Encounter the Eastern Cape Travel Mailer – August 2023


The year is starting to gain momentum and its downhill towards  . Take a breather and read a little bit about our beautiful province. Welcome to the August 2023 issue of Firefly the Travel Guy’s Encounter the Eastern Cape Travel Mailer. This month we look at the following:

  • Follow along the Nieu-Bethesda water furrows

  • Walk on the Cape St Francis Wild Side

  • Visit the Big Pineapple in Bathurst

  • Where is the grave of Sir Percy Fitzpatrick?

  • Learn more about the Lower Van Stadens Dam

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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Nieu-Bethesda’s water furrows

The Nieu-Bethesda water furrows

The village of Nieu-Bethesda has a working network of furrows, with water supplied daily from a spring on the plateau above the village. These ancient stone leivore date back to the early days of the village. Residents who have leivore running past their properties pay a minimal amount for water rights annually and channel water into their gardens using smaller gated funnels on the days when the water flows in that part of town.

Visitors don’t just have to see the water flow through town, it’s also possible to follow the trail up to the spring along the main furrow into town. The walk up the Diepkloof valley, along the furrow and then the stream, takes 2 hours each way. Evidence of otters is common at the various swimming pools and the birding is good. Look for the siphon that channels water under the streambed just before the first good pool.

More things to do in Nieu-Bethesda

A Walk on the Cape St Francis Wild Side

Walking along the Cape St Francis Wild Side

The Cape St Francis Wild Side walk is an easy out-and-back walk of anything up to 9km along the coast from Cape St Francis, with spectacular ocean views especially in whale season.

The starting point of the walk is at the Maori Avenue parking area. If you are driving from St Francis Bay, take the first right after entering Cape St Francis and drive to the end of the road where there is a gravel parking area.  In front of you is Sunset Rocks, a perfect place to watch the sunset on a windless evening.

The pedestrian gate marks the start of the path, which follows the coastline all the way to Mostertshoek, a cluster of seaside homes ideally located for fishermen and whale-watchers. After 1.5km, look on the rocks for the boiler room of the Ospray, wrecked here in 1967. You will pass a green fishing shack at around 2.5km: stay on the shoreline and look for a small rockpile. Turn down to the edge of the rocks to look for the blowhole. When you reach a hairpin bend to the right, where the road goes uphill and inland, it’s time to turn back.   If you get this far, you will have done almost 4.5km. 

On your way back, walk on the beach after you pass the green fishing shack and you will find an unmarked grave just before a huge rock pile. Between June and November look out for Southern Right and Humpback whales, as well as Common, Humpback and Bottlenose dolphins.

Things to do and places to stay in St Francis Bay

The world’s biggest pineapple

The bed grave between Aberdeen and Graaff-Reinet

Everything bigger and better isn’t just in the USA. The 16.5m high Big Pineapple can be found in Bathurst and literally is the biggest manmade pineapple in the world. The fiberglass and concrete structure comprise of 3 floors with a magnificent view from the top all the way to the coast. The structure features a curio and gift shop selling all kinds of pineapple related products while on the middle floor, there is a static display about the pineapple industry that flourishes in the Bathurst area.

The surrounding area is mostly agricultural land known for its pineapple production. Farmers who settled in the area in the 18th century struggled to successfully grow crops until they began planting pineapples.  The Big Pineapple was constructed by members of Bathurst’s agricultural community in the 1980s.

The grave of Sir Percy Fitzpatrick

Sir Percy Fitzpatrick's grave

Jock of the Bushveld is a classic South Africa novel that was written by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick. Very few people know that Sir Percy has very close links to the Eastern Cape though.

Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, (24 July 1862 – 24 January 1931) played a big role in the early development of the Sundays River Valley. After coming to the Sundays River Valley, he founded the Sundays River Settlement Company which encouraged people to settle in the area.  Sir Percy Fitzpatrick played a key role in the establishment of the citrus industry, including the incredible irrigation system – which was his brain child. His idea was to channel water from the Orange River, six hundred kilometers away from Sunland (and the Sundays River Valley), into this arid area thus enabling agriculture to flourish here, as it does today, providing employment for the many and in a thriving citrus export industry.

Fitzpatrick bought a piece of land next to the river from where his guests could enjoy the stunning view of the surrounding valley.  He even had a lookout platform built where visitors can still go to marvel at the view today. After his death he was buried at the Look Out.

Sir Percy Fitzpatrick Lookout
Things to do and places to stay in the Sundays River Valley

The Lower Van Stadens Dam

Lower Van Stadens Dam

The history of Port Elizabeth’s water supply starts way back when Frames Reservoir was built on the Shark River in present-day Happy Valley back in 1864. As the demand for water increased, the need for a bigger dam was identified and the Van Stadens Water Scheme was initiated.

The Lower Van Stadens Dam was the first in the Van Stadens Water Scheme to be completed and 1 September 1880 saw the first water from the Lower Van Stadens Dam flow to Market Square. It was followed by the Upper Van Stadens Dam in November 1893 and by 1907 both the Bulk and Sand River dams also started to supply water to the town. It was at that time that the St. George’s Park service reservoir was brought into commission with the ceremonial opening also being the unveiling of the Prince Alfred’s Guards memorial.

Hiking to the Lower Van Stadens Dam
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