It was in 1979 that friends visited the Tsitsikamma Coastal National Park – as it was called then [it is now part of the Garden Route National Park] – and sent us a post card depicting this view of the Suspension Foot Bridge over the Storms River. The card has faded over time, yet shows the spectacular view of the bridge from the path that winds through the forest.
We had not yet visited the area and were taken by their description of it: We are enjoying this very beautiful place and are sure you would too. Even in rainy weather it is a lovely place to be. We were living in Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal at the time and it wasn’t until we were living in Mmabatho several years later that we made our way down there – and fell in love with the place! So much so that we have returned many times – most recently in October last year.
Although this photograph is not taken from the original perspective, you can see how the area has been developed over the past 41 years – especially the footbridge. The original one is still there, but has been augmented by others.
Our friends continued: Unfortunately the Otter Trail is fully booked but we are enjoying the shorter walks. Great bird life!
How right they were too. There are a number of interesting walks along the coastline and through the natural forest that hugs the steep slopes of the mountains. Every time we visit there I am astounded by the number and variety of birds we see – even around the open camp sites. I have written elsewhere about walking the Otter Trail, which I did a couple of years after moving to Grahamstown.
As an aside: the postage stamp on this postcard is 3c. During the intervening years postage has increased to R5,34. Given how dysfunctional our postal service is, I wonder if people bother to send post cards anymore!
We might have potholes you can almost swim in; we might have dry taps now and then; we are often sans electricity; we have cattle and donkeys roaming through the town … streets are breaking up; sewage bubbles to the surface in places; and clean water pours down the streets at times. This beautiful town is creaking at the seams and yet … fibre is coming to town.
Trench diggers have been working for months, from one side of town to the other, readying the ground for the laying of fibre. They reached our area last week – the netting along our pavement is hiding the open trenches, which were covered over only a day later.
Some people have complained about the constant digging, the sound of machinery, and (quite rightly) the litter that gets left behind as the workmen make their way through the suburb. The time will come though when this will all be forgotten and they, in their turn, will connect to fibre so that their internet speed and capacity can improve. The picture below shows the section next to our drive that has been cordoned off before a moling machine was used to tunnel under it to feed the fibre through without damaging the driveway.
Yes, our town is fraying like a piece of old cloth. Despite all its problems, it is still a beautiful place to live. Now, the town is seamed with a fibre network filled with potential. Time will tell
There was a time during the Anglo-Boer War (1889-1902) when the Boers adopted guerrilla tactics to harass the British forces. As the advancing commandos of Generals Jan Smuts and P. H. Kritzinger had attacked towns in the Eastern Cape, Grahamstown called upon cadets from local schools to assist with defending the town. Trenches were dug around the perimeter of the town.
This happened during March 1901. For about ten days these trenches or schanze were manned by school cadets from St. Andrew’s College, Kingswood College and Graeme College. Unmarked remnants of these trenches can still be seen if one has a careful eye.
None of these boys saw any action and not much information is readily available about their contribution to the defence of the town. What we do know is that the St. Andrew’s College cadets (Detachment No 4) manned their post on the fringes of the old golf course for ten days before standing down. It transpires that Kritzinger’s forces only reached as far as Carlisle Bridge, about 127Km away. In 1997 the school erected a marble tablet to commemorate this event.
Those St. Andrew’s College cadets voluntarily forfeited their soldiers’ pay, having voted to put it towards the building of what is now known as the Drill Hall. This memorial can be located at 33°17’51.90”S; 26°30’14.60”E. The trenches they dug, though overgrown, are still visible.
A rich source of information about St. Andrew’s College in Grahamstown can be found in Marguerite Poland’s magnificent book, The Boy in You: a biography of St. Andrew’s College, 1855-2005.
Sneezewood (Ptaeroxylon obliquum) was favoured for making sturdy fence-posts and even railway sleepers in the Eastern Cape from very early on as this hardwood is well known for its durability. Below is an example of a fence no longer in use, yet the sneezewood fence-post continues to carry out its duty.
There are many such abandoned fences in this part of the world. The following photograph shows a suburban fence made up of a collection of sneezewood fence-posts.
While they might look old and bent at different angles, these posts did their job very well and are still as strong as they were when they were first erected during the 1800s. The holes in them have not been bored by insects, but show where the fencing wires were threaded through them. In sharp contrast is a section of a modern fence, common in these parts where a number of game farms or private game reserves have sprung up.
These tall, multi-stranded fences are high enough to keep most wild animals from roaming – yet a kudu can sail over them with ease should it wish to!
You might remember me showing you the Atherstone Bridge supporting a now disused railway line:
Well before reaching this along the road, one passes what is left of the Atherstone Station: an almost illegible sign and a motley collection of abandoned houses. This one is the closest to the road:
It commands a beautiful view over the hills, across the valley to the hills beyond. Large stones hold part of the roofing in place. The sturdy chimney hints at meals cooked on a coal stove perhaps and certain warmth on chilly winter evenings.