Experience our Eastern Cape Info Letter – May 2021

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Welcome to the first of the new Experience our Eastern Cape “travel letters”. It’s definitely not a newsletter anymore. No more news you get in tourism publications, stats you receive via email or boring stuff that get’s put in to fill up the space. Going forward we want you to get to know more about the province and what visitors can see, learn some history, discover new places and see beautiful pictures. If you enjoy it. please share it with your friends, colleagues, visitors and anybody else you think would like it.

In this issue we look at the history of the Van Stadens bridges, how water gets from Gariep Dam via the Karoo Heartland to Port Elizabeth, share a comprehensive visitor’s guide to Bathurst just off Route 72, meet the Big 7 with Addo Tourism and enjoy a stunning destination video about the Tsitsikamma.

The Van Stadens road bridges

The Van Stadens River is located about 35km west of Port Elizabeth and was named after one of the area’s early pioneer farmers, Marthinus van Staden, who was the first person to plot a rough track through the gorge. The very first pass through the gorge was built in 1852. By 1865 a drift was built over the river. In December 1939 the concrete bridge across the Van Stadens River at the bottom of the current pass was completed and put into use.

During the 1960s, a plan was unveiled which proposed to build bridges over the most notorious passes in the Southern Cape. These included the Storm’s River, Blaauwkrantz as well as Van Stadens. The present N2 bridge over the gorge was completed on 12 October 1971, has a main span of 198m and is 125 metres above the gorge. The two halves of the arch were constructed simultaneously from both sides.

It takes you less than 30 seconds to pass over the bridge, but the 15 minutes detour through the pass with a photo stop is well worth the extra time.

The way of the water from Gariep Dam to PE

Looking at the Fish River flowing over the Katkop Weir near Lowlands Country House about 30 minutes north of Cradock one doesn’t always think about where the water comes from. It’s a river after all. That is until you realise that you are in the semi-arid Karoo Heartland. So where does this water come from and where does it go?

This water has its origin in the Gariep Dam, South Africa’s biggest dam located on the border between the Eastern Cape and the Free State. The Orange-Fish water devised in the mid 1900’s to supply water to some of the arid parts of the Eastern Cape. Water gets diverted from Oviston, about 30km upstream from the dam wall, through the Orange-Fish tunnel. Construction on the tunnel started in 1966 and it was opened in 1975. The 82.8km long tunnel’s outflow is located by Teebus, a well know Karoo koppie near Steynsburg.

From here the water flows down the Teebusspruit to Grassridge Dam and into the Fish River. On the way past Cradock towards Cookhouse, dairy and crop farmers use the water for irrigation. Near Cookhouse the water gets diverted to the Small Fish and again towards Darlington Dam and the Sundays River. Flowing through the Sundays River Valley the water gets used to feed the multi million rand citrus industry located in the Kirkwood and Addo region. Before the river reaches the ocean at Colchester, water again gets diverted to the Nooitgedacht water scheme that supplies water for household use in some parts of Nelson Mandela Bay.

A Visitor’s Guide to Bathurst

Route 72 on the Sunshine Coast between PE and East London is about beautiful beaches, magnificent river estuaries, stunning game reserves and lekker activites. But it’s also like an infomercial, because wait, there is always more. A short detour off the R72 from Port Alfred brings you to the historic 1820 village of Bathurst. It’s the perfect place to slow down and learn a little more about the history of the 1820 British Setters and the frontier country while enjoying the area’s scenic beauty.

US born, Johannesburg based travel writer Heather Mason of 2Summers visited recently and compiled an excellent Visitor’s Guide to Bathurst which is a must for anybody thinking of exploring the village and surrounds.

Meet the Big 7

The Big 5 of the animal kingdom is made up of the Elephant, Lion, Buffalo, Rhino and Leopard. Add to that the Southern Right Whale and Great White Shark and you get Africa’s Big 7. Addo Elephant National Park isn’t just the third largest national park in South Africa, but also the only park in the world that contains the Big 7 within it’s conservation area.

Addo Tourism recently launch their new website and in the Guides section there is a very nifty Big 7 download containing all seven members of this exclusive group.


Come and Explore the Tsitsikamma