In the March 2022 issue of Firefly the Travel Guy’s Encounter our Eastern Cape Travel Letter
Slide down the Rabbit Hole near Middelburg with food out of this world
Marvel at Hogsback’s Madonna and Child Waterfall
Visit Port St Francis, home to the chokka industry
Learn about the Cape Morgan Lighthouse
Crossing the Buffalo River in East London
Video – Tsitsikamma, a world of diversity
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The Rabbit Hole
A Karoo Heartland foodie venue of note
Hillston Farm is located on the R56 about halfway between the Karoo Heartland towns of Middelburg and Steynsburg. It’s not just a typical working Karoo farm with traditional farm stay accommodation, but also home to one of the Eastern Cape’s foremost foodies. Adrienne Southey grew up on Hillston and always wanted to have a food venue on the farm. She started to transform her brother’s old rabbit shed and opened the Rabbit Hole towards the end of 2021. Just a tin shack serving lamb and potjiekos it’s definitely not.
The Rabbit Hole Karoo Venue is a truly immersive experience. Adrienne don’t just host functions and parties, but also offer cooking classes and demos. Neither of these are the “sit back and watch” kind of experience though. You have to strap on your apron and try it for yourself, keeping in mind that if you mess up that you’re going to have to eat it. So follow her instructions carefully.
The food prepared and served at the Rabbit Hole is anything but ordinary. Adrienne is a qualified chef, has traveled the world and really knows her thing so you will never be disappointed in neither the taste nor the look of the food. The best way to experience both Hillstone and Rabbit Hole is to spend two nights, book dinner for the first night and a full on food experience for the next day. Even better, bring friends along because they’re going to be very unhappy if you don’t and only tell them about it when you get home.
The Madonna and Child Waterfall in Hogsback
Hogsback is known for its beautiful forests, streaming waterfalls and rewarding hikes. The waterfall most visitors want to see is the Madonna and Child Falls. To get to it you can take the short steep hike (an one hour outing) there and back or immerse yourself in the forest by taking the four to five hour journey from Away with the Fairies.
After checking out their world famous bath with a view you head out on the trail descending steeply to the valley floor. The first proper landmark you encounter is the Big Tree, an 800-year old Yellowwood that looms over the rest of the forest at 36.6m high.
Along the way two trails branch off the main trail taking you up to the nearby Swallow Tail Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. Both a bit of a climb but truly worth it. The jewel in Hogsback’s crown though is the Madonna and Child Waterfall.
The falls are situated in the heart of the forest next to a deep plunge pool that offers hikers the chance to cool down a little. Just make sure you don’t forget your camera because its a really beautiful spot.
From here it’s a steep climb up a set of rickety wooden steps to the main road and if you didn’t organise for somebody to come and pick you up, a 3km walk along Wolfridge Road back to the village.
Port St Francis
Home to the chokka industry
Ahhhhh, St Francis Bay.
Beaches, canals, luxury homes, a Jack Nicholas designed golf course, laid-back holiday atmosphere, girls in bikinis (I just wanted to put that in), surfer boys, sundowner cruises and lekker seafood. Like any good infomercial and destination, there’s always a, “But wait, that’s not all…”
Located between St Francis Bay and Cape St Francis is one of the only private harbours in South Africa called Port St Francis. The chokka, or squid, industry in the area started in the 1980s and by the 90s the chokka freezer vessels had become too big to operate out of the Krom River and started using the Port Elizabeth harbour. It meant that a serious need for a small craft harbour in the area was identified to keep the economic spinoffs of the industry in the area. Construction started on Port St Francis and the port opened in 1997, bringing the chokka fleet back to the home. Today the port has 171 recreational moorings and 47 commercial moorings along with a whole residential development around it and a small retail section on the water’s edge.
Cape Morgan Lighthouse
The Wild Coast isn’t called the Wild Coast for nothing. It may be paradise but it can get rough out there if it wants. Strangely though, there are only three lighthouses (some websites say four) along this whole piece of coastline, Cape Morgan in the South, M’bashe roughly in the middle and Cape Hermes at Port St Johns in the North. Out of the three only Cape Hermes is what some would call a traditional lighthouse. One built of brick and mortar. The other two are both lights sitting on top of lattice steel towers. The 12-meter high Cape Morgan Lighthouse was built in 1964 and is located in the Cape Morgan Nature Reserve where it emits two white flashes every 10 seconds with a range of 24 sea miles.
Crossing East London’s Buffalo River over the years
By 1835, and for many years afterwards, there was a wagon-track across the Buffalo River in what is today East London. In 1844 the Buffalo River mouth was surveyed, the landing described as ‘easy’, and the anchorage as ‘excellent’ and free from rocks. In January 1848, the Buffalo River mouth and territory in a radius of 3km around was proclaimed a port.
The harbour scheme started in 1872 and provided for training walls along both banks of the Buffalo River. The theory was that heavy rain would cause a “freshet” or minor flood to scour the river and remove the sand-bar from the mouth, dumping it out to sea. The period from 1872 until 1887, however, was a time of protracted drought and so the bar remained fairly static. Only vessels smaller than 80 tons could enter the river through a narrow gap in the bar. Larger vessels were forced to anchor in the roadstead offshore and any goods and people were transported to and from in lighters.
It became clear that a dredger was needed, and on 31 May 1886, the LUCY, a Holland built steam pump hopper dredger of 290 tons, arrived in port. For the first few months the Lucy worked in the river, but on 28 October she crossed the bar and worked on the outside, the river mouth side. On June 4 1887, the Lucy was through the bar with a depth of just under 4m at low tide. A remarkable improvement! Ships could now enter the harbour.
But more water in the river meant that they needed to find ways to cross the river.
Initially, a pontoon was used to allow the growing communities on the opposite riverbanks to trade. (This is also where Pontoon Road got its name from). Another few years passed, port activities expanded, and it became very clear that a formal bridge had to be built. The Buffalo Bridge was a combined rail and road bridge constructed out of timber and was completed by the Cape Government on 1 January 1908.
A second bridge, the Bruce-Bayes Bridge, was opened in 1935. It had a road on top and the trains ran under the road on the bottom chord of the girder. It was the first dual rail and road bridge constructed in South Africa – and remains the only one of its kind to this day. For a while both bridges were operational.
The city expanded, traffic increased and a new bridge followed. The Biko Bridge, built in 1973, with its cantilever design, epoxy glue and tension cables was a first of its kind in SA.
Source – What’s on in and around East London Facebook group
Tsitsikamma – A world of diversity
Discover, explore and experience a world of diversity in the adventure capital of South Africa, the Tsitsikamma.