding is different from sandboarding in that you don’t have to stand and try to balance to enjoy the experience. Plus you definitely won’t wipe out.

Addo Cruises’ sand sleds are custom-designed and individually hand-made by owner Les Kingma himself. The wooden sleds have been improved over the years to give visitors the ultimate sand sledding experience so there are no struggling to hold on to and pull up a piece of plastic to try and generate speed. All you do is #JustLeanBack and enjoy the ride.  

Sand sledding with Addo Cruises and Sand Sledding in Colchester / Sundays River Mouth
Addo Cruises and Sand Sledding

John Kepe, the bandit of the Boschberg

A scene from "Sew the Winter to My Skin" based on the story of John Kepe

During the late 1940s and early 1950s a notorious vagabond called John Kepe had the town of Somerset East up in arms with a series of petty burglaries, incidences of stock theft and mountainside muggings on the locals.


By the year 1950, local police were logging approximately one incident a week of stock theft and house burglaries from farmers in the Boschberg area. In the meantime, Kepe had succeeded in keeping his true identity as the mysterious Boschberg outlaw a secret. He came into town from time to time to socialise at the community drinking hall and would even join search parties and go on the hunt for himself.

By then Kepe had garnered a reputation among locals. He lived in a secret cave up in the Boschberg and stashed all his ill-gotten gains in another cave nearby. In December 1951 Kepe killed a shepherd and the search for him was stepped up. On the night of 25 February 1952, he was arrested in an ambush and later found guilty by a court of law and executed by hanging at the Pretoria.

A film called “Sew the Winter to My Skin” based on the story of Kepe came out in 2018.

Read the whole story of John Kepe

Storms River’s wheelbarrow succulent garden

Storms River Village wheelbarrow garden

The Tsitsikamma is famous for its unmatched natural beauty and adrenalin-pumping activities.  Most people visit Storms River Village to use it as a base to explore the indigenous forests, explore the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park and do anything from bungy jumping and ziplining to segway tours and river tubing. The village has several well-known and some lesser-known attractions. One of those lesser-known attractions that most people stumble on by chance while taking a stroll through the village is Oom Kallie’s wheelbarrow succulent garden. The garden was a labour of love created by Oom Kallie over years and even though his health means he is unable to continue his work, some locals hope to continue his legacy.

The history of Jbay

Jeffreys Bay coastline

Jeffreys Bay was not always a surf spot. Back in the 1840s Captain Jeffreys, ran a cargo ship, trading up and down South Africa’s East Coast. In 1849 he set up a trading post on the beach at what we know as Jeffreys Bay today and created a distribution point for the local farmers.

By the late 1940s people were coming to Jbay more and more to fish, going out to catch geelbek, steenbra, snoek and leervis. Jbay had developed into a fishing village relatively popular during the holidays.

But Jeffreys Bay was just about to meet surf culture head-on. Bruce Brown’s film The Endless Summer kicked things off when it dropped in 1966. The film’s centrepiece was Bruce’s Beauties in the town of St Francis Bay which led to South African surfers making the trip to the area. In so doing they stumbled upon the more accessible point at Jbay which turned out to be a better surf spot.

One of the surfing world’s crown jewels had been discovered, was mapped and open for business… and pleasure. Located about 3km up the road from the town, there was nothing more than a wave, a dune and an open lot where most surfers camped or slept in their cars… But it was the start of big things.

Trading established the town, fishing developed the town and surfing made it famous. Today it is a popular holiday destination, sought after by both young and old to stay, play and retire in.

Jeffreys Bay Tourism
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