Experience our Eastern Cape Info Letter – January 2022


In this issue of ECTOUR’s Experience our Eastern Cape Travel Letter

  • Discover Eersterivier, the Tsitsikamma’s beach

  • Explore the dune fields along the Alexandria Hiking Trail

  • Climb up to Hankey’s Bergvenster

  • Learn more about the village of Rhodes

  • Did you know Hofmeyr had a pink church?

  • 10 Things to do in Coffee Bay

  • All the must see places on the Karoo Heartland Bucketlist

  • Hike along to the Lower Van Stadens Dam with this short video

If there is something that you would like to see featured in our monthly “travel letter” or have any suggestions, please drop us a mail at info@ectour.co.za.

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Eersterivier – Tsitsikamma’s beach

The area around Eersterivier is really beautiful but the main attraction is the beach. It’s is a rugged and rocky coastline but there are lots of little coves and gullies along with the main beach on the western side of the village. The centerpiece of the beach are fossil dunes with very interesting sand stone features. It is here that you find one of the most inviting swimming spots around, the blue hole.

At low tide you can take a walk around the sea side of the sand stone formations and look for the blowholes. With every wave water shoots up into the air from them, sometimes quite spectacularly. When you explore the rock pools and around the back of the sand stone formations, just be aware and keep an eye out for spiky sea urchins, specially if you have children with you and the incoming tide. The pools and gullies are excellent for snorkeling so bring your equipment with you if you would like to explore a bit under water as well. Another warning though. Keep within the safe zones when swimming and snorkeling as there are dangerous rip tides beyond the rocks and gullies.

In addition to beach walks there is also a couple of short hiking trails in the area where you walk through the surrounding fynbos, some that follow the top of the coastal cliffs and look down on the whole area from above. Golfers would love the nearby 9 hole Fynbos Golf Club with its views of the ocean and the Tsitsikamma Mountains as a background. About 30 minutes away is Storms River Village with its forest walks and adrenalin filled adventure activities.

Eersterivier isn’t a proper village so there are no shops and atm’s. Luckily the Oudebosch Farm Stall is only about 10 minutes away with most visitors getting what they need from the supermarket there. Its also ideal for breakfast and lunch or just a quick coffee and milkshake.

More info on accommodation at Eersterivier

Alexandria Hiking Trail

The two-day Alexandria Hiking Trail in the Woody Cape section of the Addo Elephant National Park is a 32 km, two-day circular trail. The first day covers 18.5 km and the second day, 13.5 km. The trail is a meander through untouched wilderness and almost unparalleled biodiversity. Hikers traverse three distinct environments: ancient forest, dunes and coastline with magnificent views of the bay, Bird Island, and almost endless dune-fields.

Birders and nature-lovers can expect to be endlessly fascinated by the bird life, changing scenery and pristine environment. Investigate the wreck of an old steamer, listen for the call of the colourful Knynsa turaco, wonder at the marine life of rock pools and stroll amongst towering forests – this coastal hike in the Addo Elephant National Park is for serious hikers who enjoy the natural beauty and open space of the Eastern Cape.

Overnight on the trail is in the Woody Cape hut while the Langebos Huts are situated at the trail base, providing accommodation for the beginning and/or end of the hike. A minimum of three hikers and a maximum of 12 hikers are allowed on the trail, per day. The trail will not be booked exclusively for one group, unless they are 12 in number. The trail costs R170 per person per night. Hikers also need to pay the daily conservation (entry) fee.

Bookings for the trail are administered through:

Camp Matyholweni
Tel: +27 (0)41 4680916/8
Email: matyholweni@sanparks.org

More info on the Alexandria Hiking Trail

The Gamtoos Valley Bergvenster

The Bergvenster just outside Hankey in the Gamtoos Valley is a natural arch that has been created by the weathering of the Enon Conglomerate in the area. It’s located above the historic Philips Tunnel and right next to the Mooihoek strawberry farm. The path to the top recently saw some renovations taking place, but its still a steep climb. The view from the top across the mosaic of farmlands is breathtaking and well worth the effort though.

More information on attractions in the Gamtoos Valley

The village of Rhodes

Pioneering farmers settled the more remote areas of the Highlands of the Eastern Cape in the 1880s. Prior to this, the only inhabitants of this inhospitable region were seasonally migratory members of the San tribe. They, at least, were sensible enough to follow the exodus of most game species out of the mountains during the harsh winter months!

The origins of Rhodes lie in the establishment of agricultural activities and the concurrent development of the Dutch Reformed Church in the region. It was founded on the farm Tintern that belonged to a Mr Jim Vorster. Vorster agreed to the establishment of the village on condition that 100 plots be sold and that it be named after the then Prime minister of the Cape, Cecil John Rhodes (1853-1902). A Mr Shaw of Sauer & Osmond duly sold the plots and Rhodes was founded on 16 September 1891. The rest of the farm was given to the village as commonage.

The village is 1840m above sea level and 16km due south of the Kingdom of Lesotho. The towns of Maclear, Ugie and Elliot that lie below the nearby escarpment surround it. Barkly East lies above the escarpment to its west, about 60km or at least 60 minutes drive from the village on a narrow and winding gravel road that must be driven with care. Rhodes is a remote village, almost frozen in time, a relic from the past and a living record of the trials and tribulations of the surrounding farming community. The unique nature of the architecture finds its origins in the Victorian era and is a compromise between fashion, availability of materials and practicality. Houses range from grand traders’ residences to flat-roofed ‘kerk-huisies’ used as town houses in days gone by when travelling to the village, mostly on horseback, from the surrounding farms was a major outing. These buildings are sprinkled amongst tree-lined streets and all contribute to the quaint charm of the atmosphere. With a view to maintaining the character and ambience, the village was proclaimed as a Conservation Area in Government Gazette no. 18152 on 25 July 1997.

Information courtesy of Rhodes Info

What to do and where to stay in Rhodes?

The pink church of Hofmeyr

The small Karoo town of Hofmeyr is located about 63km northeast of Cradock and was founded in 1873. The town was initially named Maraisburg but as there was already another town in the Transvaal with the same name, it was decided to rename it Hofmeyr in 1911, in honour of Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr – an ardent campaigner for the equal treatment of Afrikaans and English, and a prominent figure in the Eerste Taalbeweging.

One of the town’s landmarks is its pink church. The Dutch Reformed Church was built in 1875 and one of the features of the church is the antique wind organ which stand high above the pulpit. Unfortunately there’s only about 50 people that worship here on a Sunday which is largely due to the fact that so many young people move to the cities and the platteland is getting more and more depopulated.

10 Things to do in Coffee Bay

Attractions are numerous in the Coffee Bay / Hole in the Wall area of the Wild Coast and include fishing, hiking, swimming, surfing, cycling, horse riding, quad biking and cultural tours.

Here are 10 things to do in the Coffee Bay / Hole in the Wall area.

1. Take a drive to the world famous Hole in the Wall
2. Hike to Hole in the Wall with a guide along the goat paths
3. Learn to surf at Coffee Bay main beach
4. Take a guided hike to Mapuzi Cliffs and Caves
5. Horse riding on Coffee Bay beach and the surrounding hills
6. Enjoy a village dinner of a fun night of dancing and singing with traditional
Xhosa food and beer or a seafood dinner at one of the local hotels or
7. Climb Sugarloaf Hill and enjoy the views from the top
8. Kayak up the Mthatha River
9. Learn to play the Djembe drum or laze in a hammock
10. Go after the big one while doing rock or surf fishing

Explore the Karoo Heartland region:
Where the Land meets the Sky

Hiking to the Lower Van Stadens Dam outside Nelson Mandela Bay

Hiking the Lower Van Stadens Dam
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