Encounter our Eastern Cape Info Letter – November 2022


In the November 2022 issue of Firefly the Travel Guy’s Encounter our Eastern Cape Travel Mailer

  • Somerset East, Expect the Unexpected

  • Discover the South African Museum of Literature in Grahamstown

  • Remember the Blaauwkrantz Bridge disaster of 1911

  • Visit the Jeffreys Bay Surf Museum

  • Encounter Waterfall Bluff, the waterfall that drops directly into the sea

If there is something that you would like to see featured in our monthly travel mailer or have any suggestions, please drop us a mail at jonker@fireflyafrica.co.za

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Somerset East – Expect the Unexpected

Somerset East, Expect the Unexpected, Sunset at Angler and Antelope

Somerset East isn’t your typical Karoo town. Located in the Karoo Heartland of the Eastern Cape, the town has a surprise for you around every corner combining a mix of history, scenery, activities, wildlife and interesting people.

Somerset Farm was established in 1815 by Lord Charles Somerset for the purpose of improving stockbreeding in the Cape Colony and providing produce for the soldiers at the Frontier. In 1825 the project was cancelled, a new Drostdy was declared, and the town of Somerset was established. The “East” suffix was only added on 30 years later in order to differentiate it from Somerset West, a town in the Western Cape. Today it’s establishing itself as an unique tourist destination.

Where in the Karoo can you expect fields of flowering coral aloe in winter, barely matched by the West Coast in spring or go wild fly fishing in a dam on top of a mountain or a pool at the bottom of a waterfall? Where can you go for a hike in the Karoo and end up walking through a forest and crossing streams or visit farms with the most exquisite gardens? Where in that same town do you find art from one of South Africa’s most iconic painters or history dating to the 1820s? Add to that close up Big 5 encounters, views for days and sunsets that will leave you breathless. Don’t go to Somerset East expecting just another Karoo town.

Somerset East. Expect the Unexpected

Explore Somerset East

South African Museum of Literature

Amazwi South African Museum of Literature previously the National English Literary Museum in Makhanda (Grahamstown)

The National English Literary Museum in Makhanda (Grahamstown) was founded with a small collection of South African manuscripts by the late Professor Guy Butler of Rhodes University in the 1960s. Butler had a vision of a national repository for South African literary manuscripts, and this was the genesis of the museum. The Thomas Pringle Collection for English in Africa was founded in 1972. In 1974 the institution became the National Documentation Centre for English and in 1980 it became a Declared Cultural Institution, funded by the then Department of Education. Amazwi still maintains close links to Rhodes University.

In 2016 the museum moved into its new custom-designed building and in 2019 the National English Literary Museum was officially renamed Amazwi South African Museum of Literature by the Minister of Arts and Culture. The museum now has a mandate to collect literary artefacts relating to the literatures of all South African languages. The museum building has a 5-star rating from the Green Building Council of South Africa, the first museum in the country to achieve this.

Amazwi South African Museum of Literature previously the National English Literary Museum in Makhanda (Grahamstown)

The permanent exhibitions in the museum depict the literary representation of the South African landscape from early colonial times to the present day. Through literary imaginings the landscape is presented as a physical place with its long history of ownership conflicts, and as an aesthetic symbol of cultural identity. A number of digital exhibitions are also hosted on the museum’s website.

The museum is open weekdays 8.30-13.00 and 14.00-16.30 and by appointment over weekends. Admission is free and and guided tours can be organised by advanced appointment.

Learn more about the South African Museum of Literature

The Blaauwkrantz Bridge disaster

Kowie Railway 4-4-0T, crossing Blaauwkrantz Bridge with a mixed train, c. 1910

The Blaauwkrantz Bridge disaster occurred on 22 April 1911. A mixed train, the “11:10” from Port Alfred travelling to Grahamstown, made up of six goods trucks, three passenger carriages and a guard’s van, came to grief when one of the goods trucks derailed on the Blaauwkrantz Bridge over the Blaauwkrantz Pass and, with the three carriages and the guard’s van, plunged into the ravine 61 meters below. Of the 55 passengers, 28 were killed and 22 seriously injured.

About 200 meters before reaching the bridge a goods truck left the rails. Near the center of the bridge the truck, which was carrying stone to build the Grahamstown Cathedral, turned over and broke the necks of the buffers which detached it from the front of the train. The sudden impact of the rear coaches against the overturned truck caused them to topple over the side of the bridge and turn somersault before being dashed to pieces on the rocks below. The passengers included farmers, farm workers, holidaymakers and commercial travelers on their way to a stock-fair day in Grahamstown.

The locomotive had made it to the other side of the bridge without damage, and so the engine driver raced to Grahamstown to get help.

Bev Young wrote an excellent piece on the disaster on the Heritage Portal website.

Bev Young’s article on the disaster – Heritage Portal

Jeffreys Bay Surf Museum

Jeffreys Bay Surf Museum

Jeffreys Bay is South Africa’s surfing capital and one of the top surfing destinations in the world. Jbay draws surfers from all countries across the globe and hosts the world famous Jbay Open annually. It just seems obvious that there would be a museum telling the story of the sport in this coastal town.

Anybody with just a mild interest in surfing would find wandering through the Surf Museum with all its memorabilia awe-inspiring. The museum pays tribute to the legends and surfing pioneers who developed the well-loved sport which encourages a cultural experience and lifestyle only spoken and understood by a participant.

The museum truly celebrates Jeffreys Bay’s surf history and amongst the memorabilia shows the process of making surfboards, including the progression from wooden- and glass fibre boards to the light foam boards used today. Other memorabilia include original newspaper clippings, articles and pictures documenting the history of surfing in Jeffreys Bay waters.

The Jbay Surf Museum can be found at the Quicksilver shop at 24 Da Gama Road. Entrance to the museum is free and it is open Monday to Friday 09:00 – 17:00, Saturday 09:00 – 14:00 and Sunday 09:00 – 13:00.

More things to do around Jeffreys Bay

Waterfall Bluff – where the river drops into the sea

Waterfall Bluff on the Wild Coast, Eastern Cape

Waterfall Bluff on the Wild Coast is one of South Africa’s iconic waterfalls. It is one of only thirty five waterfalls (some say 19, others 25, but I found two lists naming 35) that flow directly into the ocean. Located just south of the Mkambati Nature Reserve is a phenomenal rock formation where the Msikaba River flows over near-vertical cliffs, creating a series of waterfalls, and finally drops 100m to the Indian Ocean below.

The best way to experience this wonder of nature is on a hike with a guide (including a bit of a 4×4 drive to shorten the distance). Along the way you will see pristine beaches, forests, estuaries, and a wide range of fauna and flora. You may even see the Mkambati Palm which is a miniature coconut palm found in the area. It is not a difficult hike to Waterfall Bluff and you can get right up and even behind the waterfall.

Louis at Magwa Falls – Waterfall hikes
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