Encounter the Eastern Cape Travel Mailer – May 2024


Autumn has truly settled in, the weather is cooling down and we’re getting more and more of those beautiful mid year sunsets.

Welcome to the May 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:

  • Visit the Mount Ingwe Anglo Boer War Museum outside Port Elizabeth

  • View Grahamstown through the Observatory Museum’s camera obscura

  • Have you visited the Moravian Mission Village of Clarkson in the Tsitsikamma?

  • Enjoy the view of Cradock from Oukop

  • Discover Rhodes Village in in the remote southern Drakensberg

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

The Mount Ingwe Anglo Boer War Museum outside Port Elizabeth

Aerial photo of Salem Cricket Ground by Ron Mackenzie

The Mount Ingwe Anglo Boer War Museum is located about 50km up the Elands River Valley gravel road from Rocklands outside Port Elizabeth. The museum’s collection is the result of 25 years of exploring Anglo-Boer War sites with metal detectors. Owner Lukas van der Merwe and his friends make annual trips to Anglo-Boer War concentration camp sites as well as wartime dumps and farms and the collection includes everything from bullet shells, coins and buttons to badges, horseshoes, pocket knives and many other objects. The museum also has a collection of items found on the site of the Battle of Blaauwberg (8 January 1806) as well as items found on the Driftsands dunes between Summerstrand and Schoenmakerskop in Port Elizabeth.

Lukas can be contacted on 082 072 7747 to make an appointment to visit the museum.

Observatory Museum –

Makhanda / Grahamstown

Sand sledding with Addo Cruises and Sand Sledding in Colchester / Sundays River Mouth

The Observatory in Grahamstown is a unique multi-storeyed 19th-century Victorian shop and home which is now a museum. This house had a place in the identification of the first diamond found in South Africa, and a display on the ground floor tells this story. Its connection with the identification of the Eureka in 1867 prompted De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd. to purchase and restore the Observatory in 1980-82 to commemorate the beginning of the diamond industry in South Africa.
A feature of the Observatory is a special exhibition focusing on Dr William G. Atherstone and the five other main participants who played a role in identifying the diamond. Dr Atherstone became the first surgeon outside Europe and America to perform an amputation using an anaesthetic in 1847.

The museum contains a Camera Obscura (1882), the only historic one built in the Southern Hemisphere. The Observatory was designed by watchmaker and jeweller, Henry Carter Galpin, who lived in Grahamstown from 1850 until his death in 1886. The word ‘Camera Obscura’ refers to a small round building with a rotating angled mirror at the apex of the roof projecting an image of the landscape onto a horizontal surface inside. The impressive Camera Obscura, known as ‘the eye in the sky’, can navigate the entire town, providing a bird’s eye view from North to South and East to West. The camera can show, in live-time, the mirror image transfer of the town.”

A Moravian Mission Village in the Tsitsikamma

The village of Clarkson in the Tsitsikamma is a former mission station of the Moravian Mission Society. It was founded in 1839 by Bishop H.P. Hallbeck with five coloured families from Enon and a Fingo chief with his entourage of farmers. William Wilberforce received 200 pounds from his friend Thomas Clarkson to set up the new mission station that was named after Clarkson. Clarkson spent his adult life working to abolish the Transatlantic Slave Trade and slavery itself. Rev Halter of Enon laid out the station with Church Street as the only street with the Coloured people on one side and the Fingos on the other side of the street. In December 1840 the first church building was consecrated.

Rev Küster was in charge from 1839 to 1859. The missionaries initially also worked as teachers at the station and often offered their services to the surrounding farmers as well. This meant that the farmers’ children were baptised by them and given medical help. Good wheat harvests, indigenous wood and the use of the water mill by the white farmers of the surrounding area generated enough money so that a school could be built in 1864. During both world wars, the German leaders of the mission station were interned. After the Second World War, problems with poor church attendance, livestock theft, alcohol abuse and liquor smuggling started to increase. In 1970 the Moravians withdrew from the control of the village and in 1996 the ownership was transferred to the community. The Fingos who had to move to the Ciskei in 1976 due to Group Areas Act, returned to Clarkson and the surrounding farms in 1994.

Oukop Hill lookout in Cradock

Jeffreys Bay coastline

For the best panoramic view of the town of Cradock, you have to take a drive or walk up Oukop.

The view from the top over the Great Fish River and Cradock is superb.  About 20 meters from the road around the summit of the hill you can see various etchings in the ironstone, carved by British soldiers during the Anglo-Boer War. This hill was used as a lookout post during the Anglo-Boer war and some of the troops killed time by carving these etchings. The best known of the soldiers’ etchings can be found on the western face of a 3m high plinth of ironstone.  The words read “What avail a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul”.

A leisurely trip there, a stroll around the hill enjoying the panoramic views and stopping to view the etchings will take about an hour and a half. The beacon on the summit is only about 3 km from the Town Hall.  The land belongs to the municipality, is open to the public 24 hours a day every day of the year and entry is free of any charge or permit.

Rhodes Village

Storms River Village wheelbarrow garden

Rhodes Village can be found in the remote southern Drakensberg of the Eastern Cape

alongside the trout-rich Bell River, near Ben Macdhui (at 3,001 m the highest mountain in the Cape region). Named after Cecil John Rhodes, the town was founded in 1891 when the farm Tintern, owned by J A Vorster, was advertised for sale in 274 erven or lots. In September 1894, the erf-holders and residents met to petition the government to proclaim Rhodes as a village under the Village Management Act of 1881. Rhodes was proclaimed a township with municipal rights in 1897.

One of the first leading lights of the early days of Rhodes was a Scottish cleric who became a dominee (minister) in the Dutch Reformed Church (NGK), Richard Ross. 

Fluent in both English and Afrikaans, Ross would alternate between the two languages each Sunday while conducting services. During the South African War (also known as the Second Anglo-Boer War), Ross was interned by the British at their concentration camp in Aliwal North. After the war, he vowed to preach only in Afrikaans. The NGK congregation of Rossville was established in 1892 and named for the Rev Ross.

Rhodes Conservation Area was proclaimed through gazetted By-Laws in 1997 under the auspices of the National Monuments Act.

Rhodes Village is a tranquil place of karoohuisies and Victoria-era cottages amidst tall trees (all introduced, as the village is above the tree line). The gentle cooing of turtledoves and the bleating of sheep hardly disturb the quiet dirt streets with their grassy verges, bounded by water furrows lined with dressed stones or river rocks.

Across the pastures, the northern boundary is marked by the Bell River, where the wild trout are. To the south lies the commonage, a peaceful tract of montane grassland with many endemic alpine and sub-alpine plants and flowers. Here you will find the vulture restaurant, frequented by the threatened Cape griffon (Gyps coprotheres) and the bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus).

Rhodes has lots to do for nature lovers seeking the thrill of adventure with everything from wild trout fly fishing to alpine skiing, birding, quad biking, flower viewing, horse riding, greywing hunting, hiking, mountain biking and many other “mountain magic” activities and challenges.

The tranquil village ambience makes for an ideal getaway for city dwellers seeking a break from the stresses of big city life.

Special offers in Storms River Village