Situated in the south-eastern section of the country, the Eastern Cape is stunning – it is the stuff that postcards are made of – rugged, rocky cliffs and dense green trees, on the stretch that’s known as the Wild Coast. This is also where you will find breathtaking sights of the Indian Ocean.
To the north-west, the province borders on KwaZulu-Natal and meets the southern tip of the Drakensberg range. If you head south, you will notice the change in terrain to Mountainous landscapes, and then again, as you enter the Northern region of Karoo, which is considerably flatter.
The long curve of coastline, large area (at nearly 170 000km2 covering close to 15% of the country) means you need to drive quite a distance to get to a particular point of interest. However, you can be sure that the route is incredibly photogenic. Situated on Algoa Bay is Port Elizabeth (PE for short), the largest city. The provincial capital is Bhisho and other important towns include the port of East London and, inland, King William’s Town, Umtata, Uitenhage and Grahamstown.
PE I am told, has gorgeous beaches and surf spots (none of which we had time to check out) and is well known for its automotive manufacturing industry. If you have limited time but are looking for a good South African experience, then Port Elizabeth is the perfect complement along with the Garden Route, something we would be doing in the next couple of days.
And today we would visit, the Hinterveld, a place famous for its Mohair.
Mohair comes from the Angora goat in the Tibetan Himalayas. This fleece of the Angora is one of the world’s most exclusive natural fibres. Mohair actually looks like beautiful locks of hair, with a lustre that’s hard to top. It is soft and holds deep and brilliant colours well, so naturally it is the perfect canvas for apparel to be worn in cold weather.
Angora goats thrive in the Karoo region of South Africa, where the combination of hot, dry summers, cold winters and semi-desert vegetation give mohair the added beauty of being a renewable and sustainable natural resource.
Hinterveld is one of the places that produces terrific quality Mohair.
Looks like Rapunzel’s hair!
Does this not remind you of soft vanilla ice- cream?
Almost at the final stage.. the mohair turns into yarn
What gorgeous Mohair fabric? Wouldn’t you buy it?
After that fascinating walk through the factory, it was time to have lunch at the Stage Door Phoenix Hotel. The Stage Door is an atmospheric old pub that’s won awards for good-value pub grub, but the surroundings are a bit grungy. It has live music Wednesday to Saturday and it’s popular with middle-aged rockers and families. It does terrific Steaks and Mixed Grilled platters. Be sure you are famished if you are gonna eat here as the portions are pretty generous.
After lunch we went for a walk and to visit Route 67 which route started just outside of the Stage Door. Route 67 starts at the Campanile and climbs the staircase to Vuyisile Mini Market Square which is located at the city center.
67 Public Art Works symbolising Nelson Mandela’s 67 years of work dedicated to the Freedom of South Africa, that included 67 steps leading up the second largest flag in Africa was a rather cool stroll. The artworks were designed by local artists from the Eastern Cape. The route was made as a proud reminder of the city’s heritage and history.
From the City centre the route continues through the staircase at St Mary’s Terrace, the experience of the route erupts in a celebration of colour, art and heritage that meanders up to the Donkin Reserve to the Great flag on top of the hill.
Route 67 forms part the greater Nelson Mandela Bay Arts Journey which includes a number of Art Galleries and different locations such as the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Museum, the newly renovated Athenaeum Building, the Red Location Museum, Uitenhage Market Square and the artEC Art Gallery to name a few.
Mike, our friendly guide (below). He used to be a teacher of Geography and he really knew a lot of cool facts about Port Elizabeth that would even put Britannica to shame. A lovely man and someone with a wealth of knowledge and experience to share. Had great fun talking to him.
That night, we checked into NO.5 Boutique Art Hotel, a luxury 5 Star Hotel In Port Elizabeth On South Africa’s Eastern Cape, and had dinner at De Kelder.
NO.5 Boutique Art Hotel.. simply gorgeous.. again, we hardly had time to fully utilise all the amenities, before it was time to hit the road again.. sigh…
The most impressive dishes we had at De Kelder were the Seafood Salads and Seafood Platters, all seafood being sustainably caught and from local shores.
Although the steaks here are famous, I was more drawn to the seafood. As it turned out, I was not wrong to put my money on this and the seafood was exquisitely fresh. A great dinner venue which you should visit if you are in the area.
After dinner, we returned to the hotel for the night, tired, but bellies satiated from the great food we just had.
Early the next morning, it was time to go for a run. As it turned out, NO.5 Boutique Art Hotel had the most strategic location of being on the beach front of Hobie Beach, Port Elizabeth, just perfect for my morning run!
After breakfast and checking out, it was time to visit SAMREC, to see about some cute little penguins.
SAMREC is Port Elizabeth’s marine bird rehabilitation and education centre situated in the Cape Recife Nature Reserve. The centre’s purpose isn’t just to rescue and rehabilitate, but to also inform and educate the public through their different programs about the importance of making sure these cute creatures do not become extinct.
Visitors can experience the hospital and see the volunteers in action helping to save the environment, in particular the endangered African Penguin.
Its very interesting to see how they tube feed a penguin dummy, and of course the highlight was watching some of these rehabilitated penguins swimming around in the pool.
They are real show ponies and love to put on a great show for guest – highly lovable creatures! I think what impresses me most is the fact that except for two full time people the whole centre is run by volunteers. You may do your bit and help by adopting a penguin. SAMREC is also in dire need of volunteers, so if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty and if you enjoy interacting with people and animals, you should consider volunteering to help out at the center. (more details in the website).
Before lunch, it was a quick stop to the Red Location, Port Elizabeth.
Standing like a beacon in the middle of a destitute mass of squatter shacks, the the Red Location Museum is hard to miss. Although The Red Location Museum has been built primarily as a tribute to the liberation struggle against apartheid, the date is appropriate because this museum with a difference counts love, reconciliation and hope for the future amongst its aims.
Its unconventional stark but spacious structure architect Joe Noero has incorporated the corrugated iron theme of informal settlement living in his design includes a series of memory boxes consisting of twelve lofty free-standing galleries which house a diversity of photographic and art exhibitions.
A further 5 arrangements of montages, timelines and modules detailing the history of the township its people and their place in the bid for liberty, line the walls. Many of these exhibitions will change on a regular basis.
Walking around the area, we could not help but notice the disparity between the museum and the squatter area. We managed to walk around and even chat with some of the locals. The highlight for me was buying BBQed meat from the butchers (don’t ask what kind of meat) and having a snack in the Red Location!
We walk right up to these folks and notice some hoofs being BBQed. How would you like your feet.. well done? Medium rare?
I hope her pallor isn’t yellow from eating that meat!
The lady butcher is adamant we try her merchandise..
Don’t ask. Just eat:P
Some rather tasty liver and other cartilaginous bits.. hard to describe but it was almost tasty!
That night we had dinner at Dinner at Bridge Street Brewery. Bridge Street Brewery in Port Elizabeth is the place to sample great beers, brewed by masterbrewer Lex Mitchell.
Succulent Calamari and an equally smooth Boar’s Head Best Bitter.. life does not get better than this!
The Bridge Street Brewery is situated in an old fibreglass factory that has been revamped and refurbished into a modern pub and restaurant, with a small brewery on site and great views over the lower Baakens Valley, a green space that runs through Port Elizabeth.
Bridge Street’s signature beers are completely new creations made under the Mitchell family crest (the Boar’s Head). You can choose from the Boar’s Head Best Bitter, Celtic Cross Premium Pilsner, Bowman Natural Cider, and Black Dragon Double Chocolate Stout. Or try them all – tastings are free! The food here is also excellent, my top picks being the Springbok carpaccio, Pizza and Steak. Super delicious!
Unfortunately if you’re wondering what Springbok is, it’s a rather cute animal really. It’s one of South Africa’s symbols, sort of a national animal if you like. It is basically venison – a medium-sized brown and white antelope-gazelle of southwestern Africa. Too cute to eat maybe..? Nah! Super delicious.
Sinfully cheesy and carbo laden grease.. 100% spot on, on what a pizza should be!
A nice hunk of steak cooked medium rare.. and the night comes to a close. Port Elizabeth, it has been fun!
NEXT, we go on the Garden Route down to Mossel Bay.. to see about the Origins of Modern Mankind. Stay tuned!
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