Encounter our Eastern Cape Info Letter – September 2022


In the September 2022 issue of Firefly the Travel Guy’s Encounter our Eastern Cape Travel Letter

  • Stop at the Slagtersnek Monument near Cookhouse

  • Walking up Lady Slipper Mountain outside Port Elizabeth

  • Discover the Phillip’s Tunnel in Hankey

  • The historic background of the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park

  • Learn about the history of Port Alfred’s Kowie River

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

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Slagtersnek Monument near Cookhouse

Slagtersnek Monument near Cookhouse. Somerset East monuments. Karoo Heartland monuments

The Slagtersnek Monument is located on the N10 just south of Cookhouse and remembers quite a significant piece of history linked to this district’s early years. It all started in 1815 when a local farmer was shot dead while resisting arrest and that led to a Boer uprising against the ruling British in the area. After the rebels surrendered most of them were either cleared or imprisoned, while five were sentenced to death and hung at Van Aardtspos. The hangman didn’t realise that five were to be hung and didn’t bring enough rope, so he used old leather riempie rope. Four of the nooses broke during the process. The four whose ropes broke pleaded for their lives as prisoners would normally be set free if the rope snapped. Landdrost Jacob Cuyler resisted and ordered that they be hanged a second time. This time they were hung one by one while their wives and children, who were forced to attend the hanging, had to watch.

Read more about the Slagtersnek Monument

Climbing Lady Slipper outside

Port Elizabeth

The view from the top of Lady Slipper

In a way, walking up Lady’s Slipper has become for Port Elizabeth what walking up Lion’s Head is for Cape Town. Lady Slipper Mountain is located west of Port Elizabeth just before the Van Stadens gorge. The walk starts at Falcon Rock and it takes about an hour to hour and a half over a distance of about 2.5km to reach the top. It may not be that far, but the climb starts at 265m above sea-level at the parking area and gains 338m to the 603m high peak, so make sure you are wearing sturdy shoes and have enough water with you.

Relaxing at the top after a climb up Lady Slipper

The view from the top is magnificent. To the west you can see Jeffreys Bay, the Kouga Mountains and all the way to Cape St Francis, to the south the N2 is visible below, you can see the wind farm at Blue Horizon Bay and Van Stadens Mouth and to the east you can see Port Elizabeth on the horizon. Turning around looking north you get glimpses of Uitenhage with the Groot Winterhoek mountain range dominating the skyline to the north with the Cockscomb at its western end.

We can definitely recommend the walk and even more so the view. Really worth the outing up.

More information about walking up Lady Slipper and directions to get there

Phillip’s Tunnel – The first irrigation tunnel in the Gamtoos Valley

Phillips Tunnel in Hankey in the Gamtoos Valley

Hankey was started as a mission station on behalf of the London Missionary Society by Dr John Phillip. The main purpose was to grow corn and mielies for the mission station at Bethelsdorp as well as to carry out evangelistic work in the valley. Dr Philip’s son, William Philip, came to the mission station in 1841 and during his time there the area experienced a serious water shortage. The best way to get water from the Gamtoos River to the settlement’s farmland was to dig a tunnel through the cliff that stood in-between the two. A formidable task indeed but not one that put William off in any way. In 1843 he started the project with the help of Khoi labourers and in just more than a year they completed the 228 meter tunnel. William drowned in the river not long after the official opening of the tunnel which was used for over a century. These days the tunnel is no longer in use because of irrigation canals crisscrossing the valley but it has been declared a national monument and can be visited.

Explore the Gamtoos Valley

Background to the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park

Tsitsikamma National Park aerial photo coastline

The Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park’s spectacular scenery includes the Indian Ocean breakers, pounding rocky shores beneath 180 m high cliffs, evergreen forests and fynbos (proteas and heath) rolling down to the sea in a lush carpet where ancient rivers have carved their path to the ocean through rocky ravines.

The park was established in 1964 and stretches over a distance of about 80km. The original coastal park extended some 59 km between the Groot River (east) at Oubosstrand to the Groot River (west) at Nature’s Valley. This included the areas approximately 800 m landward and 800 m seaward of the low water mark. Today the MPA extends up to three nautical miles offshore. This is one of the largest single unit ‘no take’ (including fishing) Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in the world. In 1964 when it was proclaimed, it became the first Marine National Park to be proclaimed in Africa.

In December 1987 the De Vasselot Reserve at Nature’s Valley was added to the park and in 1989 the Tsitsikamma Forest National Park was deproclaimed and the coastal park became known as the Tsitsikamma National Park. In 2009 the Tsitsikamma National Park, Wilderness National Park and the Knysna National Lakes Area was merged into an area covering more than 1200 square km of land called the Garden Route National Park.

Places to stay and things to do in the Tsitsikamma

The history of Port Alfred’s Kowie River and the Royal Alfred Marina

Aerial view of Port Alfred, Kowie River and Royals Alfred Marina

In 1820, European settlers came to the Eastern Cape area and some settled along the Kowie River mouth. Back then it was a marshy area consisting of a few small islands and expansive reed beds. The settlers saw the potential for a port at the river mouth and in 1821 a small brig was introduced to cross the river mouth. A harbour master was appointed by the Cape government to oversee the development of the area, who named it Port Kowie. In 1825 the name was changed to Port Frances in honour of the wife of Colonel Henry Somerset, son of the Cape Governor at the time.

Historic picture of Port Alfred and the Kowie River

Eventually in 1831, plans for a viable harbour was abandoned. 10 years later, a man named William Cock established the Kowie Harbour Improvement Company. This led to diverting the river flow to form a new channel along the West Bank. The harbour was reopened in 1863 and thrived for the next 20 years, seeing around 100 ships enter the harbour annually. During this period, a town grew around the harbour and it was renamed to Port Alfred in honour of England’s Prince Alfred, who was visiting the country at the time.

The town’s importance started to decline when surrounding areas started developing better harbour facilities. It finally fell into disuse in the 1890’s. Many years passed and the town became an important fishing hub. However, in 1989, the town revitalised when the residential Royal Alfred Marina was developed along the river to cater to recreational crafts of all kinds.

In the last two centuries, at least 50 ships sank in the vicinity of Port Alfred, with at least three in close by Kleinemonde, and another 26 near the mouth of the Great Fish River.

Visit Port Alfred


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