Encounter the Eastern Cape Travel Mailer – February 2024


The hot months of summer are here. The days are long and the weather is ideal for exploring. Here are a few ideas of places and things to discover in the beautiful province of the Eastern Cape

Welcome to the February 2024 issue of Firefly the Travel Guy’s Encounter the Eastern Cape Travel Mailer.

This month we look at the following:

  • Discover Eersterivier in the Tsitsikamma

  • Complete the Eight Passes Challenge in the Eastern Cape Drakensberg

  • Learn about the history of Gill College in Somerset East

  • Visit the Bathurst Agricultural Museum

  • Where will you find the oldest grape vine in the Eastern Cape?

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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Eersterivier, the Tsitsikamma’s seaside hamlet

Eersterievier in the Tsitsikamma

The tiny hamlet of cottages and houses lining the beach at Eersterivier is a sought-after holiday destination. No shops, no swarming crowds, just peace and quiet, stunning scenery and fabulous places to swim and explore on good scenic short walks. There are fossil dunes with interesting formations, great rock pools to snorkel (with shoes because of spiny sea urchins), rocky gullies to cool off in and a lovely little beach with waves. Behind the sandstone rocks on the sea side there are spectacular blow holes at high tide, shooting up spray and foam into the air.

Nature lovers should look out for frolicking but shy Cape Clawless Otters, a great many bird species including the lovely Oyster Catcher, stunning Knysna Loerie (Turaco), bushbuck in the lush vegetation, dolphins and, in the right season, whales.

Accommodation in Eersterivier and Kammabaai is available as holiday home rentals with stunning seaviews.

Tsitsikamma Seaside – accommodation in Eersterivier

The Eight Passes Challenge of the Eastern Cape Drakensberg

Naude's Nek on the Eight Passes Challenge of the Eastern Cape

The Eastern Cape Drakensberg is a developing and unspoiled area, perfect for 4×4 enthusiasts and offering superb value for money. For the ultimate driving adventure combine spectacular mountain views with some of the highest passes in South Africa. The Eight Passes Challenge ranges from challenging to tame and from picturesque to spectacular.

The passes include Naude’s Nek between Maclear and Rhodes, the highest dirt road in South Africa with a summit of over 2,920m above sea level. There’s also Volunteershoek Pass, Carlisleshoek Pass, Lundean’s Nek, Joubert’s Pass (the third-highest pass in South Africa), Otto Du Plessis Pass, Bastervoetpad and Barkley Pass, the only tarred road on the 8 passes circuit.

A study of Blackwater streams in the Southern Cape

The history of Gill College in Somerset East

Gill College

Dr William Gill settled in the new town of Somerset East in 1829 and became the District Surgeon. The town was established 4 years earlier after the closure of Somerset Farm. When Gill passed away on 14 September 1863 he left £23 000 to be used to set up and run an institute of higher learning. Gill College was established as a university in 1869 and the beautiful architecture was based on that of the University of Glasgow. In 1903 Gill College became a high school and between 1928 and 1965 it was a school just for boys. Today, Gill College is a proudly South African dual medium high school with boys and girls from all cultures and backgrounds.

Read more about William Gill and Gill College

Bathurst Agricultural Museum

Bathurst Agricultural Museum

The Bathurst Agricultural Museum was established in 1970 with a mere 30 items. It was born out of a passion for preserving the agricultural legacy of the Eastern Cape. This collection has grown to over 1900 items housed in a number of buildings just outside the village of Bathurst.

Many of the items in the collection are both rare and unique and have been donated to the museum. There is something of interest for everyone as the collection ranges from ox-wagons, horse-drawn vehicles, agricultural implements and tractors, steam engines, dairy and household utensils, veterinary equipment, and ostrich incubators to name but a few. Visitors can explore a diverse range of farming implements and equipment, including ploughs, cultivators, mowers, hay rakes, and even witness live demonstrations of the mielie sheller and baling process.

There’s also a Black-smithy that has a variety of purpose-made tongs, bellows and forges with a “Champion” forge designed and patented by a 15 year old in 1885.

The Smithy is operational on Hi-days and Holidays by local smithies plying their trade!

Bathurst Agricultural Museum

Graaff-Reinet’s 153 year old grape vine

The old grape vine at Reinet House in Graaff-Reinet

Behind the Reinet House Museum in Graaff-Reinet, visitors will find a Black Acorn grapevine planted by Charles Murray in 1870 which is said to be the second oldest living grapevine in South Africa. The “trunk” of the vine used to be a lot larger than now but some years ago a big part of it had to be cut away when it picked up a disease. It is said that it took 3 men’s arms stretched out to encircle the stem.

Just for interest’s sake. It is said the oldest grapevine in South Africa can be found in Heritage Square near the Company Garden in Cape Town. It is considered the oldest fruit-bearing vine in the Southern Hemisphere, and after testing it in France, it was determined that the vine, which was planted around 1771, is Gross Chenin Blanc.

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