Encounter the Eastern Cape Travel Mailer – January 2024


Happy New Year. May 2024 be a prosperous year with so many blessings bestowed on you that you’ll start to feel embarrassed.   While you’re planning the year ahead why not take a break, enjoy a coffee and read a little bit about our beautiful province?

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

This month we look at the following:

  • Wander through the Cradock Four Garden of Remembrance

  • Why is the water in the streams in the Tsitsikamma brown?

  • Ever wondered about the little mill building in Somerset East?

  • Learn about the bridges of Port Alfred

  • Who was John Lister and why is there a memorial to him in PE?

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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Cradock Four Garden of Remembrance

Cradock Four Garden of Remembrance outside Cradock

The Cradock Four was a group of four anti-apartheid activists who were abducted and murdered by South African security police in June 1985, named as such as all four were from the town of Cradock. The South African apartheid government denied that they had ordered the killings, but a document leaked to the press years later resulted in the removal of several police officers. At the second inquest, a judge ruled that the “security forces” were responsible, but named no one individual.

On 27 June 1985, Matthew Goniwe, Fort Calata, Sparrow Mkhonto and Sicelo Mhlauli, were detained by the security police outside Port Elizabeth. Goniwe and Calata were rumoured to be on a secret police hit list for their active participation in the struggle against apartheid in the Cradock area. The South African security police murdered them and burned their bodies.

In 2009 the Cradock Four Garden of Remembrance was unveiled just off the N10 as you leave Cradock going south. The facilities include a visitor centre and amphitheatre, as well as a research and exhibition area that will facilitate the hosting of educational tours and events in the heartland of the Karoo. 

More attractions around the Karoo Heartland

Why is the water in the Tsitsikamma streams brown?

The brown water of the Tsitsikamma

Have you noticed how a lot of the streams in the Tsitsikamma and elsewhere on the Garden Route have a brown colour? The discolouration of the water isn’t due to pollution. In fact, it’s perfectly good to drink. The water receives it’s colour from the tannins picked up as it flows through the surrounding Fynbos and the humus layer of the forest floor. This vegetation literally acts like a teabag, colouring the water.

A little bit more scientific. The darkest, most acidic rivers originate in coastal mountains, flow through Fynbos and forests and drain straight into an estuary or directly into the sea, such as the Storms River in the Tsitsikamma. By contrast, rivers with well-developed zones – mountain streams, foothills, lower rivers and estuaries – are less acidic and relatively clear. As the streams merge into rivers downstream, they are affected by the landscapes through which they flow, as well as human activities. Higher total dissolved solids(TDS) and turbidity in the lower reaches of these rivers result in more alkaline, buffered systems that are not as brown. Read more in the link below.

A study of Blackwater streams in the Southern Cape

The old mill building in Somerset East

Somerset East old mill building

One of the structures in Somerset East that draws a lot of comments and speculation about its origins is the little building on the corner of Paulet and Beaufort Streets.

The general thought is that it was a mill dating back to the early days of Somerset Farm although there are people who differ in opinion.

Information collected by Sheila van Aardt suggested it was used as a mill with the water wheel on the Beaufort Street side of the building. The water used came from a small stream that flowed down the side of Beaufort Street. An aqueduct supported by crossed poles bridged Paulet Street so that it didn’t have to flow over the street and cause damage to it.

The building stands on private land and it could be a great addition to the surrounding historic precinct of Paulet Street with the Walter Battiss Art Museum across the road and the Somerset East Museum a little further up Beaufort Street.

Visit Somerset East

Port Alfred’s bridges

Port Alfred arch bridge

Port Alfred’s Kowie River sports three interesting or historic bridges.

The beloved ‘Coathanger’, the Nico Malan Bridge on the R72, was built in 1972 as part of the construction of the R72 between Port Elizabeth and East London. The bridge has enjoyed glorious moments of illumination in years past, especially over Christmas.  At those times it was believed to be the only illuminated bridge in the country. The Nico Malan Bridge has a length of 0.19 kilometres.

Putt Bridge permanently connected the Kowie’s East bank with the West for the first time and was the first reinforced concrete bridge in South Africa. It was completed in 1907 and named after Henry Putt, the mayor, and for 26 years Railway manager of Port Alfred.

The quaint Sister Peters’ Bridge, repaired in the 1930s, spans the entrance to the Kidds Beach lagoon and was named after a local midwife who raised funds for its restoration and used it regularly.

Historic Port Alfred

The Lister Memorial in Port Elizabeth

Lister Memorial in Port Elizabeth

The area along Port Elizabeth’s southern coastline which is reached via Marine Drive is where the Driftsands area can be found.  In the late 1800’s the movement of sand dunes towards the town was very worrying to the town council and plans were devised to stop the sand from “invading” and overrunning Port Elizabeth.  One of the things done was a railway line that was built along the dunes and all the town’s garbage was taken out there by train and dumped on the dunes.  In the late 1880s Josep Storr Lister came up with an idea to stabilise the dunes by planting Port Jackson trees and exotic grasses. 

He commenced his work in 1890 and was successful in stabilising the dunes both in Port Elizabeth as well as on the Cape Flats in Cape Town.  Only problem though is that the exotic species have today become a problem in the area and we now work towards eradicating them and allowing indigenous coastal bush to take its place.  A small stone monument stands in Summerstrand next to Marine Drive as a memorial to the work Lister did.  Unfortunately, the plaque that told the story on the memorial got wings and disappeared many years ago.

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