The year is halfway and the Covid19 restrictions is making life tough for a lot of people in the hospitality and tourism industry. This is the time to encourage locals to travel and to promote everything there is to do in the Eastern Cape as much as possible.
This month the Experience our Eastern Cape “travel letter” has a look at the legend of Hole in the Wall on the Wild Coast. We also go fly fishing in the Karoo and hiking in the Kabeljous Nature Reserve outside Jbay. There is a little history on the Addo Elephant National Park that turned 90 this month, info on the labyrinth in Hogsback and a travel Bucket List of the Tsitsikamma to help plan your next visit. We end off with a stunning video showing off Route 72 on the Sunshine Coast.
The legend of Hole in the Wall
Hole-in-the-Wall was named by Captain Vidal of the vessel Barracouta, sent by the British Admiralty in 1823 to survey the coastline between the Keiskamma River and Lourenço Marques (now Maputo). Vidal took his ship to within 800m of the coast, and described in his log “where two ponderous black rocks above the water’s edge, upwards of 80 feet above its surface, exhibiting through the phenomenon of a natural archway”, prompting him to name it the Hole-in-the-Wall.
The local Bomvana people named the formation ‘EsiKhaleni’, or the Place of the Sound. Local legend has it that the river running through the Hole-in-the-Wall (Mpako River) once formed a landlocked lagoon as its access to the sea was blocked by a cliff. A beautiful girl lived in a village near the lagoon cut off from the sea by the mighty cliff. One day she was seen by one of the sea people – semi deities who look like humans but have supple wrists and ankles and flipperlike hands and feet – who became overwhelmed by her beauty and tried to woo her. When the girl’s father found out he forbade her to see her lover. So at high tide one night, the sea people came to the cliff and, with the help of a huge fish, rammed a hole through the centre of the cliff. As they swam into the lagoon they shouted and sang, causing the villagers to hide in fear. In the commotion the girl and her lover were reunited and disappeared into the sea.
At certain times of the year, it is said, the music and singing of the sea people can be heard. Xhosa legend holds that this is the gateway to the world of their ancestors.
The Kabeljous River Nature Reserve at Jeffrey’s Bay
The Kabeljous Nature Reserve is a 180-hectare reserve that includes parts of the Kabeljous River and estuary, as well as extensive wetlands, valleys, forest and 2,5 km of beautiful coastline with vegetated sand dunes. A picnic area is also available at the Estuary.
There is a hiking trail to suit everyone. These vary from 500m to 8km. You can access the trail off the R102 as well as starting on the south side of the estuary, where you can park beside the picnic sites and then walk along the banks towards the ocean.
Enjoy plenty of bird sightings, with more than 100 bird species in the area, and thousands of red-knobbed coots that nest in these waters. Once on the main path, you’ll walk through the coastal thicket with the opportunity to spot bushbuck, duiker, and grysbok. The view from the lookout over the coastline and surrounding bush is simply stunning. When heading down the dunes of the beach be sure to watch out for the nests of African black oystercatchers.
The reserve is maintained by a group of volunteers called the Kabeljous River Action Group (KRAG) that put in a lot of time maintaining the trails and clearing out alien vegetation. Members of the group recently came across an elephant tooth thought to be over 250 years old, proving that elephants once roamed the area.
Fly fishing in the arid Karoo Heartland
The Karoo is classed as arid and semi-desert, which means that people don’t associate it with fly fishing. But even though the Karoo is always imagined as semi-desert, it is far more diverse than that. Somerset East has five biomes within 20 km of the town. These biomes include Savannah, Grassland, Nama Karoo, Thicket, and Forest. The Boschberg Mountain that hugs the town also creates a micro-climate, which, under normal circumstances, provides the area with an average of 30 inches of rain each year. In good rainy seasons, fifteen waterfalls can be seen from the town on the Boschberg Mountain.
Wild Fly Fishing in the Karoo has secured exclusive access to several dams (still waters) and stretches of river in the Somerset East district for fly fishing. When you fly fish these exclusive waters, you will experience the majesty of the Karoo, with no interruptions – well, except maybe a trophy sized trout at the end of your fly line! The best catch is a 6.48 kg (just over 14 lb) rainbow trout hen that was caught in the river in 2013, a record size for river trout in South Africa.
Addo Elephant National Park celebrates 90 years
South Africa’s third largest national park, Addo Elephant National Park, turned 90 years old on the 3rd of July. The Eastern Cape park has grown exponentially since being proclaimed in July 1931 – from conserving the last remaining 11 elephants in the area on 4 500 hectares to now being home to over 600 elephants and a diversity of other species and landscapes over 176 000 terrestrial hectares and a further 114 000 marine hectares which make up the Addo Elephant National Park Marine Protected Area.
Major PJ Pretorius was tasked with exterminating the elephants in 1919
The park’s first warden, Harold Trollope, were tasked to drive the elephants in the area into the park after it was formed in 1931. He started putting out hay, pumpkins, pineapples and oranges in attempt to keep the elephants within the park’s boundary. The plan worked, and soon the elephants learnt to expect regular evening feed.
Graham Armstrong, warden from 1943-1960, built the elephant proof fence which was the decisive factor in assuring the survival of the Addo elephants. The fence was constructed using railway lines, poles and elevator cables. Hence the name, ‘Armstrong fence’.
As late as the 1970s, the elephants were still being viewed feeding on oranges on the outskirts of the park.
Hogsback’s Labyrinth at The Edge
The Labyrinth at The Edge is an eleven-circuit Labyrinth, similar in design to the Labyrinth in the Chartres Cathedral in France. It is one of the most intricate Labyrinth designs, and has a diameter of 29 meters and a circumference of 91 meters. The length of the pathway is 700 meters, and the total distance of the walk to the center and out is 1.4 kilometres, making it one of the largest Labyrinths in the world! It was completed in 2002 and has a stunning view of the valley below. Visitors are welcome to walk the labyrinth at any time.
What’s on your Tsitsikamma bucket list?
Explore Route 72 on the Sunshine Coast