Encounter the Eastern Cape Travel Mailer – July 2024

Cheetah tracking in Mountain Zebra National Park

The winter has well and truly set in. At least Winter Solstice has passed and the days are getting longer again.  Welcome to the July 2024 issue of Firefly the Travel Guy’s Encounter the Eastern Cape Travel Mailer. I hope you learn at least one new thing about the province this month.

This month we look at the following:

  • Discover the Somerset East Museum

  • Visit the Langkloof town of Kareedouw

  • Learn more about the 1820 Settlers at the Bathurst Toposcope

  • Walk through the Arboretum in Hogsback

  • Please note the recommended alternative route to Addo

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

Somerset East Museum

Somerset East Museum

The Somerset East Museum is nestled at the foot of the Boschberg Mountain and is one of the oldest buildings in town.

Wesleyan missionaries were given a site for a chapel and graveyard, and the chapel was consecrated in 1828.  In July 1832 the property was transferred to the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk of Somerset and by 1834 Ds. Morgan asked that the chapel be converted into a parsonage for him to live in. The ground floor took on its present design; namely sitting room, passage, and dining room. An upper floor was added, with two large bedrooms. Fireplaces were built in all four main rooms, and yellowwood floors were installed. Two wings were added, one a kitchen and one a study.

The museum is laid out mostly as a residence to depict the lives of the Dutch Reformed Church ministers that resided in the house, but some additional exhibits have been added to include a more rounded history of the area and all its people. One of these exhibits focuses on the Slagtersnek rebellion.

In 1971, the building, held to be “an exquisite example of a Georgian manor house, was made available as a museum.  The Museum was inaugurated during the celebration of Somerset East’s 150th anniversary in 1975.

Some interesting discoveries made during the restoration included the tiny grave, complete with headstone, found when damaged floorboards were being replaced in the sitting room. This bears the inscription – Sacred to the memory of Alexander Thomas, son of Rev. S.J.H. Kay, who died on 8th May 1828, aged 12 months.


Kareedouw Dutch Reformed Church

The town of Kareedouw is the first town you pass through as you drive along Route 62 in the Langkloof from the eastern side. The gorgeous little town is nestled up against the Suuranys Mountain with the Tsitsikamma Mountains separating it from the Tsitsikamma to the south and the Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area just beyond the Kouga Mountains to the north.

Kareedouw is a pretty rural town that provides easy access to an enviable outdoor lifestyle that includes the Suurveld, Kouga and Baviaanskloof Wilderness area as well as canoe trips along the Kouga River. You come here to escape it all and revel in the outdoors. And if hiking, camping and traipsing across the countryside isn’t your thing, then you remain safely ensconced in the pretty town, a book in your lap, to drink in the views.

The town is simply laid out on a grid, tin roofs and a large stone church predominate with little evidence of development. The town’s main road has the odd restaurant, shop and petrol station and most of the streets are thick with trees, which is no surprise given that the town’s name comes from the Khoe phrase that means ‘path by the Karee trees’.

The Tsitsikamma is a short 7km drive away on the other side of the Kareedouw Pass.

The Toposcope in Bathurst

Bathurst Toposcope by 2Summers

The Toposcope in Bathurst is located on the highest point in the village with a stunning view all around. It was close to this site that Colonel Jacob Cuyler made his camp in 1820 while supervising the placing of the settlers in their locations. While camped here at the same time Sir Rufane Donkin chose the site for the administrative centre to be named Bathurst.

The stone beacon is called Bailey’s Beacon and was erected by Captain W. Bailey as an observing station during his survey of the Eastern Districts, 1855 – 1859.

The circular toposcope has 57 plaques reflecting the names and ships of the Settler parties arriving in the Eastern Cape in 1820 and also points out the locations and distances where they were placed. In 2019 the monument was made inclusive and now includes the various Xhosa chiefs who resisted the 1820 Settlers’ efforts to make their homes here and to acknowledge the history they shared during that turbulent time. The new plaques carry the names of the Xhosa king and five chiefs, who with their clans were the settlers’ protagonists, and point to where their kraals were located with distances also indicated.

Hogsback Arboretum

Hogsback Arboretum

The Hogsback Arboretum was established in 1884 by the British colonial government. It is a living tree museum by all means with the largest Californian Redwoods (Sequoia Sempervirens) in South Africa.

With indigenous forests being pillaged & destroyed in the Southern and Eastern Cape, the 1st forestry trials took place here in 1890 with the planting of non-indigenous trees brought in from all over the world. The Monterey Pine from North America & Wattles from Australia proved to be fast-growing and thrived. The English Oaks & Japanese Cedars (Cryptyomerias) also did well but didn’t make for good timber. By 1910 some 80ha had been planted.

Today this unique public garden is filled with trees from all over the world. Take a walk through the garden and admire the 39 Steps Waterfall, giant Californian Redwoods, Japanese maples, lilies, and hydrangeas, as well as the rare Cape Parrots, Knysna Loerie and Samango monkeys.

There’s the Garden of Remembrance and the Garden of Love where one can plant a tree as a living memorial to loved ones, and one can also enquire about booking a “Forest Wedding”. The Arboretum is a very popular attraction in Hogsback and the perfect alternative for children, adults and the elderly looking to experience something of nature but isn’t up to the hiking routes.

Recommended route to Addo

Recommended route to Addo

Over the past few months, there have been several incidents involving motorists passing through Motherwell Township en route to the Addo area. Community demonstrations also take place regularly with the road being closed with burning objects and stones thrown at motorists.

Tourism in Addo and the Eastern Cape is being damaged by these ongoing incidents. Whereas the Western Cape has seen tourism grow 30% this year, the estimate is that tourism is down 30% in Addo.

What is frustrating is that Addo itself is a very safe destination, and there are safer roads for tourists to use to get there, but they are not being informed of these. A major complication is that Google has been extremely uncooperative in warning travellers about Motherwell Township.

Addo Tourism is requesting/advising all Guest Houses in the preceding areas along the Garden Route and Nelson Mandela Bay to the Addo to please inform guests of the following:

  • Do not use Google Maps if it sends you through Motherwell Township near Port Elizabeth / Gqeberha

  • Addo itself is a safe destination and there are safe alternative routes to get there

  • Please attach the Addo Tourism tourist map which advises on recommended routes.

Segway winter promotion