Africa trips

Wellington to Port Alfred - March 2006 - Peter Taylor


We had passed a turn-off to an old mill on the way to the Horseshoe and as we still had not had enough, we went back to explore the old mill. It was built in 1821 and it now has a curator that stems from that era I'm sure. Norman is a very well spoken, very interesting and very informative Ben Dekker type of character. He showed us around and explained what he was doing, what he had already fixed and what and how he intended fixing next and so on. He has only been there a short while and he has obviously done quite a bit in that time. I wish him the very best of luck and I hope he continues with the exuberance and enthusiasm for many years to come. I also hope that his hard work and dedication doesn't go unnoticed and that he is rewarded for what he is doing there.

There is a genuine old "His Masters Voice" type of wind-up gramophone there which he says he restored. Well, he wound it up, stuck in a needle, which looked like a Std. 8 math’s set compass point and we were serenaded to the sounds of Bing Crosby in an 1821 mill.

I won't go into who built and what was milled there etc., I'll leave that to Norman to tell you when you visit there yourself. I don't want to spoil it all for him. After the long climb back up the valley to the car we went to see the very quaint Anglican Church, also in Bathurst.

There are a few must-do's in Bathurst, most of which I have already mentioned, but one thing you must not miss is a visit the biggest pineapple in the world. Just because it's there, not for any other reason. It's like the Toposcope. It means nothing to anyone, but imagine telling someone you were in Bathurst and they say did you see the Toposcope and you don't know what they're talking about. Or the Coelacanth Brewery in Port Alfie or the big tree in Knysna forest. So it's best to go and see these things. Because someone might just ask you.

I started loosing track of what day it was, but it was the next day that we said goodbye to Cecile and headed for PE. I got waylaid again and ended up on another dirt road which went right through a game park and through the little settlement of Paterson and eventually we found the Addo Elephant Park.

This proved to be a very worthwhile detour (as most of my detours are) and the elephants were magnificent. Six or seven of them passed within a foot of the car, some around the front and some around the back, big and small ones all around us and if the windows had been open we would have been able to touch them.

You see I had done just what my Grandpa had done in the Kruger National Park in 1959 or ‘60, I can't quite remember the year. He parked in the elephant’s path and so did I. I don't think either of us did it intentionally but it created an unbelievable experience which one doesn't often get in a lifetime. I think my Gran and Verine were very close to wetting themselves.

We saw quite a few more around the park including one very proud male and then about sixty or seventy odd at the main watering hole. Quite a sight. We then took a relatively straight detour-less road to PE and then I remembered what day it was because everyone in the hotel lobby was talking about the cricket that we lost. It was Sunday and we had played the Aussies right here in PE. We strolled around and went to the waterfront and casino and I must say that the PE waterfront is very impressive. They have really done a nice job and it's very friendly and inviting.

I had read about the Van Staden's River mouth in an old book and wanted to know more about it and whether there was accommodation etc. before driving all the way down there, but no-one in PE's tourist and info centers know anything about what's at the river mouth. There was only one thing to do and that was to go down there ourselves, but not without a little detour to Cape Recife nature reserve and lighthouse and a very pleasant drive around the lesser used road behind PE along the coast.

Well the people of PE don't know what they've got just around the corner. Van Staden's River mouth is stunning. Beautiful beaches, massive sand dunes, a river and a run-down resort complex which looks as though it hasn't been properly used for years. We were there during the week and it was very quiet. They did say that the restaurant and pub do open on weekends so they must get fairly busy over weekends, but just down the road at Storm's River mouth it is buzzing with people. The place is huge with camp sites, chalets and rondavels and it could become a second Hartenbos with a little effort and some marketing. We enjoyed our stay there and I will definitely visit there again.

Next morning we decided to go to Storm's River mouth in the Tsitsikamma Nature Reserve. After phoning to book our accommodation there we hit the road. On the way out of the valley we took a little detour and drove through Blue Horizon Bay. Stunning views, stunning houses and stunning prices I'm sure.

Oyster Bay had been calling me for many years and this time we turned right in Humansdorp instead of the beaten track which turns left for Jeffery's Bay. Oyster Bay is a tiny little village on the coast and luckily it is quite a long drive on gravel to get there otherwise it would soon become another over commercialized J/Bay or Cape St Francis. It is beautiful just the way it is and I hope that when I visit there again, it is still just a tiny little village. We had last nights left over braai and a cold beer on the beach for lunch and then headed west for Tsitsikamma.

After doing the mandatory Paul Sauer Bridge Curio Shop stop, we turned left to the most beautiful place in the whole wide world, Storm's River mouth. When we booked we were told that the log cabins that we stayed in before were fully booked but they had Forest Huts available. They sleep two but you have to share amenities with the other Forest Hut dwellers. That didn't bother us, besides it was Forest Hut or nothing. When we got to our Hut, I was totally bowled over. It is the most inviting cabin that I have ever seen. It is a little log cabin with two single beds, a table and two bench seats, some cutlery and crockery and a stoep to die for with a braai hanging over the railing. It has nothing - no water, no stove, no outside light, no toilet but Verine and I fell in love with it immediately. OK, we were spoilt. We had No. 1. It has the best of both worlds. It is in the forest but the stoep has the most amazing view of the sea with a bubbling brook right alongside the cabin. Absolutely the most desirable spot on earth.

Last time we were there the jetty was undergoing repairs so the Spirit of Tsitsikamma (a rubber duck with tourist type bench seats) was not running. This time the suspension bridge was undergoing a full refurbish so our timing was perfect. I was very excited about going up the creek, because that was the only thing that we hadn’t done on our last visit. We had plenty of time left before the last trip so we dawdled around and then took the fairly strenuous 900m walk along the boardwalk through the coastal forest to the jetty only to discover that we were ten minutes late. I was not impressed, so I had to hurry back to the bar for a cold beer so that I could get over the moment.

We decided to have supper in the restaurant that night so we didn’t have to prepare for a braai and this gave us some time to wonder around the place and catch up on what we had missed the last time. If you stay in the forest huts you share the ablution block with campers and caravaners and what a treat this is for people who are supposed to be roughing it. Besides the usual abluting section there is a washing section (for clothes), a washing up section (for dishes), a fully equipped launderette, a fridge and a freezer. These are all things we’ve seen before but it’s still a pleasant surprise when you discover such well appointed amenities, but what I have never seen before is their “Port-a-potty” cubicle. A special walled section with a big stainless steel funnel and a tap with a length of hose for spraying out your potty. I was amazed. Over on the other side was the other part of the shared amenities, the camp kitchen. Again very nicely appointed with all the necessary appliances and an urn on the boil all the time.

We liked it here so much that we decided to stay for another night in paradise. We did the booking thing, but were told that No. 1 was already booked, so we chose No. 5. The people who had stayed there the night before were from Oyster Bay!

I was thrilled to eventually go up the creek in the Spirit of Tsitsikamma and it was worth the wait. The gorge is spectacular with high cliffs on both side and a narrow passage to navigate through.

We had a lovely day strolling around, eating, drinking, swimming and tanning. When the day was done we had a super braai on the stoep of our forest hut and helped it down with a few thirst quenches.

The next morning we were on our way again. We had intended stopping over in Knysna and also going to visit Denny Williams in the Wilderness, but the weather had taken a turn for the worse and the “stop – go” road works had wasted so much time that we decided to head on home. Our last stop was a lekker lunch on the deck at Groot Brak Rivier and then it was straight home.

The overall distance was 2347 kms with a fuel consumption of 7.7 liters / 100 km for the round trip.



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Report by Peter Taylor