Saturday, June 12, 2010

Algoa & Home

The Cockscomb is a landmark from all sides.  I was riding down from Kirkwood to Uitenhage.

This is the old court house named Victoria Tower – very Teutonic. But notice the big Royal Coat of Arms still above the door – I am amazed that survived when SA became a Republic.  I am very pleased it did as it adds to the interest of the building.  Above it is a boars head (griffon?), I don’t know what the significance of it is.  Things like that may be offensive to some but if they obliterate them when they gain control a piece of our heritage is lost.  If all the ghastly mine hostels with concrete bunks on the Reef are knocked down what will there be for later generations to visit to appreciate the awful conditions their predecessors lived in?

Beside it is this Dutch Reformed church.  I very much like the colour scheme and the dignified but restrained design.  An unusual church.  I said I did not much care for all the decorations on the DRC in Graaff-Reinet.  Well this is bit the other way to me – very harsh without any decoration. Apparently the people of Graaff-Reinet felt the same for their previous church was very much like this so that wedding cake was the reaction when they built the present one.  The two buildings standing near each other make a grand sight.

I had my usual late breakfast and beer at the wonderful Browns cafe in Uitenhage.

Burchell went out to Cape Recife.  In PE I wanted to see the replica of the cross that Dias erected at Cape Padrone (near Kenton-on-Sea).  It is in the Mayor’s garden.  It is not shown by Garmin or T4A so I asked & was directed to this cross.  Not the one I wanted.  The inscription reads ‘In memory of those seafarers who searched for Prester John 1145 – 1645’.  Dias was here in 1488; I wonder which seafarers are commemorated from before that date.

This is the first stone built building by Europeans in the Eastern Cape.  Daniell picture of Fort Frederick built 1799 by British.

It is not very clear but this is a similar view.  The Bakens River has now been filled in and developed with industrial warehouses.

The upper wooden superstructure has been lost.

I then headed out towards Cape Recife.  I was really impressed by the PE seafront.  It is not well looked after (PE is a very poorly administered city) but the road is set back from the coast with no buildings between the road and coast.  The whole way you have this public open space between the ocean & road.  In new developments the prime sites are the front ones so houses spring up right on the beach front and the general public get excluded (such as Sea View not far away) – a very anti social & anti community approach.  Melkbosch is brilliant with a big open space alongside the beach which is occupied by lots of the community each day – many schoolchildren but lots of other people besides.  A real community asset.  The space in PE is not utilised to the same degree but the potential remains.

I did not get to Cape Recife because it is a reserve but Burchell did, that is the lighthouse.

I continued round the big cape that shelters Port Elizabeth.  Past the handsome  Maitland river mouth and on to Van Stadens mouth as described in the previous post. Burchell actually went back to Uitenhage from Recife then went to Van Stadens afterwards.  Burchell then went up the Langkloof  because the Outeniqua Forest stretched from Humansdorp as far as Plettenberg Bay.

Schumacher picture of the Langkloof.

Sadly it was cloudy & rainy as I went through so I could not get good viewpoint.

The little road down to De Vlugt. 

The road was pretty slippery & slidy and I had expected to have to replace my back tyre in Graaff-Reinet as I had now done 20 000 km on it but I had felt I could make it home on it.  (Fronts wear out quicker than backs on a TW it seems as I fitted a new one before the start of this trip.)  I stopped for a beer at Angie’s G Spot.  Now we are in the area of the 4x4 Burchell Route which was the instigator of this whole thing.  The ride report for when I did it with Trailrider and Letsgofishing is *here*

Talking about how things start it is appropriate to tell how William Burchell came to do his trip.  He was born in 1781.  His father was the prosperous owner of the Fulham Nursery, 3,8 hectares in what is now a very desirable part of London.  William never had a proper job so his father must have been very wealthy.  He had four sisters but no brothers are mentioned in the introduction to my book or Wikipedia.  He did not go to university and declined to join his father in the business. When he was 24 he wanted to become engaged to Miss Lucia Green but his parents disapproved.  Shortly afterwards William left for St Helena; whether it was to escape his parents domination or not can only be speculated upon.  He started a merchant business there together with a partner from London, William Balcombe.  A year of trading saw Burchell unhappy as he found running a business very stressful so the partnership was dissolved.

As a side note:  When Napoleon was banished to St Helena he stayed in a house on Balcombe’s property for the first seven weeks.  A friendship developed and Balcombe visited Napoleon frequently.  The Governor alleged that Balcome was helping to smuggle letters from Napoleon to Europe resulting in Balcome suddenly leaving St Helena.

William became the schoolmaster and superintendent of the botanical garden. He had kept writing to Lucia and his parent’s attitude towards her had softened.  It was arranged for her to go out and marry him there.  She went by the Walmer Castle but transferred her affections to the Captain on the voyage and married him before they arrived in St Helena. Poor William never did marry.  That was in 1808.  He carried on as schoolmaster and botanist for two years but became bored and told the Governor that he would refuse any more salary until he was usefully employed. He finally resigned and sailed to Cape Town where he had been in correspondence with the Rev Hesse of the Lutheran Church in Cape Town.  He stayed with the Rev Hesse in Martin Melk House in Strand Street.  (That is now the Gold of Africa Museum; my daughter was married in that building a few years ago and my parents had a small reception after their wedding there too so it has some connection to me as well.)  Somewhere in his book he mentions the advantage of being single but I can’t find the passage now.

Burchell went down to Plettenberg Bay but I was wanting to push on towards home so skipped it out.  However after I did the Burchell Route with TR & LGF I did go to Plett so I have done that piece of the original trek in context already.  I would like to include this picture of the bay and lagoon by Le Vaillant because to me it is particularly attractive.

I went through Kom se Pad down to Knysna.  I had planned on taking the 7 passes route to George but time was marching on, the roads were wet and I wanted to get to Trairiders before dark so I took the tar N2 to George.  Trailrider and Vuurvlieggie welcomed me, fed me & gave me a room.  Many thanks.

Here is the story of the Great Fire of 1869 which took out the forest that prevented Burchell from getting to Plett along the coast from PE.

150 years ago, the Tsitsikamma Forest between Plettenberg Bay and Humansdorp was the thickest and most forbidding in the entire Cape colony, and it presented travellers with an impassable, virtually solid barrier. Many a determined explorer had to turn back, hat in hand, for the Tsitsikamma with its dense underbrush, deep ravines, mighty rivers, tangled roots and tall trees would not be conquered easily. In 1839, the chief engineer of the Cape Colony even insisted that “there is no practical way – not even a foot path – to get from Plettenberg Bay to the Tsitsikamma country“. But in 1869, nature did what armies of engineers could not. The Great Fire of 1869 was the first fire in South Africa to be officially declared a disaster. It was extremely widespread and raged across almost the whole area from Swellendam to Uitenhage and inland to Meiringspoort, through the Langkloof and over the mountains almost right to the sea at Great Brak River, Victoria Bay and Knysna. Ash fell on ships far out to sea. This huge fire thinned out the forest, and gave legendary road builder Thomas Bain the opportunity to build the much-anticipated road through the once impenetrable wilderness. With many of the trees gone, Bain’s main problem was not clearing the path, but conquering the sheer river gorges that cut through the land. With three great gorges – the Groot, Bloukrans and Storms River – to be crossed, this would be a gargantuan task. But Bain would not be deterred, and in 1885, after six years of painstaking road building, his Gorges Road was complete – a winding and complex route carefully picking its way through wooded terrain and around the river gorges.

Unfortunately we do not have Burchell’s account of how he got through the forest from Plett to Mossel bay.  We do have his map from which we can see he followed where the N2 goes more or less from Plettenberg Bay to Mossel Bay but then he followed the base of the mountains all the way to Swellendam and beyond.

Knysna.  It was a bit misty and drizzling.

I am a fan of corrugated iron houses.  Trailrider had told me of two in Klein Brak so I went looking for them.   I have always driven past Klein & Great Brak.

I went to Mossel Bay.  There is another replica of a Portugese Padrao in the museum and I also wanted to see the Post Office Tree and the caravel.  I spent 1,5 hours there.  The Post Office Tree; it is quite likely the original tree  where the Portugese used to leave messages.

The Padrao.  It is a replica donated by the Portugese government.  It was erected by Vasco Da Gama in 1497; he came here 9 years after Dias and succeeded in getting to India. It was as padrao like this that I was expecting in PE but never found.  I am interested in getting to significant places like where Dias erected his cross & seeing a replica.  *Brief history of Mossel Bay*

A Scotsman was given a licence to hunt the seals in the bay but ended up running a pub from these buildings now in the museum as representative of what the early buildings were like.  (Many seals on Seal Island so there are many great whites in the bay.  There is also excellent surfing.)

The spring that the Portugese drew their water from is next to the milkwood tree but has not flowed above surface since the 1970s.  There is an aquarium.  These two fish as you walk in.  Sadly the spotty one was a bit quick for my camera settings.  When I was a schoolboy & you collected stamps then the Mozambique ones with their fishes (like this) were very sought after.

The highlight of the museum is the full size replica of a Portuguese caravel as used by Dias and Da Gama.  I say full size but it was how small it is that made such an impression on me.  The fishing boats in Kalk Bay are longer.  There is a person under the red cross on the sail for scale. 

I spent 1,5 hours at the museum and still wanted to get back to Cape Town this day.  I went out to the swimming pool for late breakfast and beer.  I have had two lovely surf sessions there but it was wild then & no one was out.

I had a nice route planned from Herbetsdale but once again T4A was wrong & the road has long been closed. I was forced onto the usual road to Riversdale.  Some ericas growing by the roadside; I have grown to love our fynbos.

Garcia Pass goes through that kloof.  The light was nice even though it was the middle of the day. Beautiful scene.

Grootvadersbosch area.  I have just passed the entrance to Gysmanshoek – a very easy pass but the Tradouw Pass was developed through a much more challenging valley simply because it was closer to Swellendam showing how important minimum distance was in the days of animal drawn vehicles.

Schumacher Grootvadersbosch.

I should be quite a bit more to the left but you can recognise that sharp peak.

Schumacher has this picture of the Drostdy at Swellendam.

My picture is from pretty much the same place.  It is all the oak trees that make it not obvious; the Drostdy is completely hidden now but the tar road runs just where the road in Schumacher’s picture goes.

Time was getting on & I wanted to get home now that I was in familiar territory so I abandoned the gravel roads of my route & went home on the N2.  Arrived home at 19h20.


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